Blended Learning: New Solution to an Old Problem
This week was the 58th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, striking down racial segregation in public schools. White flight has left many urban schools segregated. Even worse, the quality of education in America remains highly correlated to neighborhood income levels. It is obvious that the provision of educational services in this country is far from equal. Education remains the most pressing civil rights issue of our time. As Fordham has pointed out, governance is the root problem. In Rethinking Education Governance for the Twenty-First Century, they make the case for a more equitable and efficient approach than the shame of ‘local control’ that continues to tolerate chronic and widespread failure. Like other tough reform issues, digital learning affords a new opportunity set—a new way to solve an old problem like inequitable education. For example, it would be quite possible with 30 days notice to offer high quality online summer school for every student in America. It would be logistically easy in September to offer every high school student in America access to every Advanced Placement course, every STEM course, and every foreign language course. The only reason we’re not doing this now is the parochial interests protected by the rhetoric of local control. Digital Learning Now offers a state policy framework that is America’s best hope for attacking education inequity. The first three of the Ten Elements of High Quality Digital Learning address the issue of equitable access. We can provide every student in America access to great teachers, but that won’t happen in a traditional classroom (as Public Impact has so clearly spelled out)—it will happen when we leverage talent with technology and blend the best of online and onsite learning. To power these new models that combine local and national resources, Digital Learning Now calls for educational funding that is weighted, portable, and performance-based. The question of quality is addressed in Digital Learning Now through recommendations for strong authorizing and transparent accountability. We have the roadmap, we have examples, and we have the technology to provide every American student with a good education. The question is do we have the will? Folks in Ohio were having the conversation this week (see my conclusions from the Ohio Digital Learning Summit). Are your state leaders having a conversation about providing an equitable education?
Though I am not old enough to have been in school during the first desegregation of the schools in my hometown, I was in elementary school during a following desegregation movement. I remember some friends not coming back the next year because their parents didn’t want them going to school with the kids who would be coming now. It didn’t change much for my educational experience except the school now house just three grade level instead of six and I got to meet new people well before Junior High School. This leads me to think that blended learning can benefit students with a little more than access to quality educators. The anonymity online learning gives a students can potentially allow students to succeed in any area despite racial or gender prejudices. Access to quality education and a lack of predetermined prejudices sounds like real equitable education. Vivian Deason, Dr. Setser’s Summer ECI 509 class.
Tom Vander Ark
My daughter and I recently collaborated on an entry for Dr. Allison Rossett's blog covering this very topic -
We believe we are at a turning point. Students are no longer kept in an Ozian mystique with the wizards of knowledge and learning hiding behind a curtain. They are fully aware of when, where and how to get learning, what they don't understand is why it has to be through an antiquated, formalized system that is designed to limit them.
I both agree and disagree with your stance. I certainly agree that blended learning could reap widespread benefits across the country and perhaps even globally. I think that students everywhere should have access to the same level of education, regardless of their socioeconomic status or racial background. I suppose my disagreement lies in the idea that the quality of education is lower in impoverished neighborhoods. I work in a school where 95% of the students are on free/reduced lunch. I am on the school improvement team, and based on the budget I have seen, we are one of the most highly funded middle schools in the county. We have the most manageable student/teacher ratio in the district, and we have so many instructional coaches in our classrooms that not a day goes by that we do not have some central office figure present in our classrooms. Yet, at the end of the year, our scores are consistently lower than everyone else's. Our students are provided more educational opportunities in the classroom than any other school in the district, but there is simply only so much that a school system can do to make up for what is lacking in the home. We can give them access to the best instruction worldwide through blended learning, but I would stand that many of them are already receiving great instruction. Unless there is a change in the communities attitude about the importance of education, blended learning will provide more opportunities, but the opportunities will not be acted on any more than the many current educational opportunities they are afforded through the extra funding the school receives.
-Jenna Hardin, Dr. Setser's Summer ECI 509 class
Tom Vander Ark
Thanks Jenna. I appreciate the work you're doing and agree that widespread improvement requires a cultural shift. I see a stronger academic press top to bottom of the pyramid when I visit India and China. Blended learning models that extend the school day and connect home and school with a take home device can be part of that culture shift.
Thanks for this great article.
I was wondering if you can throw some light on how do we determine which parts of a training course can be e-learning and which parts should be face to face learning? Are there any criteria or best practices?
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