TLI Keynote speaker see opportunities in advancing Blended Learning

Virtual event culminates yearlong speaker series

Michael HornMoving forward as the pandemic recedes requires a balance between the threat response that was required and the opportunity mindset needed for the future, says author and researcher Michael Horn. 

Addressing the most recent TLI Keynote Speaker Series event, Mr. Horn said that opportunities are exciting but they may not stir the sense of urgency—or the allocation of resources—that threats do. Threat response alone, however, isn’t enough. 

“If you just frame it as a threat, while it marshals a lot of resources, we just hunker down and double down on things we’ve always done,” he said during his April 30 virtual presentation, titled “Using Blended Learning to Personalize.”

 Miss the event or want to watch it again or share it? Click or tap the image for the recording. Mr. Horn warned of what researchers call a threat rigidity complex. Tackling the threat then reframing it as an opportunity lets you tackle new challenges. Organizations get locked in, however, because their value proposition leads them to orient their resources and processes in ways that aren’t easily adapted.

When a new idea doesn’t fit, either the initiative is rejected or it is twisted to fit the needs of the organization, “not the students or stakeholders for whom it was initially designed.”

Instead, he advised, leaders need to create teams not already tasked with pursuing the usual value proposition and have them look beyond threat response and toward opportunities. 

“It’s important to create space and time for people to think about that intentionality that’s needed,” he said, to think not just about what fall looks like but also the end of the school year, and three years from now. Aspirational thinking leads to a lofty vision that guides your planning, he said.

To do all that, however, requires starting with the end goal in mind.

“What are we trying to accomplish, and how would we know we’ve been successful?” he said of the questions that must be at the fore. “What’s the ‘Why?’”

For schools, the purpose is producing critical thinkers and contributors to society who are prepared to achieve lifelong success. In Mr. Horn’s view, five things need to be assured this fall: health and safety, intentional culture and connection, assessment, personalization and technology infrastructure.

His presentation was the last in the 2020-21 Keynote Speaker Series, itself a COVID-era innovation that leverages virtual technology to bring exciting, forward-thinking speakers and meaningful topics to the region’s educators. 

Mr. Horn speaks and writes about the future of education and is the author of “Choosing College” and “Goodnight Box,” a children’s story. He has co-authored several books, white papers, and articles, including the award-winning “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns” and the Amazon-bestseller “Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools.” 

He serves on the boards and advisory boards of multiple education organizations and is an executive editor at Education Next. He was selected as a 2014 Eisenhower Fellow to study innovation in education in Vietnam and Korea. Tech & Learning magazine named him to its list of the 100 most important people in the creation and advancement of the use of technology in education. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. His wife is from White Plains, while his mother was raised in Mamaroneck.

In the course of his address, Mr. Horn offered concrete suggestions for teachers implementing blended learning in their classrooms, including such models as lab rotation, flipped classrooms, individual rotation, a la carte, enriched virtual, and station rotation. Of that last model, he said, “It gives teachers way more time to be active.”

Combining models is important, too, in order to unlock opportunity. The best use of face-to-face time is not lecturing or passive learning, he said, it’s allowing teachers to facilitate rich socratic discussions, evaluate work, and mentor and counsel students.

With technology, he advised his audience not to look for silver bullets. No tech works in all circumstances. It should provide rapid, actionable feedback, enable previously unattainable experiences, provide transparency for teachers and productivity gains while enabling active learning. “The research is incredibly clear about the importance of active learning,” he said.

“To me any use of technology should really be intentional,” he added.

In one example, Mr. Horn explained how an ice cream chain once tried to sort out how to boost milkshake sales. They polled customers, to little effect. Instead, they closely observed customer behavior. To their surprise—and the TLI audience’s horror—the morning commute saw the height of milkshake sales and the biggest opportunity for growth. 

The takeaway: be observant, see what’s working and ask the right questions to gather the data needed to frame a sound plan.

The event’s second half featured a presentation on what’s next in blending learning. LHRIC Senior Facilitator Randy Hall, Adult Learning Facilitator Diane Cunningham, Ed.D., and Hyde Park Schools Deputy Superintendent Gregory Brown, Ed.D. offered “Lessons Learned from 3 Perspectives.” Their presentation featured participant engagement on the topics of “Reimagining Our When & Where,” “Weaving It All Together,” and “Making Learning Relevant & Authentic.”