Hartford Public Schools Nellie Mae Professional Learning Community Continues to Make Progress in its Blended Learning Pilot

Hartford Public Schools Nellie Mae Professional Learning Community Continues to Make Progress in its Blended Learning Pilot

The Hartford Public Schools Nellie Mae Professional Learning Community continues to make progress in its blended learning pilot.  Before the launch of the new, teacher-created, technology infused, courses at Bulkeley High School and Pathways to Technology and Design, teachers “took the pulse” of the student body.  

Two focus groups were conducted in December, one with students from Pathways, the other with students from Bulkeley.  All grade levels were represented.  Students were asked what teachers can do to engage students in learning, what style of teaching best fits their learning style, how they use technology in the classroom and at home, and what they feel they need to be college and career ready. 
Students sang the praises of project-based-learning, in which they can demonstrate their understanding of a concept with an authentic performance task like one they might perform for a future job.  “[Project-based learning] really helps us develop our time-management skills,” said one Pathways student. “There is almost always a presentation element, and that’s really important for interviews. It’s important to be able to conduct yourself in a manner that conveys the best sense of yourself.”

Students also commented that they would rather watch an instructional video to learn a specific skill than go to the library, find the correct manual, and read it cover-to-cover.  However, they cautioned teachers against total reliance on computers for instruction. “I need to be able to ask questions of my teachers. You can’t just be sitting in front of the computer.” Everyone in the group agreed that technology without regular teacher feedback can be frustrating.

At Bulkeley, students stressed the importance of access to technology in order to conduct college-level research. While Bulkeley students agreed that students use technology to socialize outside of school, there was a consensus that students need more time to adapt to technology-based learning platforms, such as Edmodo, Moodle, and Google Apps for Education.

Teachers leading the pilot will use the information gathered from the focus group to inform how they introduce blended instruction to their classrooms. A follow up focus group will track any changes in student attitudes and opinions about the effectiveness of a blended learning environment.

Submitted by Sarah Horkel, Program Coordinator, Office of Curriculum and Instruction, Hartford Public Schools

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