“Teaching in this unusual instructional model has helped me continue to evolve my teaching. My thought process has shifted in how I think about accessing curriculum, delivering instruction, evaluating learning, and use of space and time. Initially we started with figuring out how online curriculum fits into our instructional model. But over time we start thinking about what is the most effective way to deliver instruction, and online, in person, and blended just become a continuum of options for providing seamless instruction and assessment. Our students no longer think about differences between these approaches, it’s all part of what they do. For teachers we just think about what is best for this student, at this time.
—Kelly Schwirzke, Oasis Early College High School, Santa Cruz, California
A main goal of our Teaching with Technology study was to ensure that the authentic voices of teachers came through clearly and accurately. We compiled nearly 2,000 text responses to open-ended survey questions, and spoke with just over 50 teachers and administrators. Their stories give life to the promise, successes, and challenges of implementing technology in the classroom.
The teachers who responded to the survey and gave interviews were generally positive about the use of technology and blended learning. As we explain in the report, this is not surprising because of the way that we publicized the online survey, which was available to any teacher who wished to respond. But unlike some technology advocates, the teachers were thoughtful and measured in their responses. Teachers gave many highly positive comments, such as in the quote leading off this post, as well as insightful ideas about how to improve the use of technology in education.
This final post reviewing the report closes with several of the dozens of quotes included in the study.
“One of the most difficult parts of rolling out blended learning is the amount of information out there. It takes time and dedication to figure out what is right for your students. We make sure all of our teachers know just because a blended program worked somewhere else it doesn’t mean it will work the same in their classroom. I encourage them to be open to that change and try new things. Most of all, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work. My goal is to empower teachers, reminding them that they are the professionals and I can give suggestions, but ultimately they know their students best and know what is or isn’t working. In the end, it is all about the students.”
—Peter Servidio, St. Dominic Academy, Lewiston, ME
“My personalized learning journey started at the conclusion of my first year of teaching, which ended with me crying in my car. I teach at-risk students, and one third of my students failed my class that first year. I had used the curriculum I was given, and a standard teaching approach, and I felt like I failed my students. I was using common assessments, common prompts, common everything—and it didn’t work. Then I got angry at my failure, and tried something new at the start of the next year. I asked my students: why did they hate school? They said that school forces them to conform to everything. We tell them when to speak, when to go to the bathroom, and what they have to learn. We don’t instead ask what they want to learn, and how to learn it. I thought if I can change that equation maybe I can reach these students. We have a gold mine of talent in every classroom, but when we tell them they have to conform we bury their talent, their interest, their flame. I had to figure out how to reach more students, by doing what they wanted, and working with their interests, their abilities, and their challenges.
—Alexandra Griffith, West High School, Oshkosh, WI
There’s a needed discussion about how blended and personalized learning are improving student learning. I would love to see more data about how blended learning is changing learning outcomes, in lowering the achievement gap especially. There’s interesting data from John Hattie around the most powerful levers to change. Hattie says that student-teacher relationships are central. Technology is a tool that can help us leverage the best of what teachers have to offer. As we continue to invest time and money into educational technology and pedagogical support, we need to assess the success and wisdom of our efforts.
—Chris Freeburg, Public Service Leadership Academy @ Fowler High School, Syracuse, NY
The blended learning portion is a key component of our charter, but our culture and teachers are central. If you remove technology this would be a different school on a day-to-day basis, but the culture and the quality of teachers and administration would still be there. Once you have the right vision, and the right people, anything is possible.
—Calina Fernandez, Brilla College Prep Public Charter School, Bronx, NY