Bath schools move toward “blended learning”

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By Brendan Smoker
Bath-DeWitt Reporter

Education proposal

 In President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address he mentioned the goal to connect 99 percent of all schools to broadband Internet. In this year’s address, Obama states, “With the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we have got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit. “ The government plans on completing this task within the next four years.

Michigan State student Madeline Verklan studies elementary education and believes all schools should have Internet access. “School is meant to equip children and give them the tools needed to function in the adult world,” said Madeline. “(They) will have to use the Internet almost every day.”

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Bath Elementary computer lab.
Photo by Brendan Smoker

With such an incentive to get schools Internet access, it seems possible that there may be a transition from hard textbooks to Internet-based e-textbooks on tablets like the iPad.  This transition has the possibility to greatly affect Bath schools and most other schools throughout Michigan.


 A major component that textbooks cannot match is the stimulating visuals and audio that comes with tablets. Third-grade teacher at Willow Elementary School, Paul Munson said that tablets “use a platform that is engaging and are more fun to use than textbooks.” The apps Munson uses for his classroom are “easier to navigate for students and keeps (their) interest longer,” he explains.

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Bath Elementary has mini-laptops in theirlibrary for students to listen to audio books.
Photo by Brendan smoker

Finding pros in using tablets, Bath technology directory, Doug Murphy explains that “most schools are using technology for what we call blended learning.” Blended learning uses both digital content and instructional content in the classroom, similar to how lots of college courses have both weekly on-campus classes and online material. “(Blended learning) is similar to what kids are going to do when they move on,” said Murphy, advocating for engaging students early on with tablets and the Internet.


The extra engagement and stimulating elements do cost. “We spend a lot more on textbooks than technology to be honest,” states Murphy. In fact, Bath school district spent $433,035 in 2011 for school supplies, 5.5 percent of Michigan schools’ entire state expenditure on such materials.

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Bath Elementary textbooks.
Photo by Brendan Smoker

 However, tablet expenses can easily exceed textbook costs when considering the cost of licenses,  services on all malfunctioning devices, the cost of each app and new charging cables and batteries that need replacing. “Textbooks do not screw up. Textbooks do not run out of batteries. Textbooks do not crash,” Munson emphasizes.

Possibility for change

Although schools are becoming Internet accessible and using tablets, textbooks still have their place in the classroom. Textbooks are reliable, align with state standards and “dropping a textbook onto a tile floor will never cost the school hundreds of dollars in replacement fees,” said America Reads supervisor, Kelsi Wathen.

Instead of transitioning from hard books to tablets, Murphy explains the real change will be “the way a lot of our teachers are teaching.”

For questions contact Brendan Smoker at

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