There’s plenty of research to support the notion that extended instructional time leads to improved academic performance. U.S. students are in school quite a few days less than their international peers – and it shows; in the 2006 administration of the PISA, U.S. students ranked 19th in reading, losing two points from the previous administration. Extending instructional time need not necessarily mean more time in a physical classroom, though that is certainly one way. Keeping students engaged with targeted reading material over academic breaks, including summer vacation, is one way to facilitate learning year-round. A primary objection to extending learning time has been that doing so is cost-prohibitive and that far too few schools can afford the per student cost of doing so. But technology offers solutions here as well. Technology has provided learning platforms that allow for instruction and practice to continue beyond the walls of the classroom. In fact, technology has removed some of the previous administrative barriers that required teachers to monitor to each student’s performance. Instead, learning systems can now monitor and adapt to student performance, requiring minimal teacher administration.
In this Educational Leadership article (subscription required), Chris Gabrieli argues that blended or hybrid instruction is a promising way to increase instructional time while keeping costs relatively low. Plus, digital solutions have the added benefit of offering individualized instruction allowing students to progress at their own pace:
Students might take radically different amounts of time to reach mastery, shattering our current notions of grade level, and they could learn in and out of school – anywhere they can connect their personal computer, tablet, or smartphone
Our own A Learning Oasis offers a good example of one such solution. A Learning Oasis blends assessment and instruction and facilitates deliberate practice by providing targeted text (mostly informational) at each student’s Lexile level, as well as targeted writing practice. Built on well established principles of what it takes to move to expertise, A Learning Oasis offers online, always-on access, allowing for a full range of implementations to be built around the platform.
As school districts across the nation struggle with budget cuts and reduced staff, it’s our hope that digital solutions will offer a way to keep students engaged in the instructional process past the end of the school day and all year long.