NYSCATE Blended Learning Summit

NYSCATE Blended Learning Summit

On Monday, 27 April, I attended the NYSCATE Blended Learning Summit in Albany, NY. I was looking forward to the opportunity because the TEI team is currently preparing a faculty workshop on blended learning, and any information I could glean from the summit could help improve the workshop. I walked away with a number of new ideas.

We’re not science teachers, we just play them on TV

Chris Reddy, Averill Park High School and Kaitlin McGann, Maple Hill High School gave a wonderful presentation on how they are using Interactive TV (ITV) to teach science. They provide lectures as well as lead labs through ITV. Additionally, they are using Blackboard to host content for the course.

Key lessons

Throughout their presentation, they shared lessons learned. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Create a calendar that is very specific on what is to be covered and when. The calendar must be rigid because of all the preparation work necessary to conduct a lab remotely. The lab must be organized for the entire semester.
  • Prepare lab kits for the entire semester. These kits should be ready to drop off prior to the first day of class.
  • Develop a detailed student and facilitator guide. Lab manuals need to be very through to help make up for a lack of an onsite instructor. The facilitator may not know all the details of a lab.

Because there is a lot of pre-planning, there is not a lot of flexibility.

As Reddy noted, “You must trust that lab will go ok.”

They use technology to help close the distance gap. They believe they can use technology to develop community and collaboration. For example, they use Google+ Hangouts to develop community across sites, use Google docs to watch real-time writing, use online whiteboards to illustrate concepts, and use online audience response systems to test for understanding.

Other lessons

  • It is important to refer to the class as one group, not as separate sites. This helps to build community.
  • Blended learning can help offer classes that they would not normally be able to present. They can work to the strengths by using an instructor not available in another region.
  • Students develop into independent learners.
  • It is important to develop good collaborative relations with facilitators.
  • They do not restrict these course to their top students. They are will to take in “C” students.

Articles from presenters

Reddy, C. (2014a). A new species of science education: Harnessing the power of interactive technology to teach laboratory science. The American Biology Teacher, 76(1), 28–33. http://doi.org/10.1525/abt.2014.76.1.7
Reddy, C. (2014b). Educating laboratory science learners at a distance using interactive television. American Journal of Distance Education, 28(1), 62–69. http://doi.org/10.1080/08923647.2014.868746


Rethinking Relevance: A New Paradigm in Leading, Learning, and Managing Change

Dr. Bill Brennan was the keynote presenter, and it was the first time that I had heard him speak. While I had never heard him, the message was familiar−we need to teach differently because the world has changed since when many of us last went to school.

The video above gives you an idea of his presentation.

Here is a list of bullets that I captured from his presentation:

  • Don’t be afraid to put your ideas out there.
  • Either you are learning or you are not.
  • The system gets in the way of real learning.
  • It’s not technology unless you were born before it existed.
  • Do we fear change or being changed?
  • What is the purpose of instructional technology? Fill a bucket or ignite a fire.
  • Institution of learning or learning institutions.
  • We need to recalibrate our relevance and flow.
  • NASA just emailed a wrench to the space station.
  • Pedagogy is always the driver and technology is the accelerator.
  • Moving from knowledge stocks to knowledge flows. It is important to connect to smart people with resources. “Draft off the learning of others.”
  • Don’t limit to one mobile device. Allow learners to use the device that works for their learning. Create content that works across devices.

Dr. Brennan also talked about the power of technology for professional development. He commented on two specific tools: Twitter and YouTube. He also talked about other technologies such as using Google Docs across his school for collaboration and reduced effort. While email may be the backbone of an organizations communication system, these other tools can ramp up productivity and learning. It is important to be with a community to grow. Many communities have a digital component.

He left us with an important thought…

“Would you want to spend the entire day learning in your own classroom?”

Senator Catherine Young

State Senator Catherine Young also addressed the group and spoke about initiatives that focused on online and distance learning. She noted that we have an old infrastructure and we need better broadband.

Additionally, she spoke about proposed Bill 5509C – Establishment of Statewide Online Learning Advisory Council.

While not related to blended learning, she pointed out that Olean was closer to nine other state capitals than Albany. I could only find six (Baltimore, Harrisburg, Charleston, Columbus, Lansing, Trenton) along with Toronto.

Leading Successful Blended and Online Learning Initiatives

Michael Horning, Jr., Executive Vice President of PLS 3rd Learning spoke to use about professional development resources for learning about blended learning; primarily, the Leaf Institute.

Horning noted that NY State was behind in blended and online learning opportunities. Administrators not necessarily trained to see blended learning method. Instruction is needed to prepare instructors to teach in a blended learning environment.

Defining Blended Learning

Horning provided this definition of blended learning:

Blended learning is formal education program in which a student learns, at least in part, through online learning with some element of student control over time, place, path and /or pace.

A Roadmap for Implementation of Blended Learning at the School Level: A Case Study of the iLearnNYC Lab Schools (PDF)

Leaf Institute for Blended and Online Learning

Horning then went on to talk about the Leaf Institute for Blended and Online Learning. The institute has four professional development programs:

  1. Leading successful blended and online learning initiatives.
  2. Leading blended and online teachers.
  3. Online Teaching: Fundamentals of instructional design.
  4. Online teaching: Fundamentals of instruction.

Student cohorts learn about online learning through online learning. Content is research-based. There are 6 modules (technology, leadership, professional development, content, operations, teaching) with six elements per module. Students work to complete one module per week. It is an 18-hour course. Students demonstrate understanding through real practice and practical work products.

Different blended learning models

Horning shared different blended learning models. These examples are from the course:

Creating a Blended Environment

Finally, Timothy Fromm, Alternative High School Principal from the East Hampton School District, spoke about how his school is helping struggling students with summer school programs. He talked about the evolution of his program. A key goal was increasing the graduation rate.

When developing the program, themes emerged. These themes included student-centered, exploration, student responsibility, global society, and fiscal responsibility.

The blended learning model they chose combines traditional classroom learning with a virtual learning environment targeting individual strengths and weaknesses.

The initial goal was to get as many credits to students as possible.

They created an online registration process for selecting students and used Google Forms and Spreadsheets to track students. Progress was continuously monitored.

The program was not just focused on credit recovery. Students could use the program to better their grades or progress through school at a faster rate.

Personalized instruction

Instruction was personalized for each student. They created student learning plan, and student needs shaped instruction. Results were reported back to the teacher of record. They used online resources to create guided learning paths for students. With this modular instruction approach, they were better able to track students.


As they move forward, they are going to create their own anchor and core lessons. They are also going to create their own pacing guides.

Teachers who helped to teach these courses have taken lessons learned back their traditional classrooms.

I enjoyed the opportunity to attend this workshop, I certainly walked away with a decent set of notes. This conference reinforced the idea that learning could be extended by thinking differently.

Students can’t wait to get out of speed regulated town (school) to get back on learning highway.

Stan Skrabut, Ed.D.

Stan is Director of Technology-Enhanced Instruction. He has over 20 years experience working as an instructional technologist and trainer. He has a master’s degree in computing technology in education and a doctorate in education specializing in instructional technology.

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