Future of Learning

What mistakes did they make? Lessons from blended learning’s early adopters

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Who would know more about using blended learning in the classroom than the educators who are doing this work?

A new book by Liz Arney, director of innovative learning at Aspire Public Schools, offers guidance and practical tips on how to use computers to enhance lessons. The book, Go Blended!, A Handbook for Blending Technology in Schools, is based on hands-on work by Arney and others who use blended learning in their schools. Nearly a third of schools in the Aspire charter school system — which spans 38 schools in California and Tennessee — use blended learning today. It started small. The first pilot was in 2011, in an Aspire school in Oakland, Calif.

I talked to Arney on the phone Friday. Here are a few edited snippets from our conversation.

What did you learn from your work?

When we first piloted blended learning it was really just to pilot it. I think that was a mistake – it was blended learning for blended learning’s sake. We quickly realized that we really needed to do was hire technology to serve a teaching problem.

If you had a crystal ball what would you say is next?

I see a lot more than I saw three years ago, that’s becoming normalized, and I am excited about that. So much of it is just getting technology use stabilized in a school. All the sudden then the magic can happen. In terms of what it’s going to look like, I feel like anything, two years from now. I feel like it’s going to so exceed my imagination. If you had asked me three years ago if one-third of Aspire schools were using blended, I would have said: “What are you talking about? We haven’t even figured things out yet.” I don’t think we’ve figured out everything. I think we all need to get focused on instruction. If people are talking about the tech too much that’s not good – not that I don’t want them to understand the tech. I just don’t want them to get seduced by it. I feel like the bright and shiny always worries me.

Want to know what worries Arney about blended learning? Continue reading at our Blended Learning newsletter. Or just subscribe right now.

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Nichole Dobo

Nichole Dobo is the senior engagement editor and a writer. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic's online edition, Mind/Shift,… See Archive

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