Quick to Jump
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Quick to Jump

What does it take to lead the charge for blended learning?

Written by Jamie DeWitt on Thursday, 04 December 2014.

I had the wonderful opportunity to participate at the 10th MVU Online Learning Symposium. The MyBlend team facilitated a panel session titled The Blended Learning Nation. Jeff Gerlach (@JGer1), MyBlend instructional designer, was joined by Kelli Hixon (@kellihixon) and Brent Cryderman (@BrentCryderman) as they discussed their blended learning journeys. Jeff facilitated the backchannel event, polling the audience and communicating via Twitter. Check out more about his experience in his reflective blog post.

My role during the panel was to push out live tweets as the panelists were speaking. This was fast, busy work, but the effort paid off. These tweets give us an opportunity to reflect on the common themes discussed by Kelli and Brent. Twitter provided the audience with a greater connection to the conversation.

The panel conversation that day focused mainly on change and what administrators and teachers can do to make change happen in their school. Both Kelli and Brent work daily on implementing blended learning strategies in their buildings. Kelli works with elementary school teachers and Brent is a high school principal. Each perspective is slightly different but both individuals have the same message: take the risk and make the change.

Kelli reflected on her journey as a teacher and her expectations for blended learning. She didn’t have time to think about expectations before she began and simply “built it out of necessity.” Teachers are the masters of their classroom and will make change happen when that change results in improved student experience. Most of the Symposium audience agreed with this mentality, as 62% of poll respondents believed that the change agent for innovation in districts is the teacher. Teachers are simply one piece of the puzzle as school leaders also need to encourage others to change their practice.

In Brent’s role as the “lead learner” of his high school, he works hard to build a culture of trust. Administrators need to lead for change, creating the time and space for teachers to learn and experiment. Part of the panel discussion on this topic focused on failure. Teachers and teacher leaders need to welcome failure as it is an important step in the learning process. Brent makes sure that his teachers know that “it’s okay to be uncomfortable and it’s okay to take risks.”

Our panelists had a moment at the end of the discussion to share with us their final thoughts. I was interested to hear what their reflections were of their blended learning journey so far.

Both Kelli and Brent spoke about how fast they needed to move to begin blended learning initiatives in their buildings. It is important that, even though we feel pressure to begin and to begin fast, teachers and teacher leaders take the time to intentionally plan these types of changes. Even the smallest initiatives should focus on intentional design. Kelli stated that implementation “goes beyond tech integration, it’s the systems around the tech that matter.” Those systems need to include how blended learning will address student needs. This is why we can see many versions and varieties of blended learning implementation in Michigan and across the country. Every school and every classroom has specific student needs that drive the successful implementation of blended learning. It’s okay to move fast and it’s okay to fail. Jump head first, take a risk and make a change. Do this while always thinking of your students and what they need to succeed.

myblend4-250-greybackSo now it’s your turn! What are you going to do? How are you going to start? Once you start how will you continue to grow the blended learning environment in your school?

The MyBlend team is here to help you in any way we can. The MyBlend program is designed to offer schools and teachers wrap-around support for implementing their own blended learning solutions. MyBlend supports K-12 schools, administrators and teachers in implementing blended learning strategies with the goal of increasing teacher capacity and improving student achievement. MyBlend offers high quality and relevant professional development that prepares educators to grow their own blended learning environment. The MyBlend team is an experienced team of educators, technologists and instructional designers who are focused on personalized solutions for Michigan teachers, schools and students.

I encourage you to invite us to join you in your blended learning journey. There is so much we can learn from each other.

Contact Jamie Dewitt for more information about the MyBlend program or if you have a great blended learning story to share.

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About the Author

Jamie DeWitt

Jamie DeWitt

Jamie DeWitt is the Senior Blended Learning Specialist for Michigan Virtual University. She works with MyBlend teachers and administrators helping to increase capacity to implement blended learning programs. Jamie holds a Master’s degree in K-12 Educational Administration from Michigan State University and a Bachelor’s in Mathematics and Music Education from Aquinas College. Before joining the MyBlend team, Jamie taught face to face for 5.5 years and spent 2 years as a full-time online instructor for MVU.

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