Different Blended Learning Schools, Same Story

Guest post by Andrew from Match Next

Quick detour today from my normal ed-tech product reviews. I just got off the phone with the blended learning manager of a school network out in California. I try to have at least one of these conversations a week with different tech people to learn about what’s going on in their blended learning schools - the tech they use, how they use it, why they use it, how long they use it for each day, each week, etc.

I’ve probably talked to a couple dozen different people for about an hour each on these calls since November - everyone’s been super nice, helpful, and generous with their time. But it’s starting to get boring. By now, I can tell you 90% of what they’re going to say before we even talk. So if you were considering spending a week on the phone trying to get a lay of the ed-tech land, let me try to save you a bunch of time. Here’s what pretty much everybody I’ve talked to says:

1. For ELA: “we use (some combination of) i-Ready, Achieve3000, Accelerated Reader.”

2. For math: “we use (some combination of) ST Math, Khan Academy, Think Through Math, Dreambox, Compass Learning.”
* (I previously blogged about Accelerated Reader and ST Math)

3. When I probe enthusiasm, I pretty much get: “The software’s ok, not great. These programs can be helpful, but nobody’s school/classroom would go up in flames if you suddenly took away the computers or cut off the internet.”

4. Nobody I’ve talked to really uses a particular program every single day. For most schools, the tech only comes into play once or twice a week for less than an hour. There are some rare tech-crazy birds out there that I haven’t connected with yet, but even the big names in the blended world have their kids online less than you’d think.

5. If they have Chromebooks, they love them. iPads are okay. PC’s (desktop or laptop), they pretty much hate them. It’s mostly because of start-up time (takes minutes to turn the thing on), short battery life, and sluggish performance. Also, a lot of people have internet connectivity issues in their first year. Not enough bandwidth or spotty coverage. (Shoutout to Match’s network-wide IT director, Jahfree Duncan. Because of him I can’t sympathize - our hardware and internet have been awesome this year.)

6. Lots of challenges getting reluctant staff members to adopt stuff. I.e., “we’ve tried rolling out product X. But only a handful of teachers really seem to use it well. The rest aren’t interested. Or they might try it for a bit, don’t like it or don’t like spending the time to really get to know a program, then stop using it.”

Next week: Computer programming is all the rage these days - I’ll talk about one of the three programs we’ve tried with some of our kids. It’s called Codecademy.

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if you’d like to talk shop: andrew.jeong@matcheducation.org