Living in the information age, with all the power of technology at our fingertips, has impacted the daily learning experience in our schools and classrooms. We now have the opportunity to offer every child a first-class, student-centered education through personalized learning. However, it seems that there are issues in how educators define this progressive, anytime/anywhere methodology for learning. There is no shortage of buzzwords in education, and currently two terms are trending: blended learning and personalized learning. The terms are often used interchangeably or without thorough understanding. They both promise to use technology to deliver instruction to meet the unique needs of students, but when various descriptions and words are used interchangeably, there is a problem that could impact implementation in a negative way. We are on the brink of transforming how we educate our future citizens with the use of technology, but it is important for educators to have a common understanding of these terms and methodologies so that we can learn from each other.
We’ve all been there: it’s that moment when you realize (gulp) you don’t know what to do. The grade of this hill is just a little too steep. For me one of those moments was in my first year of teaching. It was a specials class of kindergartners who came through my door excited and energetic, but also a little nervous about a new room and teacher. As we started into the lesson I had planned, their nerves eased and their excitement and curiosity spilled over…all over. It was the longest 30 minutes of my life. When their awe-inspiring classroom teacher walked back through the door (had she sprouted wings and a halo in the past 30 minutes?) I was so relieved – I felt as if the cavalry had arrived. I waved and smiled as they filed out the door – and then sat down and cried. Yes, I cried. In that moment I realized I needed help. I needed a whole new set of classroom management skills – and I needed them before next Tuesday when those sweet kindergartners would return!
Most students still learn using a method that has existed in our schools for over 100 years. In a typical classroom setting, students sit at desks in rows and the teacher “teaches” from the front of the room. The typical student has been trained since childhood for someone to give them information while listening and taking notes.
While the traditional classroom is adept at preparing students for industrial and knowledge-based jobs, it has not kept pace with preparing students for an economy that employs a greater share of workers in service and innovation-based economies.
Today, new learning methods are available to give students an expanded skill set needed for their future. Many schools today are utilizing project-based learning (PBL) and computer-based instruction in the form of online and blended learning to fill the gaps left by traditional instruction. These initiatives are expected to grow as research studies indicate that families want more technology-based instruction and less use of teacher-driven instruction.
However, given that students have been conditioned to learn in only the traditional model, schools and students typically struggle when online courses are made available. Suddenly students must control the pace of learning, show initiative, and make choices about where to invest their time and energy.
The Remix Culture
I love Bob Ross. I’m not sure if it’s his poofy hair, his soft voice, or perhaps his “happy little trees,” but nothing relaxes me more on a Saturday afternoon than sitting back and watching reruns of the 80s PBS sensation The Joy of Painting. Apparently, I’m not the only one. PBS Digital Studios created an homage to the painter/host by remixing clips from his shows into an uplifting song. Join nearly 11 million other fans by watching the tribute below.
The video above is a perfect example of what has been coined the remix culture, which is a society in which one is encourage to create new derivative works from the original work of others. Rather than viewing such activity as the theft of copyrighted materials, members of an open community deliberately share their work so that others can build upon and improve it. We have seen the power of this open source movement most clearly evident in the development of the software that powers many internet applications, Moodle and WordPress being two prominent examples.
A guest post by: Bob Kraft, Director of Program Growth at Sevenstar.
Why would you even want to entertain the idea of starting or expanding your summer school program? After all, summer is a time to slow down and recover from the school year! True. However, you may be missing a great opportunity to:
- Raise the academic bar at your school
- Build loyalty with current families/students
- Connect with new families/students to grow enrollment.
We understand there is a legitimate shortage of energy and resources during the summer. That is why we propose structuring a hybrid summer school where you offer a mixture of on-campus mini-events and a combination of online and/or traditional classroom academics. In other words, gain the benefits listed in the first paragraph above without taxing your staff and facilities.
In a classroom full of a variety of students, it’s important for educators to find creative ways for individual students to have a voice in classroom conversations. For some educators, like Tyler Amidon from Denver (Colorado) Christian, it means giving students a platform to share their ideas and express themselves. For Tom Deelstra, high school vice principal at Chatham Christian Schools in Chatham, Ontario, it means students are actively involved in their learning as givers and not just receivers of information and ideas. And for Rachel Diephouse, a middle school teacher at Holland Christian School in Holland, Michigan, it means giving her students the opportunity to share what they know, think, and believe. In an environment where ideas like these are shared, questions can be asked and ideas can be stirred up by others. For great teachers, this is optimal and exciting learning. But Dan Meester, superintendent of Holland Christian Schools, points out that before any of that can occur, students need to care about what they’re learning enough to want to share it.
With so many options and so little time to work ahead, high school students are looking to school administrators and guidance counselors to have creative solutions to help them get the biggest bang for their buck before they graduate. Are you prepared with a myriad of great options?
John Pohlman and Lou Anne Beadle, from Sevenstar, discussed how online dual enrollment opportunities are becoming game-changers for Christian school students. The need for these kinds of courses is growing, and Sevenstar is expanding program offerings to meet those needs! CSI member schools get access to these options through CSIonline Academy.