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October 25, 2019

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Blended Learning Provides Students With Opportunities Not Available at Groves


                   Photo by: Grace Silcox

Senior advanced photography student Emma Stempien utilizes her blended class time to travel off campus and capture photos at Douglas Evans nature preserve on February 13. “Having blended time in this class is a really great opportunity to get photos that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to get at Groves,” Stempien said.




As I sat perched at my desk, brainstorming for my sports article, senior managing editor Grace Silcox, left the newspaper classroom on October 25 to take photos at the women’s regional cross country meet.  Because newspaper is blended on Thursdays, allowing some students to leave campus,  and she is an upperclassmen, Grace has the opportunity to complete tasks she doesn’t have the ability to in the classroom. Grace took advantage of the blended opportunity which helped her article in numerous ways. She attended a critical regional cross country meet that occured during school hours. She took vivid, action shots of the meet, and she gained first hand, primary information, from runners and coaches when it was fresh on their mind.  Since non blended classes require students to be in the classroom everyday, Grace would not have been able to research and take photos for her article if the class was not blended. 

“The opportunity to use my blended time to travel with the cross country meet and first-hand witness the atmosphere that surrounds the runners, shaped my article,” Grace told me. “Without the class being blended, my article wouldn’t be half of what it is today.”

As an underclassmen, with no access to the blended option, I find it difficult to take photos of events or interview anyone outside the building.  As part of our district’s rule for access to the blended option, a student must be an upperclassmen, with a B grade or higher in the class. 

Although not being able to partake in blending learning may stifle creativity and hinder independence, many would argue that such restrictions are reasonable  to ensure time to mature before given the freedom, and therefore responsibility, that blended classes demand. Upperclassmen, on the other hand, are preparing for their future after high school, whether that is college, the military, or a job; this is the time for them to explore independence, integrity, leadership, and to experience responsibility. 

Since I’ve joined journalism I’ve looked forward to blending as an upperclassmen. However, as I watch more classes take away or cut down on the blended option, such as Honors Anatomy and AP European History, I worry I won’t be able to experience it.

As an underclassmen who has taken journalism the past two years, I have written two articles in the sports section. Every Thursday, I am confined to four corners of my classroom, sitting in front of a computer: outlining, writing, and typing. While doing this, my junior and senior classmates are leaving campus to create, review, and explore. If the blended opportunity is taken away, I won’t ever be able to try a new section, which I truly look forward to doing. 

Other underclassmen in my class, such as sophomore Blair Chernow, also look forward to having the blended opportunity coming up next year.

“As a sophomore, I am so excited to finally be able to use the blended opportunity next year. I’m worried my creativity could be limited due to me never having the opportunity to leave. Being in a classroom all day makes me tired. Blending can give me the burst of energy I need to produce my best work,” Chernow said. 

Although it is reasonable for freshman and sophomores to have a closed campus, juniors and seniors shouldn’t be limited. Through the blended option,  upperclassmen, such as senior Ross Sauter, learned important skills, especially  time management.
“Blended prepares you better for your future better than always sitting in a classroom. It teaches me how to manage my time, maintain my determination, and improves my creative thinking. Ever since I’ve been in blender, I always find myself coming up with more creative ideas that I wouldn’t think of [if I were]  cooped up in the classroom,” Sauter said.

While teachers and administrators, including assistant principal Othamian Peterson, consider a blended option best reserved for something that cannot be done inside the classroom, many students find the blended option also helps students inside the classroom. 

Not only does senior Xiomara Walker find herself maturing through the independence blended classes offer, but she also finds herself using blended time to get one-on-one help with her teachers, especially in science classes.

“I stayed in class one day when the students had the option to blend, or leave campus. Mrs. Searle didn’t have to worry about teaching an entire class, and she was able to spend more one on one time with me so that I could learn the material. That decision to go in and get help was completely up to me. I didn’t have to use my blended time for that, but I definitely benefited from it. Not all students can come in for X-block or after school to get one-on-one help,  which is a huge reason I benefited from this class being blended. As I was in that blended class more often, I started to talk more to teachers one on one, and do my work more productively,” Walker said.

In most college settings, students spend much more time outside of class and must take the initiative to reach out to teachers for help, as Walker did.  Thus, blended classes help students’ college readiness regardless if the blended option is needed to do work outside a college setting. 

“In college, professors don't reach out to you about an assignment that you didn't do. If you are not comprehending the material, it is far more difficult to get help directly there than at Groves. Students should be able to take advantage of their teachers being available for help during blended hours,” Walker said. “So, with blended you are kind of already practicing that responsibility of independent study, and doing what you need to do.”

Teachers still have to teach the same curriculum and students still have to master the same amount of material in a blended class, so the rigour of a blended class is not reduced, despite some complaints from teachers that this is the case. Teachers who appreciate the blended option still feel the crunch to get their material in and fully prepare students. For this reason, many classes have begun cutting down from two blended days to just one. Sherman’s class used to be blended two days but is now just blended one.

“With blended once a week, I’m still not happy about the amount of material I get through,” Sherman said, “But, I still manage to get the students prepared for their AP exam. Right now, if all the sudden I was told the class can’t be blended, I would be fine with it.” 

While Sherman has expressed a legitimate concern, Grace, a student in AP European History, claims that when the expectations were explained at the beginning of the blended course, a huge emphasis was put on responsibility and accountability because of the amount of material that had to be covered inside of the classroom.

“My classmates and I noticed the stress Mr. Sherman put on our responsibility to stay on task on blended days. This was because we were inside of the classroom for one or two less days, so we had to be using that time accordingly. We had a lot of material to get through in AP EURO, and our teacher made sure we knew it. We, as students, took on that challenge,” Grace said.

Teachers are also concerned about time management of students, the safety component that exists with blended classes, and the staff’s ability to manage blended classes wisely. Sherman claims it would be extremely inefficient for some students to be involved in blended classes, due to lack of organization or self discipline. 

“A student must be very mature, and they have to be very organized to be successful in a blended class. Otherwise they would just waste their time,” Sherman said. “If a student wastes all of their blended time, which is over an hour, they are hurting themselves, their grade and their ability to learn.”

Time management is obviously an important skill for students to learn. It is far better for students to use their time in high school to experiment with time management. Taking a blended class allows for this to happen before students get out into the real world. Sauter has encountered this very issue with his Xbox.

“I  often have two choices sitting in front of me on blended days. Xbox, or homework. I have chosen my Xbox before, and I have learned my lesson,” Sauter said.

Like Sauter, most students who take blended classes not only learn time management, but they also learn how to be safe and accountable. While student safety always comes first, Peterson expresses his concern for students who are permitted to leave campus for blended classes.
“I think people would always be weary about students leaving schools,” Peterson said. “The problem is that juniors and seniors, especially those that aren’t here for the right reasons, are still so young, as opposed to when they are in college. In college, they have made that commitment to be there. There is a little bit more responsibility and accountability, and another level of trust there.”

However, juniors and seniors who enroll in blended classes also make a commitment to be there. They are accountable for themselves, their time, and their ability to succeed in class. They know they will lose their privileges if they do not exercise safety and responsibility.

“As students, we are always looking out for the safety of ourselves, and our peers. As a sophomore, I already know that blended classes demand that we take extra precaution when we leave campus during school hours,” Chernow said. “If we don’t take blended seriously, we could lose our privileges.”

Despite some of the concerns that accompany blended classes, such as the amount of material that needs to be covered in a shortened amount of class time, time management challenges, and student safety worries, the advantages to students far outweigh the disadvantages. 

As an underclassmen, I’ve anxiously been awaiting the blended opportunity for my final two years in journalism. Blended will expand my writing to other sections such as entertainment, which is a section I can only write if I am permitted to leave the clas