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.
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:
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.
Reflection surveys completed by participants demonstrate the workshops were extremely successful in inspiring schools and districts to pursue blended learning programs:
Workshop participants reported significantly increased levels of understanding across all competencies, in particular: