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Blended Learning pilot met with praise

Bedford's pilot Blended Learning program was met with warm sentiment at the School Board meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 13. After two trial classes over the summer, the program is progressing toward an installment for a whole semester in the spring.

Teachers Laura Dreyer and Andrew Mazeske, who implemented blended learning with two classes over the summer, spoke positively about their experiences to the board members. Dreyer taught a personal finance course, and Mazeske a writing class.

Blended Learning mixes a normal, face-to-face approach to teaching, with a computer-based style that is becoming extremely common at universities. Dreyer and Mazeske's courses utilized Googleapps, AnyMeeting and Educreations to create an online classroom.

The web aspect allowed students to participate in class while sometimes thousands of miles away. Mazeske had a student in Hawaii, and Dreyer, at one point during her course, had all four students in different geographical places.

'They appreciated the ability to do this and to do it on their own terms,' Dreyer said.

While both had positive experiences as pioneers teaching with the blended learning style at Bedford, they found some potential issues to address. By completing a large quantity of work online, the potential to lose personal interaction is a major topic of concern.

'When you're sitting in a classroom, you can sort of gauge faces,' Dreyer said. 'I didn't have that.'

Mazeske agreed, and said the interaction, not only between the teacher and students, but among the students themselves is something he worked with during his course.

'A big part for me was being able to maintain that collaboration,' he said.

Another question that arose regarded the number of students in each class and their level of motivation. Only 10 students participated between the two classes, so there was talk that a greater number may not prove as successful.

Board member Bill Foote said he knew someone that had a positive experience with the program, and Cindy Chagnon said she was impressed by the summer's results.

'I love the fact that we start small and keep refining,' she said. 'Training our students to think and work this way is excellent.'

Board chairman Don Graff said, judging by the reactions and feedback of the board members, they would recommend the same two classes should be offered in the spring to test the program's integrity over a semester-long trial.

Superintendant Tim Mayes closed the discussion by saying he heard two mothers offer different opinions on the subject. One said she wouldn't take a blended learning course, Mayes said, while the other said he child took the course and enjoyed it.

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