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This Controversial Teaching Method Is Transforming Classrooms

January 14, 2014
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This Controversial Teaching Method Is Transforming Classrooms
Why some educators are encouraging students to spend more time in front of a glowing screen.

You might think teachers would look for any excuse to get kids away from their computers, but schools across the country are now experimenting with a controversial teaching method that leaves students in front of monitors for nearly three hours a day.

Students are still receiving lecture-based instruction from their teachers — but they’re also getting a large dose of online education. This method, called “blended learning,” aims to increase exposure to modern technology and allows teachers to tailor instruction to individual students.

Aspire Titan, a charter school near downtown Los Angeles, is one example of this innovation. As the Atlantic reports, after some Titan second graders had difficulty with phonics, the teacher, Mark Montero, sent those who grasped the lesson to read e-books from the digital library. Those who struggled with the lesson got a personalized, extended tutoring session from their teacher on long vowels. If it were a traditional classroom, the teacher would have either had to go over the phonics lesson again while half the class sat idly, or move along while half the class was clueless.

At Titan, the 300 students and 12 teachers who have signed up for blended learning are showing progress. The portion of students at or near reading levels expected for their grade has reportedly increased from 66 percent in October 2012 to 80 percent in October 2013.

MORE: The Next Frontier in Online Education Isn’t What You’d Expect

Critics of blended learning say they don’t want kids getting more exposure to screens and fear the loss of student-teacher time. There’s also the worry that institutions are simply cutting costs by replacing teachers with a monitor. As one report showed, however, online education is increasingly becoming part of the curriculum, expanding to more than 4 million K-through-12 students in public, private and charter schools across the country. Blended learning might soon come to a school near you, if it hasn’t already.

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