In a previous post about Lessons Learned for Expansion, I mentioned that the implementation plan for blended learning at our next two Notre Dame ACE Academies – Central Catholic and St. Philip Neri – looks different than it did at Holy Angels last year. From our pilot, we learned that we need to focus on school leadership, slow down the implementation timeline, and make a more deliberate effort to develop institutional capacity and expertise. Our new plan for implementation is centered on Blended Learning Leadership Teams.
Each of the schools adopting blended learning (plus Holy Angels) now has a Blended Learning Leadership Team (BLLT) in place. The school’s BLLT includes its school leader(s), 1-2 teachers identified as lead teachers, and 1-2 teachers identified as blended-learning coordinators. Lead teachers serve as instructional coaches for the other teachers in their schools by conducting short observations and having follow-up meetings to discuss best instructional practices. Blended-learning coordinators are the point persons for data and technology in their schools, helping teachers understand and celebrate student data as well as use software programs to their fullest capacities.
As members of the BLLT, teachers and leaders will pilot blended learning in their own classrooms and schools, work as a school team to continuously improve, and regularly collaborate with BLLT members from other schools to share learning across the region. This is no small responsibility, but our BLLT members have embraced the challenge with gusto.
We could not be more thrilled by the early success of our new model for implementing blended-learning at scale and are already seeing the results reflected in our students’ learning!
Though it is still early in the life of the BLLTs, we are already thrilled with this structure for three reasons:
1. BLLT members are enthusiastic and eager to implement blended-learning in their classrooms! Unlike a whole-school scenario in which some teachers are resistant to the new model and others are simply unequipped to implement it, selecting teachers and leaders for BLLTs allows Fr. Nate and me to spend one year concentrating our work on teachers who have strong instructional skills already in place and are willing to innovate in their classrooms. Of course, even BLLT members have hesitations and concerns about the new model, but each teacher is determined to work through any roadblocks for the benefit of their students rather than searching for reasons to return to a traditional classroom.
2. BLLT members are working out the kinks. By starting with just a few teachers, we hope to make the implementation process as smooth as possible for more hesitant teachers in the future. BLLT members are trying out Clever (the life-saving single sign-on provider our schools use streamline the login process) for the first time, figuring out how to execute rotations, developing blended lesson plans, and more, and they plan to use their experience to make the implementation process (nearly) seamless for their colleagues next year.
3. BLLT members are helping one another! Magic happens when you gather teams of motivated and innovative teachers from across schools. BLLT members from all three schools joined the training week this summer and will continue to collaborate throughout the school year, and I am already blown away by the amazing ideas and support systems that have come of this teamwork. The teachers have all reported feeling energized by the outstanding group of instructors surrounding them, and I feel the same way! Without a doubt, each of us will be better off because we will accompany one another on this journey.
So if you can’t tell, I am ecstatic about BLLTs already! Stay tuned to learn more about the innovative work each of our outstanding leaders is doing this year.
And side note: we would LOVE to think of a better name than BLLTs…if you have an idea, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org for a shoutout in the next blog post!
Elizabeth Anthony serves at the Blended Learning Project Coordinator for the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE). Elizabeth joined the ACE team after graduating from the University of Notre Dame in May, 2016. As an undergraduate student, Elizabeth was part of the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, worked on various blended-learning implementation projects both in the United States and abroad, conducted research for the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, and studied philosophy.