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Advertisement Blended Learning concept to begin at Linn-Mar High
by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · July 20th, 2017

The Linn-Mar Board of Directors heard information about the Blended Learning Program at the July 10 school board meeting from Administrators Jeff Frost, Director of High School Teaching and Learning; Mark Hutcheson, High School Associate Principal; and Bob Read, Director of Innovations. Blended learning will be available to high school students beginning with the upcoming 2017-18 school year.

 Blended learning, as defined at the board meeting, is "interaction with course content using a combination of the best face-to-face and digital instructional methods available."

A study was carried out by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 and that study revealed that using such a combination was significantly more effective than simply face-to-face classroom teaching or entirely online teaching.

Linn-Mar educators decided to move forward with the concept. In their efforts, they visited the Huntley (Illinois) Community School District, which has had a very successful blended learning program.

Among the decisions the educators made were these:

Select a number of courses which could use the concept appropriately.

Be sure each student participating would have access to a digital device.

Ask skilled teachers who are enthusiastic about trying blended learning.

Recruit motivated students to take the courses.

Provide "valuable, engaging and enjoyable learning."

The classes will be General Biology (taught by Steve Meeker and Lisa Skilang), English III (Jo Middlekauf and John Wennekamp), Spanish IV (Lisa Loftin and Lisa Chapa) and World History (Alison Borchers and Kathryn Woerner).

For this pilot year, the main idea was to "start small and do it right." Fourteen sections using blended learning will be taught, or just under two percent of Linn-Mar's academic sections. A group of 368 students will be able to take these sections, which is 17 percent of the coursework.

 The same curriculum will be used for the four classes, regardless of whether they are in a traditional class or blended, and they will be assessed the same way and expected to meet identical standards of achievement.

Students may be released from class up to two times per week to give them time for "individual attention to electronic aspects of the course or other studies," but they "will participate in coursework daily."

It is expected that the courses will include approximately 40 percent digital student interaction, as well as giving 24/7 digital access.

Letters of invitation were sent in May to parents of some students. The invitation explained the blended learning process, announced a meeting on May 25 for those students and parents interested in the idea, and gave them until May 31 to be included among those who would like to try a blended type of course.

A blended learning agreement was made available for parents to sign and return. It specified the various requirements, such as necessary grade maintenance, what to do if absent, access to an electronic device, and failure to follow the agreement.

If the blended learning situation does not work for a student, he or she can request to be moved into a regular classroom situation.
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