Summertime, and the Learning is Blended
Thanks to the time and place in which we live, pedagogical tools abound. But quantity does not mean quality, and educators must suss out what methods are most effec- tive for their classrooms and students. At French American International School, we believe that blended learning is the way
forward. But what is it? In a nutshell, blended learning
combines traditional and modern learning methods. The
conventional approaches of lectures, class discussions,
and group projects are fused with contemporary mediums such as podcasts, automatically graded exercises,
online platforms with dashboards, and social media. In
a “flipped” classroom, for example, the teacher records
a short lecture via video podcast for students to absorb
on their own—as many times as they require and on the
device of their choice—outside the classroom. That frees
up class time for answering questions and for peer-to-peer exercises. As another example, students can take
quizzes on paper, in class or online outside of class after
taking a lesson delivered by their instructor or another
source. The goal, of course, is differentiation, or developing a personalized learning experience for all students,
at their respective levels.
At International High School, class syllabi are defined
by either the International Baccalaureate or the French
Ministry of Education. How our teachers deliver the
syllabi is at their discretion, and it so happens that our
open, forward-thinking culture gives our teachers great
flexibility. The challenge is to maintain that freedom
within a common framework. Enter the Summer Insti-
tute, a project led by International High School in San
Francisco and the United Nations International School in
New York. At the bicoastal two-week workshop, teach-
ers, students and educational technology corporations
collaborate to produce blended high school units of
inquiry. (A unit is a topic delivered over multiple weeks,
such as solving the quadratic equation.)
How is the summer institute structured?
Preparation Phase: Prior to attending the Institute,
teachers take an online course on blended learning
developed by both schools. Attendees then prepare their
lesson plans in a blended format, containing essential
questions, the objectives of each activity, delivery methods, tools used, and assessment methods.
During the Workshop: In the morning, teachers present
lessons that are analyzed and critiqued by the group.
Various IT tools are presented with best practices on
their use. In the afternoon teachers enter their units into
a Learning Management System chosen by the Institute.
Students and colleagues then test the
units, after which a showcase takes
place at the end of each week.
Last year, two of our teachers attended
the Summer Institute at the United Nations International School. Upon returning they led a training of our teachers at
in-service day. This year, International
will host the Summer Institute and 12 of
our teachers will attend. The aim is that
an inspired critical mass of teachers will
share the methods learned and help create a professional learning community
at school. As noted by High School Principal Joel Cohen, “The workshop fosters
collaboration, encouraging educators
not to teach their subjects in isolation.
And by blending, teachers use the best
of the traditional and innovative tools at