When it comes to language arts, the jury’s still out on the quality and effectiveness of the available software. Some schools are investing and experimenting with different products, with mixed results, while others are working with free available web 2.0 tools. Here are two case studies examining each approach.
THE SOFTWARE APPROACH
Firstline Schools, a public charter school company in New Orleans operating five schools, has aggressively pursued blended learning with hopes to help students who have fallen behind — especially after the devastating effects on schooling after Hurricane Katrina.
“We can’t imagine going back to a traditional model,” said Chris Liang-Vergara, director of instructional technology for personalized learning at Firstline. “It seems crazy with the amount of differentiation we need.”
Firstline uses Achieve3000 in some schools, a program that allows students to read a nonfiction
“The biggest issue I still see is that people are still trying to break it down when
it needs to be combined.”
article everyday and answer questions related to it. But the program is dry, according to Liang-Vergara, and it can seem random and disconnected to the rest of what students are doing in class. He says he’s seen it used well, but usually by experienced teachers who are empowered to use it for the best kind of differentiation. If the teacher takes the time to search the Achieve300 database for nonfiction articles that are relevant to other class work, discusses them, and wraps them into the curriculum that works best. And the software does provide differentiation, increasing the difficulty of vocabulary and sentence structure as a reader progresses.
“When you show it to any experienced teacher, they get very excited because they think about how much time they’ll save and how much information can be at their fingertips,” said Liang- Continue reading