Innovator | Feature

Personalizing Instruction With 1-to-1 and Blended Learning

You can read all the articles in our special 1-to-1 issue by clicking here.

Rich Boettner is the chief technology officer at Hilliard City Schools (OH). Here, he details how his district started with a technology task force and ended up using 1-to-1 computing to facilitate blended learning.

Clear Vision
This past school year, we created a technology task force to figure out where we should be going. The result was to move forward with a 1-to-1 initiative. But what we heard the loudest was that unless you have a strong vision of what you’re trying accomplish, just buying devices is not going to be a fruitful endeavor. So working with a committee of staff, teachers and principals, we outlined a vision for blended learning as a component of this project.

Blended Learning Framework
We determined that there are seven characteristics of the ideal blended learning classroom. The first two are community mindset and the learning environment: creating a culture in your classroom and then organizing the physical environment to support and encourage that culture. It’s about student choice and voice, empowering students and giving them the opportunities to help drive some of the decisions and the learning. The next two involve instruction and student work, with the focus being on how we can use traditional and digital methods to provide content and resources, and how the students show what they know and understand from the learning. The next is assessment: how we understand where students are and where we need to go with them, and how we personalize learning so that it plays to students’ strengths and meets their needs. And finally, communication and collaboration: how we can use these technology tools to work together toward better outcomes.

Performance Matters
Performance Matters is our data warehouse assessment system, our tool for enabling teachers to use data to inform instruction. We’ve been working with staff to help them understand how to pull out reports, both for state-mandated assessments and for creating local assessments that allow them to dig deeper into what each student knows and doesn’t know, so that they can make decisions around student learning. In the past, teachers have had to spend so much time creating assessment tools and then going through all of the data trying to pull out meaningful information. One of the neat things with Performance Matters is that they can see information on a child with a few clicks. It’s about helping teachers save time on the labor part of assessment so that they can spend more time designing lessons that are best for kids.

Trending Teachers
One of the things that has become interesting in the last year is the power of Twitter as an application for professional learning. We have for a long time used face-to-face classes, as well as online classes, that are very structured. This past year, we’ve seen an explosion of teachers who are learning from and participating in Twitter chats. Many of them take part in the weekly #hcsdchat, and we also have teachers participating in other chats online, learning about different kinds of tools through Twitter. I had a math teacher tell me just recently that they had learned more in the past year from Twitter than in the past number of years in traditional methods of professional development. What that says to me is that each person engages in learning in different ways, and we have to be responsive to that as a district and provide as many different strategies and opportunities for our adults as we do when we try to provide high-quality education to our kids.

It Began with a Song
I’ve been involved in education for 23 years. I started as a music teacher, and I loved having kids use technology to compose music. My principal found out very quickly that I liked to use computers in my music class, and asked if I wanted to teach computer classes too. Eventually the opportunity came to move to Hilliard to work on technology integration and helping teachers use technology in their classrooms. In this job I’m able to constantly upgrade instructional practices. I love the fact that technologies make it easier every year for teachers to get to the heart of learning and help kids to be engaged. It’s a fun time to be in education, with technology serving as a catalyst.

About the Author

Dan Gordon is a freelance writer based in Agoura Hills, CA.