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From: Derek Monson
To: Rep. McKell, M.,
Subject: Sutherland Institute Supports SB 171
Date: 2014-03-14T03:30:59Z

Dear Representatives,


Sutherland supports SB 171 because it encourages greater utilization of personalized and student-driven education for the benefit of children and families, and does so in a reasonable fashion.  The blended learning models that SB 171 pilot schools would create combine digital learning and face-to-face instruction in a traditional school setting – getting the best of all worlds.  The digital learning aspects of these models would use adaptable education software and technology to personalize learning into a format and pace that is driven by a child’s interests and learning abilities.  Rather than being forced to learn at the same pace and in the same ways as 20+ other children in a classroom, blended learning allows children to learn in the way that is best suited to them, while still getting significant face-to-face instruction with a teacher. 


Just as important, blended learning’s reliance on adaptive education technology allows that face-to-face instruction to happen in small group or one-on-one settings, meaning that even face-to-face instruction becomes more personalized and tailored for a child than is possible in a traditional academic setting.  In other words, SB 171 would combine the personalization and beneficial innovation of digital learning with face-to-face instruction in a way that improves the beneficial academic impact of both. The resulting product will be an education experience that is more interesting and engaging for children, all of whom already have a natural inclination to learn that can be unlocked when their learning interests and abilities are allowed to drive their educational experience.


Further, because SB 171 is a pilot program, it encourages the innovative potential of blended learning in a limited and prudent way.  The pilot program allows the education system to “test drive” various blended learning models, learning both from their successes and their shortcomings.  Over time, as these models evolve to meet practical realities and are properly studied, their beneficial aspects and uses can be adopted by local education officials seeking to improve education for children.  And those models that do not work in practice or that show little impact on children’s learning can be discarded, ensuring that blended learning does not become an innovation that takes “one step forward and two steps back,” to the detriment of students and their families.


We encourage you to support SB 171.  Thank you.


Derek Monson

Director of Policy

Sutherland Institute


Office: 801-355-1272

Cell: 512-698-1657