Aspire Public Schools, a 37-school charter network with schools in California and Tennessee, has been progressively expanding its blended learning implementations for several years with rockstar leadership from Liz Arney, Director of Innovative Learning.
Margaret Ramirez recently published a piece in The Atlantic – When Computers are Co-Teachers – that features Aspire Titan Academy (whose building was once home to a sock factory, we learn). It’s a balanced look at Aspire’s approach to integrating technology its instructional model, with some references to other models across the country.
If you’re interested in taking a closer look at Aspire’s approach to implementing blended learning, it’s worth taking a look at Aspire’s Blended Learning Handbook which is full of practical guidance from Arney and practitioners.
Liz Arney from Aspire Public Schools published a “Blended Learning Handbook” for her network. Rather than keeping it under lock and key, they are sharing this broadly in hopes that others find it useful. This is a great resource for any school or system that is considering blended learning implementation.
Now, as other districts and charter schools are starting to emulate the Rocketship model, which relies on computer-guided instruction as a key component, the K-5 charter school organization is considering leaving it behind, like a first-stage booster, and moving toward a different a 21st century classroom. Instead of rotating students into a “learning lab” – a large computer room – for about quarter of the day as it does now, several of Rocketship’s seven San Jose schools are experimenting with turning their learning lab into one large, all-day classroom incorporating both technology and three teachers and non-credentialed teaching assistants. Over the course of the day, between 100 and 120 students move from individual computer-based instruction to small-group lessons to a large-group setting, moving on cue with amoeba-like fluidity from one activity to another – at least when it’s working smoothly.
The U.S. Department of Education’s latest Race to the Top application is out. With a whopping $400m for approximately 20 winning proposals from individual LEAs or consortia of LEAs to implement “personalized learning environments” (described below), this is a huge opportunity for innovative LEAs to drive their agendas forward quickly. Grant awards range from $5-10m for schools serving 2000-5000 students to $30-40m for LEAs serving 25,001+. I think it goes without saying, but this is a lot of money for a concept that LEAs are only just now beginning to embrace.
Absolute Priority 1: Personalized Learning Environments. To meet this priority, an applicant must coherently and comprehensively address how it will build on the core educational assurance areas (as defined in the notice) to create learning environments that are designed to significantly improve learning and teaching through the personalization of strategies, tools, and supports for students and educators that are aligned with college- and career-ready standards (as defined in the notice) or college- and career-ready graduation requirements (as defined in the notice); accelerate student achievement and deepen student learning by meeting the academic needs of each student; increase the effectiveness of educators; expand student access to the most effective educators; decrease achievement gaps across student groups; and increase the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.
If you are interested in applying, you will need to move quickly as the Intent to Apply is due on August 30 and the Application is due October 30. For those of you who decide to apply, I strongly recommend reading at least the following to inform your thinking. The list below is a subset of a larger list of resources on blended and personalized learning that I’ve compiled on this blog.