What is Blended Learning? A Q&A with Natasha Mitchell

Q&A with Natasha Mitchell

What is your role, and what is the role of technology in education?

I began as the Interim Director of Virtual Learning in July 2020. For the previous two years I had the honor of being the principal of Nance Elementary. During my tenure at Nance our vision was to empower students as global leaders to make a positive impact on the world. This mission critical work is what continues to drive me to promote equity and excellence for not only the students of Nance, but for students throughout the entire district. My previous district experiences as a teacher, Instructional Technology Specialist, Academic Coach, and principal, all bring a collective core of knowledge to this role. Additionally, I have a master’s degree in Educational Technology and an E.Ds. in Educational Leadership.

Technology acts as an equalizer in education. With all of the uncertainty and unrest that has marked 2020, one thing holds true – every student should have access to technology and internet. As educators, it is our duty to ensure that students are equipped not only with technological devices and wi-fi, but that we equip teachers with the knowledge and skill sets to facilitate learning in a completely reimagined classroom space. As students access knowledge and make meaning of the world around them, the intersection of technology and teaching act as a pathway for student agency.

How does the District intent to make sure teachers are prepared for the proposed fall school year scenarios (in-person, virtual, and online)?

The academic office is preparing a robust learning experience for all teachers to ensure they are equipped with the skills, knowledge and technology tools to design and facilitate dynamic Blended Learning instruction.  It is our hope that all teachers will be participate in a Virtual Learning Academy.

What is blended learning and what opportunities does it present?

Blended Learning is a method of instruction that integrates technology and digital media with traditional instructor-led classroom activities. What this means is that students will engage in pre-scheduled synchronous (in real time) instruction for every subject area either daily or on a block schedule (depending on the specific school schedule.) This can include virtual face-to-face class meetings, direct instruction, collaboration and discussion. The synchronous live instruction will be balanced with an asynchronous (on your individual schedule) daily/weekly “playlist” directly aligned to the lesson objectives and designed for each student to work through independently.

Our core academic focus as we enter the 2020-2021 school year, is to ensure that the student experience (whether virtual or in-person) is robust and engaging with the right balance of synchronous instruction and asynchronous independent work designed to promote critical thinking, problem solving and grade-level proficiency. Effective virtual learning integrates asynchronous instructional design with synchronous instruction and engagement.

Why Blended Learning?

Blended Learning supports student centered learning in a flexible environment. Blended Learning provides cohesive learning experiences that can be tailored for in-person learning, virtual learning or a combination of both. This model supports the need for flexibility in enrollment options for families, while ensuring high-quality learning content is available regardless of physical setting of learning.

All content for Blended Learning is available online, making this an ideal choice to ensure social distancing in school for in-person learners and to support virtual learners. Additionally, in the event of intermittent virtual learning due to another district or school closure, Blended Learning creates seamless, continuous learning for all students.

 

How is the District supporting parents to engage in academics over technology with their children?

The District will be providing ongoing virtual training for parents to support them in helping their children with virtual learning. Additionally, as a district we are streamlining the online experience by ensuring a systematized approach to the school and teacher websites. The intent is to provide ease of access for parents and students to access instructional materials, weekly assignments, instructional videos and due dates directly from the “Class Assignments” tab on every teacher’s webpage.

 

If you’re successful in this role, what will that mean for students?

It will mean that every student is empowered with the technology tools and instructional resources necessary to engage in meaningful learning that will put them on a pathway to success.

 

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