Blended Learning Pilot: #1

At the beginning of this school year, I decided my focus would be to not try a bunch of new approaches and techniques. Instead, I thought I’d utilize and improve new approaches/techniques from last year that made a difference, like the use of Google Classroom. Also with a now 4-month old daughter, I decided I wanted to be more efficient at school so I could spend quality time at home in the evenings and weekends. Hence, I would do less new stuff while getting better at things I was already interested in.


One of the educational tools I began utilizing last year was Google Classroom. You can read about my experience with Google Classroom and lab reports here. This year I have continued using Google Classroom for a variety of reasons - lab reports, links to online flashcards, links to tutorial videos I’ve prepared or found, not to mention my computer and web design classes have been entirely online via Google Classroom.


Another area that I researched and practiced was what I thought to be flipping the classroom. But, now that I am taking part in a district-wide “High School Blended Learning Pilot”, I can say that I was attempting blended learning early on in my teaching career. You see, the flipped classroom is really a small subtype of blended learning. So, the goal of this post is to define blended learning and share what my professional development has in store for me during this academic year.


According to our presenters (the technology integration specialists for our district - Paul Murray and Jessica Winstanley), the definition of blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns:

  • at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;

  • at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;

  • and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

(Christensen Institute)


In our first meeting, we discussed our excitement and hesitation with blended learning, asked questions about technology integration as a staff and with students, and began planning a lesson in which we could incorporate the blended learning style of education in our classes.


The summary of our excitement and cause for hesitation (based on the 10 teachers in the pilot) consisted of the following:

  • Excitement

    • Individualized/Small Group Instruction (Differentiation)

    • Student Ownership of Learning (Engagement)

    • Informative Data (Feedback)

  • Pause/Unsure

    • Available/Reliable Technology (Devices)

    • Student Home Access (Devices/Internet)

    • Time (Investment)

    • Where to start (Strategies)


We read some articles and watched some videos about what things teachers wished they knew before flipping the classroom (or going the route of blended learning). The top 5 things included:

  1. It takes more time than you think!

  2. Use other people’s stuff

  3. Expect pushback from students

  4. Keep your options open!

  5. Have a plan for your extra class time!


We learned that each teacher in the pilot will be receiving a new Chromebook (chosen because our district utilizes GAFE) and each teacher’s classroom will be outfitted with a class set of Chromebooks and cart by next semester. And, thanks to the passage of the most recent financial bond vote, our district will begin the transition to being a 1:1 Chromebook district. All teachers will receive new Chromebooks in the summer/fall (we’ll trade ours for updated Chromebooks) and student rollout will start later in the fall.


Lastly, I began brainstorming chemistry lessons/units that I could modify. My chemical reactions unit came up because I was already posting content online for students to use as supplementary resources outside of class and utilizing a new vocabulary instruction specific for that unit. Also, since one of the other teachers present will be teaching Organic Chemistry at one of the other high schools next semester, we decided to team up in January to collaborate and make some of our lessons fit the bill of blended learning.

Do you incorporate blended learning in your curriculum? How so? What advice and wisdom can you share for teachers jumping in for the first time?