Blended Learning Experiment Shows Promise of Customized Education

Posted by Nikhil Swaminathan


The Wall Street Journal
published an interesting article yesterday on an experiment to mix teaching via live instructor and via laptop in the Bronx. The concept, known as "blended learning," is catching on in New York City, where it's employed in classrooms at innovative schools, such as School of One and NYC iSchool.

According to the Journal article, there are upwards of 80 schools in the city that are augmenting their curriculum with different technological offerings. The real promise of this paradigm is allowing kids to learn at their own pace, an ideal that's long been difficult to achieve due to lack of resources.

One paragraph towards the end of the piece illustrates how powerful customization can be, as it breaks down the different ways a lesson can be taught to a classroom full of kids at different skill levels:

In a recent English class, students read "The Fairy and the Chupacabra and Those Marfa Lights" on their laptops. Some students were reading the story on their own, and those who chose could have the story read to them. The teacher adjusted the vocabulary for students who were more advanced. So some children read that the horse ran, while others read that it galloped.

These sorts of classrooms could very well start popping up all over the city, as the local Department of Education is planning to introduce technological solutions into 300 more schools over the next three years. Joel Klein, the city's schools chancellor, recently told The New York Post that "over time, we should think about fewer teachers, better paid and supported by much more sophisticated technology."

Does that sound like a classroom experience that can better serve children to you? There's certainly promise to the idea of customization, but with so few schools around the country having the resources to try the scheme out, data must be pretty scant on how effective it really is.

Photo via David Turnley for The Wall Street Journal.