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Schools Experiment with Tech Blend

The Grant Beacon Middle School in Denver has adopted a new teaching procedure for its students. Children studying there get to spend a lot of time in a blended learning scenario. They are allowed to use Chromebooks to access digital curricula and are also offered traditional classroom education that requires them to work face to face with teachers.

Kids studying at the Grant Beacon Middle School also spend an additional hour in school each day. This extra school hour provides them with more electives and enrichment opportunities.

A recently published guide for teachers suggest that combining an extended school day with blended learning can make education a more enriching experience for children. Grant Beacon is doing exactly that, and thereby allowing complete personalization of learning, improving teacher collaboration, and enabling better student engagement.

The title of the said guide is “Supporting Student Success through Time and Technology”. It was published by the Boston-based non-profit National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL), an organization known for working to ensure well-rounded education for children. Through this guide, the NCTL has tried to provide policymakers with ideas to combine additional learning time with more effective utilization of modern-day digital tools.

According to Roy Chan of NCTL, schools must read the guide and understand that all the ideas presented through it are realistic. He added that his organization wants schools to realize that things like how big a school’s technology budget is or how advanced the technological resources of the school are have no effect on its possibilities of following the guide successfully.

The NCTL guide talks about six schools that have already implemented the idea of pairing up extended school time - school time of those schools has been increased by 300 hours per year - and blended learning, three of them are charter schools and the other three are general public schools. Some of the topics highlighted in the discussion include technologies used by the schools, different instructional models adopted by them, and software that they have found most effective.

So what kind of benefits does this blended learning environment offers to students and teachers?

Benefits enjoyed by students

  • More personalized learning
  • Increased student engagement
  • Better preparation for career and professional life

Benefits enjoyed by teachers

  • More tools and time for planning and delivering lessons
  • Increased satisfaction through more effective teaching
  • Greater opportunities to differentiate

Here, it must be noted that at times extending school days might turn out to be quite difficult financially or politically. Additionally, although the past few years have witnessed the concept of blended learning gaining extreme popularity, not a single study to date has definitively concluded that combining traditional classroom education and online learning has any notable effect on a student’s chances of performing well academically.

Alexander Magaña, the principal of Grant Beacon, however, concludes that extra school hours and blended learning have clearly left a positive impact on the academic performance of his students. Even then, to see implementation of the strategy in more schools, the world would need to wait for some more years.

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