Blended Learning and Our Unique Environment in a Rural Alaskan Village

Research Questions and Emerging Themes

Aleta May

Week 5

EDET636

What patterns or themes are evident in the research I read? How do these themes inform my project and/or the projects of others in this PLN?

I am starting this project in the best way I understand that it should be started. First, I started reading. Second, I started attending a blended reading (Read 180) environment every day beginning Monday September 29th. Immersing myself into this new setting at our school has already begun to guide my thinking about research so that I can culminate in one research question at the end of this writing today. I have read many more articles than the three referenced below, but these three represent a broad snapshot of the topic. Not only am I focusing on the design of the blended learning setting at our school, but the impact on a variety of learners (high needs through nearly independent) of this program. Included will be my sorting out who participated in the Lexia computer reading program last school year and how is this experience impacting student learning within this program? Are they (8th graders) adjusting to a rotation design faster than the 7th grade students, even though they were enrolled in a computer (90%) only program with supplemental worksheets?

Herold, B. (2014). New model underscores rocketship’s growing pains. Education Week 33(19).

“A few will sit at a small table with the class’ lead teacher, in depth reading instruction targeted to their individual strengths and weaknesses” (Herold, 2014, p. 1). The theme is the flexible classroom. The computer program is set to individualize for students. A concern is that students are not pushed to think for themselves, rather they are taught to follow directions. The blended learning model was started with students being grouped and cycled daily between traditional and computer-assisted instruction (CAI) within learning labs. The station rotation model may be too fixed/inflexible, although initial test scores may rise impressively. An alternative paradigm for the station rotation model is to separate groups across classrooms in place of staying in one large area. In the Rocketship program, adjustments were made across the grade levels; the station rotation model was left for grades 1 through 3 to continue, while grades 4 and 5 were placed into a set of 6 students per group design. In these 4th and 5th grade classes, grouped by compatible needs (homologous), high level reading instruction was covered by one group of six students who locate synonyms in a text. Struggling students get tailored lessons in sounding out words. The flexible classroom schedule includes about 30 minutes of independent reading, whole group instruction and online learning. The goal for 4th and 5th grade, “flexible classrooms are a blended learning upgrade featuring more differentiated instruction. . .and better-integrated technology (Herold, 2014p. 12).

Hew, K. F. & Cheung, W. S. (2014). Using blended learning evidence-based practices. Singapore, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht & London: Springer

In this book, the premise is that blended learning is a pedagogy rather than a percentage of time spent in face-to-face, brick and mortar building versus time spent online. It involves considering the proper balance of online or face-to-face factors that will encourage students to learn from each other while having the freedom to learn independently and conveniently (not locked to one modality in space and time). In one study by Means et al. 2010 referred to by Hew and Cheung, 2014, ”the U.S. Department of Education found that blends of online and face-to-face instruction, on average, had stronger learning outcomes than did face-to-face instruction alone” (p. 4). The instructional strategies (pedagogy) used are more essential to course design than a subjectively set percentage of times allotted to each.

Perez-Sanagustin, M., Santos, P., Hernandez-Leo, D., & Blat, J. (2012). 4SPPIces: A case study of factors in a scripted collaborative-learning blended course across spatial locations. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning 7:443-465. . Singapore, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht & London: Springer

In the above referenced article, the Computer-Supported Collaborative Blended Learning (CSCBL) script refers to a learning situation. Integrated into one unique learning setting are activities embedded into that setting. A conceptual model of four factors is 4SPPIces “the space, the pedagogical method, the participants, and the history” (p. 443); and it supports the design of CSCBL scripts. The technological system blends activities that are collaborative and individual and supported by computer-based and mobile technologies. To design this script, these four factors impact the learning environment designed by CSCBL scripts. Learning purposes are the focus when collaborative-blended-learning (CBL) is arranged by specific selection of technologies that will affect and support the pedagogy and purposes. Here are the two research questions this article analyzed: “(1) Does the CSCBL script, considering the 4SPPIces factors, cover the demands of the teacher for the specific geography context? And (2) Does the technological environment associated to the CSCBL script support students’ and teachers’ tasks?” (p. 445). Within this analysis socio-linguistic research has contributed understanding to how users’ interactions are shaped in communicating within electronic environments.

What I am discovering is that I have stepped into a very large study! Blended learning is ‘where it’s at’. Our school is enacting a Read 180 program that has many pros, and I am discovering through assisting with this program now that it has weaknesses. The weakness I discover is that our unique environment can only be served to a certain degree by outside designers. The strengths are very evident as well, and they far outweigh the weaknesses. The next step for our school is to ask; How can blended learning be designed to meet the specific needs of our students, including incorporation of a dual language (DL) program or rather, incorporating the DL program into blended learning environment that meets our student needs and schedule restrictions?  Themes that are emerging are that pedagogy drives the design and balance of a blended learning environment, and that technology needs to be carefully matched to enhance communication between students and other students and students and instructors.

References

Herold, B. (2014). New model underscores rocketship’s growing pains. Education Week 33(19).

Hew, K. F. & Cheung, W. S. (2014). Using blended learning evidence-based practices. Singapore, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht & London: Springer

Perez-Sanagustin, M., Santos, P., Hernandez-Leo, D., & Blat, J. (2012). 4SPPIces: A case study of factors in a scripted collaborative-learning blended course across spatial locations. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning 7:443-465. . Singapore, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht & London: Springer

One thought on “Blended Learning and Our Unique Environment in a Rural Alaskan Village

  1. Sunshine Winn

    Aleta,
    Wow, blended learning is a tough one. I am glad that you saw the concern of kids not being pushed as much, but led to follow directions. There are negatives and positives to everything, but this is one that really caught my attention. I also agree with your thoughts on outside influence. Since you are in a small village, things are different there. Their way of life, culture, and the difference in how they learn is such a huge factor for these kids. My sister and her husband taught for 5 years in AKHIOK on Kodiak island. Life in a small community is so very different from life in the city. You have to keep this in mind no matter what you implement. This formal education program can be great, as long as the entire school community is on board with it. I will be intrigued to hear how you plan to implement it.

    Reply

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