Joe Ableidinger recently authored an interesting thought paper that provides snapshots of blended learning networks. Building blended learning networks may help implementation in traditional school models. Educators could pilot test instructional models and collaborate on solutions to scaling up problems. Networks may constructively critique each other’s ideas and foster connections that will help grow programs.
The paper created five categories for 20 key questions: (a) Desired outcomes. What will the network ideally do or create? (b) Recruitment, screening, and selection. Who should be in the network? (c) Training and support. What will the network provide to its members? (d) External partners. Which outside experts should be involved, and in what ways? (e) The pioneering cohort. How should the network get started?
Creators of blended learning networks will need to answer the questions below. The answers to these will shape the character of the network and the ultimate effects of the network over time. Research has not given us the correct answers. The “correct” answers to these questions will depend on the willingness of education leaders to meaningfully implement blended learning.
- What are you attempting to introduce that does not already exist, and what impact do you hope to achieve?
- What are the metrics by which you will judge your success in creating a strong blended learning network?
- Of what value to the city’s schools, teachers, and students is having a vibrant education technology ecosystem?
- Do you want to develop or network creators or users of education technology (or both)? What are the metrics by which your success in creating a strong education technology ecosystem will be judged?
- Will your network aim to connect creators with users?
- Will you bring together innovators or innovative ideas?
- Do potential participants self-select into the applicant pool, or is the pool pre-selected by network organizers or created through a nomination process?
- What criteria should you use to vet prospective network participants? What questions should you ask as part of the application or selection process?
- If you are planning to create a network of innovators, should you focus on individuals or teams?
- To create a network of proponents of innovative ideas, what stage of development should you target?
- Should the network focus on blended learning at the whole-school level, at the classroom level?
- Should the network be limited to particular grades and/or subjects?
- Should the network be limited to certain geographies?
- Should the network be limited to educators, or open to innovators?
- What types of training and support should the network provide?
- Should network activities be loose, or prescriptive?
- What are the best roles for external experts to play in supporting the network?
- What structure do you want to create for mentoring relationships in your blended learning network?
- Should you gather the best available candidates to pilot the network, or work with a preselected group?
- How much should the first cohort be about “getting it right,” versus serving as a test case for future iterations?
Unfortunately, most brick and mortar schools have not leveraged blended learning techniques that may turn students’ online time into increased instructional time. Ableidinger’s thoughtful work may provide those tasked with bringing blended learning to the masses a framework to consider before setting up field tests.