[Video] A Brief Look at Blended Learning in Palo Alto
For our Advance What's Possible campaign, my team is traveling around the country and helping tell the stories of schools and districts who are using Schoology to transform learning. Our latest stop was at Palo Alto Unified School District in Palo Alto, California.
We spoke with a number of people in the district, including Emily Garrison, Coordinator of Educational Technology, and Christopher Bell, Teacher and Teacher Coordinator. In the video below, these two educators provide a snapshot of what blended learning looks like at PAUSD, how they're using Schoology to make that possible, and where they're going in the future.
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Full Video Transcript
Emily Garrison—Palo Alto Unified School District is a comprehensive, TK-12 school district. We have 12 elementary schools, three middle schools, and two comprehensive high schools.
We are in the heart of Silicon Valley, here in Palo Alto, so we do have a lot of technology and innovation, it's kind of part of who we are and we're proud of those aspects. Palo Alto Unified started using Schoology all the way back in 2011. Our first actual Schoology courses were built in 2012, so we have been using the platform for many, many years. And I think now that we've had such a long time working with Schoology, our teachers have really been able to see what are the benefits, and what can I do with Schoology in ways that they could have never done if we had never adopted an LMS?
Christopher Bell—I'm currently working as a teacher in Special Assignment with Technology Integration, and that assignment has me working hand in hand with teachers, trying to figure out the best way to integrate technology seamlessly into their classes and then I am also a teacher in Special Assignment for the Blended Learning program, in which I teach a blended learning training course for a whole bunch of teachers throughout the district.
Our Blended Learning Initiative has been going for seven years now, we are in Cohort Number 7. Training a bunch of teachers how to use technology in their classrooms, specifically focusing on how to use Schoology as a base to build their courses and to have both digital and face to face portions of their class, running it simultaneously.
Emily Garrison—Blended Learning is using the best of both face to face and online strategies for students to access their learning. What that kind of looks like in our district is using Schoology. So students will come to class like they normally do, but the teachers are power users of Schoology; which means that they're really putting their course content, they're using Schoology for discussions, they're using it for project-based learning, they're using e-portfolios, they're really using this suite of tools available in Schoology, again, to provide students with online or digital resources outside of the classroom when they're not there.
Christopher Bell—One of the things that the students can do in Blended Learning is have one release period a week, where they can do whatever they would have done in class online, anytime, any place at their own pace.
Emily Garrison—So that concept that we have of the teacher standing up in front of the room, lecturing to students, as students frantically write down the words of wisdom from that person and then repeat that information on a traditional test or quiz, we're playing with that. We are making a conscious decision that we don't really want to follow that formula as closely anymore, so teachers are being as innovative as they possibly can. Again, leveraging technology to do that, but teachers need training to learn how to do that. So we realize that we really wanted to make sure that we had a robust training program to help teachers understand what this feels like, what this transition looks like to teaching in a blended learning modality.
Christopher Bell—To get started on the Blended Learning program, I'd tell any district they need to have good quality PD in place, they need to have good infrastructure for technology, and they need to have a solid learning management system.
Emily Garrison—About two years ago, 97% of our students said that they would either take another blended course or they would recommend to a friend to take a blended course. Those are just outstanding numbers, to be in the 90's, so what it really tells us is, is that this is a successful program, students are enjoying it, and it's meaningful for their education.
Any place in the United States can do this. Places across the world can do these things, as long as you have internet connection and some kind of device, you can be absolutely innovative. I would always say, if you feel that passion, if you feel that flame, that something is missing in your pedagogy, explore. Try something new. Jump into Schoology and see if it helps you.
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