Small Group Instruction & Technology Integration
Blended Learning Summit at Saint Anne School
On February 10, 2015 Saint Anne School hosted its 2nd Annual Blended Learning Summit, gathering together leaders and experts in blended learning with educators and funds to share best practices and lessons in this pioneering method of instruction. Representatives of Catholic schools, as well as charter and independent schools, universities and foundations are invited to attend. Confirmed participants include the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, San Jose and Orange, Loyola Marymount University, Santa Clara University, Catholic elementary schools from across Los Angeles, KIPP, Rocketship, Thrive, Aspire, The Alliance for College Ready Public Schools, Grimmway Academy, Think Through Math and more.
What is Blended Learning?
Blended learning is a classroom instruction model that blends:
- direct instruction from a teacher
- collaborative learning among students and
- individualized learning on computers or laptops.
The best blended learning programs, like the one at Saint Anne School, collect information about student work on the computers and produce data or reports for teachers. These reports let teachers see, immediately, how much the students understand about the lesson. The goal is to allow teachers to “differentiate” their instruction to the individual needs and pace of each student in a classroom. That is, students who master a lesson or concept advance at their own pace through lessons and materials on that topic. Teachers can direct their instruction to a group of students who share a level of understanding that allows the teacher to explain a lesson to that group in a way that maximizes their grasp of the material.
What are the Benefits of the Seton Blended Learning Program at Saint Anne School?
- Direct instruction is given by teachers in small groups of students working at similar levels
- Students take base line tests to determine individual growth targets in reading/language arts and mathematics
- Students work daily on individual learning profiles
- On-line work is adaptive, and adjusts to deliver challenge, reinforcement or remediation in real time based on student responses
- Teachers can assign work or students can work on adaptive pathways that adjust to meet individual needs
- All student work is captured as data delivered immediately to teachers who can track individual student growth and progress
- All students are eligible for awards in incentive programs based upon meeting or exceeding growth targets
What is the Seton Blended Learning Initiative and who is Seton Education Partners?
Seton Education Partners, www.setonpartners.org, a New York-based non-profit education consultancy, and its co-founders, Scott W. Hamilton and Stephanie Saroki de Garcia, are among the leaders in blended learning technology and instruction in the United States. Mr. Hamilton was one of the founders of the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter schools which have locations in Los Angeles. The Phaedrus Initiative is the name of Seton’s project to introduce quality blended learning into elementary and middle schools. Seton previously launched blended learning at two other schools–St. Therese Catholic Academy in Seattle, Washington and Mission Dolores Academy in San Francisco. Based on the academic achievement results of the program in those schools, Seton conducted a national search to identify a school or schools to launch the next Phaedrus Blended Learning sites. Saint Anne School applied and was selected for a K-8 whole-school program, along with DePaul Catholic School in Philadelphia which launched a K-2 blended learning program.
How does the Blended Learning “Classroom Rotation Model” work and how much time will my child spend on the computer?
Each classroom is set up with three work stations:
1. Direct Instruction with the Teacher
2. Collaborative Learning or Project Station
3. Individual Computer Learning Stations (15 in K-5, 30 in 6-8)
Each day and for each core subject, the classroom teacher divides and separates the class into two or three working groups. At the beginning of the year, students will take an assessment test (a NWEA test) to determine their starting level in each subject. This level changes repeatedly over the course of the year. Generally, the groups are divided based on the students’ mastery of a teaching standard (such as adding fractions, using adjectives, identifying the subject in a sentence, or learning states and capitals.) The three groups are:
1. Students who have not yet mastered that standard;
2. Students who have or have just about mastered that standard; and
3. Students who have mastered and surpassed that standard.
Work groupings likely will change daily and weekly as students master different learning topics or standards. Groupings will also vary subject to subject in accord with students’ learning strengths and weaknesses. So, for example, a student who has mastered the parts of speech and scored proficient on using adjectives might not have mastered percentages or fractions in math and may find himself or herself in not yet mastered, mastered, and surpassed working groups all in the same day, with his or her groups changing regularly.
The teacher begins a subject like math with one group of students, working through her lesson. While one group is working with her, a second group works together on a collaborative learning project and the third group works individually on their own computer profiles of assignments. All students receive the lesson on the same grade level standard in rotation. All students cycle through direct instruction in each subject with their teachers, and they deepen their understanding and critical thinking about that subject through collaborating with other students and through their online computer software programs.
Students spend less than 1/3 of their days, and therefore, less than 1/3 of their total week on computers. One third of the rotation is with the teacher in traditional, direct instruction. One third is in collaborative learning and one third is on the computer. In addition, regular whole-class and whole school time continues. Students are together and not on computers for music, school mass and religion class, physical education, assemblies, field trips, recess, lunch and more. There will be some periods or occasions when students collaborate on an online project or when classrooms use a two rotation model, but these are for limited periods during the year.
Do blended learning computers have internet access?
No. The classroom blended learning computers only have access to the selected educational software programs. Students cannot go onto the internet from these blended learning programs other than for the selected programs. Other internet access is blocked on them. The computer screens face the teacher so that she can verify that students on computers are on task. In each classroom there will be three or four additional internet connected desktop computers. Those internet connected computers are operated through a school-wide internet filter designed for use by schools. The filter limits access to only approved sites. Teachers are the only persons in the classrooms who have the codes to override the internet firewall and filter.
How does the Blended Learning “platform” collect and use student data?
The reason the Seton Phaedrus Initiative at Saint Anne School is so special is that it uses what is called a “single sign-on” data platform. Students go to a computer work station and sign in using a photo sign on and password sequence. The student then is “inside” his or her own personal profile or account. The computers are pre-loaded with carefully selected and highly-rated educational software programs (like TenMarks Math and Achieve 3000). Everything a student does on the computer is both visible to the teacher and recorded by the program. The program records what the student works on, all of his or her responses or answers and scores them. The program then produces instant reports or data for the teacher. The teacher can also log on and look a the class overall, an individual student, an individual student’s mastery of one subject overall or of a single standard, or she can review one standard and see where the class is as a whole. The program color codes everything according to mastery of the subject and collects this information for ALL of the different subject programs we have selected. The teacher does not have to jump from program to program to evaluate student progress. All data is collected, sorted, analyzed, graded and reported in one place. The software is also “adaptive” which means that the system feeds the student more of the work that that particular student needs to master a given learning standard.
Is the data about my child private and secure?
Absolutely. The data are only available to the school and to the software platform company which collects and produces the data. The platform company, Education Elements, is prohibited from disclosing the data to any third parties. Each child’s account is password protected. The data is encrypted, identities are anonymous and protected. None of the software providers or vendors can use or sell the data to or with third parties.
What educational software programs are included on the platform?
Saint Anne School will utilize only the top-rated and best available programs. The Blended Learning Director of the Seton Blended Learning Initiative, Jeff Kerscher, constantly reviews, analyzes and assesses the software options. Mr. Kerscher spent the first year of the program on campus at Saint Anne School as the Director of Blended Learning. We have selected Education Elements as a platform, and Achieve 3000, eScience, TenMarks Math, i-Ready, dreambox, and Think Through Math as content software. We will continue to use Gradelink software for student grading and parent interface.
What is the paycheck system?
The Phaedrus Blended Learning system has multiple levels and types of student incentives built into it to reward effort and performance, through which students earn points or rewards for remaining on task or for other positive behaviors. Saint Anne School already has several systems like this, school-wide and in each classroom, like our Student Learning Expectations program. In the middle school grades, Grades 6-8 only, students will begin their weeks with virtual Saint Anne dollars. They will earn or lose those dollars as the week goes on based on behaviors–earning dollars for completing homework or helping a friend, and losing dollars for using inappropriate language, being disruptive, or speaking out of turn. Through the year and at the end of the year, there will be Saint Anne School gear students can purchase with their SAS dollars. Students also can choose to spend SAS dollars on privileges or experiences established by the faculty. They can also spend or save their dollars and enter the end of the year auction where they can use their dollars for special prizes.
What other school culture components are there to the Phaedrus Blended Learning program?
At Saint Anne School, we want every child to have as her or his goal to attend college. We have created a hallway display of college pennants from dozens of colleges and universities, including Ivy League and elite colleges and universities, Catholic colleges and universities, California colleges and universities and more. Teachers will display boards reflecting their own college experiences in their classrooms. In addition, at every level through the program, students will be recognized and rewarded for progress and positive behaviors. We will maintain the Student Learning Expectations throughout the school.
Press and Publicity
NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) Reports
Middle School Year-End Raffle: Rules and Prizes
Visit or Subscribe to a Blended Learning Blog
Blend My Learning [innovate, transform, share], www.blendmylearning.com
Read About Incentive and Achievement Programs
View and Print a PDF of Blended Learning at Saint Anne School (Q & A)
Phaedrus Year 2 Results (Mission Dolores and St. Therese)