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Testing a blended learning approach to education
By / September 3, 2014 /   Loading Disqus...
The education sector sometimes earns a bad rap for cycling through methods and practices that seem paramount one day and are abandoned the next. What constitutes good reading instruction: the “whole language” approach or a focus on phonemic awareness? What constitutes good math instruction: a spiraling curriculum, or a mastery-based approach? The back and forth from researchers in the field, practitioners in the classroom and sometimes conflicting national directions can be dizzying for educators, not to mention students and families.

Today, it seems everyone is wrestling with the question of how K-12 education should approach technology. Clearly, the opportunities are great. Technology can offer a personalized experience for every child, allowing educators to differentiate their instruction with precision and nuance.  Technology can engage young people with different learning modalities. It can help educators and administrators identify struggling students in real-time and allocate resources and attention to catch students up to speed quickly. 

Of course, this is still a new area, and there are some risks. Nationally, we’ve seen parents and teachers express real concerns about the protections of student privacy with technology that stores student data in “the cloud.” Educators question the quality of online curriculum, and wonder whether a software program could ever replace the invaluable expertise of a master teacher. Clearly, there is a need to balance technological learning and real-world experimentation. 
We don’t have the answers. But we know that our grantees in the education sector are working hard to test new theories, challenge assumptions and develop shareable insights for the right role of technology in education. That’s why the Rhode Island Foundation was proud to support the launch of Highlander Charter School’s Center for Blended Learning with a grant of $325,000 in 2013.  
Highlander is a regionally recognized pioneer in the area of “blended learning,” the practice of delivering core instructional content through multiple, integrated delivery systems. Executed well, blended learning doesn’t replace traditional instruction, but rather reinforces it by allowing teachers to stretch lessons further and allowing students to develop personal ownership over their education. Learn more about blended learning and the Highlander Charter School in this video from our digital reporter Connie Grosch.

Earlier this month, The Learning Accelerator, a nonprofit organization supporting the implementation of high-quality blended learning in school districts and states across the U.S., announced a partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Education to make Rhode Island the first fully “blended-learning state” in the nation. The Learning Accelerator also supports the Highlander’s “Fuse Rhode Island” project, a statewide initiative for sharing, implementing, evaluating and scaling technology usage, and blended learning in schools across Rhode Island. With the support of national funders, the Rhode Island Department of Education and local grantees like Highlander’s Center for Blended Learning, the Rhode Island Foundation is proud to support innovative practices that hold real promise for wider application.  

Learn more about our strategy and education grantmaking here

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