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Weekly Trend: Rhode Island Becomes Nation’s First State to Adopt Blended Learning

Rhode Island might be our smallest state, but it’s making some of the nation’s biggest strides when it comes to incorporating technology in the classroom.

Last month Rhode Island made its intentions clear: It plans to become the nation’s first fully “blended learning” state. Blended learning puts a high priority on the use of technology in a learning style that uses a “combination of traditional, face-to-face teaching with elements of personalized, online, competency-based education that leads to improved student engagement and achievement.”

But the state isn’t doing it alone. Last month the Rhode Island Department of Education announced an innovative partnership with The Learning Accelerator, an edtech startup that is dedicated to converting traditional classrooms into blended ones.

“This partnership with The Learning Accelerator recognizes and furthers our commitment to basing instruction on the needs of every individual student,” said Deborah A. Gist, Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Digital learning in all of its forms provides, literally, unlimited educational resources for every classroom, allows our schools to design flexible instruction schedules, and enables students and teachers to work closely together at a pace that is right for each student.”

The Learning Accelerator invested $100,000 to support the state’s work, which will begin with developing a five-year strategic plan, as well as a communications plan to convey the benefits of blended learning to the community.

“States and state actors create conditions—beyond policy— that are critical to high-quality blended schools and innovation,” said Lisa Duty, a partner at The Learning Accelerator. “Together we are pursuing system-level changes and identifying the resources and critical shifts necessary to lay the foundation for more personalized, blended learning.”

The Commissioner’s office will spend several months touring the state to meet with community members, schools and parents, edSurge reported.

“If there’s anything we need to do to include something new, take something away, or even get out of the way, then we want to know what we can do to ensure that teachers can use the tools to the greatest extent,” Commissioner Gist said. “By spring 2015, RIDE hopes to create a five year strategic plan that will support the spread of blended learning across the state.”

Rhode Island isn’t new to the ed-tech scene, and the state said the partnership will only further the steps they have taken so far. “The partnership builds off a number of digital-learning efforts already underway in Rhode Island, including an initiative to bring wireless Internet access to every classroom in the state,” EdWeek reported.

As blended learning classrooms continue to become the new normal in Rhode Island school districts, The Learning Accelerator has its sights set on implementing the same strategies in other states across the country.

“This partnership is the first in what is envisioned to be a select number of state-level innovation partnerships facilitated by The Learning Accelerator to support blended learning,” a RIDE press release said. “The outcome of TLA’s efforts will be multiple strategies and solutions to support state leaders in the transition to blended learning, with the goal of achieving improved student outcomes within an innovative culture.”

Katie Thompson

Katie is the editor of Shared Justice, an online journal for millennials published by the Center for Public Justice. A proud native of New Jersey, she now resides in Washington,…