Blended Learning @ Envision

In the summer of 2011 Envision Schools was involved in prototyping a blended learning approach to instructional design by using KhanAcamedy in summer school for students who needed to retake Algebra 1. The results, from a statistical perspective, showed  a slight and yet not statistically significant difference in the post tests of students using Khan Academy when contrasted to the post test scores of students in a traditional classroom. The results, from a qualitative perspective were much more significant. Please read the feedback in its entirety at blendmylearning,  as I will only highlight major findings here. As is true to any design process the students saw themselves as active participants and were reflective of not only their own learning but of the project as a whole. They found the strengths and weaknesses in this blended learning model for themselves as individual learners, thus reflecting on their learning styles; while also taking into account how this approach compared with other approaches and overall effectiveness. In summary, they felt more engaged, they felt a sense of accomplishment, they liked individualized structure, they felt challenged often, they struggled to learn solely from the video tutorials, they missed interacting with the teacher.

With a generous donation from google of over 100 Chromebooks we were able to continue our work with the incoming 9th grade class. The same teacher who had piloted the program in the summer agreed to continue the work, Khan Academy agreed to join the partnership officially and Envision Schools felt poised to truly impact the learning outcomes in math for this new group of students. To further support our endeavor the Gates Foundation has contributed financially and we now have the ability to achieve the following:

  1. Prototype an innovative blended learning approach using Khan Academy in math classes.
  2. Develop a model of blended learning that is integrated with Envision Schools project-based learning model.
  3. Work with teachers and students to build UpsideDownAcademy as a project repository.
  4. Expand the use of blended learning approaches to all 9th grade classes, (and in time to all grades)

In the Spring of 2012 we had the opportunity to apply for, and were awarded, further support from the Gates foundation. Our proposal outlined an ambitious scaling up and some innovative ways to provide differentiated programming across our network. We will be continuing to define what it meaning to provide blended learning in a project-based environment, and we will continue to share our finding through this blog and blendmylearning. Our goals for this year include:

  1. Expand blended learning approach in Algebra I, through the use of Khan Academy, to all 4 school sites.
  2. Provide each teacher with training and support in implementing and innovating.
  3. Prototype online elective program and learning lab at City Arts and Technology.
  4. Prototype working collaboratively with Learning Specialists to provide blended learning through assistive educational technology for specific students.

So stay tuned for updates about how things are progressing at each site and overall learnings. Have a wonderful school year and may we all be just a little smarter by this time next year.


UPDATE – Recap 2012-13

The Blended Learning pilots from the 2012-13  school year were largely a success. The Algebra I pilot really encouraged teachers to develop their competencies in integrating technology and for me to develop some strategies for Blended Learning coaching. This work was presented in it’s infancy at Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) annual conference in New Orleans. Here is the link to the conference proceedings. I became clear over the course of the year that all teachers developed their own version of blending and personalizing that best matched their teaching style, their classroom routines, and the needs of their students. For more information about specific details related to this pilot please read these posts.

The Flexlab pilot was an interesting learning experience. We were really excited to be able to offer a variety of online course options for our upper division students and to be able to provide opportunities to make up courses that they have not been successful in. The teachers were given limited training in setting up the course and this became somewhat of a problem as the teachers did not design the course. So we requested some training from the online provider and this was resolved fairly early in the year. However, one of the main concerns that the teachers raised had to do with the content itself. City Arts and Technology is a school that services high numbers of students who are English Language Learners. The teachers felt that students were struggling to access the content because of the language levels, and there were limited opportunities for the teachers to modify the materials. In general this became a serious impediment for many students and the teachers and administrators decided to not continue with this pilot as a result.

The pilot project working with the Learning Specialists was a huge success. The assistive technology was implemented in a variety of ways to meet the individualized needs of particular students. The Blended Learning coach worked closely with these teachers to build their skills with the different technologies, engage in building educational programs for specific students, and think about strategies for incorporating the technology into the general education classroom. This project will continue and as a department the goal is to work towards developing the capacities of the general education teachers to plan for and incorporate the use of the assistive tools into instruction.

Update – Fall 2013

The school year is starting and Envision Schools is engaging in many exciting pilots this year. We are continuing to work with the Algebra I teachers to maintain the programs that they designed last year. Specifically, one teacher is diving into actually coding his own platform and really designing opportunities for personalized learning. For more information read

We are expanding the this pilot to incorporate the Geometry teachers, and the math coach in collaboration with myself (Blended Learning coach) will work closely to working how technology can enhance the content in Geometry as well as support personalized pathways towards mastery.

Lastly, the entire 9th grade at City Arts and Technology is going 1-2-1. We have enough Chromebooks so that every student has their own device. We are rolling the program out this fall. To start with each teacher will have a cart in their rooms and each student will use the same device in each class. The classroom routines and systems were established communally, and are the same across grades. The teachers will all be able to create courses and lessons on as the site grows, as of right now it is just math and biology that are using the platform.

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