Cover of book
For Administrators

How to Rally a School Community to Support Blended Learning

By Brian Gatens January 29, 2015

In earlier articles about “Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools” by Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker, I explored the definition of blended learning and described how it will affect traditional schooling. Today I’ll summarize the authors’ advice for rallying a school community to adopt a blended learning model.

It’s all about solving problems

We all tend to be drawn to the latest bright-and-shiny object. That’s the wrong way to view blended learning. The right approach is to view blended learning — and its integration of technology — as the most effective strategy for solving a problem.

Ask your school community, what is it that needs to be fixed? What is getting in the way of your students’ learning? How can technology help?

The authors say that for all the diversity of blended learning programs across the country, they share one trait: solving a problem. Perhaps it’s delivering math instruction to sixth-graders in the South or science instruction in the West. Regardless of the venue or subject, a problem is being solved. If you’re not solving a problem, move onto a different pursuit.

Find the problem and set your goals

It’s somewhat easy to identify a problem in any setting. It’s human nature to see what doesn’t work as opposed to what does. After identifying the problem, the next step is to set an ambitious and worthy goal. Establish and publish your goals and then, per the authors, use SMART guidelines, meaning they are specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related.

Find a way to disrupt and sustain

Schools trying to adopt blended learning models often find themselves stuck in between competing sentiments. On one hand, blended learning can reach students who are “non-consumers,” meaning they need credit recovery or they have family structures that can’t or won’t support learning. Technology can truly disrupt the educational setting to deliver the content to these non-consumers.

On the other hand, school leaders may wonder whether they should instead focus on placing innovations into core (and usually successful) areas as well. The authors argue that schools don’t have to make this choice. Instead, they should set separate goals that are disruptive and sustaining. This is to be accomplished in two steps. First, identify problems that will respond well to sustaining innovations, and second, find the non-consuming students and use disruptive strategies that will prove effective.

How to present the suggested action

To the authors’ credit, they look beyond establishing of the problems to be solved and dive deep into specific strategies schools should use to rally community support. They suggest that the initial problem should be presented as a threat to the system. After gathering the initial support, schools should begin to frame the response to that threat as an opportunity for the school to grow stronger. This is the kind of wise counsel that helps “Blended” stand out.

Moving from decision to action: team setting

The next step is to create the right kind of team. The wrong team type will be toxic to the process. Admittedly, I found this section of the book to be somewhat on the long side, but the thoroughness of the authors in digging deep into the types of teams will pay dividends down the road after the right team is selected. Examples include autonomous, heavyweight, lightweight and functional teams.

Be sure to take as much time as you need to select the proper type and membership of your teams. As the authors point out, the cost of missing this part of the process can be fatal to the entire project. Furthermore, it can be highly detrimental if a team is unfamiliar with its role. There’s a fine line to be walked, and it’s best to move with clear calculation, consideration and deliberate decision making. Creating your team is not the time for rash decisions.

Read more on ‘Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools’:

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