DPS board discusses blended learning, Whiston nomination

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education received an update on the use of blended learning in the district at its regular meeting on Oct. 28. They also heard an announcement that the district’s superintendent is in the running for a state administrator award.

DPS Technology and Media Coordinator Troy Patterson addressed the board on the subject of blended learning, stating that it is a hot topic in education. He added that to understand the concept of the teaching method, it is important to understand the common misconceptions of it.

“Blended learning is not the same as the Massive Open Online Courses offered at large universities or completely online web-based courses,” Patterson said. “It involves some learning online and some that is face-to-face in a brick and mortar building. It’s a combination of online lessons and teacher taught lessons.”

Patterson said there are four general models for blended learning courses: rotation, flex, self blend and an enriched virtual model.

The rotation model has students rotating between several different activities. That could mean that the students work in the same classroom with an online activity as part of it or they could be working as a “flipped” classroom, meaning that the lectures are given online and then classroom time is used for followup work to the lecture.

In the flex model, most of the courses curriculum is delivered online, but some of it is still delivered in the classroom, with the teacher supporting the students as needed.

The self blended model has the teachers working in a more focused and individual manner with students to make sure they are all on the same page with the material.

In the enriched virtual model, all of the material is online and it is more of a school-wide curriculum. All of the students touch base with the teachers at a variety of times to work on the coursework.

There are currently several blended learning courses offered in the district. including sign language courses at Dearborn High School, a creative writing course at Edsel Ford High School and introduction to business courses at Fordson High School.

Patterson said there are several challenges with blended learning, including making sure teachers have sufficient time to record videos and learn how to best use the blended learning model.

“This is a different process than the traditional lecturing to 30 kids in a classroom,” Patterson said. “It’s a skill set that the teachers are developing and that they need to develop moving forward.”

Patterson said a second challenge with blended learning is making sure that the school has the proper equipment in place to assist the teachers.

“We need to have the material here so that teachers have the capability of filming their videos and storing them and we need to make sure students can easily access it,” Patterson said.

He added that blended learning is a new way of teaching students material.

“This is a way of doing things differently,” Patterson said. “This taps into different skill sets for kids and it is not one size fits all. It is, however, another tool that we can provide students and that many are taking advantage of.”

Board Trustee Aimee Schoelles said she has a son in eighth grade in the district and that the online material has been helpful to both her and her son.

“This is a huge asset to our students,” Schoelles said. “I’ve been incredibly impressed with the variety of resources available for students.”

Board Trustee Joseph Guido said it was important for the district to stay up to date with the rises in technology because students coming into the district will be more and more familiar with the use of computers and tablets as time goes on.

Supt. Brian Whiston said the district wants to give all of the teachers and students an opportunity to use blended learning to their advantage.

Also during the meeting, DPS Director of Human Resources Glenn Maleyko announced that Whiston has been nominated for Michigan Superintendent of the Year in the Michigan Association of School Administrators.

The nomination receives the support of many groups, including the board of education, PTSA, the union and the teachers and administrators of the district.

“I can think of no one more deserving for the award,” Maleyko said. “Mr. Whiston works extremely hard for the school district and the students that he serves. He is very passionate about his job and drives for nothing less than excellence.”

Whiston thanked the board and Maleyko, but emphasized that it takes a team effort to run the school district.

“I thank the board, the community and the administration for the nomination, but it’s really the effort of the all of us as a team that makes everything run smoothly,” Whiston said. “But I’m humbled and honored by the nomination. I’m very blessed to be superintendent of these schools.”

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)