Blended learning that combines digital instruction with live, accountable teachers holds unique promise to improve student outcomes dramatically. Schools will not realize this promise at large scale with technology improvements alone, though, or with technology and today’s typical teaching roles. In this brief, we explain how schools can use blended learning to encourage improvements in digital instruction, transform teaching into a highly paid, opportunity-rich career that extends the reach of excellent teachers to all students and teaching peers, and improve student learning at large scale. We call this a “better blend”: combining high-quality digital learning and excellent teaching. Schools can immediately pursue a better blend at small scale. To achieve excellent learning at scale, state policymakers must change state policy to enable and incentivize a better blend in large numbers of schools. These policies must address five categories: funding, people, accountability for learning, technology and student data, and timing and scalability.
This report is a synthesis of ongoing research, design, and implementation of an approach to education called “connected learning.” It advocates for broadened access to learning that is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity. Connected learning is realized when a young person is able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career success or civic engagement. This model is based on evidence that the most resilient,
adaptive, and effective learning involves individual interest as well as social support to overcome adversity and provide recognition.
The digital revolution is transforming our work, our organisations and our daily lives. This revolution is already in homes across the developed world and increasingly in the developing world too. And there, it is transforming the way children and young people play, access information, communicate with each other and learn. But, so far, this revolution has not
transformed most schools or most teaching and learning in classrooms.
Where technology is used, research findings on its impact on learner outcomes are disappointing. The technological revolution however, does not allow us to abandon our ambition to use technology in classrooms. Nor can we go back to teaching the way we have been so far: the teacher at the front transmitting knowledge and the children listening quietly. The research on brain activity by Rosalind Picard and her colleagues at MIT’s Media Lab suggests that students’ brain activity is nearly non-existent during lectures - even lower than when they are asleep. Lectures equal brain “flatlining” and, as Professor Eric Mazur of Harvard University’s Physics Department puts it, students “are more asleep during lectures than when they are in bed!”
America’s Digital Schools 2006: A Five year Forecast
Learning theory has been a contested scientific field for most of its history, with conflicting contributions from many scientific disciplines, practice and policy positions. With the continuing and disruptive influence of technology on information, knowledge and practice in all sectors of society it is no wonder that innovators, drawn to the interactive potential that computers bring to learning, are challenged by the theoretical basis for their innovations.
Formal education is also a high stakes, culturally & institutionally conservative activity, which serves more than one societal purpose, including:
Online learning can expand student options, provide new distribution models for staffing for hard-to-fill subjects, and power blended learning. It shares many critical success factors with traditional education, such as relying on excellent educators providing instruction and agency, but there are other differences that require a solid plan and well-developed strategy.
Online learning offers a break from the factory model and a path to personalization for students and for teachers. As online learning opportunities grow, so too does the body of evidence that replaces outdated myths with a more realistic picture of student and teacher experiences with online learning.
Mobile learning traditionally means any learning that is mediated by a mobile device such as a smartphone, tablet, or mini computer. In the bigger picture, mobile learners access their content, tools, and communities any time, any place, often in a mixed environment of multiple devices with 24/7/365 Internet access.
The U.S. Department of Education’s National Education Technology Plan calls for “an alternative to the one-size-fits-all model of teaching and learning.” Championing personalized learning, the report goes on to explain, “Personalization refers to instruction that is paced to learning needs [i.e., individualized], tailored to learning preferences [i.e., differentiated], and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary.”1 From classrooms to legislatures, advocates for personalized learning are recognizing that online learning has the potential to advance educational opportunities for all students and to deliver on the promise of personalization — at scale.