Reforms > Charter Schools

Silicon Valley charters get $1.7 million for 'blended learning'



Two Bay Area charter school organizations that have ventured into “blended learning” will be the first to receive funding from newly created $25 million Silicon Schools Fund.

Summit Public Schools, which runs four charter high schools, will receive $1.4 million to help open two more high schools next year in the Bay Area, and two-year-old Alpha Public Schools will get $300,000 to expand its first school, a middle school charter in San Jose.

Both Summit and Alpha are doing innovative work with blended learning, which integrates technology in the classroom to foster personalized learning. This year, students in Summit’s two high schools in the San Jose area learning math at their own pace through a fluid combination of individualized computer programs, tutoring, small group lessons and larger project-based experiences. Its two new schools next year, in Santa Clara County and in the Jefferson Union High School District in San Mateo County, will incorporate the San Jose model. Currently serving 175 students in grades six and seven, Alpha will grow to 400 students through grade eight in two years.

Seeded with money by John Fisher, whose family started Gap, Inc., the Silicon Schools Fund plans to provide seed money for 25 schools with blended learning within five years.

 

 

Filed under: Charter Schools, Reforms, Technology

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7 Responses to “Silicon Valley charters get $1.7 million for 'blended learning'”

  1. Navigio said

    on February 11, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    This may seem a bit pedantic, but I am a bit uncomfortable with the usage of the term ‘personalized’ (or individualized) in this context. While I can see the value of integrating technology into the educational environment in some manner, I think it is misguided to expect we can rely on it as our primary or even significant source of personalized ‘instruction’ (or that that is what it somehow inherently achieves). The term blended learning invariably means replacing face-to-face(s) instruction with computers. From the standpoint of human guidance this is actually the opposite of a more personalized method of ‘instruction’. While clearly part of the goal is to provide more ‘freedom’ (ie individualized in the sense that the individual figures out on his/her own how best to learn) it should be clear this comes at the expense of guidance. That tradeoff does not have to be a net negative, but it seems it easily could become so. I hope we are not using the term personalization to trick people into believing that fewer  teachers and more computers inherently means a better education. 

    • John Fensterwald replied

      on February 11, 2013 at 9:56 pm

      I’ll be writing soon about blended learning in 9th and 10th grade math at Summit San Jose’s two charter high schools, where technology is one component in a model that does personalize learning. Students set their own goals, progress at their own rate through a combination of computer-assisted learning, tutorials, small group lessons and group projects. Summit started it from scratch this year, and it’s still evolving, but what I saw was intriguing. The model appeared to encourage independence but not at the expense of adult guidance. It’s also hard to pull off well and requires a group of teachers intensely committed to work together and track each student’s progress over the course of a week.
      Definitely worth watching.

      • el replied

        on February 12, 2013 at 8:44 am

        For kids who are especially motivated, of course, all is rosy. I’m especially interested to hear how they keep kids on track who are found staring aimlessly at the screen … or googling for cat videos. :-)

    • el replied

      on February 12, 2013 at 8:42 am

      I hope that good blended learning is replacing time spent with books, rather than with teachers.

      Among the more promising ideas I’ve seen for blended learning is to have the “homework” be watching videos on a device, and then to have the exercises done in class, flipping the typical model. However, it requires a level of infrastructure that is going to be challenging to provide. John, in your various explorations, I’d be quite interested to hear more about the problems and successes (deep into the gritty details! :-) ) for districts providing devices to take home. What percent end up lost or damaged? Do they preload content so it’s not necessary to be online after school? How do they keep everything powered? What are their maintenance costs like?

  2. John Fensterwald said

    on January 24, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I don’t know about Alpha, but Summit has been designing its blended learning program, including a system assigning and tracking student work, and creating the curriculum, from scratch; it’s very much a startup operation that has consumed the time of several people from Summit assigned to the project (along with teachers’ time). Schools can’t build an operation like that based on state per student tuitions. I assume it’s the same with Alpha. There are no off-the-shelf programs for what the schools are doing.

  3. el said

    on January 24, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Are they developing and using their own online programs or are they buying it? Is the money for developing more online content or is it just to open another school using content they already use?

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