'Blended learning' making its way into more Horry County Schools - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

'Blended learning' making its way into more Horry County Schools

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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Soon most school classrooms in Horry County will not resemble classrooms of old.  The school district is moving forward with a teaching method known as blended learning that will be implemented in schools throughout the next year.

"Our data shows our children have experienced an entire year's growth in half a year's time so we are really excited about the results we are seeing with blended learning," said Whittemore Park Middle School Principal Judy Beard.

Whittemore Park Middle was the pilot school for blended learning in the district.  For the past two years, one grade has been using this style of teaching and now the school is looking to add the technique to other grades.

Blended learning works by dividing class periods into three sections.  Students work in three separate groups with a focus on student teacher interaction, computer based assignments, and projects. 

Depending on student progress, the groups rotate throughout the period. Proponents of this way of teaching add that cutting class sizes into smaller portions; for example 24 students into three groups of eight, teachers can have more of a direct impact on individual students.

While this is a big change to the traditional way of teaching, Beard said students actually had an easier time adjusting.

"It was a bigger issue for the teachers to adapt to this new way of learning because it was really a change in our whole philosophy of what the schoolhouse should look like," said Beard.

Perhaps, the most notable difference in the classrooms has to do with technology.  As part of blended learning, more laptops and new items have been added to classrooms to be integrated with lesson plans.

Beard said the students have really helped teachers transition.

"They have little experts in every classroom that have been doing nothing but technology, so we had to empower our teachers to understand that our children will lead the way ," added Beard.

By reducing the number of students a teacher works with a tone time, some would argue blended learning would add to the number of students in classrooms overall. Superintendent Dr. Cindy Elsberry said that will not be the case immediately for teachers.

"To add to that class size while they are learning these new skill sets is probably not wise," added Dr. Elsberry.  "We don't want to have a dip in student achievement because we are trying a different model, so I think once the teachers really grasp this and embrace I think we'll be able to look at that."

Middle schools in the district have adopted blended learning this year. Dr. Elsberry said the plan is to have blended learning in district high schools for the next school year.

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