Blended Classes Offer New Types of Learning

By Ashley Fernadez

Five hours of back to back lecturing, every single day can get unexciting and almost unnecessary for most high school students, especially those exhausted by their rigorous schedules both in the classroom and on the athletic field. At Seaholm, students are able to take their learning outside the walls of their classrooms and experience a new type of class called “blended” learning.
This academic strategy is offered for select classes to enhance the experience of students who feel that this style of instruction would suit them better as a learner. Although the experience may not suit every student those who enjoy tackling their schoolwork independently are in luck.
After speaking with Seaholm Assistant Principal Deb Boyer she reported that the blended program is an outgrowth of teacher Bob Carlton’s attempt at trying something new in the classroom.
“He decided he could do without a classroom and do things from a computer lab,” Boyer said.
This all began two to three years ago. This year is the third year of doing things differently in these select classes, and the second year of doing full on blended.
The main purpose of a blended class is to allow students to personalize their learning and work on material that is unclear to them.
The advantage of a blended class is not only a personalized learning plan designed by each student on their own, but also the flexibility of a more relaxed class schedule. Blended classes only meet in the actual classroom two to three times a week, allowing students to travel outside of Seaholm during the time they would normally be in class to a more comfortable environment like the library or local Starbucks.
Junior Jacquelyn Kaminski believes that’s blended classes are a different way to absorb information, especially in off campus settings.
“I like how there is much more time to be off of the school grounds to work on the class’s project,” Kaminski said. “During World War II blended this year, my group and I went to a museum once and took the time to contact people to interview them on certain topics we were interested in.”
Like traditional classes, blended classes still take assessment however, some assessments can take place outside of the classroom. The blended class is also more project-based so while outside the school students use their time to work on their projects and look over given material for that week.
“I like that it is project based,” junior Emily Abbott said. “It forces me to actually use the material instead of just cramming it into my brain the night before a test and then forgetting it all.”
Normal classes and blended classes learn at the same pace. So, a student looking to transfer from a normal classroom into the blended format of the same class would have no problem adjusting to the curriculum.
One of the blended classes is offered by Carlos Torres. Torres teaches Blended Spanish IV Honors, which aims to prepare students for their last level of Spanish. Abbott was eligible to take the class this year, and is currently in the progress of her second trimester taking the course.
“In my opinion the blended program gives students a glimpse at a college style course,” said Abbott. “I like it because I learn best when I have the material presented to me and then get a chance to teach myself, which is what the class gives me.”
Other blended classes include Writing for College, Creative Writing, Big History, and World War II. Kaminski, who opted to take World War II, particularly liked how the class would split up and do group work.
“I like how we split up into groups and each group had an assigned day where we would come in and have one on one time with Mr. Carlton,” Kaminski said.
The blended classes are full classes. However this does not mean that a majority of the student body is taking these classes.  Boyer believes that they are more popular with the upperclassmen that might have easier means of transportation to drive off campus to study.
“Students like [blended classes] very much, usually the upperclassman that have cars,” Boyer said. “[The students] really enjoy the idea that they have some flexibility in their schedule.”
The style of blended learning is not unique to Birmingham, but has spread to school districts across the country. According to eSchool News, blended learning has boomed in the last decade in K-12 schools.  Seventy percent of school districts across the country offer blended learning programs. With blended learning being a fresh advancement in the academic world, each school district is putting their own spin on the program.
The spread of blended learning programs is a privilege for today’s generation of independent learners. With the stress and competitiveness today’s high schoolers have to face when it comes time to fill out college apps, a break in the school day is nice to say the least. The sense of independence students experience prepares them not only for the long term, but for their futures in college, right around the corner.

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