When it comes to purchasing technology—wait!

April 27, 2016 | by Clifford Maxwell

Transforming a traditional classroom into a blended one requires a lot of design considerations. From content delivery to assessment to the physical space, change can happen everywhere. Unfortunately, one design choice that schools often make prematurely is deciding which hardware and software to use as part of their blended-learning program.

It’s true, every blended-learning implementation leverages online learning in some form or fashion; and technology is often essential for giving students an element of control over their learning. This doesn’t mean, however, that technology is the first design parameter that schools should consider when going blended. In fact, it ought to be one of the last.

Here are some important questions schools need to address before considering which devices or learning software to purchase:

  • What are the current problems facing our students and teachers? What are our specific goals for improvement?
  • What is the student experience we want the blended program to facilitate? How will students interact with the technology, with each other, and how will they have ownership of their learning?
  • What is the teacher experience we want the blended program to facilitate? Will our teachers provide direct, small-group, or one-on-one instruction? What problems can technology help solve for our teachers?

If schools thoughtfully address these questions before thinking about technology, then they will stand a better chance of using online learning to personalize instruction in order to meet individual student’s needs. Otherwise, what may result is a “technology-rich” classroom, which preserves traditional instruction and simply offers digital enhancements such as broad device access, Google Docs, online homework submission, and digital textbooks. These tools may help to improve the classroom, but they won’t leverage online instruction in a way that can optimize learning for each student.

To help drive this home, below is a visual design flow to help schools get started with blended learning. (Note that the location of “designing the virtual setup,” or technology considerations, is several steps into the process.) This infographic is from Heather Staker at www.readytoblend.com, a former researcher at the Clayton Christensen Institute and co-author of Blended.


2 Responses to “When it comes to purchasing technology—wait!”


April 30, 2016 at 4:15 pm, Sara Nichols said:

I want to start blended learning in my classroom next year – I am 100% trying to implement a playlist model for part of the class, while also using small group rotations. Do you offer an PD opportunities or “starter” packs?


May 04, 2016 at 4:45 pm, Clifford Maxwell said:

See Blended Learning MOOC on Coursera/Khan Academy, and reach out to Individual/Station Rotation schools on the BLU!

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