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Key takeaways from Lenovo’s 2021 ISTE Presentation on Hybrid Classroom Design

At the International Society for Technology in Education ISTELive21, Delia DeCourcy, Lenovo Global Education Solution Specialist, offered a comprehensive framework for building successful hybrid learning experiences. You can view the full presentation here. Lenovo Edu provides the world with hardware and software solutions, as well as services designed for the challenges of today’s hybrid classrooms. 

Although the hybrid classroom presents many challenges, educators we work with agree that it will be an integral part of education going forward. In a survey of the American School District Panel conducted by the Rand Corporation in May 2021, one in five K-12 school districts have already adopted or are planning to adopt a fully online option for their students. In addition, one in ten districts are using or will institute a hybrid model at their schools. Fortunately, there are many solutions that can help make the hybrid classroom a motivating, engaging, and successful teaching environment.  

The Learning Accelerator
The elements of a successful hybrid classroom 

The hybrid classroom is made up of four critical elements: hardware, software, lesson design, and teaching strategies and routines. 

To understand how all the elements of the hybrid classroom need to work together to produce successful learning, it helps to start with a review of the three key factors that determine the quality of remote learning as outlined in The Learning Accelerator “Framework for Effective Remote Learning”: technology, pedagogy, and relationships. 

  • Technology is all the hardware and software that enable instruction, provide access to content, and deliver resources that keep learners connected.  While hardware clearly belongs in the technology category, software fits in the technology and pedagogy segments because it also determines the quality of content delivery and student engagement
  • Pedagogy delivers rigorous content and uses active mastery-oriented strategies that support the transfer of new concepts and skills. In a hybrid classroom, software, lesson design, and teaching strategy must work together for productive learning. 
  • Relationships are the critical social connections and personalization that help to motivate students. In the hybrid classroom, lesson design and teaching strategies can facilitate these connections and build bridges between in-class and remote students.  

Choosing solutions to support hybrid and distance learning environments requires understanding the complex role each factor plays in supporting effective instruction. While each factor presents unique challenges, there are edtech solutions that can help educators design successful hybrid and remote classrooms. 

The technology challenge: Tech gets in the way 

Many educators we work with tell us they do not have time to implement or learn new technology. For this reason, it is imperative that new edtech solutions seamlessly support their teaching and are not a distraction for students.  

Lenovo’s Google Series One Room Kit allows teachers to focus on the lesson and the students rather than the technology. Comprising four components, Lenovo’s Google Series One Room Kit is comprised of four key components that allow teachers to focus on the lesson and the students rather than the technology. 

  1. The Series One Room Kit boasts a high-quality camera with both manual and automated operation and that includes autofocus and speaker tracking, allowing the teacher to move around the classroom while teaching.  
  1. The speaker bar provides high-quality audio, and the installed microphone features background noise cancellation and voice isolation.  
  1. The teacher can manage the One Room Kit with a simple tablet-sized touch screen, allowing for additional mobility when teaching. 
  1. All devices are hooked to a dedicated computer that can be configured and secured by a central IT department, simplifying implementation and device management. 

Brian Zimmerman, Director of Educational Technology and Information at Webster Central School District, singles out the system’s ease of use for its success throughout the school. “We want it to be super-simple. We want the training aspect to be really, really clear, really concise, and to-the-point for our staff. And with Lenovo’s Google Series One Kit, it’s been super-seamless.” 

The pedagogy challenge: Keeping students focused and engaged  

Keeping all students engaged, active, and participating also presents unique challenge when some students are onsite and others are virtual. In the hybrid classroom, software and teaching strategies must work together to keep students focused and engaged. 

In this past year, Lenovo’s LanSchool Air Classroom Management Software has proven extremely successful for teachers working in both hybrid and fully virtual environments. The software client runs on each individual computer but is managed from the teacher’s computer, allowing teachers to monitor and keep students focused using several key features, including: 

  • Screen Monitoring: enables teachers to see each student’s screen and view thumbnails of their open and closed tabs, allowing them to close tabs that are distracting from classroom tasks. 
  • Limit Web: gives teachers the ability to block specific web sites for individual students or the entire class. According to Samatha Fowble of Harding Elementary, “Limit Web has been a life-saver for me with being virtual for a full year of school.” 
  • Chat: allows teachers to stay connected with students during class and encourages interactivity and real-time guidance. “I can put individual scores into the LanSchool chat for my students and give them more immediate feedback,” according to Elizabeth Vega of Eggers Elementary School. 
The relationship building challenge: Designing lessons that keep all students connected and engaged  

Building relationships between students working in two different learning landscapes is another complexity of the hybrid classroom. Onsite activities, lesson plans, and tasks that can help foster and develop collaboration and relationships must work in conjunction with digital tools to bring both groups together in a single classroom. Lessons must ideally be designed to seamlessly merge the interpersonal experience of both onsite and remote learners. 

Partnered with Lenovo, Exploros allows students to collaboratively explore critical concepts through a variety of tasks on a social media interface that encourages shareable responses. Exploros also supports social-emotional learning by asking students to build relationship skills and social awareness as they engage with their classmates throughout lessons and units. For a student learning from the comfort of their home, this feature moves the tech driven curriculum to a more motivating and connected experience.  

“Each [Exploros] lesson presents information in different ways. My different learners experience it in different ways, which has led to increased participation,” says Mary Hassan at the Harmony School of Innovation. 

Building your hybrid classroom 

While there are many challenges in building a successful hybrid classroom, this framework provides a structure for finding solutions that support schools’ unique needs. When considering hybrid classroom needs for the upcoming school year, educators should take these three critical components into account: 

  1. Technology: Which hardware will increase your ease of use, allow you to move around the classroom, and provide the best experience for your students? 
  1. Pedagogy: Which digital tools and curriculum will best support student engagement and collaboration, active learning, and knowledge transfer?  
  1. Relationships: How will you design lessons and employ strategies that best motivate students by keeping them connected to each other and to you? 

Learn more about how  LanSchool and Lenovo work together to provide a hybrid classroom solution that maximizes your budget. And check out Lenovo’s full catalog of software solutions here. 

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