Architecting Hybrid Learning for the New School Year: Panel One


The new school year is almost upon us, and many questions remain. Planning for the 2020/2021 school year is a guessing game at best, with one-part art, one-part science, and a generous helping of soothsaying thrown in for good measure.

In this episode of the Learning Counsel’s Dawn of New Strategies Discussion series, education leaders from some of the nation’s most sophisticated school districts weigh in on the strategy and planning involved to open their districts using a hybrid model of learning.

According to LeiLani Cauthen, CEO and Publisher at the Learning Counsel, “San Diego Unified is already starting to talk about the fact that we may be looking at cataclysmic loss of enrollment, going into the fall for a number of reasons, and some articles are reporting that more than 40 percent of families say they're likely to homeschool now going into fall. So, this is a moment where we have to get our act together. How will you organize your learning management? Teachers are overwhelmed. They don't need to be lesson planning right now for every single thing. They need to be given resources out of the box, consumer grade stuff, digital courses, adaptive digital courseware. Will the students come back, what's your take on that? Have you surveyed yet? And how are you going to do the scheduling? How are you going to space kids out? Are you going to have the same number of kids on buses, less kids per classroom, rotational schedule some kids in one day, some kids on other days? What are you doing with social emotional? Contents will be delivered primarily through devices. That's what most of the districts are telling us. And are you going to stay whole group? Are you going to go more towards individualized instruction? How are you talking about teacher roles?”

Heather Sherburn is the Assistant Superintendent at Lammersville Unified School District in California.  Sherburn said, “If we're going to be launching with real learning going forward and starting the year, we need to have a robust school. So, we're planning for multiple models. We're hoping that all our students will come back and we're preparing to send out a survey and find out. We're looking at doing a modified schedule, but we're not really sure what that will look like. We're collecting feedback on, would they prefer a couple days per week in person, and which kids would rotate on which days, or half days AM/ PM style. But in addition to that, if we have a COVID spike we may need to shut down a classroom or a building within a school or an entire school, but not the entire district. So we need to be prepared for distance learning or even preparing for simulcasting what is happening in the classroom.

“Our biggest adventure right now is to develop a virtual Academy that would be a partnership with parents. It would be a combination of online schooling and teaching via the web with asynchronous learning opportunities. It will be a robust homeschool model that provides parents with a much greater support and partnership of daily instruction. We think that our parents are going to be excited to have an option, to keep their kids home and still receive the high-quality instruction that we are known for. In terms of architecting, this is quite challenging, even though I think we have some of the technical logistics in place, designing the instruction with teachers and putting that structure in place to make sure that this all works well is no easy feat.”

Dr. Jeff Dillon, Superintendent at the Wilder School District in Idaho said his journey into blended leaning began five years ago. According to Dillon, “We personalize learning for every single student K-12 in our system with no grade levels and no bells. Our system is about the student and student learning, student progression and student pace. Our goal over the last four or five years has been focused upon teaching kids how to learn; that's goal number one, above and beyond content. If we can teach a student how to learn, we can teach them to learn for life. When we teach kids how to persist, how to manage impulsivity, how to think flexibly Hmm, strive for accuracy, and to be creative. Using those habits, we really begin to teach kids how to learn differently, how to learn based upon their skillsets and their abilities, their styles of learning. And because that was the focus and foundation, when we received the notification that we weren't going to come back to school after spring break, it really was a seamless shift to learning from home, from on campus. We were extremely blessed and surprised as well at the engagement of our students online from home. And that gave us the ability to begin thinking about the future and how we would proceed in a blended model from distance learning and on campus learning.

“We put together a pilot opportunity for our summer program in which our students were very excited to attend virtually as well as in person. And we had 75 percent of our high school students chose to continue learning through the month of June. We gave them the opportunity to learn, and they took advantage of that. We're also looking at a model within our pilot, where we have kids that rotate through here on campus one day a week. And so that that's a model we're looking at, but the bottom line for our students is they're in charge of their learning progression. It's about them engaging in learning.”

Dr. Daryl Diamond is the Director of Innovative Learning at Broward County Public Schools in Florida. Diamond said, “I think we all have to recognize that this transition was an emergency distance learning transition. For all of us, regardless of size and regardless of readiness, this was not planned out. This is something that we just had to do. I'm looking forward to creating the processes where we can actually reopen school in a much more orchestrated plan, and take a deep dive into all of the things that we have available to us so that when we come back, we come back stronger and utilize the technology stronger than we have. We have to recognize that some of our parents are not going to feel comfortable sending their children back to school.  And if an outbreak occurs at a school, do you just send that student home? Do you have to close out the whole school? Those types of alternatives need to be looked at. We do have in the district and have had since 2000, a virtual school for K-12 students, Broward Virtual School. But that really was an option for students who really wanted to do virtual education. We don't want to necessarily come back and say that all students are going to become virtual school students now because not everybody learns best in that environment.”

Watch the video

Three of the leading districts in America, all with different size concerns and varying educational philosophies, discuss the hard choices they will have to make to hybridize their learning environments. This transparent discussion will allow you to understand the thought processes and hard decisions that will need to be made to re-open schools in this time of uncertainty. As you plan the approach to a hybrid system for your own district, you’ll find invaluable ideas and information that you can use.

About our sponsor

Hapara helps schools make the shift to digital learning by making it easier to view and manage learner work in the cloud. With Hapara Dashboard, teachers can easily view all learner work from one central hub (even when it wasn’t shared with them), organize learners into differentiated groups and quickly share out documents and resources. Hapara Workspace provides teachers with a space to build assignments and projects that can easily be differentiated for groups or individuals. It gives learners an easy, intuitive interface to manage their assignments, customize their submissions and participate in learning and teaching.


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