As the nation prepares to celebrate Digital Learning Day this week, District of Columbia Public Schools has recently made tremendous strides to provide more opportunities and access to technology for students. Specifically this school year, two schools, Ketcham Elementary School and Randle Highlands Elementary School are fully integrating technology into traditional instruction to provide a more personalized learning experience for students. This model, known as blended learning, builds upon the work DCPS has already begun at Kramer Middle School, creating a blended learning feeder pattern in Ward 8. Halfway through the school year, this new approach is already showing promising results for students.
DCPS sees great potential in blended learning to accelerate student achievement and support teachers through small group instruction, data teachers can use in real time and personalized learning, addressing unique student needs. DCPS’ blended learning work was recently featured in a case study by the American Enterprise Institute, noting the ways in which DCPS is taking the lead nation in providing access to online learning and technology, among other findings.
“This innovative approach to instruction gives our students access to top of the line educational technology and software,” said DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “Students at Ketcham and Randle Highlands will experience learning that meets their own unique needs, and their teachers and principals will have important information that they can use in real time to better support their students.”
Funded by the DC Public Education Fund, this new model was made possible with grants from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, The Gamba Family Foundation and an anonymous donor.
Each classroom received eight brand new computers. While the teacher works with a small group of students, another small group of students works on the computers and another group reads or works independently. The groups rotates through each of these activities during the 120-minute block, enabling a smaller teacher-student ratio and fostering a more personalized approach, throughout the lesson. The online information students are exploring automatically adjusts to their academic level and learning needs.
A team from Education Elements, a nationally recognized company that helps districts and schools develop and implement blended learning strategies, has worked with DCPS to design, implement, and support the program. Education Elements offers a range of instructional content from a variety of providers into one system and enables teachers and principals to track student progress.
DCPS has been working to ensure teachers are prepared to teach in blended learning environments. Prior to the end of the 2012-2013 school year, teachers at both Ketcham and Randle Highlands participated in a blended learning classroom simulation to experience the model firsthand. Over the summer, teachers received more in-depth training on best practices in blended learning, classroom management, and analyzing student data, as well as full training in providing online lessons. Additionally, a Technology Instructional Coach has been working across both schools to support teachers in their implementation of blended learning. The Technology Instructional Coach collaborates with the schools’ traditional Instructional Coaches to provide teachers with any resources and support that they need.
Ketcham and Randle Highlands are feeder elementary schools into Kramer Middle School, which has been using a blended learning approach since the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. Anacostia High School, to which Kramer is a feeder school, is also employing blended learning in its ninth grade academy program.
“Blended learning at Ketcham and Randle Highlands represents a deliberate evolution of a feeder pattern,” said Brian Pick, Chief of Teaching and Learning at DCPS. “We want students to be prepared to use this technology from elementary school on through middle and high school.”
To read more about DCPS’ blended learning work, click here.