The Learning Accelerator Blog/Rethinking Time in the Blended and Personalized Classroom: Strategies and tools to maximize technology’s effect on teaching and learning

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Rethinking Time in the Blended and Personalized Classroom: Strategies and tools to maximize technology’s effect on teaching and learning

by Caleb Allen on July 24 2019

TLA periodically shares perspectives from educators and other voices from the field. The views and opinions expressed in these guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of TLA. If you are interested in writing a guest blog, please contact us!

The future of blended learning is promising! Educational technology is adapting to the needs of many learners, making information more accessible to students around the world. Teachers are using technology in new ways to create a more personalized learning approach and to allow more time for face-to-face, high-yield interactions with students. According to Visible Learning research by professor John Hattie, we know that the more face-to-face interactions teachers have with students, the greater the effect of learning becomes, as seen below. Technology, on its own, has very little impact on student learning. However, technology has proven to have great impacts on accelerating and enabling teachers to do more in the classroom. When teachers leverage technology effectively, to get more opportunities for face-to-face interactions, learning effects increase greatly.

Learning Effects

Face-to-Face Interactions

  • Feedback: 0.70
  • Response to Intervention: 1.29
  • Classroom discussion: 0.82
  • Small-group learning: 0.47

Technology on Its Own

  • Technology in math: 0.33
  • Technology in reading: 0.29
  • Online and digital tools: 0.29
  • Technology in small groups: 0.21

Blended learning has an exciting future ahead, yet we are still missing the mark on how time can effectively be used in the classroom to meet students’ needs. In order for innovation to occur, teachers need to take a different approach to the traditional classroom model. This is an imperative point to consider as teachers use technology to blend and personalize learning for students. Educators cannot simply rely on the technology to do the job of learning for students; rather, we should rethink how to leverage technology to utilize time differently in the classroom.

Let’s discuss the strategies and tools that educators can use to rethink classroom time. These resources will empower teachers to use technology effectively to maximize time for more face-to-face interactions and greater learning outcomes for students and will allow educators to assess their progress and determine whether they’re successful in meeting their goals.


The first strategy is one that is used widely around classrooms that practice blended and personalized learning. Why are playlists great to use in classrooms? First, playlists give students more access to content throughout the course of learning. There are many uses for playlists that teachers can put into place, from trackers to learning menus, that can help students discover relevant content.

Outside of simply providing access to content, playlists allow teachers to rethink how they spend time in the classroom. Playlists offer teachers more time to meet with students to engage in discussion, which, according to John Hattie’s research, has a 0.82 effect size on learning (the average effect size for learning found 0.4). According to 10 Mindframes for Visible Learning: Teaching for Success, Hattie and Klaus Zierer’s recent book, classroom discussion is a mind-frame a teacher can take that promotes more dialogue in the classroom, rather than a monologue. Using playlists in the classroom frees the teacher up for more high-yield instructional strategies that have a bigger impact on student learning.

Playlist Tools

While playlists are great strategies to use when maximizing time in the classroom, creating a playlist for an entire unit can take a lot of time, paper, and energy. To minimize the number of trees, resources, and energy wasted, take a look at Blendspace. Blendspace is a free tool that allows teachers to curate content, embed and upload assignments, and provide formative checks on student progress. This tool provides teachers the ability to give students access to content in many different formats, all while being able to spend more time promoting dialogue amongst students and pushing their creativity. Another neat feature that Blendspace offers is the ability to embed formative assessments into playlists. This allows teachers to check for understanding and provides them with usable data to respond to student learning in real-time.

Flex Periods

One of the most important aspects of a blended and personalized learning classroom is the control that students have over their pace, pathway, and place of learning. While playlists are one way that teachers can promote student agency over these important elements, flex periods can also help teachers rethink time in the classroom.

Sanborn Regional High School, highlighted by TLA, offers a great example of how flex periods can be implemented to focus on high-value instruction. Flex periods provide students agency and help them progress through content in a blended and personalized learning environment. While flex periods require more planning on a school’s part in rethinking the way classes are structured, this strategy offers a lot of power for student learning and content mastery.

While flex periods offer students a vast amount of agency, this time-saving strategy also frees up time for teachers to support their students’ needs. As students take ownership over their learning, flex periods offer the teacher the opportunity to spend more time with students conducting a formative assessment or a response to intervention. According to Visible Learning research, formative assessment (0.48) and responding to intervention (1.29) can produce significant results in student learning.

Flex Period Tools

While there isn’t one specific tool that allows teachers to implement a flex period, there are tools that allow teachers to maximize their time spent in the classroom. Flex periods require a heavier lift from scheduling teams to designate time appropriately, but the tools that teachers use during this time can allow them to maximize their effect on student learning. A tool like Quizizz allows teachers to provide formative assessments that are quick and easy to implement. Quizizz then allows teachers to use their flex period to review the data from formative assessments and respond to student needs in a timely manner.

Educators, the future of blended and personalized learning is bright. There are a lot of positives coming out of classrooms practicing these instructional models. As we get better in the ways that we implement these instructional modalities, the way that teachers and schools rethink how time is used throughout the course of a school day can significantly increase the effectiveness of teaching and the technology used to support teaching and learning. Educators now are the best advocates to call for reimagining what the classroom could look like for our learners now and in the future.

About the Author

Caleb Allen is the Dean of Instruction at a school in Cincinnati, OH. His work includes coaching and working with K-8 teachers in blended learning classrooms.