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Three lessons in the realities and possibilities of Blended Learning and how I am doubling down

In September of 2013 I launched Advance Classrooms with a goal of helping schools and districts purposefully integrate technology into instruction. Prior to that I helped lead a nationwide 60,000 student tablet-enhanced instructional program with Rocket Learning. Over these years, I have worked with hundreds of schools, spoken with countless superintendents, principals, teachers, students and parents and have had a chance to understand very deeply the experiences, successes and challenges in building 21st century learning environments. Three things have become abundantly clear:

1) When done effectively, 21st century learning is transformative for students and teachers.

On occasion, I’ve encountered schools where the 1:1, BYOD, or Blended Learning initiatives are buzzing. Students are engaged in fast-paced environments, collaborating with each other, producing videos, projects and presentations and learning “on purpose”. Teachers have adapted to new software and are serving as facilitators of student learning. They are using technology with the intention to engage students, personalize instruction and make rapid adjustments based on data. This is the new frontier. This is the environment that jives with the mind of the digital native.

2) Numerous realities prevent this type of learning in most places.

Most often however, when I first encounter classrooms, they remain reminiscent of 19th century learning environments. The teacher is the depositor, students are passive receivers with eyes glazed in quintessential “Bueller” fashion, or they are occupying themselves stealthily with instagram or snapchat. If a district is fortunate enough to have the budget for technology, smartboards become glorified chalkboards or iPads sit because teachers are uncomfortable or the building lacks dependable connectivity. The list of challenges I’ve observed goes on and on.

3) The new frontier of 21st century learning is possible and necessary.

Even in light of this, I am encouraged because I know we can and must make the leap. Our students are already there. I’ve witnessed seemingly unreachable students engage when a teacher used Animoto to teach functions or to assess knowledge of metamorphosis. I’ve seen disengaged students take ownership when a classroom shifted from lecture style to small project-based working groups. The challenge is difficult but surmountable and necessary if we are going to have any chance of reaching our students.

Doubling Down

I am proud to say that Advance Classrooms is doubling down on our mission and we are more excited than ever of the possibilities of 21st century learning. This year, we are helping schools and districts in South Carolina, Texas, Georgia and Illinois to build inspiring new classrooms and learning environments and our partners are growing everyday. I am equally proud to announce that we have joined forces with Redbird Advanced Learning. Based in Silicon Valley, Redbird combines the unmatched research capabilities of Stanford University with advanced learning technologies to help students achieve their ultimate potential. Redbird and Advance Classrooms’ shared mission is to transform lives by harnessing the power of research, technology, and innovation. Together, we’re inventing the future of learning. Click here to find out how and contact us if you’d like to learn more about our movement.

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