The Edmond Sun

February 18, 2013

Blended learning is here to stay

Memorial H.S. site for wireless pilot program

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — As educators strive to stay on top of learning techniques, they are constantly learning new methods to help their classroom learners achieve their highest learning capacity. In doing so, teachers learn educational terms or buzz-words that many times are used this year but shelved a few years down the road.

Blended learning is not just a new education buzz-word that is here today and gone tomorrow. It is here to stay, educators say.

Cutting-edge digital technology is being used by students, teachers and administrators at Memorial High School, the first district school to be immersed in digital learning.

Edmond Memorial High School students are being used for the Edmond Public School wireless/BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) pilot program.

“Teachers and students are exploring ways to integrate wireless networking and mobile devices into instruction, while support staff works out policies, procedures and technical details,” said Rich Anderson, EPS director of technology.

Digital learning will be spread to students district-wide as wireless networking is expanded to schools in the next three years at a projected cost of $1.5 million, Anderson said.

“The potential benefits of district-wide wireless networking are many. In addition to increased student engagement, the integration of mobile devices into instruction will better prepare students for college and the workplace, where mobile technology is ubiquitous,” Anderson said.

“By allowing students to bring their own laptops, tablets and Smartphones to school, Internet access for research and classroom activities will be dramatically increased. Whereas the district currently has 3,750 student workstations, it is not hard to imagine half of all EPS students eventually bringing some type of wireless device to school, effectively increasing that number by 10,000. Laptop and iPad carts will also provide flexibility and mobility to the learning environment, and the infrastructure will be in place to support digital textbooks and other emerging trends,” Anderson added.

Along with the benefits come challenges including a learning curve for students and staff and teaching strategies will need to transition to take advantage of mobile computing, Anderson said.

“Students will be accessing the Internet without direct supervision for the first time, and we must ensure that all students are able to participate — even if they do not have their own mobile devices,” Anderson said.

State Superintendent of Schools Janet Barresi said she looks forward to blended learning expanding across Oklahoma schools.

“All schools in Oklahoma can achieve this same level of innovation, but it is going to take vision and the staying power to fund it. Preparing students for life and work in the 21st century is worth it,” Barresi said.

Tom Vander Ark, executive editor and partner of Getting Smart, said blended learning is not just another district initiative,

“It is a large-scale opportunity to develop schools that are more productive for students and teachers,” he said.

Digital Learning Now! (DLN) explores blended learning as a phase change with a goal of accelerating learning toward college and career readiness.

“Blended learning is the future of education and by combining the best personalization offered through technology with the best of face-to-face instruction it provides students with an education that meets their individual needs,” said John Bailey, executive director of DLN.

  “Blended learning is about transforming the learning experience for students through the effective use of technology to create a high-quality digital learning environment to better equip all students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in this 21st-century economy.”