Blended Learning

Small K-4 School Revives Its Academics With Hybrid Learning Initiative

Students at Spring City Elementary School shift throughout the day from independent work with their iPads to small group instruction and one-on-one interaction with their teachers.Three years ago, Spring City Elementary School was in a tough situation. The K-4 school of 120 students in the economically disadvantaged eastern Pennsylvania town with a population of 3,300 was the only one in the Spring-Ford Area School District that had failed to make progress as defined by the No Child Left Behind program.

Keith Floyd, director of curriculum and instruction for the district, said he knew he had to do something dramatic — and he did. The district invested $300,000 in iPads, desktop computers, Apple TVs and white boards, fully commiting to hybrid learning.

Today, every student, from kindergarten through grade 4, spends a large part of each day somehow involved in digital learning. They move constantly back and forth, often as frequently as every 15 or 20 minutes, from independent work with their iPads to small group instruction to one-on-one interaction with their teachers.

District representatives said test scores have improved and, while the new technology played a role, it was more than that, according to Floyd.

"It wasn't about technology, but about our instruction," he told the Philadelphia Enquirer. "We wanted to change the model of how we do business."

At any given moment now, fourth-grade teacher Deborah Eaton might have a handful of students sitting at computers, reading and answering vocabulary and comprehension questions about what they just read, while still others are using their iPads to research essays she has assigned them. And Eaton herself is likely to be working with another handful of students on the writing of those essays.

The individual attention she is now able to give the students, thanks to the additional use of technology, has made all the difference, she said.

"I feel I know my students better now than in any other time in my teaching career," Eaton told the paper.

The Spring-Ford Area School District plans to expand the pilot program in hybrid learning to more of its schools.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.