Blended learning initiatives in Denver, Colorado are about to get a boost thanks to a multi- million grant from the Janus Foundation. The foundation, which manages the philanthropic activities of Janus Capital Group, is donating nearly $2.1 million for the development of the fresh approach to education and supporting ongoing research in Denver Public Schools.
This isn't the first time that Janus has stepped in to aid Denver Schools. In 2008, the foundation awarded a $3 million grant to the district to be used to bolster teacher effectiveness. This time, the money is earmarked for the development and deployment of hybrid learning solutions. The hybrid learning approach "flips" the way students absorb information by having them review the material at home prior to coming to school, with classtime dedicated to questions and analysis guided by the teacher.
To make this model work, students frequently make use of technological tools and online academic materials like videos, interactive lessons and e-textbooks. The grant will allow schools to purchase the required software and hardware as well as hire blended learning experts to design and oversee the programs.
The first lab has been set up in a new school, West Generation Academy, which is situated at an existing high school campus. The Academy currently has 359 students in grades 6, 8, and 9. Eventually, the district will have six schools piloting variations of the hybrid model.
The school is the second one opened under the guidance of Generation Schools Network, a national not-for-profit organization with a mission of innovating urban education. The first school launched by the Network was Brooklyn Generation School, which opened in 2007.
GSN promises that schools that are set up along its guidelines will benefit from 30% additional learning time for every student without increasing the workload of the staff. It also allows schools to reduce class size while decreasing teacher workload by nearly two-thirds.
The approach adopted by the Denver school would have students working independently or in small groups for some of the time and utilizing software that targets the lesson to each student's skill level. The rest of the time is spent with the teacher either one-on-one or in a small group.
The amount of time spent in type of learning will vary from student to student, as determined by the teacher and based on individual student need. The use of data will also be an important element of the new program, to help teachers monitor and guide student progress.