Colorado Springs will allow public input on blended-learning concepts

By Debbie Kelley Updated: March 20, 2017 at 8:14 pm • Published: March 20, 2017 0
photo - Kindergartners at Trailblazer Elementary School participate in video conferencing. Courtesy photo.
Kindergartners at Trailblazer Elementary School participate in video conferencing. Courtesy photo.

Anyone interested in adding their two cents about blended learning, an education model that combines digital and traditional classroom work, can attend one of 13 meetings happening around the state, as part of new legislation passed last year to advance the method.

A meeting in Colorado Springs will be 4 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at Pikes Peak BOCES, 2883 S. Circle Drive.

Teachers and other educators, parents and students, business leaders and community members are invited to show up and give their input.

"We're looking for what people in Colorado see as our future of education and help in envisioning how blended learning will impact Colorado's schools and what we need to do to help make a shift to those models," said Troy Lange, director of Colorado Empowered Learning.

The state-funded initiative born out of 2016 legislation seeks to "enhance equity and access in K-12 education through blended learning."

The project has received $960,000 from the state for the fiscal year that ends June 30 to study the topic and issue a report on findings in July, in conjunction with Keystone Policy Center.

Blended learning "combines the best of digital learning and traditional classroom learning, and allows teachers to focus on helping students deepen their understanding and apply knowledge they've learned through digital resources," Lange said.

The project is focusing on three pillars of service to schools and districts, he said. The first: providing supplemental courses to expand learning opportunities statewide. Currently, more than 200 courses are offered through Colorado Digital Learning Solutions, from basic high school English to aviation sciences.

"It's pretty broad and very cool stuff," Lange said.

The initiative also seeks to train teachers in blended learning principles and has more than 20 courses available that lead to teacher certification in blended learning.

Finally, the project is working on providing consultation to schools and districts statewide to "help them understand where they're at to shifting toward a blended model of delivery and next steps in action planning," Lange said.

"We're looking at whether those pillars are the right kinds of activities with the right kinds of intensity," he said. "As we build up this vision and road map, we'll have a sense of where we need to go and how we can best move forward in these limited resource times."

The blended learning concept already is in place in several schools in the region, including Trailblazer Elementary in Colorado Springs School District 11.

Since implementing blended learning three years ago, enrollment has increased and the school's academic performance jumped from the bottom third of the district to one of the top three, said Scott Fuller, D-11's Next Generation Learning coordinator.

"Teachers, students and parents are generally happy because the learning feels more relevant," he said.

Students may start a lesson watching a video online or a demonstration that's designed to "front-load the learning before the kids get to the group table," for example.

Teachers can use real-time data to figure out what the kids need in their small group or one-on-one instruction, Fuller said.

"This isn't about replacing a teacher with technology," he said. "It's pushing on traditional systems to leverage time, talent and technology to enable kids to personalize their learning."

Several national groups will be in town Tuesday to study Trailblazer's methods, he added.

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