Blended Learning

I am making some comments on Blended Learning tomorrow at the Forbes 400 Philanthropy Summit. My goal in doing this is to excite education philanthropists about the potential of Blended Learning to reshape our K-12 classrooms and improve learning outcomes in them.

For those of you who are not familiar with Blended Learning, it is a growing movement in K-12 education in the US and around the world. Some conflate Blended Learning, Online Learning, and Flipped Classrooms. They are related but they are not the same.

Blended Learning, at its core, is a repudiation of the one size fits all model of K-12 education that has been the standard model in the US for at least the last century. Blended Learning uses a combination of classroom redesign, schedule redesign, online learning, peer learning, and tutoring to delivery a personalized learning experience to each and every student.

In its simplest form, I like to think of Blended Learning as a restructuring of the teacher’s role from being the broadcaster at the front of the room to the person who creates the “aha moments” for the student, often in one on one or small group settings. Blended Learning would not be scalable without technology but it is not a technology centric approach to education. It recognizes that we need teachers more than ever in our K-12 system and attempts to leverage teachers for what they are best at and uses technology and process redesign to free the teachers up from the work that can be done in other ways (like content delivery and evaluation). It gets the teachers teaching more. As Michael Horn of the Clayton Christensen Institute says in this Forbes column:

the real insight behind what it is doing is that it is not about the technology first and foremost. It’s about the learning model itself, and technology then acts in service of that model

I am sure there are people in the AVC community that know more about Blended Learning than I do and I would welcome suggestions on case studies, examples, papers, books, and other resources I should know about as I prepare to advise the wealthiest people in the world how to spend their money. Please leave those thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

That said, I have been doing my homework and reading up on Blended Learning. Here are some links I found valuable.

Clayton Christensen Institute’s Blended Learning Resources

A video on Rocketship Charter School’s approach to Blended Learning

A Foundation Strategy Group whitepaper on Summit San Jose’s High School Math program

A New Classrooms web page where they show how they redesign classrooms for Blended Learning

Kahn Academy Course on Blended Learning

A blog post on Summit’s Personalized Learning Software

A Virtual Tour (video) Of Acton Academy

A Forbes article on Teach To One, a Blended Learning program for middle school math

A Columbia Teachers College whitepaper on Teach To One

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    http://johnhcochrane.blogsp… John Cochrane is a Finance Prof at the University of Chicago. He taught a MOOC. Here is his blog about the experience.Academia is staid. It needs to rethink how it does some things. Academia is full of groupthink. It’s become unwelcoming to new ideas. This ought to be interesting at Harvard-http://www.washingt…I think education gets innovated outside of public education. The home school movement could be enabled by technology-and find a home in the co-work movement.just found this: US Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O Connor writes, “For today’s students, learning can happen anytime, anywhere. Digital resources are growing more intuitive, more personalized and more affordable. With real-time assessments, teachers can identify how each student learns, where improvement is needed, and which learning strategies work best. New technologies allow students to learn from materials tailored to their progress, tied to clear academic standards and accompanied by constant, actionable feedback.”

  2. JimHirshfield

    Education. Will it blend? seriously, great that you’re giving so much of your time and attention to education. Power on!!

    1. LE

      Never saw that before.I just looked and on youtube some of those videos have 10 million views.There is probably an opportunity for anyone marketing a small product to send it to the blendtec guys to grind up for some free advertising.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Blended Advertising

        1. LE

          Let’s not stop there though. (That’s for distracting me this am I am now going to return the favor).Remember the scene in the godfather where Michael is in Italy and Appolonia starts the car and it blows up?So instead of humans we put products in cars and blow up the car.…By the way, Moe Green’s eyeball would definitely blend.

  3. William Mougayar

    I’m learning about this too. – Is Blended Learning more about the changing role of the teacher or the changing needs of the students?- What are the best examples of who is doing it really well?

    1. awaldstein

      How do you change what someone wants?

      1. Alex Wolf

        How do you model how the brain learns? A bigger and more important question we are addressing with our games.

        1. awaldstein

          I’ll leave your question to folks smarter than me like yourself.How I would answer the question to William is simple–inspiration which at it’s core is what education needs to be about and the driver to ‘wanting’ what you didn’t know you were interested in.The interesting thing is that you need to change both how you teach and the dynamics of the group learning setting itself.

          1. Alex Wolf

            Between inspiration and unknown wants – same issue as taste-mapping, curation and discovery you and @wmoug:disqus often discuss.The loss is with teachers not broadly educated enough to jump field and connect dots to parallels.

      2. Richard

        Yep, that’s the shortcoming of blended learning for Kids. “We don’t need no education, We don’t want no self control”

      3. SubstrateUndertow

        Excite their curiosity/motivation with baby steps that introduce them to the addictive rewards of incremental discovery/mastery.We all love being good-at/mastering processes. Kid just need a small taste of success and recognition to get them started.

  4. Alex Wolf

    Fred, while I’ve not read much on Blended Learning, yet at na2ure we make some of the tools they will use (biology).Bank Street School coordinators have told us we are the future of learning tools since we baked into the system many features (listed below). We are designing a pilot for them now. They are not the only ones getting excited either, many STEAM type programs agree and are trying us out.We built the system very specifically. To learn about biology, starting with zoology (botany to follow), but we can grow to any other subject.First, It models Froebel’s design of kindergarten with CUMULATIVE learning, so you can start early and keep building on the knowledge with each level or year.Second, we make TRANSMEDIA games – having both physical and digital changes up the format delivery. It also changes from single user (app) to group learning (tabletop games), which is important to have many types of activities since group (SOLE) and individual study/play are needed as well as some teacher talk (they can use our app that way too).Third, we built the digital and physical as a flip of each other – CONSTRUCT in one mode, and DECONSTRUCT in the other – so the learning works in both directions and is self-reinforcing. Build is with nouns, describe is with adjectives (ie. having 6 legs makes you hexapodal, which makes you an insect).Fourth, we are photograph based for our IMAGES, which means we don’t lose autism spectrum and disabled learners for whom drawings are too abstract. Images are the primary input and get named as things and concepts as well, so visual learning is very rich.Fifth, I designed a periodic table for biology which seems to be the first viable version thereof (according to PhD’s, no one has been able to do this for bio and it has been a pain point for decades). It’s a CLASSIFICATION system which underpins our app, and I turned into a game to make it more fun.We welcome anyone in the comments to approach us to test at their school – preschool, elementary and middle school, though we have an informal test with some kids at Exeter who are playing bio games for fun. The homeschoolers love us too.I will dive more into blended learning readings this summer, though much of it I’m sure I know through other studies.

  5. Jeff

    Not sure if this is blended learning or not, but from grades 2-6 I was in a single classroom with all the kids of all those grades (class size of about 30) with one teacher leading the charge. This was a test classroom set up at the school. I loved it. Sometimes I would be doing math with older and younger kids, but in this way each kid in class was never held back. If you were in 2nd grade but ready to look at the same stuff as the 5th graders, then you would. I’m sure it was taxing on the teacher, and he did a great job of constantly bringing in outside people/experts to hold little seminars on various topics, but it was great for the kids. No one ever felt held back, and surprisingly, if you were slow in an area, many times he would assign an older student to work with you to catch up.I don’t know how this model could scale out, but I found it worked surprisingly well for me and the rotating cast of about 30 kids as well. All that I’ve kept in touch with have gone on to do great things. This was at a public elementary school in California, too.

  6. David Semeria

    Blended learning sounds similar to the Montessori approach. I’m a huge fan of making school fun, and of creating an environment where children learn rather than being taught.I also read this very interesting BBC article about a school in NYC which has been taking this approach for years.

    1. Jason T

      Many of the latest trends in education can be traced back to the fundamentals of Montessori that have been in practice for decades. And I think the founders of some really iconic tech companies are products of Montessori formats (google, amazon, etc).

    2. Dave Pinsen

      This blog post from yesterday and the comment I included as an image below touch on this general phenomenon:…Edit: Ignore the first text image below, which isn’t the comment I intended to highlight here. The image below it is.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Looks like I attached a wrong text image there. Still figuring out how to remove images from a comment…I give up. Can’t figure out how to remove images from a Disqus comment.

        1. awaldstein

          There is no way to remove the image Dave unless William or Fred removes it for you.Truly an antisocial Disqus bug.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            Ok, thanks for the explanation, Arnold. When I’m grabbing images of blocks of text from the camera roll on my phone, sometimes it’s not clear which one I grabbed until I attach it. Just meant to include the first paragraph of the comment by “The Last Real Calvinist” there.

          2. awaldstein

            You are not alone here Dave.If there is a way to work around this I don’t know it.

          3. LE

            Perhaps Jim Hirschfield could chime in here and explain why disqus has not fixed this despite repeated mention of the problem.

          4. sigmaalgebra

            Here’s what I do: First, I have nothing to do with a dumb ‘smart’ phone! Second, I use a ‘computer’, that is, a desktop! Third, when I work with images, each image is in a file on my hard disk. That is, the file is not just on some clipboard or hidden in some tricky Apple or Android app land of the unknown and unknowable. Did I mention that, instead, the image is in a file — one file, on my hard disk, with the file type — JPG, PNG, BMP, etc. — clearly visible and correct.Next I use a standard image viewer, e.g., the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer. Then I can check and confirm what the heck is actually in the file, the size in pixels, etc. I know; I know; Apple wants everything to be ‘intuitive’ and ‘easy to use’ and to do everything for (to!) me, and they do do it to me! No thanks. I don’t want automatic or intuitive; instead I want manual and explicit. No ‘favors’.Then when I’m happy with the file, I use a little editor macro to put the file system tree name of the file on the system clipboard and then ask Disqus to imbed the file. For the Disqus text box for the file name, I just paste from the system clipboard. The whole process is so explicit and clean with so many checks and so much seeing what the heck is really going on that so far I’ve not made a mistake.It’s an old story: ‘Ease of use’ in tools is not tools that try to do more for you but tools that are simple where, for each tool, it’s easy to understand just what the heck it is doing. This approach to ease of use works for hand tools for woodworking, metal working, and auto maintenance along with cooking, computing, and more.

          5. awaldstein

            Easier to make it so that people can edit their photos like they can their text.That’s the answer for the rest of the world.

          6. LE

            It’s not a bug it’s really really poor system design and lack of empathy for anyone who might, by accident, attached the wrong photo.Besides most people aren’t going to know what to say or who to contact to remove the wrong image.It needs to be fixed.

    3. Alex Wolf

      I wholly agree in more fun and play to learn. It’s why I make learning games.I looked at City and Country for my daughter. As a sculptor, I love the blocks, and I encourage 3D for girls. However I found it low in foreign languages, which my kid is good at. So we passed.

    4. Justin Ballou

      The blended approach and Montessori approach go hand in hand….. Blending the opportunities allows educators to reach more students with the same, (or sometimes less) resources. The educator becomes a facilitator of the learning experience and guides the student, validating understanding once a student shows what they know and are able to do.

  7. John Danner

    Thanks for writing about blended fred! I founded rocketship about a decade ago to pioneer blended and am now working on Zeal to bring the approach to any teacher. At Zeal we both offer our personalization tools to teachers and direct to students through our native apps. You are correct that blended is primarily about giving students a personalized learning path, and that changes a teacher’s role. You are also right that this personalization is logistically impossible without technology, because assessing and planning for each student is far too time consuming (15 hours per week on top of the demanding weeks teachers already have). It is a big shift in thinking about how to learn, but I think it is inevitable that each student will learn what they uniquely are ready to learn. I am happy to chat with you to give you more background, there are good schools in NYC working on this.

    1. Prashant Sachdev

      Would like to learn more…can we connect sometime while I am here in NY this week?email: prashant dot sachdev at gmail

  8. Richard

    What academia finally understands is that the marginal cost of educating an additional student is close to zero. Moreover, the more that students are enrolled and participating the more likely it is that teaching is distributed “within” the student body rather than “at” the student body. Want an example? the data science “curriculum” offered by John Hopkins on coursera. This is a 50-75k programme that is FREE. The latest quiz had 10,000 submissions. No student loans, no class room, no cars clogging the roads. The future is here.

  9. Theophilus Van Rensburg Lindzt

    The first time we used the concept was in South Africa when we introduced the use of mobile phones as a useful tool to improve teacher use of technology and increase student participation. We used the phrase “blended learning” in reference to the tools that students used – pen, paper and mobile device. It was especially relevant as, back in 2008 (maybe still) there was a fear that the mobile device would make students write less. In fact, they wrote more. I appreciate the emphasis in this article on “restructuring the teacher’s role” and concede, at the same time, it’s presented some of the most humbling experiences since our mobile learning projects started in South Africa in 2007.

    1. pointsnfigures

      check out they have a mobile app, and it’s the largest world wide network of math and science kids in the world.

      1. Theophilus Van Rensburg Lindzt

        Thanks so much. That is a great tip. Very interactive. One of our big needs in rural South Africa (at this stage) is the absence of reliable broadband. That said, it would be interesting to test this app in one of our remote areas.

  10. Andrew Kennedy

    Great post.

  11. MichelleMAnderson

    I am sure there are people in the AVC community that know more about Blended Learning than I do and I would welcome suggestions on case studies, examples, papers, books, and other resources I should know about as I prepare to advise the wealthiest people in the world how to spend their money.

    1. Marissa_NYx

      Your link is to Amazon & The Game of Thrones?

  12. Marissa_NYx

    Fred, why not share some practical examples of repeatable & scaleable solutions that support blended learning? example: Cashtivity is a web based platform where students play, learn & build a business. It is applied in classrooms where teachers want students to learn by doing, through immersive play & practice of business concepts. As it turns out, teachers rejoice when students achieve those “aha” moments, eg, when they reach breakeven during a sales cycle & the penny drops:) at that point, the student has grasped the basic dynamics of their business’ financials.Here is a video of a public school in action: here is a more in depth video produced by the teacher, Dan Martinez, documenting why and how his class made a decision to adopt a tool like Cashtivity for their in class fundraising project – the intro is a little long but you will see the video is insightful as it documents kids’ narrative and engagement: it helps.

  13. Rahul Mahna

    Good morning. Long time lurker. First time poster. I owned a company recently that tutored grades 3-8 after school under the NCLB act. In that capacity we reached approx 100k students in 20 states. We had 3 methods (1)- stand and deliver in person (2) pure remote online (3) blended in person. After 20+hours of mathematics, small group, differentiated instruction and comparing pre-post tests we found: students in method (1) had approximate 5pt increase- in (2) had 6pt and (3) had 8 pts.I firmly believe in your comments about blended and have started a new company “class compete” focused on only one particular aspect of the blended learning process – testing. From our experience above- we are combining gaming and testing to just enhance student skills and scores. The method works and academic improvement is clear. Excited to see you are informing others.

  14. harris497

    Fred,My kids are part of the Ohio Virtual Academy. It allows home schooling, with professional teachers, school materials and curriculum provided by K12. Parents teach the material or the kids can self-learn especially after middle school. This sounds alot like the blended learning approach you described and it worked for our kids. My eldest graduated this spring from Rutgers and she never went out to public or private school.Hope this helps…

  15. harris497

    Also, the teachers serve as assistants to the parent /learning coaches, and help to keep the students on schedule and accountable in terms of getting their work done.

  16. Molly

    Hey Fred,I suggest checking out Knewton’s case study with Arizona State University, as you’re looking for resources about blended learning environments and how they can improve learning outcomes. Check it out here:…Best,Molly

  17. John

    Almost all of the States in the US have adopted Common Core as the standard of what should be learned by the end of each year from K-12 in English and Math. Most textbooks for K-12 now have a label on them saying that they are “Common Core” compliant. You can read more about what common core is here…Also you can learn more about what common core is in this talk…Any Blended Learning initiative in the US should be Common Core compliant.

  18. Ben Ortega

    Love it!!When absorbed, teachers will have to be called Guides, Helpers, Agents… Let kids learn at their pace and according to what keeps them interested in learning. That will look very different from what we see today (Every student must progress at same rate and have “scores” that say you learned).It’s very cool that you continue to provide backing into this enormous area for improvement.

  19. jeffreyyan

    Thx Fred for posting about a pedagogy centric topic on education. If you haven’t already, take a look at and the founder Katie Salen. It’s in NYC. Another school that does really great work is It has network of about 60 schools all over the US. The founder Dennis Littky is amazing.

    1. Alex Wolf

      I visited Quest2Learn recently. Lots of fun to see game learning in action.

  20. JLM

    .Education as a process requiring process design, customization is way overdue.Interestingly enough the military academies have been doing this for decades with their “whole man” approach wherein they “dismantle” and then rebuild the cadets in toto.They just did not realize it.Any system which includes academics, military tactics, hand to hand combat and ballroom dancing is going to have to deal with process.JLM.

    1. LE

      Would you agree that the military has the ability to do many things that would never succeed in the private sector as a result of the captive audience that they have?I’m surprised nobody ever did a fish out of water sitcom showing what happens when a military leader steps into the private world with a bunch of millennial slackers.Along those lines this was a great film (from memory I haven’t seen it in years):

      1. JLM

        .I’ve known Pat Conroy for years. He lives in Beaufort SC. He went to the Citadel and I went to VMI. Beach Music is the saddest book I have ever read. I was bawling my eyes out in the lobby of The Cloister one rainy day.JLM.

        1. LE

          Thanks for mentioning. I had never heard of Pat Conroy before your comment.What’s interesting to me is the link between Pat’s pain and his creativity and success:Conroy has shared that his stories have been heavily influenced by his military brat upbringing, and in particular, difficulties experienced with his own father, a US Marine Corps pilot, who was physically and emotionally abusive toward his children, and the pain of a youth growing up in such a harsh environment is evident in Conroy’s novels, particularly The Great Santini.In other words had Pat’s father not been “physically and emotionally abusive” would he be the success he is today?What would he be doing and would he be as (assumption here) fulfilled?While nobody is ever going to condone parents being abusive there is no doubt that much ambition and good in the word has come out of seemingly bad situations which people have gone through and survived. Or tried to get away from.Abuse is bad but perhaps treating young people with pats on the back and kid gloves is equally as bad (and my personal thought is that it’s not a good thing, that is, the white glove child rearing “fill all needs and everyone is a winner” approach).

          1. JLM

            .Your world is different when your Dad goes off to war. When he comes home both of y’all are indelibly changed. The pressures are monumental. As a kid you are just scared.How could anyone want to kill Dad?I am sure we all survive things that are unique to our families. This is very true of entrepreneurs today.Much of what shapes us is beneath the scar tissue. Physical presence is a perfect example. The most driven man I have ever known was a self described “short guy from Del Rio Texas” — he used to tell me he wanted for one day to be 6’4″.In many ways we live up to our own expectations.JLM.

          2. JLM

            Read Lords of Discipline.

      2. JLM

        .I think that was the Eisenhower administration?JLM.

  21. Yovel Badash

    Blended Learning’s power is that it is more personalized and in most cases can open up the opportunity for more differentiated instruction. It is a private case of more personalized learning which is exactly what we need to focus on.Would be happy to share my book on this subject called – No Child Held Back.I would be happy to share more about our work if you contact us at – to see the power of this new mindset – I would recommend reading this EdSurge article about an amazing district that has zero dropouts for 5 years now! Blended Learning is just one thing they do to enable this new model.

  22. Rob Underwood

    Check out the Relay presentation from SxSWedu 2014 “Bricks, Blends and MOOCS: Flipping an Ed School”. It’s available on Sound Cloud here,… (see too….It was co-presented in Austin by our Provost, Dr. Brent Maddin, our Director of Online Development, Dan Konecky, and our Director of Research, Dr. Billie Gastic.Our graduate school of education is about 50-50 on-line / off-line, with the on-line portion primarily the lecture and readings, and the in-person portion more about practice and development of teaching teaching techniques.

  23. EdReal

    Yeah, it’s kind of like someone saying back in the 1880s “Hey, I’ve been reading a lot about phrenology. It’s really exciting. The developments in the field are moving so rapidly, and I’m thinking of using it conjunction with Bertillon’s methods. So I thought I’d reach out–who’s got experience here?”It’s just the new new thing.Summit has the “well-off white parents looking for a cheap substitute for private school that will give their mid-level ability kids a 4.0 average” coupled with the “hardworking but not too bright URMs that behave well” demographic relatively well-nailed. That’s what it did in its first two schools. The San Jose schools are an entirely different demographic–overwhelmingly Hispanic economically disadvantaged, and they’ve only recently moved into online tech because they were drowning. People I know who know what’s going on there say it’s not pretty. I would trust them more than Summit’s marketing department. Go ask people at, say, Stanford who aren’t directly involved to opine.One obvious question–if their kids are so individually treated, why are *all* ninth graders tested in algebra, and *all* sophomores tested in algebra II? There’s far less individual treatment of ability at both their schools than at any comprehensive high school, where kids are placed in math by ability and interest. Yet at Summit schools, all the kids are required to take the same courses.Salman Khan has zero–zero–evidence in a random controlled study that his little videos actually educate. Pedagogically speaking, they’re boring lectures.Clayton Christiansen–I read Christiansen extensively during grad school. The first time. MIS. NOT my M.Ed. Say what you will about ed school, and I do, they do a pretty good job of identifying who’s relevant in the field (they might disagree with Sig, but he gets a mention). Christiansen’s utterly irrelevant. I suspect he noticed the movement and this is a whole effort to jump on the bandwagon.Try reading some actual experts. Start with Larry Cuban, whose books will let you know very clearly where all your excitement leads. (Hint: nowhere).While I don’t disagree with the post Dave Pinsen captured, it’s not true that I do the “oh, man, here’s another method we have to learn” post. For one thing, I just haven’t been teaching that long. For another, I pretty much ignore all the “new new things” except stick a few buzzwords or processes in where they seem organic. In this, I am like most teachers. It’s one reason why these efforts will never achieve anything. Teachers do what works, not what enthusiastic dilettantes with money to burn suggest. While it’s not unusual to read about teachers protesting new innovations, in my experience they’re the exception.Most people can’t conceive of the utter lack of interest most kids have in learning. Another hint: if you think they’d be more interested in some alternate universe that isn’t “one size fits all”, then you are underestimating.Teaching isn’t “one size fits all”. A wide variety of teachers accommodate student preferences and student abilities to the best of their ability. But at the low level, the reality is that most students aren’t capable of or interested in learning much. The single biggest determinant in student achievement, dwarfing all others, is cognitive ability. Second is internal motivation. To the extent students do learn to the level of their cognitive ability, inclass factors that seem to matter are teacher ability to engage and manage, peer behavior, and a host of other as yet unknown group unknowables in the class environment.Technology strips all that away. Which means it won’t work with low ability kids. Which means that after everyone has gotten bored with trying to fix ed, after all the failures of time and money, teachers will probably be doing the same thing as always.

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      If at first you don’t succeed give up !Complex organic changes take time to perfect because things that work organically together take time to grow together.Lets just stick with the old Teacher-Centered-Learning that blames the students for arriving without adequate curiosity/motivation instead of seeing the development of such as job-1.

      1. EdReal

        I’m don’t do “teacher centered learning” as you envision it. Nor do I blame kids or expect, as you do, that they should have curiosity and motivation. I don’t put my baggage on them, but accept them as they are. And I educate them pretty well. Without, I’m happy to say, spewing nonsense about complex organic changes.

        1. SubstrateUndertow

          So the needed educational changes are just some set of simple linear tinkering changes not a complex of evolving, intertwining, interdependent, multidimensional, emergently-adaptive interplay (complex organic nonsense) between learners/peers/teachers ?Cognitive learning, in my view, embodies the very definition of an adaptive/complex living system (organic complexity nonsense) !There seems to be a very prominent knee-jerk reaction afoot to dismiss the concept of organic complexity as some sort of over used cliche. The fact that nearly everything in our now highly synchronized network accelerated environment is becoming an instantiation of organic complexity not withstanding.It is important to have shared words that can quickly/effectively focus our collective attention on important/reusable key features of our contemporary environmental reality.Organic complexity is presently eating the world via software driven synchronicities.So for all the “organic” word haters out there, what is your alternative linguistic word-vehicle that as quickly and effectively encapsulates/communicates the same set of important abstract process attributes as summarized by the word “ORGANIC”.”ORGANIC” instantly encapsulates these implied attributes:- webs of massively interdependent sub-process- webs of mutually interactive sub-process- webs of mutually adaptive sub-process- webs of mutually beneficial/reenforcing sub-process- webs of complex sub-process synchronicity – webs of emergent homeostatic best-fit dynamic-equilibrium- emergent fractal layers of scalable macro-level epiphenomenon- an extensible self-organizing dynamic- a self-selecting environmental feedback dynamic- a self-reenforcing environmental steerage dynamic- a global trajectory towards increasingly layered complexity- a global trajectory towards higher levels of external synchronicity- a global trajectory towards increasing awareness/consciousness of externalities. . . etc. . . . etc. . . etc. . .They say Eskimos had 23 words for snow because it was important to their survival to communicate/differentiate those attributes.We are now in a world that is rapidly being consumed by organic social complexities via software driven synchronicities.Maybe its time we develop a more robust set of – narratives- metaphors- attitudes- language- tools- techniquesthat more effectively help us collectively drill down and collaborate around the core recurring fundamental organizational social-reality building blocks of our time. Those core social-reality building blocks being software driven webs/networks of complex organic social/commercial synchronicity.Those emerging new software driven organic-synchronicity building blocks are the atomic-table platform components of our modern zeitgeist.ORGANIC is not so much an over used word as it is a widely under comprehended word !I’m up for a better word than “ORGANIC” if it more effectively encapsulates/communicates that important collage of abstract attributes.So bring it on !But the cavalier dismissals not so much 🙁

        2. SubstrateUndertow

          Nor do I blame kids or expect, as you do, that they should have curiosity and motivation.Sorry maybe I didn’t make it clear that I was being facetious. I would never blamed kids for not showing up with curiosity and motivation !Those traits are a given as all humans are inherently endowed with curiosity and motivation at a biological level. Those traits are fundamental requirements for human survival.But it is important to provide an environment that evoke the learners natural sense of curiosity and motivation.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      “Most people can’t conceive of the utter lack of interest most kids have in learning.”On what do you base this?

      1. EdReal

        Base what? The utter lack of interest or that people can’t conceive of it?

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Ah… right… the utter lack of interest.

          1. EdReal

            Experience. However, keep in mind that I am combining lack of interest with low cognitive ability–which trumps interest.

          2. Donna Brewington White

            My experience is limited and anecdotal to some extent, but I’ve never met a young child who did not want to learn. I can buy that this might possibly taper off, with some kids, at some point. The older kids that I know best (my own) have a high but selective desire to learn — but your argument holds because they are probably above average cognitively. My least academically minded child (a young teen) who hates school with a vengeance will spend hours doing research on the internet on a subject that interests him. For a while, he was actually at a school that uses kids’ interests to engage them academically. When I read Fred’s post, I thought of this son. He’d be a great candidate for blended learning.

          3. EdReal

            Well, I’m a teacher who has worked at three schools, two of them Title I, who teaches algebra I, geometry, and algebra II to low income, often low ability kids. I have also raised a very bright son who graduated from college in economics. And your experience is that of a reasonably well-educated person raising her own kids.So when I say that most people can’t conceive of the lack of interest the low ability kids have, the “most people” I’m talking about includes you. In fact, it pretty much includes any reasonably well-educated person who hasn’t had direct regular academic contact with IQs below 110.

          4. Donna Brewington White

            First of all, I appreciate the work you have done. Yet, your pessimism concerns me. Often those in the system are not the ones who are most likely to disrupt it. To not continually attempt to fix education — whether successful or not — would be a travesty.I have a sister (MSW/Ed.S.) in the system who is probably an exception. She is a disruptor and she is constantly challenged by those invested in the status quo. Her school system has not yet found a way to get rid of her but they keep trying. BTW, she was principal at a middle school in an under-resourced area until they moved her into a district leadership role — probably to keep a closer eye on her.Yes, you have me pegged — although I have enough exposure to the world you reference not to live completely in an ivory tower. I have been around many young children in my lifetime — some of this through volunteer work and with children who are under-privileged — and I note that young children seem eager to learn regardless of socio-economics. If I am right, then when/why does this stop? And what happens to creativity as people progress through the school systems? Could this not be systemic?These under-motivated kids that you describe — is this inherent or did something happen along the way? I’ve asked my sister to read this post and our exchange. I want her opinion even if it is off-line.See, I think that these people that you disparage for their attempts could have at least a piece of the solution. Technology has seemed to be able to break in to places we may not have expected. In some instances, it has been an equalizer.

          5. EdReal

            Young children aren’t always eager to learn. Most are eager for approval, which isn’t the same thing.Look, you have me pegged all wrong. I’m not a pessimist. I love teaching. I don’t think teaching is a waste of time. I do think our goals are ridiculously high, thanks to everyone’s refusal to believe in cognitive ability. I like engaging kids, working with them, helping them learn what they can.However, Fred is talking about blended learning, individualized learning, that will magically allow kids to self-direct their own academic progress, is a pipe dream on top of a delusion. The delusion is that any but maybe the top 10-15% of kids are capable of learning to the expectations we currently have of them. The pipe dream is that kids outside that 10-15% will self-direct their learning in any way, even to a lesser level. That pipe dream is due to the fact that most kids are not interested in learning, as I’ve described. Technology won’t help and, if anything, make it worse because teachers do a better job of engaging than technology does for these students (in the way I described above).You are seeing what you want to see, and imagining a world in which cold, cruel teachers are squelching kids flat because that means that more can be done.You deny that you are putting your expectations on the kids. But of course you are. You see “desire to learn” as a positive good, rather than a neutral attribute. Do your best to grasp the fact that there’s nothing morally admirable about wanting to learn, and think this whole thing through from that aspect. See where it gets you.

    3. JamesHRH

      Ed – a significant number of studies – not just the Freakonomics guys – show that the number one determining factor in academic achievement….is parents who believe academics are important.Check the ‘post-secondary degrees’ demographics of the parents at high ranking schools if you doubt me.I do not doubt your comments about kids lack of interest in learning. Teachers can’t parent.i also do not doubt your comment regarding flexibility of teachers to individual student maturity, personality and ability – especially at the early elementary levels. I hav seen it with my kids.I also agree that Prof C’s credibility is suffering from his success / topic expansion curve and that Khan academy is merely proof that enthusiasm is contagious.However, I also suffered a Grade 11 Biology teacher with a Doctorate degree who could not have been more checked out.And, your belief that you will be doing the same as always is way off base……if schools don’t repond to activist parents who believe in education….your class will look even more like daycare and way less like the current blend of interested & uninterested learners.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        “parents who believe academics are important” tend to be smart; smart parents tend to have smart kids. So it goes back to the cognitive ability Ed mentioned, which science suggests is mostly hereditary.

      2. EdReal

        No, the number one factor in student achievement is cognitive ability. Far more important than parental involvement or interest in academics. The child of two physics professors is less likely to have an IQ of 80 than the child of a welfare mother and a high school dropout who cobbles a living off the street. And the latter is less likely to have an IQ of 120 than the former.However, if the the child of academics has an IQ of 90, and the child with uninvolved, uneducated parents has an IQ of 120, then the former will do poorly despite parental values, and the latter will do well, in almost every case.And yes, Dave’s response is correct.

        1. JamesHRH

          @daveinhackensack:disqus Let’s agree to Blended Rationaling here :DPeople tend to gravitate to their strength. Cognitive ability lends parents to be interested in academics, which they then pass down to their cognitively more able children.Similarly, the number of 2nd & now even 3rd generation NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL & FIFA athletes is rising.Fair?

  24. Shaunak Roy

    Text books need to be complemented with current knowledge. Students are finding all sorts of relevant and engaging content outside of their classroom that can provide a different point of view, augment a concept or provide a real life example. Sharing and collaborating on a classroom online platform could be powerful. Although not for K12, we recently did a experiment at a Wharton classroom you might find interesting. Applies to K12 (higher grades)

  25. Neerav Kingsland

    Hey Fred, I’ll be at the Forbes event as well (presenting on New Orleans education reform efforts). Hope to see you there.-Neerav

  26. LE

    I like to think of Blended Learning as a restructuring of the teacher’s role from being the broadcaster at the front of the room to the person who creates the “aha moments” for the student, often in one on one or small group settings.Using the same exact labor widgets though?There might be an assumption here that the current crop of teachers, as well as those who go into teaching, are the right individuals to create the “aha” moments.While that could be the case I wouldn’t assume that it is the case.Perhaps some money could be spent on attracting teachers who are the types that wouldn’t necessarily be attracted to teaching under the old model, but would find it challenging and a great career under the new model.

  27. Tom Labus

    Did the Khan Academy start all this?

  28. Chris O'Donnell

    It’s basically homeschooling scaled up to larger classrooms. The teacher (parent) as facilitator of learning, not the wise man on the hill imparting knowledge. Once they were high school age my kids were pretty much 100% self-taught. That turns out to be a useful skill in college, and life.

  29. JamesHRH

    People need to see this a an evolution, not a repudiation.Schools have been a huge benefit in NA in the last 100 years. The model is now ready for an upgrade to a more user centric concept. It’s the future.Teaching begets learning is the lesson of the day.

  30. Matt Candler

    Fred,Thanks for giving Blended some airtime – good links.NYC folks might be interested in our recent Prototyping Bootcamp – bringing educators and coders together to build better blended solutions in NYC schools. Recent showcase profile here:

  31. JamesHRH

    Nobody does homework quite like the Bartender……

  32. 21edu

    Really happy to hear that the Forbes Summit will be focusing on educational opportunities. I have been in the neglected edtech space for a long time and love to see that it is getting interest as a social and business opportunity to this important group. My company 21st Century Education, a mobile learning multimedia company, mission is to develop products and services to help create learning environments where “A New Design for Education” can flourish The video produced by Farmington MN school district, highlights the why and how education can be changed and personalized Our first product, 21Teach–the Yelp of Open Educational Resources (OER) aligned to common core helps teachers quickly find apps, games, videos, and e-books for their students to succeed in the 21st Century classrooms. It has a user rating system allowing teachers and students to have control in the types of content they like and why, which under the current one-size-fits-all system does not allow. We will be available on the iTunes store at the end of the month.My focus on mobile stems from the global accessibility to powerful devices and the opportunities for visual, auditory and tactile learning. Some of the areas I find most interesting mobile blended learning are social learning and AR. Teachers and students are already utilizing social networking to communicate about feeling, events, ideas, etc… Mobile is emerging as the number one tool for social networking and media. Here is some resources for this:http://www.learningsolution… Cool flowchart on the systems of social through mobileI have been writing and advocating on the power of AR in education for the past 4 years, but only this year I have seen the “ah-ha” moments take place with educators. I think shift is because of the accessibility of the mobile devices. At this years CUE (Computer Using Educators) I was shocked that the educators presentation on AR was so packed that they had to open up another room to accommodate all the attendees. Dr. Chris Dede of Harvard is really the father of this movement. There are a tons of research and presentations he has given on the relationship of AR and personalized learning. At the Augmentative World Expo, I saw a presentation on the Avenues:The World School private NYC school, by Katy Garnier and Jay Van Buren that was using AR integrated into the architecture of the building. It seems that educators and students love how AR can make science, math, and geography more meaningful.Thank you for giving a voice to blended learning to these important stakeholders.

  33. KRR

    The key to effective blended learning is the implementation into the learning environment particularly ensuring the necessity of technology, pedagogy and system change. The publication Alive in the Swamp as an effective evaluation tool that learning system leaders use to evaluate the relative strength and weaknesses of blended learning products

  34. PhilipSugar

    There were two big aha moments for me.he first was when I was told. You have two pieces that happen in learning. The first is listening to the instructor and the other is doing “homework” practicing the topics that the instructor spoke about. Think about this logically. Which is better to do at home and and which is better to do at school?? Of course. Its better to listen and home and do work at school.The second was is it the job of the teacher to be a great lecturer?? or a teacher. Why not have the best lecturer, lecture millions of students. They can’t “teach” millions of students, that is why classroom size is so important. A great teacher can only work with so many students at a time.

  35. AdamTratt

    University Child Development School in Seattle has been working on a a site for professional teacher development known as Spark that may interest you. An emphasis of UCDS’ method is differentiated learning that is progression driven and continuum based. If I’m understanding blended learning from your post, this is related. In case you’re interested, more on Spark here:

  36. Nick Macey

    Here at Rosetta Stone, we’re in the process of building new products for the K-12 environment, and embraced blended learning, all the way into our product development process. We’ve been working closely with the Adams 12 Stem Launch school in Colorado. As part of that relationship, we partnered to created a Problem Based Learning (PBL) module for some of the students in that school. PBLs structure a 6-12 week curriculum for the students where all of their learning is guided towards solving a particular real-world problem. Each of their classes, across science, technology, engineering and math is architected to help the students work through to solve the problems. At the end of the PBL experience, they present their findings to a group of industry experts for feedback.My team worked with them to create a PBL around the development of our new product. The students were helping us ideate around a few key areas for this product. Working through that PBL experience was life changing for my team members that were close to it, and the students came back to us with fact-based recommendations for key aspects of our products. Watching them present was fantastic — and gave me a ton of faith that students are coming out of school way more prepared for the working world than I did.Blended learning is great. Pairing it with PBL is transformational.(We were lucky to be introduced to this forward-looking school by Carrie Morgridge, who is one of the most innovative education philanthropists I’ve ever met.

  37. jason wright

    do they teach grammar in American schools?

    1. Richard

      It didn’t seem to slow down Elon Musk.

      1. Cam MacRae

        You mean the South African bloke who was raised and educated in South Africa?

  38. lydiasugarman

    My mother began her education in a one-room schoolhouse in rural central Kentucky. When her parents bought and moved to a new farm closer to town, Springfield, KY, she and her siblings were enrolled in the public schools in town.Mom was a second grader, but they wanted to put her back in first grade because the thinking was she surely couldn’t be performing at second grade level coming out of a one-room schoolhouse. At the end of her second day at Springfield Grade School, she was ultimately placed in second grade after they’d debated skipping her ahead to third grade.She always credited not only her much loved teacher but the opportunity to listen in on the big kids’ lessons and the tutoring she’d receive from those big kids.Fast forward several decades and I found myself going to St. Dominic Grade School in Springfield, KY. At that time, first grade and second grade were combined in one classroom with one very overwhelmed young nun teaching us. But, we enjoyed that same “halo” effect of getting to eavesdrop on the second graders’ classes. When we entered second grade, our class was divided with the top half in with the third grade while the bottom half stayed with the first graders. Same in third grade. Hmmm. When I think back, those of us in the top half maintained that academic advantage throughout our eduction through college.It’s wonderful, for so many reasons, to see this “antiquated” structure coming back into vogue!

  39. Gary Chou

    I missed your blog post this morning because I was too busy working on my own, which is thematically related.

  40. Emeri Gent [Em]

    There are two things that seem incredibly difficult to accomplish yet they beg to be done.1. See the student as the primary customer of education2. See the patient as the primary customer of healthSince the summit is about the first rather than second imperative, I think what you can address at the summit in part is why such a locus of focus keeps getting slammed at the door of institutional politics.The way to address the student in the sea of stakeholders is to see what students are doing outside of school hours. Here the peer learning part of the blended learning model you have outlined comes to the fore. One cannot ignore the disruptive element of how students learn outside the classroom now.This is way more than simply the distinction between teachers being digital immigrants and students being digital natives (using Marc Prensky”s terms) – and that is because outside school hours, kids have not been institutionalized how they should be doing their homework. At the University level there have been problems where objections have been raised about group work – but for K-12 education, kids are SELF-ORGANIZING naturally.The problem with institutionalized behaviour and the reality of blended learning is that stakeholders have institutional baggage that will get in the way of that delivery – unions get in the way, the way schools are measured for success get in the way, the way boards view curriculum gets in the way.For the institution there is a THEM and US – rather than when one takes the focus off-school (rather than offline) that is where all the magic is. You only have to look at your own kids to know that they are doing things differently in this generation and if you truly want CUSTOMER VOICE – ask your kids!When we ask our kids about this we can take their comments seriously because we are capturing the voice of the customer – but if we don’t see them as customers, therein lies the problem,The key point from your blog is this difference between broadcasting and that one-to-one education (much like one-to-one marketing but delivering learning relationship not simply a customer relationship).Where I would be wary is that we are using the language of the present education system, maybe it is a language that academics or educators or professionals in the education world are used to and it is comfortable, as it is linear.Yet you are not addressing educators, you are addressing educational philanthropists about disruptive innovation, that is actually less disruptive to the child than the system that disrupts a child’s very love of education, as it does a teachers love for practicing their craft.The core message for me to educational philanthropists is that the time has come for change, that this is not a time for throwing money at the education system and watch it disappear down sinkholes of arguments or positions – it is the same situation as charity, it is time for grassroots accountability – to spend in a way where it empowers kids themselves to create the very model – their educators seem to over-complicate.LOVE is at the center of this education reform and love is not idealogy, it is an expression of who is, what is and where is – THE EDUCATOR.You are a venture capitalist who has come from a world that has delivered on OPEN SOURCE – now that open source is the candor, the fresh minds and the thought leaders within the student body – I am talking about kids who have the brains to figure this out, who are more connected with the digital landscape than the people who teach them and who are UNFILTERED – who will give an answer that is embarrassing to policy makers.The fundamental reason you can approach this is because it is outside-in, you are not a part of the existing problem – the way to education and blending learning is to treat it like a white piece of paper – it is time design and draw the future – the more we put our opinion into this thing, the more we are stuck with our dog in the race – let the dog go – let the kids in.[Em]

  41. Michael Preston

    There’s a lot to be said for blended learning: it gives students direct access to curriculum, it favors curriculum that’s updated, relevant, and student production-centered, and it can offer students more voice and choice in what they do. It frees up teachers to spend more time working face-to-face with individual students and small groups.Furthermore, introducing blended learning often provides schools with a context for making other significant changes to their practice, such as moving to mastery-based assessment systems that use learning rather than time to determine progression. Again, these things are made easier and scalable with technology, but are not wholly dependent on it.Unfortunately the thinking on blended learning tends to exceed the quality of implementation in most schools, which is because it’s hard. Blended learning means shifting a lot of responsibility to the student, who must learn to self-manage and self-regulate, to seek help when needed, and to some degree self-motivate. Teachers have to unlearn how they were trained and get accustomed to directly supporting students. It’s a big change for everybody.In my opinion, the best approach is to invest in thoughtful professional development. You need smart leaders and facilitators to initiate the work, software and good curriculum for teachers to try out and build from, and financial incentives to get schools to come to the table ($$ for teacher learning time, software, hardware, etc.). Because blended learning has so much to do with culture and process, these innovations need to be generated by schools, with help from the outside, and ideally with a community of like-minded schools to work with and learn from.

    1. Justin Ballou

      I second the idea in investing in professional development as well as systems that facilitate the relationship between a teacher and a student. The technology should be a part of the equation, but the real value is found in a repeatable process where learning becomes an agile system…… students fail fast and fail smart, they can learn from mistakes at a faster pace and apply learning to better themselves.

  42. Emeri Gent [Em]

    One more thing. There are a group of educators who do sit “outside-in”, I call them TEACHERS IN EXILE” – these are teachers who have left the very profession they love because their very profession has lost its way – the best measure of a blended learning initiative is how they reignite their passions and come back to education to do what they love, rather than sit on the outside – before anyone puts money into education, talk to these exiles – and if you have done the right thing – then you have given these professionals their life, capability and soul back – and this is enriching/empowerment not political/entitlement.[Em]

  43. Todd

    Fred, we’d love to help you advance Blended Learning. Our site – – uses UGC flashcards to help kids learn. It’s a perfect compliment for Blended Learning because it keeps the curriculum in the teacher’s control and plays the role of technology supplement. It is online learning that naturally lends itself to peer learning because the sets are easy to share with classmates. But we take that a step further by creating (automatically) different learning modes for students in the form of practice tests and competitive games, in addition to standard rote memorization so that each student can find the mode(s) right for them. Best of all, we have teachers that tell us everyday that it works.We’d love to be a part of this movement and we’re not looking for any money. 🙂

  44. john

    Here is a short video about blended learning from a local high school…Here is a newspaper article about the school and its blended learning curriculum.

  45. Caitlin

    Project Zero at HGSE has an interesting program called Future of Learning Institute. FoL doesn’t specifically focus on Blended Learning. There are a lot of ideas that are relevant to Blended Learning though.

  46. Mona Ali

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  47. Anish Khanorkar

    With online learning platforms experiencing a surge in recent years, there is definitely a lot of speculation about where Ed Tech will wind up in the next few years. Online learning is definitely a technology-enabled business. As online capabilities evolve and propagate through consumer markets it’ll be interesting to see what distance-learning options there’ll be come 2016, 2020. Especially with the amount funding flowing toward the space – Ed Tech companies raised over $100M in venture capital last quarter, a six-quarter high. Also, a high deal proportion in the seed and Series A stages indicates a great deal of optimism and bullishness for the industry going forward.We’ve put together a few write-ups from relevant entrepreneurs, investors, and others on the Ed Tech boom. Might be worth taking a look at, Blended Learning is discussed along with a few other possibilities:…. You’ll also find funding data on Ed Tech from the past few years here:….

  48. bsoist

    I have several schools trying to bring blended learning to the students, and the biggest struggle, in my experience, has been persuading teachers to think more about the students then their own convenience. People are resistant to change.Parents are starting to put pressure on the teachers directly, and that is helping.

  49. Justin Ballou

    Hi Brad,Hope the talk went well yesterday….. Did not see this until now, but thought as an educator that has been using blended learning, I might pass on some info for you to look into. I am assuming that this is of interest to you, so I hope you find some benefit.If you are looking at Blended Learning, I would point you to INACOL, ( as well as Tom Vander Ark’s blog, (Getting Smart) ( There is a world of information from schools and other groups that are realizing the benefits of blended learning.I would also suggest carrying it to the next level to take a look at competency based education, as blended learning leads itself to the newer system of validating ability as opposed to seat time. Chris Sturgis over at Competency Works, ( runs a FANTASTIC blog. I have a few contributions over there as both a high school social studies teacher and entrepreneur, but you can get some first hand accounts of the good, bad, and ugly. Chris is also open to discussing topics with those attempting to make the shift from cohort to competency and has a series of white papers available.The last suggestion I have is to speak with Julia Freeland over at the Clayton Christensen Institute, who is doing some great work on the implementation of blended learning into new models so that student learning experiences are personalized and paced to the student rather than the institution and progress occurs when the student is ready.Hope this helps. If you ever would like to speak in more detail or have any questions you would like to ask, I can do my best to help. Feel free to reach out via email…. [email protected]

  50. paramendra

    Unbundling K-12.