February 1, 2016
This week, Carol speaks with Mentor, OH Superintendent Matt Miller today about their tech makeover in Mentor and technology in our schools including the innovative concept of “blended learning”.
“Really good instruction infused with technology. Period.
“The relationship between the students and teacher is still the most important aspect. The technology piece just helps. — Matt Miller, Mentor, OH Superintendent
Does technology help student achievement?
Ultimately, it’s not necessarily investing in the technology but the professional development you provide for your staff, that’s the investment that will create a true payoff when it comes to technology. You can’t just drop off the hardware or software in the classroom and expect teachers to be able to effectively use it. With instructional coaches who are trained in not only the technology but also in education and allowing teachers to innovate with how they implement the use of technology in their classrooms.
In Mentor, the district uses instructional coaches or content specialists to help augment curriculum and facilitate teachers in the classroom with both content and technology.They spend their time working four days a week to facilitate teachers in the building and one day a week planning with other coaches across the district. Much of Mentor’s journey began when several middle school teachers wanted to begin a blended learning teaching environment. Blended learning is simply really good instruction blended with technology. Through a Straight A Grant the district was able to fund and create that blended learning environment and up their tech game. The instruction is still at the forefront, but the technology is used throughout the curriculum to enrich and engage students collaboratively.
Moving away from the lecture style of teaching, students rarely sit in rows or listen to teachers postulate period after period. Instead, students are collaborating in person and virtually, with technology and without. The atmosphere is in some ways quieter and while there are many positives to the environment and philosophy it’s not perfect. It can be messy, but students are engaged.
Through the process of using blended learning environments and online courses they are learning from what works and what doesn’t. From semester to semester they reflect and refine the structure and delivery of instruction for students. In Mentor, they have found that they aren’t moving fast enough technologically for students in lower grades. They’re also looking to find balance between technology and traditional teaching methods with an endgame so that when their students graduate they are prepared for whatever comes next for them, with skills that carry over into their careers and further education.
Advice for other districts
Visit other districts and observe them. Start saying yes to your teachers who want to innovate, take a risk. Speaking with Matt and hearing the impact that technology has had on the Mentor Schools with blended learning we definitely foresee more conversations about technology how we implement it, how we fund it, and how we train our teachers and students to not just use the technology but to innovate.