Saturday, February 4, 2017

Finding the Student/Teacher Ratio Sweet Spot Through Blended Learning

I don't teach technology. I teach rethinking education. Jesus thought that a teacher to student ratio of 12 to 1 was good. I'm of the theory that He should know. If that's the case, what can I do to help teachers find that sweet spot. Leveraging technology in the classroom through blended learning can help do that. 

Let's face it, the higher the student to teacher ratio the lower the cost of education. Less teachers teaching more students is a financial win but not necessarily an academic or emotionally supportive win. Life is about connections. When people connect, magic happens...if you don't believe me watch any movie on the warm and fuzzy Hallmark channel. 

Connecting with others creates a feeling of safety to be one's transparent self. Transparency leads to trust, trust leads to growth, and growth leads to success. Label "growth" whatever you want to- better grades, better skills, better level of adaptability- growth isn't always easy but  it is always rewarding to see it in others or be able to acknowledge it in ourselves. 

I don't teach technology, I teach growth. Technology is often my avenue for this but I didn't come into the world of education to push technology, I came into this world to make a difference in student learning. 

The exponential changes that education could conceivably go through in the next 3-5 years is mind boggling. I remember leading a group of sophomore teachers and department heads a few years back and the last words out of my mouth were "Be mindful that the next big thing is adaptive technology. Keep on the lookout for it. It will have the potential to change education as we know it." 

Cue now... in multiple areas of our school I see the use of adaptive technology for students to practice ongoing learning. If the problem is too hard and they get it wrong, they can see the right way to do it immediately and the next problem will be easier. This creates a feeling of success in learning. Digital scaffolding is better than any "do odd problems on page 27" could ever be. Immediate feedback on results, immediate reteaching on subject matter, immediate second chance to try again. 

So what? This type of technology becomes a teacher in itself. That makes some people scream in pushback "no, you just said education is about connection!" Bear with me... efficiencies in teaching by using technology like I mentioned allows the teacher more time to connect. It allows the teacher more time for small group and one on one lessons. It allows the teacher more time to go deeper. Not only does this type of technology give students immediate feedback but it also gives teachers the efficiencies of knowing what should be next, who is ready to move on, who is not. 

Adopting a blended learning model that includes adaptive technology allows quicker insight for the teachers because of the technology itself but also because small group instruction lends itself to being more aware of individual student needs. 

There is no magic software or perfect way to do this. All blended learning classrooms look differently. I am a firm believer that leveraging blended learning in today's classrooms is creating the type of students that will be successful in tomorrow's real world jobs. The soft skills of self-motivation, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, adaptability, accessing and analyzing information become even more imperative in a world where access of information is always in our back pocket. 

Today's ability to transform a single classroom into differentiated teaching styles by choices like teacher facilitated, digital instruction, gaming, inquiry based learning, hands on, or peer to peer creates an adaptable student that can not only turn a pocket full of information into knowledge but also creates a person that sees the value of progress. And maybe just maybe we empower them to desire to be lifelong learners along the way.