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Dell Foundation Case Studies Examine Blended Learning

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF) has released the first of a series of case studies that examine blended learning approaches at five charter management organizations across the United States.

Blended learning combines traditional face-to-face classroom methods with computer-based activities and "has the potential to support teachers in delivering individualized instruction to students," said Cheryl Niehaus, program officer at MSDF, in a prepared statement.

The schools in the case studies implemented either a "classroom rotation" or "station rotation" model of blended learning, where students move from classroom-to-classroom or station-to-station for direct instruction from the teacher, individualized work on the computer, and other instructional methods.

The case studies look at the methods each school used to implement blended learning, both from an instructional and an operational point of view. The case studies also explain how each school chose which blended learning model to use and the school's success factors and lessons learned from implementation of the model, and they provide a high-level overview of the potential financial implications of each organization's approach.

"These case studies can serve as an information source for schools that are interested in learning more about this type of blended learning model," added Niehaus.

The first case study examines blended learning at KIPP LA, a charter school with three elementary and two middle schools in south and east Los Angeles. KIPP LA has implemented blended learning in its kindergarten and first grade classrooms. It uses the station-rotation model to deliver 90 minutes a day of reading and writing instruction, 45 minutes for math, and 50 minutes for science. The students rotate through small-group instruction with a lead teacher, small-group instruction with an intervention teacher, and self-directed learning on individual computers. According to the case study, the school achieved significant improvements in literacy assessments but experienced some technological challenges.

According to a press release, the foundation commissioned SRI International to conduct a one-year, quasi-experimental evaluation of these schools' impact on students' learning, and then retained FSG to prepare the case studies about each of the models.

Subsequent case studies examine blended learning models implemented at Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Firstline Schools, Rocketship Education, and Summit Public Schools.

The second part of the project includes a quantitative impact evaluation of the schools' affect on student outcomes during the 2011-2012 school year, which will be released in the coming months.

The KIPP LA case study is available on the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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