Blended Learning: Professional Development Opportunities  

May 16, 2016

Blended Learning has taken off in Nebraska and the Educational Service Units are leading the charge. The Nebraska BlendED Pilot was announced last fall by the ESU Coordinating Council and the Nebraska Council of School Administrators. After an application and selection process, 27 schools across the state will be in the pilot project, including 4 from ESU 10.

There have been several training opportunities in the last few months that will help the Teaching & Learning Department members efficiently and effectively support our pilot schools in their blended learning journeys. Jason Everett, Dallas Lewandowski and I attended the iNACOL conference last November, which is a leading Blended and Online Learning conference in the United States. There were many sessions to choose from to deepen our understanding of this instructional model and we left the conference excited to share with the other members of our department.

The Nebraska Distance Learning Association
conference was held in February in Omaha. It started with an afternoon workshop led by Marcia Kish, a renowned blended learning coach and educational speaker. Jami Schaffnitt and I participated in this workshop and came away with new ideas for our schools. The next two days were then packed with more sessions as the conference got underway. Jason Everett and I heard from Julie Evans, the keynote speaker who shared data that her team at Project Tomorrow/Speak Up has collected for over ten years - data which supports the need for a blended learning approach in schools. We also attended multiple breakout sessions on blended learning strategies, successes and models.

Educational Service Unit 3 held a Blended Learning Fair in March. Jason and I attended this one day event and were energized by the sessions we attended, particularly those by keynote speaker Catlin Tucker. Catlin is a blended learning teacher who has written several books about her experiences, which include resources for getting started. Her keynote was inspiring, yet offered practical ideas and showed us real-life examples of what blended learning can accomplish. other sessions Jason and I attended were equally valuable.

Most recently, Jason, Jami and I attended the BlendED Pilot Kick-off training here in Kearney, along with teams from Elm Creek, Wood River, Broken Bow and Litchfield. This workshop was led by the Highlander Institute, an organization which showcases the ways in which blended learning methods create personalized learning environments, enhance the anytime, anyplace learning movement, and incorporate 21st century essential skills. We are excited to embark on this journey with our four pilot schools, along with other districts which have expressed interest in moving forward with blended learning.

“BlendEd enhances best practices associated with face to face classrooms with technology to empower students with control over time, place, path and/or pace of learning.” ~Nebraska’s BlendED Initative https://sites.google.com/a/esucc.org/ne-blended/faqs

-by Peg Coover, Teaching and Learning Coordinator

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