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Shelby County Schools considering blended learning pilot for 16 schools

Students at 16 Shelby County Schools will be given mobile devices to use this fall as part of a “blended learning” initiative, administrators said at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

In a blended learning classroom, students not only receive traditional classroom instruction from a teacher, but also go through a web-based curriculum that records and plays back lessons and tracks students’ academic progress.

Around 12,000 devices will be distributed to students at the schools, none of which have been identified, said Cleon Franklin, who works in the district’s virtual learning department.  The pilot program will last three years.

Franklin said schools have until Friday to submit applications to participate.  Officials have not determined how many students the program will impact.  Devices may be used by students at home on a gradual release, he said.

It will cost the district more than $13 million to purchase the devices and only $6.7 million to rent.

Franklin said the program will provide poor students with access to cutting-edge technology and help them prepare for upcoming online standardized tests.  He predicted that students in the program could see a 10 percent increase in test scores.

After traveling to Huntsville, Ala., several board members said they were impressed with the initiative. 

“We’re very impressed,” board chair Kevin Woods said.  “I do support putting these items in kids’ hands.  But I hope that we can find some local provider here that can do some of this work.”