Technology in Education
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What the Blend Requires: Blended learning requires blended PD; blended PD requires tech built for blended PD.

What the Blend Requires: Blended learning requires blended PD; blended PD requires tech built for blended PD. | Technology in Education |
by Shelly Blake-Plock

Going well back over a decade ago, Internet-based PD became a thing.

And in the critiques of online PD from that time, many of the same
challenges that are still around today were highlighted, namely —
understanding that Internet-based learning not a "quick fix", understanding
that there are a variety of difficulties in assessing outcomes, and
recognizing that with online access comes an increase in contextual issues.

Several considerations for successful models were also suggested.

In the same article cited above, Anderson and Henderson (2004) propsed that
a future solution might best come in a form of Blended PD that was

* on-demand
* need focused
* social
* based on building digital literacies
* cost-effective
* modular
* time-saving
* user-friendly
* customizable
* productivity-enabling
* secure
* capable of supporting the extension and enrichment of professional
conversation and social discovery.

Over the following several years, we saw the rise of educator communities
who leveraged social media to create new kinds of learning networks. But
the technologies supporting those networks were never designed to support
blended learning or blended PD. Rather, over time, the technologies have
been somewhat appropriated for this purpose, or perhaps more precisely have
been used to augment and support a broader conversation around teaching and

While the appropriation of these tools has been creative and has supported
especially the early adopters among educators, we believe that the time has
come when we need to actually build contemporary mobile social technologies
designed and developed expressly for the purpose of delivering and
supporting blended professional development. Teachers should neither have
to try to shoehorn an unwieldy LMS system for the purpose of engaging in
blended professional learning, nor should they have to hobble together G+
Hangouts, Nings, and Twitter chats to learn how to implement effective
blended learning practices.

The solution An Estuary has developed is two-fold.

First, is the Sanderling social platform. Featuring educator professional
profiles and designed to ensure social sharing based around the ability to
create collaborative learning projects directly within the social network,
Sanderling was built to bring best practices in contemporary tech-assisted
forms of project management and professional sharing to the educator PD
space in a way that allowed for deeper and more sustained development of
educator personal and professional learning networks.

Crucial to the larger goal of bringing blended PD to scale through a social
mobile solution easily manageable by any device is the second piece of our
system — Hedgehog. Designed as a blended learning environment specifically
for educator professional development, Hedgehog sits directly on top of the
Sanderling social platform. So as teachers learn on Hedgehog, they share
through their Sanderling networks.

The idea is to create a more meaningful kind of professional sharing by
linking professional learning directly to an educator's PLN.

In the most straightforward terms, think of the Sanderling and Hedgehog duo
as providing an accessible and on-demand way to learn in a hybridized and
personal way while simultaneously supporting the professional growth of a
learning community of educators. A place where we learn through the
learning of others.

If it sounds a bit far out, that's because it is. Sanderling and Hedgehog
are unlike any other professional learning platform. Created by a team of
teachers and technologists, the platform was built for the purpose of
bringing blended PD to educators in a way that is contemporary, modular,
easy-to-use, and informed by the realities of the demands on teachers' time
and workflow. Think about it, teachers: would you rather sit in a community
college classroom being lectured to once a week for six weeks in order to
get CEU credit, or would you rather take courses you are interested in
on-demand any time via your phone that allow you to easily collaborate with
teacher friends on projects that actually resonate with what's going on in
your classroom?

Additionally, remember that Sanderling and Hedgehog comprise a blended
learning system. This isn't about sitting in front of a computer screen.
It's about using technology to support real-life personal and personalized
learning and professional growth that can be easily and quickly
demonstrated. We want teachers to take the freely available courses on
Sanderling and teach each other how to best implement blended learning. We
want you to teach each other and to learn blended teaching by doing blended

For those schools and districts that decide that a subscription is best for
them, their educators will have access to a library of custom opportunities
available on-demand, year-round, for less per month per teacher than one
quick jaunt through the cafeteria lunch line.

We're serious about keeping to the promise of blended learning and
providing technology that will help it to fully mature and expand on
opportunities suggested by early research.

And we believe that in order to make blended learning work, we need
teachers themselves to learn in blended environments supported by
technology specifically built for blended PD. With our partners, we are
helping to create communities that blend online and face-to-face education
in a powerful way that is on-demand and need focused, social and
empowering, cost-effective and modular, time-saving and user-friendly,
customizable, powerful, and secure.

We have built the technology that we as educators felt like we needed.
Technology that is capable of supporting the extension and enrichment of
professional conversation and social discovery.

And now we are reaching out to you, looking for partners dedicated to
bringing meaningful blended learning to classrooms where best practices in
online and face-to-face learning meet. We recognize that there is no silver
bullet and that there is no single way to pursue blended learning. That is
why we believe in building software that will grow and adapt to the way you
need to use it. And it is why we believe that the best thing we can do is
to build technology that responds to the needs and ongoing findings of
blended learning in practice and which supports educators — encouraging
them to work together to experiment, analyse, and create methods of
teaching which support learning outcomes reflective of personal and
personalized approaches and student development consistent with the deep
and meaningful learning and mastery of concepts and methodologies serving
increased engagement, creativity, and love of learning.
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I believe it's time!

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