Increasingly, schools are combining traditional face-to-face classroom instruction with computer activities. This approach is known in education circles as “blended” or “hybrid” learning. But are schools which employ blended learning emphasizing technology over teachers?

KQED’s education reporter Ana Tintocalis and Mindshift blogger Tina Barseghian join us to discuss this growing trend.

Blended Learning 23 January,2012forum

Ana Tintocalis, KQED education reporter
Tina Barseghian, editor of MindShift, a KQED blog covering education and technology

  • Elphaget

    Is blended or hybrid learning subject to the same evaluation process as a teacher?  For example, if students do no learn is the computer program held accountable or is the teacher still held accountable?

  • Guest

    Online education is big business, and is pushing this on cash strapped schools as a way to save money. Educational quality is an afterthought.

    • L Cuttler

      The critical question is this: can technology improve education?  As an experienced educational specialist, I can confirm that the technology facilitates learning.  It does this by stimulating the neurons  in the brain. Research based evidence confirms this. Technology combined with a well trained facilitator wins – both for teacher and learner.  Learning this way is particularly valuable when the learner needs more time. Education focused on attaining literacy skills  in the formative years will save money on truancy and dropouts.  We have to do something because the way it is now, schools are a pipeline to prisons.   Lucille Cuttler
      San Francisco

      • Jofog

        “experienced educational specialist” I feel so reassured- illuminate us. A personal note: I suffered through your “pipeline to prisons” in schools that had an average class size of 30+, we had no computers to keep us out of jail, but some how none of my classmates ended up there. Many of them immigrants; my “blood brother” since 1st grade was the son of a short-order cook from Mexico. Either exceptionally lucky or those teachers had some street smarts to pass on, or maybe they just new how to teach. I make about twice the mean for a family of four in San Francisco I never finished college. But what I learned taught me how to learn. I learned how to use the tools I need. My friend’s son recently graduated from ASU he grew up with computers but I have helped him, he is employed in financial industry but can’t read a tape measure. I love him but he has an incredibly narrow scope and limited capacity for critical and adaptive thinking. Perhaps it will come but I know I had it long before I was 30, and I am not exceptional. By the way he’s doing quite well at work, (hmmm?).

        • L Cuttler

          Congratulations to you for overcoming challenges with such success.  The NICH statistic is that 20% of the total population have a specific learning difference called dyslexia.  Clearly you are part of the 80% who would learn no matter what the circumstances.  Technology is not a substitute for well prepared teachers.  However, it does provide non-judgmental opportunity to practice to the point of achievement. Technology and personal attention go together. Well trained teachers will always appreciate any tools to help them lead students to success.  I’m happy you climbed the ladder.  As for the “pipeline” – those overcrowded prisons hold men who were once kids who dropped out because they just couldn’t keep up with the demands of the curricula.   The critical question is to ask why these kids weren’t learning. 

          Lucille Cuttler
          San Francisco

          • Jofog

            First, I don’t believe that all people in prison are there because they are dyslexic or that if we’d set them in front of a laptop they would be better. In fact there are estimates that as many as 30% of those incarcerated are wrongly imprisoned in the first place. Second many are there because of relatively minor drug charges. Third, there are probably enough other social reasons to make a month of shows. Fourth, no congratulations are required; I don’t feel I had any real challenges to overcome, we were all there, and the conditions I described were typical of schools in southern California when I was growing up. The point isn’t that “technology is not a substitute for a prepared teacher” or, just as importantly, a properly motivated teacher, or an economically stable family. The point is not whether technology should be a tool but how it should be used and what affect it has. The idea being pushed here “All good-No bad” is as absurd as applying that to TV learning. My nephew is dyslexic so I’m aware of the issues, and was in one of the early pilot programs applying computer aided learning (here in the Bay area); his mother has a PhD in math and teaches his step father is a Professor at UT and both were very supportive of the program. I have also worked for people who are much older and dyslexic they were taught different methods for adapting. Again like my friend’s son the problem I see in the result with my nephew is a limited ability to adapt, great with computer (works for a company as an animator). The people I work for are adaptive, though they may be consciously applying themselves you wouldn’t know it, they aren’t focused on the condition. The issues I see with computers in learning I think is an inherent issue with how we interface with the system. Far from being freeing, electronics require a ridged set of actions to complete a process and they are not very intuitive and, often and increasingly, are based on esoteric knowledge. Learning to communicate with the computer becomes more important than communicating to others without the computer. You’re suggesting these kids aren’t learning because they aren’t sitting in front of computers rubbish. Further it isn’t just the 20% that are being targeted here.

    • L Cuttler

      Improving education by using technology with trained facilitators will save money by raising literacy levels.  We have the technology and we even have scientific proof of effectiveness.  Use it.  With increased literacy levels, prison populations will drop.  Now that’s something to think about. 
      Lucille Cuttler
      San Francisco

  • Jimmy

    97% of Teach for America teachers will LEAVE in 3 years.  They have poorer outcomes than credentialed teachers.  Stop touting them as “innovators.”  They are enthusiastic amateurs, but they remain so. 

  • Mario Herger

    I am working in a large software company in the bay area, and this approach of using games or a gamified system to educate and trained becomes more and more important. My company has used a number of these things to train professionals, just recently the sales colleagues:
    Gamification of education and in the enterprise gives the users (kids, adults) autonomy and shows them a path to mastery. That’s so far a very successful concept and we are only at the beginning. We can learn a lot from games, and the game-theorist Raph Koster says: “Fun is another word for Learning”

  • James

    I don’t think districts are afraid of charter schools siphoning students away.  The bigger issue is that Distcicts are forced to provide space and support services for charter schools which are often driven by a profit mindset.  Where is the funding coming for charter schools coming from, who is it taken away from and where does it go to?  

  • Guest

    Doesn’t seem a balanced panel there. What about RSI (repetitive stress injuries) given that these kids are starting to use computers since such young ages? Not just eye-strain (instead of the soft term screen-time). Have you read the NYT article on Waldorf schools in the heart of Silicon Valley?

  • James Ivey

     Is the idea to have the computer give the overall lesson to leave the teach available for one-on-one tutoring or vice versa?

  • Arjun

    Something as basic as teaching (same as food) that has been going on since the dawn of humanity does not require any new technology at least at the beginning of the learning process. Technologists will always hype it till it is proven 10years later that all that investment brings none of the so called promises.

  • Andy Lambert

    I think you’re missing the point. The important point was just glossed over –  the time with the teacher is greater. Rocketship schools have a longer school day than is offered by the “traditional” public schools and they are able to control class size.

    Additionally, Rocketship schools are new facilities built in underserved urban environments. Rocketship teachers have the freedom to value, love, inspire and appreciate their children who up until the arrival of the Rocketship program have not been able to feel this inspiration.

    To my mind the success of Rocketship proves the importance of the teacher being able to spend time with their pupils. Cutting days from the year, shortening the school day and pushing more work to PTA’s and external resources can not be surrogates for time with the teacher.

  • Greg K.

    We are working here at Downtown College Prep to help customize learning for each student. The computer is just one tool we use to try and do this. We have just begun our work with Blended Learning, and have much still to learn and figure out. We have seen, though, that for many students, using a computer is an opportunity to explore, enrich and remediate — all while their peers do the same, each at their own level.

  • Annetdragavon

    We are in the Palo Alto school district, and are fortunate to benefit from blended learning through computer labs and small class sizes. Sounds like Rocketship exists to serve urban or poor communities as the least of two evils, versus lack of quality teachers and funding, large class sizes and distraction of high tech gadgets. The program is a “if you can’t beat ’em join ’em” franchise. Clever (and cynical). Hats off to the free market economy.

  • L Cuttler

    As an education specialist helping struggling youngsters master literacy skills, I see the advantage of blended learning.  Computers allow learners to go at their own pace.  We specialists have a maxim: go as fast as you can and as slow as you must.  Youngsters with persistence find the success they need to maintain a healthy self-image. The computer learning approach benefits both fast and slow learners.  Slow learners know they can achieve – a critical element in learning.  Equally, teachers as facilitators will also reap rewards as they  see students succeed.   Blended learning gets my vote.
    Lucille Cuttler

    • S Gole

      I agree. Online tools level class interactions between fast and slow learners, but there are so many ways that they can be used to blend a class.  I teach English as a Second Language to adult learners and blended-learning is very helpful in enriching work started in class.  For example, I use a wiki, ( or, which are both free).  I start the lesson in class, and learners continue the lesson, collaboratively, outside of class.  The fact that everything is recorded on the wiki makes it easy to grade on how much each student has contributed and the quality of each comment.  The teacher has control of the lesson.  As a result, what starts in the classroom is extended and enriched outside the class.  In fact, this always leads to a much tighter and productive working group inside the class.  My vote has been cast, too.  I cannot imagine that this idea would not be more broadly implemented in future classrooms. 

  • Bob

    When I heard that Obama helps fund tech in classrooms, but Jeb Bush only wants to help big business and eliminate teacher jobs, I decided that these education loons need therapy.

  • Patricia

    It’s good to see blended learning reach the schools, as it’s been successful in business for some time. Its purpose is to have “students” (salespeople, managers, etc.) learn basic company facts/products on their computers, wherever convenient, and then come to a central location to learn skills that can only be taught in a classroom.

    Businesses moved to blended curricula to decrease expenses and learning time. They still offer and require teacher- or leader-led courses. But professionals, like younger students, can better learn what they individually need because they have access to BOTH computer-based and teacher-led courses.

    Classroom time is actually enhanced by this approach because it is not wasted bringing one or two people up to the baseline of required knowledge. Classroom time can be used for the learning, excitement, and interactivity that cannot be experienced alone.

  • Jofog

    I listened to the broadcast and frankly it sounded like an “info-mercial” for Rocketship rather than a critical discussion of an approach to teaching. I personally feel that (once again) people are being pressured for decisions prematurely. I also have a great deal of skepticism regarding the backers and sponsors and what the real long term goals are -how much info can they collect on the kid ands families and how much overt and covert marketing can be done, who ultimately controls the curriculum? Does the human authority become just an IT service person? As far as the idea of using electronic tools as part of enriching a learning environment I don’t have an issue with that but I think it must come with balance, it does seem strange to me that we seem to be able to afford spending all of this money for equipment and software plus the additional infrastructure to deal with all that but we can’t afford good text books, building maintenance, or arts. Odd don’t you think? If it is a question the cost of hardcopy vs. e-copy then require all publishers to make e-copies available of all the texts used.

  • Jofog

    P.S. doesn’t “Blending” sound a little like you’re putting our kids into a MixMaster?

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