Special Report

The Rise of Blended Learning

How a new trend in education rethinks the role of computers in the classroom and lets each student learn at a different pace

(© Diez, Cherie / ZUMA Press/Corbis)

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“We don't talk about products at all during our process, we talk about what we're trying to achieve,” says Anthony Kim, the founder of Education Elements, a consulting firm that helps schools, districts and school networks create blended learning programs.

“It gets very confusing for these folks,” Kim added. “I think people come in with a diagnosis of what they want—‘I need an iPad’—but they're not talking about what kind of function they are trying to solve for. It's like a patient coming in asking for drugs without being aware of the side effects.” 

It will be months, or even years, before the staff at Stanton can identify whether their program is having long-lasting effects. But the school, once on the brink of shutdown in 2010 for poor performance, again has the trust of its students and parents after doubling its percentage of students proficient in reading and tripling its percentage of students proficient in math over the past three years.

Principal Caroline John says any additions next year to the blended program will be small ones, like the possible opening of the school's first computer lab, or the inclusion of some reading-related software. And she says educators who want to go blended gradually should be unafraid of falling short of the big shiny programs like Rocketship. 

“That can feel really overwhelming and intimidating to even think about.” John said. “But one thing we've learned is that we can, step by step, add pieces of blended learning.”


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