“Kids just don’t like the program”: Adjusting Mindsets Around Blended Learning Implementation

Four years ago, before I was hired at my school, administration purchased a reading program. The idea, I suppose, was that our reading achievement data wasn’t as high as we wanted it to be. The school implemented it with several teachers who were already on board with a blended learning implementation in their classroom. Reading achievement data for those homerooms that year were high, and the teachers gave much of the credit to the program.

In my role as Technology Specialist, I was hired to “make tech happen” at my school. Through my experience in the CityBridge’s Education Innovation Fellowship, I’ve personally narrowed that down to using technology to quicken the teacher-student feedback loop and offer a personalized learning experience for our kiddos.

This year, my third year at my school, I continue to address an issue about this program I inherited: Why aren’t students meeting their usage goals on technology? In conversations with lead teachers, I’ve heard infinite versions of the following:

  • Students just don’t like the program.
  • [Student name] doesn’t have working headphones, so they can’t use [insert program name here].
  • We don’t have enough time in the day for students to get on the program.
  • I don’t think the program will help them grow.

While there are some logistical or operational nuggets in these issues (I’ve yet to find a pair of headphones for less than $20 that are fully kid-proof—let me know if you have a recommendation!), I believe that the root cause is truly mindset issues on behalf of the teacher and administration.

In three years, we’ve gotten more shiny Chromebooks, a stellar technology support technician, and devoted time in the school schedule for blended learning. What’s more, our reading program continues to present significant data that it is effective at helping students grow.

This has all helped—and it has also cost a lot of money.

However, the biggest ROI seems to come from asking the school administration, who have far more face-time with teachers than I do, “What problem are you trying to solve?” From there, I can identify the best program to use and set clear goals to reach each month.

I’ve also had moderate success in individual classrooms by doing the same on a smaller level. When a teacher says students don’t like the program, I ask about its implementation in the classroom. How has it been implemented differently than our highly popular math program? How does the teacher talk about the program to students?

While I am proud of the work I’ve done prior this year, I truly wish I had prioritized teacher and administration mindset, expectation setting, and coaching above shiny hardware or other excuses disguising the underlying problem.

Blair Mishleau
2014 Education Innovation Fellow