Raising Blended Learners

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Raising Blended Learners Planning Year Overview

In June 2015, Raise Your Hand Texas invited every public school district and charter school in Texas to apply to attend a training workshop in the fall, where they would receive expert coaching to develop a blended learning plan for possible grant funding of up to $500,000. Seventy-four teams were ultimately selected to participate in an immersive workshop led by Heather Staker, based on her book Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. The goal of these workshops was twofold: 1) for participants to experience blended learning in action, and 2) for teams to develop prototypes of their own blended learning plans they would submit for possible grant funding.

Following the workshops, in November 2015, 67 of the 74 teams completed and submitted business plans. These plans were reviewed by a panel of national experts and in January 2016, Raise Your Hand announced ten finalist teams. These finalists were invited to a second workshop to refine their business plan and receive personalized, one-on-one support in areas such as instructional design, professional development, content selection, finance, and project management. Following these workshops, the ten finalists revised their business plan for final consideration.

In April 2016, Raise Your Hand Texas selected and announced five winning demonstration sites each receiving up to $500,000 in grant funding over three years and comprehensive implementation support, as well as fifteen additional districts selected as pilot sites to receive implementation support without grant funding to promote the expansion of blended learning statewide. Implementation in both Demonstration and Pilot Network sites is underway with the start of the 2016-17 school year.

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To learn more about Raising Blended Learners planning year, download the FSG report.

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To learn more about the Raising Blended Learners initiative, download the Grant Summary booklet.

About the Workshops

Heather Staker, author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, led four workshops on developing blended learning plans, attended by 370 educators representing 74 Texas schools and districts.

Participants spent an action-packed two days immersed in an authentic blended learning environment, in which the principles of personalization and competency-based progression came to life in real time powered by a digital platform.

With laptops or tablets in hand, teams engaged in online and offline activities that refined their understanding of blended learning and sharpened their vision for how to design a student-centered program in their own schools.

By the end of the two days, participants were able to demonstrate the following four competencies:

  • Describe how the theories of disruptive and sustaining innovation serve as a framework for helping to understand the rise of K−12 blended learning and its potential to improve Texas schools.
  • Identify the difference between high-quality blended learning and “cramming,” which means using technology for technology’s sake. Analyze worthwhile uses of technology.
  • Draft a preliminary plan that addresses the key steps of a successful blended learning strategy. The steps include starting with the rallying cry, organizing the team, designing the student experience, designing the teacher experience, designing the physical and virtual setup, choosing the model, creating the culture, and iterating through a discovery-driven planning process.
  • Develop a network of peers who are committed to supporting and informing each other’s blended learning efforts going forward.

Using online playlists and offline group exercises, the workshops challenged participants to engage in the blended learning planning process in a hands-on and applied way. By the end, participants were ready to apply those techniques on their own to complete their business plans as individual teams.

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Hear From the Workshop Participants

Workshop Results

Reflection surveys completed by participants demonstrate the workshops were extremely successful in inspiring schools and districts to pursue blended learning programs:

  • 94.1 percent of workshop attendees reported they are likely to implement some version of the blended learning plan they created during the workshop, regardless of receiving grant funding.
  • 99.7 percent of all workshop attendees found the workshop useful in learning more about blended learning and how to start their business plans.
  • 97.9 percent reported that they were likely to use the knowledge and techniques they learned at the workshops when they returned to their schools and districts.

Workshop participants reported significantly increased levels of understanding across all competencies, in particular:

  • After the workshop, 96.9 percent of all attendees self-reported that they could define blended learning and distinguish it from technology rich instruction, compared to 14.5 percent before the workshop
  • After the workshop, 89.3 percent of attendees self-reported they were able to develop a rough prototype of their blended learning pilots, compared to 6.9 percent before the workshop.
  • After the workshop, 93.4 percent of attendees self-reported they understood how to choose the best blended learning model to meet the needs of specific learners and environments, compared to 10.7 percent before the workshop.