Head of the Class: Here is How One State Will Provide Advanced Training for Blended Learning

A new partnership in Ohio will provide school leaders with advanced training in the use of classroom technology.

About 70 principals and administrators from 16 schools will take part in the program, according to the announcement from Ohio Blended Learning Network and the Friday Institute at North Carolina State University. The professional development will also make use of the resources in a Mentor, Ohio, school district that has developed a training site for teachers.

National surveys suggest teachers are eager to use new technology, but don’t believe they have the skills to be successful. In Ohio, the effort to provide this training comes after numerous grassroots efforts allowed teachers to organically test what worked in their own local schools.

One example is the Reynoldsburg City School District, in the suburbs of Columbus, which serves about 7,000 students. The district’s leaders say blended learning strategies have helped improve student test scores even as the district coped with a tight budget.

One of the district’s schools, Slate Ridge Elementary, provides a case study in the way the use of blended learning originated with teachers. Principal Susan Martin, who has been an educator for about 20 years, said she was initially skeptical when her staff approached her with ideas for improving teaching and learning with digital tools. The school has a small discretionary budget, Martin said, and she needed to be convinced that it was wise to use some of that money on new technology.

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“I told them they need to tell me how they will use it in the classroom, make a plan,” she said. “Well, doggonit, they came back with a really good plan.”

Blended learning at Slate Ridge began with a few teachers, Martin said. The concept spread after other teachers in the school saw what was possible, she said, and more staff then started to approach the principal to propose their own ideas. Many have found technology allows them to create lessons that are custom-fit for the needs and interests of students.

The teachers also found ways to stretch a dollar. They repurposed common household items to serve high-tech needs. Small plastic trays store devices that are charging. A fabric shoe-rack served as a place to hang student headphones.

These are small things, to be sure, but these low-priced hacks are not insignificant. Teachers at schools with small budgets are beginning to discover what they can do — rather than focusing singularly on what is not possible.

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[Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

Nichole Dobo

Nichole Dobo writes about blended learning. Most of her 10-year career as a reporter has focused on education. She has also covered stories about government, courts, business and religion. She was a staff writer at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., The York Daily Record/Sunday News in York, Pa., The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pa. and The Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and has been published in The Atlantic's online edition. She won first prize and best of show for education writing in 2011 from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association. She earned a B.A. in journalism at the Pennsylvania State University.