Of Bytes and Blended Learning: Technology and Instructional Variety Combine to Enhance Student Education
Writer Michael Vyskocil
Photographer Eric Forberger
In Kim Promutico’s Garden Spot Middle School math classroom, technology in daily instruction is as essential as notebook paper and number two pencils.
Moving about the room, some students take seats, flip open their laptops, and gather with partners for today’s lesson: probabilities of compound events. Others work in a direct instruction station, calculating concepts through an online learning interface. This is the generation of hybrid learning in the classroom.
Garden Spot Middle School in the Eastern Lancaster County (ELANCO) School District was one of several schools that initially worked with the Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Institute (PA HLI) to implement rotational learning. The PA HLI uses a rotational model of learning enhanced by technology, student collaboration, and instructional support services, such as those provided by the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 (IU13).
Colette Cairns, education innovation specialist for IU13, explains technology’s role in this form of learning.
“Putting a device in their hands gives students the ability to connect to a wealth of knowledge beyond the classroom walls,” Cairns says. “This model encourages teachers to think about learning with collaborative projects and independent learning. It’s a stepping stone to getting to the next level of personalized learning.”
And students are responding favorably to the variety of instructional approaches to accommodate their diverse learning styles. In 2014, for example, Promutico observed the impact on student assessments, such as the PSSAs. Collaborative learning, by far, remains her students’ favorite learning station.
While enhanced student engagement and learning technologies excite educators, slow Internet speeds do not.
“The moment a student has to wait to connect to something [the Internet] you’re done,” says Ken Zimmerman, coordinator of instructional technology and digital media for IU13. Zimmerman further notes the reality that some schools served by IU13 have had to deny student account access to services simply because the school’s bandwidth couldn’t support the volume of student usage.
When students are engaged and teachers can deliver powerful resources for learning—without waiting for downloads—opportunities for learning abound. Imagine what a blended learning classroom in Lancaster County and beyond could look like with gigabit Internet access.
Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13
1020 New Holland Ave.
Lancaster, PA 17601