Learning model blends physical with online

By offering mix of physical and online materials district can  support elementary workshop model

by Maggie Stanwood

Contributing Writer

Everyone has different preferences for the way they learn, and the Elk River Area School Board heard a presentation on Jan. 27 about a learning model to support all those different ways.

Instructional Technology Assistant Director Troy Anderson, Digital Learning Specialist Pam Beckermann and Curriculum Specialist Kate Loveland gave a presentation on how blended learning — an approach combining physical and online educational materials — can support the workshop model implemented recently in the elementary schools.

“It provides an opportunity for students to have control over the time, place and path of learning,” Beckermann said. “Teachers can get to know their students better. When we know them, we know their needs better and can support their needs better.”

The workshop model consists of a lesson, the teacher demonstrating how the lesson is applied, and then allowing students to apply the lesson on their own in a variety of ways. Teachers are able to work in small groups and in one-on-one settings to help students who have questions.

“Blended learning really fits into that because blended learning encompasses all of that,” Loveland said.

Beckermann said, after a training with the elementary teachers, the teachers were asked if they saw the workshop model and blended learning working well together. About 80% of those who responded said that blending learning supports the model.

“You’re able to be creative with your teaching, you’re still teaching the curriculum and using the resources you’ve been given, but you’re able to differentiate,” Meadowvale Elementary teacher Ashlyn Thelen said in a video about the model shown to the school board on Monday.

Hassan Elementary teacher Julie Stella said the model allows her to connect better with her students and allow them to have a voice where they might not have otherwise.

“In small groups, kids who don’t normally talk get a chance to speak up,” Stella said. “Kids who don’t normally talk together are able to work in a group together.”

Allowing kids to be in charge of their own education teaches them skills such as learning how to work independently, work efficiently in a group, and figure out how to solve problems, Stella said.

Zimmerman Elementary teacher Megan Rappen said the model has “transformed” her teaching.

“You get to know them better, see the things they need a lot better,” Rappen said. “The kids are getting to pick their own activities … but they have fun with it, so they’re more engaged in learning.”

A student in the video said she liked that the model is “independent, but you get to work with other people and ask them questions.”

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