Why Haven’t Districts Adopted Blended Learning Faster?

Consultants asked, “Why haven’t districts adopted blended learning faster?” I answered, “Because it’s complicated.”
Teachers — as well as parents and students — have adopted new tools at a surprising rate. This “bottom-up.” groundswell is what’s new and different about this change process than anything we’ve seen before. The adoption of web and mobile apps — many like Edmodo andKhan Academy — available for free and has has been growing exponentially since 2010.
School adoption of adaptive math tools has been steady. The products in the RocketshipEducation’s Learning Lab —Dreambox, ST Math, and i-Ready — have seen rapid adoption. ST Math, a game-based visual approach, has been adopted by more than 1,400 schools with great results.
In some cases, principals have been able to leverage flipped classroom, teacher leadership to turn around a struggling school. Greg Green tells a compelling story about improvements at Clintondale High School near Detroit.
There are some examples of rapid and effective district adoption that we’ve highlighted:

There are four shortcomings that have slowed district adoption of blended learning:
1. Platforms: There aren’t any next generation learning platforms that make blended learning really easy to deploy.
2. Models: Innosight Institute profiled 40 blended-learning programs in its report, “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning: Profiles of Emerging Models ,” but there are still relatively few proven school models to visit and limited or no adoption support available.
3. Staffing and development: As outlined by Public Impact at Opportunity Culture, blended learning makes it possible to extend the reach of effective educators, but that requires new staffing patterns and professional development. Blended learning can improve working conditions and career options for teachers but new relationships and agreements take time to craft.
4. Capacity: Blended learning is a complex initiative combining technology, curriculum, communications, and professional development. Most districts are poorly equipped to manage a multifaceted program of work, especially after waves of budget cuts.
Funding the shift to digital learning can be a challenge but in a recent report Digital Learning Now! (DLN) outlined 3 strategies for funding computer access. 
DLN also outlined 10 productive ways states can help including authorizing statewide full and part time online learning, contributing to improved access, coordinating a shift to digital instruction material changes, and leveraging state purchasing power.
Implementing online assessment in 2014-15 creates an important 21-month calendar for states and districts. The DLN team will soon provide guidance on getting ready for online assessment and implementing blended learning. The shift to personal digital learning is on.
For more see “60+ Blogs On Blended Learning.”
Edmodo is a portfolio company of Learn Capital where Tom is a partner. MIND Research Institute and Curriculum Associates are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners. This blog first appeared on EdWeek.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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