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Staff from the Keystone Policy Center came away from the first meeting on the best way to increase blended learning opportunities — using a digital component for some or all of the instruction — with good and bad news.The good news — there is definite support for providing access to blended learning, which is an education program where a student uses digital content and traditional learning at a school, all under the help of a teacher.The bad is there is no clear path to bringing everyone on board to supporting this approach, or how to ensure schools and teachers have the proper resources to make the approach work for students.“The focus on personalized learning is great, but there’s not a lot of time to teach that to our teachers,” said Jeremy Felker, director of Jefferson County’s instructional data reporting department. “How do we provide the resources and time to support our students?”The March 8 meeting at the Lakewood Library was the first in a series supported by Colorado Empowered Learning, a state program working to enhance education through blended learning, to be held throughout the state with education leaders and stakeholders to provide a road map for implementation of the approach.“The objective of this and the other meetings we’re holding is to gain perspectives on opportunities, gaps and challenges when it comes to blended learning,” said Julie Shapiro, senior policy director with Keystone. “It’s not just about blended learning, but how it contributes to the state’s educational offerings.”The meetings are a result of House Bill 16-1222, which was passed during last year’s legislative session and commissioned the creation of a blended learning road map. The map will focus on expanding the availability of supplemental education courses and blended learning as well as increasing enrollment in alternative education options that are effective and inexpensive.The first third of the meeting involved questions for the dozen attendees, who came from all over the metro area. Questions centered on equality in learning, barriers to blended learning and priorities for schools. The open discussion made up the bulk of the meeting, which allowed attendees to share their experiences and challenges taking a blended learning approach.“Blended Learning has to be part of the vision for the future,” said Cathy Baune, assistant principal at the Jefferson County Virtual Academy. “But in so many ways our schools are still stuck in the 1800s approach.”Other attendees spoke about a lack of willingness from teachers and schools as a whole to provide this blended approach, and the fact that teachers don’t have to time to learn the technology, a new style of teaching and curriculum requirements.“It’s important we as educators understand where the state wants to go,” Felker said. “There are a lot of requirements that have to be reconciled, but it’s encouraging the state wants to solve some of these problems.”Staff from Keystone will take the feedback from this and other meetings planned across the state, and attempt to craft the state’s new digital learning plan by June or July.“We’ve found it takes a little while for students to understand the blended approach,” said Cheryl Mosier, a teacher at Columbine High School. “But once they understand it and the benefits, they love it.”
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