Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) embrace a range of innovations in the classroom that include using time and human capital differently, dramatically personalized approaches to learning, and a new mix of traditional teaching with computerized programs known as blended learning.
ELO attempts to integrate what is working in classrooms around the country with new tools and resources to create “more personalized, engaging and relevant learning experiences that tap into each student’s passions, interests and learning styles.”
The Colorado Legacy Foundation is at the forefront of engaging educators, funders and policymakers in an ongoing, national exploration of this new teaching and learning platform.
As a teacher, putting hours of work into your students and classroom, and communicating with parents about what is going on with their children, it can be tough to keep abreast of, and experiment with, new ideas.
As a parent, it can be challenging to keep up with the school administration’s or board’s talk about the next best thing that will raise test scores and your child’s chances to go to college.
Yet it is critical to the success of our schools that we understand the lingo and take part in the discussion and experimentation.
- If your neighborhood school is extending the school day or year, do you understand why? Do you know how to measure its success or failure?
- If your child’s teacher keeps talking about how she is using a blended learning approach in the classroom, do you know what that means? Do you know what tools that gives you as a parent to assess your child’s progress?
Already in 2013, the Colorado Legacy Foundation, in partnership with the Donnell-Kay Foundation, Colorado Department of Education, eNetColorado and the University of Colorado (Denver), have been hosting regional workshops to raise awareness about Colorado’s vision for ELO. This vision focuses on the development of three competencies: academic (e.g. math and literacy), professional (e.g. collaboration and time management skills) and entrepreneurial (e.g. managing risk, capitalizing on connections and opportunities).
Now, for those who cannot make the regional workshops, they are hosting a series of three webinars. The first focused on implementing Personalized Learning strategies in classrooms. I just participated in the second on Blended Learning, which took place on Wednesday, May 1, and was lead by Vanessa Gonzalez of Education Elements, a technology company based in San Francisco. Education Elements works with schools to assess their needs, evaluate their communities and teacher skills sets, and implement an appropriate blended learning environment for their students.
Participants included educators from Pagosa Springs High School, Pueblo South High School, and Arvada High School, among others around Colorado.
Blended learning, as defined by Gonzalez, is the “integration of technology with face-to-face instruction to address multiple modalities in the classroom.” Its four essential elements include:
- Integrated digital content that targets students and teaches to their individual ability
- Small-group instruction so teachers can tailor that to group level
- Data driven decision-making that empowers teachers to quickly address a student’s needs
- Sustainable practice
Gonzalez explained that when used strategically, technology can deliver content prescribed by the Common Core requirements, at the individual student’s level, while teachers continue to offer higher level understanding, conversation and analysis face-to-face.
One teacher quoted said that with the blended learning approach, “you just stop teaching to the middle.” Another said, “My lessons have been more targeted.”
The most interesting part of the presentation was a video produced at the Aspire ARES Academy in Oakland, California. The school is already using a blended learning approach in its classrooms and recorded a 47-point API increase after implementation. The video enabled webinar participants to see what a blended learning classroom might look like and how it works. It is definitely worth a look if your school is considering a transition to this approach.
The next webinar, called Re-imagining Time and Human Capital, will take place on Thursday, May 23 at 4:00 p.m. Presenters include Furman Brown from Generation Schools and Lisa Pryor from the National Center on Time & Learning. It promises to be a thought-provoking look at what many educators and students, including those at Generation Schools, are experiencing with extended hours and expanded school calendars. If you are interested in registering, please email email@example.com.
Check out the Colorado Legacy Foundation website (http://colegacy.org/initiatives/elo/) to learn more about innovations taking place in schools around the country. If we, as teachers and parents and policymakers, are going to see our schools improve, then we have to do our homework.