Category Archives: Educational Technology

MIT Blossoms: Blended learning simplified

Nowadays, blended learning consists of iPads, smartphones, and laptops in the classroom. However, blended learning programs can use technology as simple as a television. MIT Blossoms (Blended Learning Open Source Science or Math Studies) provides free math and science video lessons for teachers to use in class. The program was inspired by “old-fashioned” blended classrooms that consisted of only a television and a VCR, which teachers used to play videos that accompanied their lessons. Blossoms’s founder Richard Larson, a professor of engineering systems at MIT, put his own spin on this version of blended learning by adding active learning sessions designed to be conducted by a classroom teacher.

Each video lesson consists of video segments, a teacher’s guide, printable hand-outs and a list of additional online resources that are relevant to the lesson. For example, Blossoms’s first video lesson featured Larson teaching about triangles, random numbers and probability, which featured him sawing a yardstick into pieces. Today there are over one hundred free lessons available, which are being used all over the world in countries such as the US, China, Pakistan, and Brazil.

It’s safe to say that the program isn’t popular due to new and innovative technologies. Instead, MIT Blossoms focuses on what classrooms really need – full attention on both the teacher and the lesson. Unlike most blended learning classrooms, Blossoms is not “student-centered” but is instead “teacher-centric”; the lesson are designed to avert student attention at both the teacher on the video and the classroom teacher. Furthermore, the program is not BYOD – in fact, students must turn off their laptops and smartphones once lessons begin to ensure that “students are looking at the video, at the teacher, or at each other, not at their own screens.”

While Blossoms differs from several other blended learning programs, it still focuses on the same outcomes: student-directed learning with guidance from an experience teacher, less distracted classrooms, and more student collaboration. Although the program may be much simpler than other programs, it is definitely seen as a “gentle bridge” to educational technology for teachers who are hesitant, and also enables teachers to play an active role in the classroom while bringing in educational technology to their students.

Interested in learning more about MIT Blossoms? Read the original article “Putting Teachers at the Center of Education Technology” (Slate) or visit visit the program’s website.

Rural schools overcome obstacles through edtech

With low funding, geographical isolation, and infrastructural challenges, rural schools have always had a harder time preparing students for the future than big city schools. However, now that the 21st Century increasingly relies on technology, rural schools have been able to use educational technologies to their advantage.

As many know, rural areas often struggle with finding the power and funds necessary for stable Internet connection and accessibility. Marble Falls Independent School District in Texas understands these problems: “We have the wireless capability, but when the wireless breaks down we have to have a network drop,” said Peggy Little, principal at Falls Career High School. “While we have enough infrastructure to support the laptops, that doesn’t account for Kindles, iPads, and smartphones.” The district has taken the steps to address this problem, though; besides raising awareness about the need for technology funding, schools have also extended hours so students and even community members can spend more time using the Internet.

Petersburg School District in Alaska has also found success through using educational technologies. Besides having a strong and motivated faculty, the district also has an excellent technology program in which the student to technology ratio is one-to-one with all students having access to laptops during the school day. “IF we don’t have it, and if it supports their learning, then it gets installed,” said Jon Kludt-Painter, the district’s director of instructional technology. Besides empowering students through educational technologies, the district also addresses infrastructural issues within the community. Like Marble Falls ISD, Petersburg School District allows students to use the school’s Internet before, after, and during school hours, and there is a center open on weekends that offers Internet access. “[The] classroom really is a classroom without walls,” Kludt-Painter said about online learning.

Interested in reading the full article? Check out “Two rural schools that are beating the odds” by Laura Devaney (eSchool News). How have you used technology to overcome infrastructural, financial, or geographical challenges? Let us know!