Differentiated and Personalized: Getting At The Promise of Blended Learning

Edsurge EdTech Index

Edsurge EdTech Index

So I started this post wanting to write something short and quick about a cool online resource and instead ended up analyzing the promised land of Flipped learning.  How did I get there?  Well it all started a few weeks, maybe a month ago while I was exploring online stuff…

I’m always exploring online stuff and if you’re like me, you are probably slightly overwhelmed by the amount of digital stuff that is out there. Just step into  Ed Tech’s Index or EdShelf and you’ll see what I mean (personally, I prefer EdTech’s and strongly urge you to check it out). So while researching resources for Anne’s (@anneathertonLHS) Flipped Class…  I returned to EdTech’s Index page hoping to find free open sources that Anne can use in her Flipped Anatomy and Physiology blended class which she is creating, curating, crafting with some help from me. While at the Index page,  I stumbled upon sources listed under EdTech’s “Other” index and housed under Digital Textbooks, CK-12 that I had heard about but never dug into.



From the CK-12  About page: CK-12 is an online educational content site sponsored by the CK-12 Foundation, a nonprofit that desires to   increase worldwide K-12 access to high-quality STEM content. CK-12’s main offering is a collection of free digital textbooks (called “Flexbooks”) for high school age students, particularly on topics in science,engineering and math. As of September 2013, CK-12 has created a total of 88 Flexbooks that cover approximately 5,000 STEM content areas (from life science, like DNA vs. RNA, to sequences and series in calculus). Need more? Read through their vision here.

CK-12 digital Algebra

CK-12 is free and free is good. And in my opinion the content appears to be well-developed and thought-through open source content.  In my spelunking around, I landed on Algebra, where I could choose from 18 Flex books at various grade levels.  Yes, there are 18 digital textbooks and one of which is in Spanish! And as you can see from the linked image to the left, there are two ways to play in CK-12: one way is by browsing just by concepts the other by browsing entire Flexbooks.  I like that most have built-in videos, and the built in assessments, I like that I can search by CCSS and by content and grade level, I also like that I can  create a class and assign work to students! And I can even create my own Flex Book! And I liked that it is compatible on the iPad Mini. Not too shabby for free digital content. (There are some features that seem to work better on a computer’s browser than the App, and I have read they are working out kinks…)

Use CK-12 for your Class

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But is it a good fit for blended learning? Yes, I think it is.  The CK-12 Flexbooks include digital text, built in interactivity with videos and assessments and what’s more, teachers can also build their own content right into CK-12. In my thinking, a digital text book that includes built-in assessments and provides immediate feedback so teachers can use that information to make decisions about students next steps makes sense for a blended setting.

It was about here, while thinking about the applications of this cool resource that I started wondering about the promise of blended learning to allow for differentiation and personalization and how this resource and others deliver on the promise of blended learning.  

It doesn’t matter how much I read on blended, there’s so much more to learn and am still learning and to be frank, sometimes am lost in the sea of information — And this is what has risen consistently:  high quality blended learning must allow for personalized learning and allow teachers to differentiate–  none of which are possible without ongoing formative assessment and in time feedback. As educators, we know that formative assessment is part of the learning and supports learning as learning is happening. As educators, we also know that with formative assessments teachers check for understanding and use data to inform and differentiate their instruction. Online content that has built-in assessments and provides immediate feedback is one way we can use online resources  to help teachers differentiate instruction, and personalize student learning- key components of exemplary blended models.

In a good blended model, teachers have and implement excellent instructional practices AND the model also integrates effective online tools and resources, well-developed online content that includes or allows assessment to be embedded.

When the online component can be used to administer and gather data which students and teachers can then act on and which empowers teachers to differentiate in real time, we are then getting the most out of the promise- now we can differentiate and personalize. We should leverage good online learning tools so that data is in-time and looped within student-centered feedback. Teachers and students need that data to differentiate and personalize their paths. I’m not saying embedded online assessments is the only way to assess formatively, but in a blended model it is certainly an advantageous component . Blended learning models allow us to build in face to face and online formative assessments which if done well allows teachers to be more efficient in reviewing assessment data before students arrive in class and thereby allowing  teachers to tier activities based on that data and then continue to assess needs and adapt paths as needed.

A blended learning model that supports this approach is The Flipped Model

where students complete lecture viewing and quick quizzes at home and in a well-designed system, the data is automatically generated and informs the teacher of how to tier activities before students arrive. In a Flipped classroom, students essentially get the bulk of  lecturing and information online and not during the class time. They  read, watch, engage with the lesson, pause, take notes, re watch etc as often as they want to. The Flipped class time is an opportunity for teachers like Anne Atherton at LHS who has Flipped her class to be able to use face to face time more thoughtfully (7 Things You Should Know about Flipped) . Instead of lecturing in class on anatomy and physiology, Anne will be spending time in class utilizing the best of teaching practices, driving small group instruction,  focusing on content, mind sets, skills, relationships, and instilling more student agency, “more time to implement more literacy and numeracy activities to align with Common Core.  Now I have an opportunity to include small group instruction so I can include more of the SIOP strategies  I learned about in my Masters classes, but have only had a little time in class to implement until now. So what has this flip done….it has given me the gift of time.  Time to engage students in critical thinking, apply content into real world case studies and to differentiate content with more small group instruction!” (From Anne’s blog post on Flipping her class, The Atherton Chronicles). With the data gathered from the night before, Anne can conduct small group instruction and rotate and listen and identify misconceptions and thus allow her to make decisions on how to move groups of students along that personalized path towards mastery of content . Because when Anne has data before her students come to class, she will be able to spend time on students critical thinking skills. She will spend time on assessing students needs, making decisions about appropriate intervention. And with her incorporation of a rotation class model in a Flipped class she has many opportunities to continue to assess formatively and she can use the data to make decisions that offer opportunities for students to advance or correct their understanding. The varied formative assessments that can now happen in class as a result of a Flipped class will give teachers like Anne a clearer picture into students learning and allow for differentiation and personalization. When learning is personalized, it is no longer fixed but flexible, and when it is flexible it means students are in varied learning places, so more than ever, teachers need to have effective ways to stay on top of measuring student learning so as to know how to tier future activities, how to move them along.

So here I am  with Anne, entering the promised land of blended learning, standing at the start of a Flipped world. Here we are  looking for the promise of the blended model to offer flexible learning pathways and along the way discovering first hand that to get the most out of that promise and get to that flexibility, we should be harnessing the power of good online stuff/technology, harnessing the power of exemplary classroom instructional practices, and in turn harnessing the power of using formative assessments to generate actionable data that informs and guides so that we can differentiate and students can personalize learning.

Reflections on the eCredit Blended Model

Developing a blended model for our eCredit program didn’t happen overnight. It’s been years in the making and is always under revision. And that’s why  eCredit continues to be successful because we are always looking at ways to improve the model; to better serve students. This week ended Week 5 in the eCredit Program. Week 5 is the magic week. Basically if a student can make it to the 5th week, they are more than likely progressing well and on track to successfully complete and recover credit. Getting students to commit to work for the first 5 weeks is due to the eCredit teachers diligent efforts– to get struggling students to work in an online course just doesn’t happen by chance– it happens with purposeful implementation of our blended program model. Most people have an outdated view of credit recovery programs, automatically associating it with plug and play and of poor quality all around. Let’s get one thing clear: We do not plug students in front of a computer and get them on their way. The blended learning environment of eCredit is focused on developing students autonomous learning skills. And it helps that we use content that is rigorous and highly customizable with licensed teachers- good teachers. Not only can we insert our own lessons, teacher created videos, written assignments and much more, but we can also mess with the current Compass Learning courses by deleting, reordering and customizing a whole new course. For example, I worked with the district math coordinator last summer to customize a “Jump Start” pre-algebra course made up of 6, 7,8 and 9th grade Algebra standards. Fun!

Before the school year ends, eLearning will purchase to own all Compass core content as well as a number of electives as well as courses from Florida Virtual School.
But good content would be useless if we did not have good people AND design an effective blended model that has factored in (what we believe are) some thoughtful approaches in dealing with the issues that often plague online learning programs.
So the next time someone asks you about eCredit in your district, stand tall and know we’re not like the others- we’re  doing things differently – better!

Encouraging Initial Feedback for new eCredit Readiness Approach

eCredit has kicked off another session and counselors are expressing a sound of relief as students across St Vrain take advantage of the eCredit Recovery program and get back on track for graduation. Skyline and Longmont High are the only two schools in the district that run eCredit during the day. Yesterday, I received an email from one of the eCredit facilitators, Margo Miller . Margo and SHS math teacher, Natalie Stotz (also an after school eCredit teacher) are facilitating 3 sections of eCredit during the day at SHS. Margo shared feedback on the new approach to eCredit that I asked them to implement in the during the day program. During the day students at LHS and SHS did not start eCredit work till January 14th and prior to that I requested the teachers at SHS and LHS assign pre-ecredit work (customized content from our Compass customized core courses) to students as Readiness units. The feedback Margo shared from counselors and students is encouraging. As I plan for summer and the new school year of eCredit after-school, one of my hopes is to tack on additional weeks to the current ten week program and implement the Pre-eCredit Readiness. Here’s what Margo shared:

Hi Nawal,

Had an in-house meeting yesterday and heard some really good things about the readiness units.

At the meeting the counselors shared that kids were back reporting to them that they were sure they would be able to do this and they liked what they had seen. The counselors felt good that the kids would be confident going in after having had a taste of what would be expected.
From my kids:
The veterans resented having to spend the time “practicing” yet some admitted they learned good navigation tips or better understood all the things the gradebook could tell them, and one admitted actually trying on the pre-test had proved to be amazingly rewarding.

The newbies had the chance to get their feet wet and it opened their eyes about the format, the timing, and the rigor. I was glad to be able to field specific questions for them that would impact their progress later.
I think it was a good thing and so glad you tried it.

Augmented Reality at Sunset Middle School


This morning I met with Michelle, Faye, Universal Middle School facilitator located at Sunset Middle School. We worked on ways to customize content in Compass Learning for her students. But before we began we had to talk about the door decorating contest happening at Sunset Middle Schooland I reminisced over my middle school teaching days. She and her UMS students had gone for a “Winter Wonderland” theme (top left) You couldn’t miss the festively decorated doors- one after the other. One in particular, a winner from previous years had  Christmas music playing outside the door (top center and right).

So we got to work, reviewed online content, discussed standards and took notes. Good stuff. But the best part was what I learned from Michelle today.

Are you ready for this brave new world moment? Here it is: At one moment we began discussing Art and she mentioned their amazing Art teacher , Donna Goodwin and the work she has done in planning for Sunset’s  Academics & Arts Extravaganza happening tonight . One thing in particular that the art teacher had done was that she had added Auras to students art work. Yes “auras”.  At least that’s what the app that Michelle introduced me to calls it. What am I talking about?  Well it’s what the App Aurasma refers to what it uses to overlay images. Michelle Faye has dubbed it the Happy Potter App. Remember the still images in newspapers in Harry Potter were overlayed with videos? This app is sort of like that. Aurasma claims to be the world’s first free visual browser and leading augmented reality platform. How does it work?  “Aurasma uses advanced image and pattern recognition to blend the real-world with rich interactive content such as videos and animations called “Auras”.”

So I had to see it in action. The video below is of the app in action. The teacher opened the app, focused on art work, and one after the other, for each art work’s overlay, a recorded video of each student discussing their work automatically started playing. So tonight when parents perused the art work at the extravaganza, parents could use the app on their smart phones, hold the phone to the picture and listen to each student share their work. Way to Go Sunset! Thank you Michelle for sharing this fantastic tool. Oh the possibilities!!

I’ve been  home for an hour and already Aurasmatized my son, tree and dog!

Aurasma in Action at Sunset Middle School

Aurasma in Action at Sunset Middle School



St Vrain Valley District Closes Achievement Gap Through eCredit Recovery Program: A Compass Learning Article

Check out the article here St Vrain Valley District Closes Achievement  Gap Through eCredit Recovery Program



eCredit Spring 2012 Kick Off

I cannot believe we are approaching a new year and a new eCredit session. It feels like just yesterday that my eLearning department of one was scrambling to set up regwerks for online registration, forms for in person registration, coordinating locations for after-school ecredit, negotiating start dates for during the day eCredit at SHS, setting up sections in Infinite Campus, and then updating the website – not to mention researching and preparing for the ecredit teachers professional development day. Over the last few weeks I’ve been immersed in getting the spring session ready and am happy to report that eCredit Spring is set up and ready for registration next week.
Some things to keep in mind about the program 1) eCredit is only for students who have taken and failed the course which they are recovering. 2) This is a blended learning setting: this means this is an online course which requires face to face attendance after school up to twice a week for every course being recovered (More than one course = 4 days of attendance a week). 3) Seniors and some juniors with counselor recommendation may recover two courses (1 credit) and only attend twice a week.
eCredit Spring after school registration opens up December 10 and closes January 21.
Locations: OCHS and FHS computer labs with specific days and times 
Go to the updated and revamped eCredit site www.ecreditrecovery.com to learn more.

Schools running eCredit during the day (SHS and brand new LHS): registration opens December 10 and closes January 14th 
During the day program at SHS and LHS starts : January 14th – March 22nd
Find registration forms, fees and more information at www.ecreditrecovery.com

eCredit website updated

The eCredit Recovery website is updated for spring session. Check it out:



Online Registration for eCredit Jan- April 2013 is now set-up

I’ve just finished setting up online registration for eCredit through Regwerks. Yay! eCredit recovery program kicks off the Spring session on January 28th for Monday and Wednesday classes (OCHS and FHS) and January 29th for Tuesday and Thursday classes (Only held at OCHS). We are also offering both semesters of Biology during this next session. Biology is held in the Digital Learning lab (DLL) at student services at the old BOCES building off south Lincoln and Ken Pratt Blvd. (no, it’s not at the Lincoln School building).

Students in the Guided Study Hall at SHS who are enrolled in the eCredit courses have different start and end dates: Jan 14 – March 22nd

You won’t have to wait long to register- the online eCredit registration doors open on December 10th and close January 21st.

Note: We can only accept 20 students at OCHS per these grouped days: M&W and T&TH. We can only accept 10 students at DLL for Biology.

To peruse dates, times and what is to be offered, go to : http://stvrain.revtrak.net/tek9.asp?pg=rw_program_reg

You’ll be able to register starting December 10.

eLearning purchases AP Statistics and Health Course

This year, the eLearning department made the strategic decision to subscribe to 14 less seats than last year to Compass Learning Odyssey– content use for our eCredit recovery program and supplemental use. By that reduction in seats, the department was able to purchase perpetual licenses for AP Statistics and Health courses from Florida Virtual School. FLVS courses will be used as first time instructional content, whereas Compass is used as supplemental and credit recovery content. We were also able to budget to purchase and own two High School English Courses from Compass Learning and have plans to purchase the rest of the English courses, Social Studies and Science courses. We already own the Compass math courses.

Preparations are underway for Blended Learning at Lyons

This fall I will be meeting often with Jason McGuire, Lyons Health teacher to prepare for the January launch of a Blended Learning course at Lyons. Jason and I have already met and reviewed the online content. We are using the approved online content from Pearson Learning Powered by Florida Virtual. The content has been loaded into our Learning Management System (LMS) called Classes previously known as Virtual Campus. Because eLearning owns the content, we can customize it so it closely aligns with our standards.