By Jan Iwase, Hale Kula Elementary SchoolApril 2, 2012
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- When Department of Defense Education Activity, or DoDEA, grants were announced in the fall of 2011 the staff at Hale Kula Elementary and Wheeler Middle schools were excited to learn that they are receiving a $482,000 three-year grant to implement a new model for education called "blended learning."
Blended learning, also called hybrid learning, combines face-to-face instruction with a classroom teacher and virtual learning with the teacher via technology.
Hale Kula will begin its blended learning program in school year 2012-2013 with a class of fourth graders and a class of fifth graders. Wheeler Middle School will begin the following year. Hale Kula's blended learning teachers, Rebecca Linford and Rachel Armstrong, are creating their curriculum based on the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. The virtual lessons they create will be posted on an online portal.
"This is hard work, but it's exciting work, Linford said. "We have an opportunity to really change the way we teach and learn."
This pilot project is the result of discussions, which have focused on how to integrate 21st century skills into teaching and learning to positively impact student achievement and to provide opportunities to differentiate and individualize instruction for students based on their strengths and needs.
"Being able to communicate with students and have discussions with them, online as well as in the classroom, enables students to effectively communicate their ideas and thoughts through writing, as well as speaking," Armstrong said.
"It gives a voice to all students, not just the ones who speak up in class," Armstrong said.
"Hale Kula integrates technology into the classroom and into the hands of students," said Michelle Colte, school librarian and a member of the school's Blended Learning Team. "We use many Web 2.0 tools that allow students to synthesize, create and share information."
Recently, a group of fifth graders participated in online lessons created by Megan Cummings, media resource teacher.
Students loved using edmodo, a social network for students and educators. They discussed media awareness, viewed videos, blogged about what they learned, researched the difference between an advertisement and a public service announcement, and created a PSA on an important current issue.
Student Gary Pocrnich said making a video was the best part of the media awareness class.
"I would like using a computer in class to get information because it's fun surfing the Web," said Pocrnich.
Hale Kula plans to accept 20 fourth-grade and 20 fifth-grade students to their blended learning program next school year.
•A meeting for parents about blended learning will be held 6 p.m, April 5, at Hale Kula. Geographic exceptions to attend the program will be considered, if space is available.
•Learn more about blended learning at www.halekula.k12.hi.us.
•Email questions to email@example.com.