A virtual tour of blended-learning schools, so others can see how it’s done

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When teachers want to try something new in the classroom, it helps if they can see what it looks like in action.

They could ask another teacher down the hall. Or they might try to talk to other teachers on social media, perhaps in an education technology Twitter chat. But too often, these aspiring innovators are left to solve problems alone.

These teachers might be on the right track, but they’re hampered if there isn’t a trailblazing school nearby that they can visit. So, what to do?

The latest project for The Learning Accelerator, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the advancement of blended learning, offers a potential solution. The organization has created a website that provides the public a virtual peek inside several schools. The release of the website earlier this month concludes more than a year of research, including more than 100 school visits.

The Learning Accelerator winnowed it down to six top-performing schools. They are CICS West Belden, a charter school in Chicago; Pleasant View Elementary School in Providence, Rhode Island; Lindsay High School in Lindsay, California; Roots Elementary, a charter school in Denver; Leadership Public Schools (LPS), part of a nonprofit network of public charter high schools in Richmond, Oakland and Hayward; and ReNEW’s Dolores T. Aaron Academy (“ReNEW DTA”) a non-selective charter school in New Orleans.

The school profiles on the website feature resources for teachers and school leaders that can be copied and shared freely without risk of violating copyright. That includes strategies for using real-time data, mixing in-person instruction and technology, creating custom lessons for students and allowing students to move through courses at their own pace.

The schools showcased show how innovation can work for all types of communities — including schools that serve children with a high number of poor children who are at risk of academic failure.

“These kids are just as worthy of innovations as well,” said Beth Rabbitt, the CEO of the Learning Accelerator.

TLA’s project is descriptive research; it’s not an attempt to quantify who is the best based on student test scores. The website includes audio, video and narratives that attempt to take people inside these schools to see what makes them tick.

“This is what it can look like,” Rabbitt said. “This is what is possible.”

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