Working together to help children learn and grow in a complex world
Jun. 25, 2020
Canterbury launches blended learning
By Angela McCray-Hancock, Academic Dean
While Covid-19 is turning many institutions upside down, Canterbury School is seizing the opportunity to innovate and to provide our families with a best-in-class approach for the upcoming 2020-21 school year.
This fall, Canterbury will transition to a “blended” framework, which incorporates a combination of in-person and online teaching and learning. This method will provide both a more individualized approach for students and a more seamless transition between on-campus and distance learning in the unpredictable upcoming year. What’s more, blended learning will best prepare our students for the digital world and their future workplaces.
Blended learning shifts how lessons are delivered, giving teachers more time to interact directly with individual students while giving students the opportunity to learn at their own pace.
While on campus, a middle school math teacher might begin class with a group activity, and then students will transition to their differentiated lessons. The teacher will record a series of videos or online activities about a particular topic, such as fractions, that incorporates guided note-taking and embedded questions. These questions provide the teacher with instantaneous feedback about each student’s comprehension during the lesson. After completing the lesson, the student will complete an assignment individually or in a small group, with the teacher available to answer questions and work with students on trouble spots. Students will finish the lesson with a brief “exit ticket” assessment, after which the teacher can advance them to the next lesson, if they are ready, or revisit areas of concern.
While the idea of students learning online in the classroom with the teacher may seem counterintuitive at first, this model allows for teachers to have more one-on-one time with students, rather than relying on one-size-fits-all pedagogy.
The beauty of blended learning is that the students’ work is self-paced. At every step of the process, students proceed at a speed that matches their understanding, with multiple touchpoints that keep the teacher apprised, as well. This is far better than finding out the next day or even days later after the next test that a student is struggling with a concept. The teacher now can intervene immediately to smooth out rough spots and provide extra practice to keep the students’ learning moving forward.
Blended learning additionally allows for challenges for students who move at a faster pace. Online lessons will be divided into “must do,” “can do,” and “challenge” offerings for students to progress through, as they are able.
Blended learning will look slightly different when we compare lower and middle school classrooms. While middle school and older lower school students may often use the model just described, teachers of younger children may incorporate online learning as a station in their daily rotations. These video lessons will still be self-paced and allow for personalized instruction by the teachers, but they will be included with other hands-on learning activities.
Alternatively, some teachers may have students watch online lessons for homework at night, and then prepare hands-on practice for their class time together during the day. The possibilities for our creative educators are endless.
If and when distance learning becomes a necessity next year, the transition to learning at home becomes practically seamless. Students will already be accustomed to the routine of moving through the recorded lessons at their own pace, the guided notes, answering questions about the content, and completing exit tickets. The only change is that the classroom interaction will be through Zoom, with students working together or individually in digital breakout rooms and teachers dropping in and out to answer questions and assist. It’s kind of perfect, if you think about it.
For families who choose to keep their children at home or students who are sick and must stay at home temporarily, blended learning also provides an opportunity for them to learn in virtually the same way as their classmates on campus. Live lessons also will be streamed and recorded for students to view.
While blended learning is novel for many schools, educators have been fine-tuning it for the past two decades, since the rise of the Internet. Today, there are schools around the country that are set up completely on this concept, with their entire programs individualized for all grades. These schools transitioned smoothly from on campus to distance learning this spring as most of the country scrambled to switch gears to online.
For Canterbury, the switch to blended learning isn’t just about an easy transition to online; it’s a continuation of our commitment to know and love each student as well as we can. This innovative approach will allow teachers to partner with their students even more closely during their learning journeys, challenging their minds and nourishing their spirits each day and as the years progress.