Our vision for the new Monroe Christian High School

We recently held a fund-raising banquet with the goal of generating some essential start-up funding for the new Monroe Christian High School. During this fine evening together, I gave a presentation on the vision for the new high school. I was able to highlight our intentions for engaging students in their learning and equipping them for service throughout high school. I also highlighted what blended learning can look like for Monroe Christian High School, and shared some exciting news regarding the attention that we are garnering as more people learn about our model. (Unfortunately the audio is not strong for this video, so it is necessary to adjust your volume accordingly.)

Click here to watch and listen: A vision for the new Monroe Christian High School

The “flipped” classroom

The notion of a “flipped” classroom has been gaining a lot of attention in the past year or so.

First of all, what is a “flipped” classroom? By most accounts, a flipped classroom is one where the instruction takes place online outside of class hours, thereby freeing classtime for discussion, application and/or homework on the online lesson’s ideas and topics that students have previously viewed.

I have been following the development and interest that it is gaining and wanted to collect a number of links to some valuable resources on the flipped model:

This infographic provides a nice overview of the flipped model.

A collection of 10 reasons to consider flipping a classroom countered with 5 reasons not to flip a classroom.

A balanced commentary on the flipped classroom model for learning.

The flipped class manifest outlines the core tenets of a flipped classroom.

A discussion on how the flipped classroom is radically transforming learning.

The Flipped Class Network is a professional learning community to support teachers as they consider flipping a lesson or even their entire class.

The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education – Day 3

“Let’s not leave the developing world behind.”

This message resonated deeply with me today during our third day together. Cellular and Internet connectivity is worldwide, and as Christian schools work to prepare our students for the world they will face, it shouldn’t be too difficult for us to partner with missions and/or local schools in the developing world. They have access to the connection; they need to be provided with the opportunity to interact more together.

Imagine a learning partnership where our children are interacting with less-advantaged children in the world via the world wide web. Imagine how these children may be reached with the Gospel by our Christian school students demonstrating their beliefs as they learn together. We may be able to teach them through our interactions, but, more importantly, imagine how much our students can learn from them as we partner together.

Today’s ‘a-ha’ for me was that it shouldn’t be too difficult for each and every Christian school to have a ‘sister school’ in the developing world. As I think about some of the mission partnerships with my home church alone, I realize that at least two of them are with missionaries in their local school systems. Why couldn’t the new Monroe Christian High School partner with these schools, especially if we consider offering (for example) English as a Second Language tutorials online, service learning opportunities to benefit these sites, or mission-related study trips?

The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education – Day 1

Today was the pre-conference day to discuss specific elements of digital learning strategies and methods as applicable to the Christian School. It was a good day together. Unlike other conferences that I attended, I found that the day included quality breakout sessions and meaningful conversations all around. I was impressed by the sense of collegiality that permeated the various sessions and I had a chance to meet some very dedicated professional educators. I chose to attend three specific sessions.

Success Strategies for the Business of Education helped us reconfigure the business and marketing end of schooling. Of the many insights I gained, I thought the most simple and practical was to get students involved in the touring process for prospective students and families, especially at the middle and high school levels. This can definitely help students see themselves “fitting in” which is so important when families enroll or transfer to the school. I realized that we do this on our university campus, so it makes sense here. I wonder why we didn’t think of this before.

Physical + Virtual = Space for Learning challenged us to reconsider our use of physical and virtual space in teaching and learning. This was a brilliant presentation of what can be, especially with regards to self-directed, competency-based learning. I like the emphasis to keep relationship and community deeply centered in the learning landscape.

Change Leadership for Dynamic Times offered some insight into leading change in a school where some resistance may be encountered. An eight stage approach to ensure effective change was shared. I found the first step, namely “creating a sense of urgency in what needs to be done” as one of the more important steps since it helped focus energies on initiating the process of necessary and better change in the school.

This was a good day to start the symposium. I will definitely need to review and consider my notes and ideas a bit further, especially as they apply to the high school project.

What if we worked together?

What if a number of smaller K-8 Christian schools decided to partner together to share resources as we develop our own high schools based on a 21st century learning model?

This question was behind a special meeting today to discuss a proposal for the Pacific Northwest Christian High School Consortium. The leaders from four Christian schools in the NWCSI region met to start developing a shared vision for working together. With great appreciation to CSI Online Academy for hosting the event, we were able to envision how the academy can play an important role in this partnership.

There was interest in the room, as each school has faced the incredible organizational and financial hurdles of wanting to expand 9-12. I enjoyed meeting with building leaders who share a similar passion of excellence in Christian education. I have a feeling that the schools will be watching Monroe Christian School very closely as we “break new ground” in our attempts for a new high school.

The Apple “Edu-Announcements”

Apple made big news yesterday with a number of education-related announcements. The first was the launch of iBooks 2.  iBooks 2 is an upgrade to their iBooks app that will now allow users to access electronic textbooks on an iPad. The app itself is free and Apple announced that all textbooks on its shelves would be priced at $14.99 or less. Interestingly, a number of publishers have already committed to producing e-textbooks for Apple and the iPad, including McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. These publishing companies alone have a significant stake in the textbook market.

For Apple, the future of textbooks is meant to be electronic and not a significant drain on the wallet, either. No longer will students and schools need to pay expensive prices for books and their special add-ons, especially since these e-textbooks will have interactive features built into them. It is expected that these elements will include features such as videos, diagrams, active links, photo galleries, questionnaires, quizzes, 3-D diagram models, etc. Another benefit for students will be the ability to highlight, add notes and search definitions and terms electronically on the text.

As one who has been involved in the textbook adoption process in higher education, I can agree with others who note that Apple is trying to change the paradigm in terms of textbook use in the classroom. Some even suggest that Apple is “reinventing the textbook market” or that this will “kill the sale of paper textbooks.” It will be interesting to follow what happens to textbook production and sales, especially for those who are preferring to use their iPads. With over 1.5 million iPads being used in k-12 schools and more than 20,000 educational apps for the iPad alone so far, this may have a significant impact.

The second initiative with this announcement was the release of iBooks author which is a free tool that allows people (teachers) to become authors of their own (text) books. While this app is not workable on an iPad, it does allow those with operating a Macintosh computer to create e-books for the iPad in a streamlined manner. It includes basic templates, the ability to add multimedia including 3-D objects and HTML, and ease of use to import text from common word processing formats. Of course, there is also the ability to export to iBookstore for publication.

Even though I don’t currently use a Mac, I am interested in learning more about iAuthor textbook development process for teachers. Imagine being able to develop highly personalized textbooks for my students that would  focus on the specific material we prefer to use in the classroom. Imagine, too, being able to integrate interactive video and links to outside sources. We wouldn’t need to sort through the excess information that doesn’t necessarily apply to my course which often appears in larger texts.

The announcements are based on the assumption that all students either own or will have access to a mobile device using Apple products. Indeed, this could have a big impact in a 1:1 initiative for a school. The impact may be less certain if students do not have 24-hr access to a computing device or if schools are choosing to use Windows operating systems. Other issues, such as textbook use policies, may need to be reconsidered in k-12 settings where the school typically owns the books, rather than the students who may own the iPads. Still, as it has been noted “For now, it’s an exciting step in moving education further into the 21st century.”

References:

Biggs, J. (2012, Jan. 19). Sea Change: Apple Guts Textbook Publishing.

Bookwalter, J. R. (Jan. 19, 2012). Apple Schools Education Market with iBooks 2, iBooks Author.

Bookwalter, J. R. (Jan. 20, 2012). Hands On with iBooks 2 and iTunes U.

Khan, J. ( Jan. 20, 2012). McGraw Hill CEO gives credit for iBooks textbook vision to Steve Jobs.

NPR staff. (2012, Jan. 19). Apple pushes interactive textbooks on iPads.

Provenzano, N. (2012, Jan. 20). What Apple’s Edu-Announcement Could Mean To You.

Sohn, T., & Nagel, D. (2012, Jan. 19). Apple Launches iBooks 2, iBooks Author.

Takahashi, P. (2012, Jan. 19). New iPad app for digital textbooks excites Clark County schools.

Digital textbooks for the classroom

I recall a conversation when I learned that one of the larger annual expenditures for MCS is on textbooks. This can change with access to digital textbooks. They are on average 53% cheaper to develop and print, and this is a savings that can be passed on to the school. Equally important is the stewardship of natural resources that is involved with the publication of these texts. From a student’s immediate perspective, such texts are significantly lighter to carry around and they provide immediate 24/7 access to the materials. This infographic highlights the textbooks of tomorrow.

Virtual texts are becoming more and more interactive, and this is impacting the learning experience for students. An example that I came across was the HMH Fuse interactive text for algebra and geometry. These texts allow students to interact with the material, and include video tutorials, “scratch pads” to actually work out math problems or make notes, animated guidance in error analysis, and hyperlink access to glossaries. Books may embed games as part of the text process and inline quizzes to help students gauge their progress on the material. Texts such as these are immediately accessible and can include syncing features that allow the teachers to access assessment data on student progress from the books. This video highlights the student’s experience with such a text (I admit that this is a promotional video developed by the publisher, but it does suggest how students can take to such an interactive text).

Another version of the virtual text is one that is custom designed and created in-house. When teachers have the time and desire, it is possible to self-publish a text that meets local needs and remains completing aligned to learning standards. This article describes one school in Minnesota that accomplished just this. Their budget crisis served to motivate a group of teachers to develop a text and supporting videos for their subject area.

Reference:

Oseland, C. (2011, Sept. 28). Budget crisis inspires award winning curriculum redesign at Byron Senior High School. THE Journal, accessed Nov. 14, 2011.

Questions to ask when choosing a K-12 learning platform

The Getting Smart blog that I follow released a list of 10 essential questions to consider when choosing the right platform for teaching in either an online or blended format. These are important questions to remember. The point that struck out for me was consideration #6, namely that “kids see their computers as places where the park and store their data. But they drive around on their Smartphones and tablets all day.” From this perspective, mobile access should an important consideration to remember.

The blog referenced A Guide to K-12 Open Source Learning Management Systems options from THE Journal. This guide provides a nice review of options behind Moodle, Sakai, Canvas,  ATutor, OLAT, and Google CloudCourse as open access options for schools, an important consideration for a smaller Christian high school on a limited budget.

Thinking of classsrooms

A blog post on Edweek.org caught my attention today. The author, an educational architect and futurist, noted that far too many discussions on educational reform assume the maintenance of a “failed system” (Nair, 2011, ¶3), which he suggests is the average American classroom. He argues that this “relic, left over from the Industrial Revolution” (¶4) needs to be reconfigured, both physically and pedagogically,  to better suit the instructional demands of teaching and learning in the 21st century. He suggests that the following universal design principles need to be considered to help foster engaging learning opportunities that focus on 21st century skills:

  • personalized
  • safe and secure
  • inquiry-based
  • student-directed
  • collaborative
  • interdisciplinary
  • rigorous and hands-on
  • embodying a culture of excellence and high expectations
  • environmentally conscious
  • offering strong connections to the local community and business
  • globally networked, and
  • setting the stage for lifelong learning.

As I think about my research, I admit that there is nothing new in this list. It does serve, however, as a good reminder. I think that the ideas can help drive successful organization and instruction as we consider a new high school. I still believe that we can consider how, where and with whom students learn best; that teachers would want to work collaboratively on integrated projects; and that the community can serve to resource and support students’ learning opportunities.

I acknowledge that direct instruction is still an important and research-supported instructional strategy. We need to acknowledge its effectiveness and include space for direct instruction to take place. However, the idea of a learning commons continues to rise as an important consideration as a learning space, too, and one in which the design principles above can be implemented easily for student learning.

Reference:

Nair, P. (2010). The classroom is obsolete: It’s time for something new. Accessed August 2, 2011 through Education Week.

 

The shift in thinking patterns of digital kids

In addition to the four implications discussed in my post on a foundation for 21st century schooling, I wanted to highlight a fifth, significant implication for the classroom that Kelly, McCain and Jukes (2009) associate with the reality of the online digital world and its relationship to schooling. Simply put, there is emerging evidence that today’s kids are thinking differently than their teachers. As a result, schools need to address the shift in thinking patterns of digital kids. This is, indeed, a novel observation that I had not considered before.

Kelly et al. discuss the theory of neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to modify the organization of its neural pathways, thereby effectively rewiring itself in response to new demands placed upon it by the external environment. Neuroscientists suggest that such brain plasticity underlies the brain’s ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize how it processes information based on new input. If the brain encounters a new kind of input for sustained periods of time on a daily basis for an extended period of time, it will reorganize neural pathways to handle the new input more effectively. This is what happens when a child learns to read. With sustained exposure to textual input on a daily basis, the child’s brain reorganizes how the brain processes this new input so the brain can make sense of it.

In the same way, kids growing up in a digital world are being exposed to new kinds of input from digital experiences for sustained periods of time on a daily basis. Consequently, their brains are reorganized to handle the digital environment more effectively. This is creating a huge problem in our schools. Kids are quite literally thinking differently than those who teach them. (p. 23)

As a result of growing up in an increasingly digital world, it appears that the neuroplasticity of the brain has impacted student learning preferences. Kelly et al. suggest that the digital generation prefers:

  • receiving information quickly from multiple multimedia sources
  • parallel processing of content and multitasking
  • active, engaged learning
  • processing pictures, sounds and video before text
  • random access to hyperlinked multimedia information
  • networking simultaneously with many others (p. 23-24)

These learning preferences are more often than not in direct contrast to teachers who have learned, and therefore tend to teach, differently. They prefer slow and controlled release of information from limited sources, favor passive learning models such as lectures, choose to provide new information linearly, logically and sequentially, and ask students to work independently before they interact in groups.

Kelly et al. highlight the following implications for quality teaching and learning to reach the digital generation:

  1. Classroom instruction must shift from a predominantly lecture format to one that focuses more on discovery learning. Students should be provided with hands-on learning activities that allow them to master the digital tools for learning.
  2. Teachers must make a shift from the text-based instructional tools to include pictures, video and sound as appropriate media to convey information.
  3. Teachers must provide students with more access to hyperlinked information that can be navigated randomly. This ‘random access’ approach to navigating information in the World Wide Web is a mode of learning that students are already used to. Guided opportunities to develop these skills further are essential.
  4. Teachers must allow students to network and collaborate with each other and with experts from around the world on an ad hoc basis. (p. 24-25)

Without a doubt, these implications will impact teacher preparation substantially. Today’s students are developing skills from using new technologies that should be incorporated into the classroom. It is imperative for schools to provide the necessary professional development and appropriate collaborative planning time to help them succeed. Unfortunately, it appears that far too many of today’s teachers focus, instead, on of the skills that the students do not have because of the technologies.

Reference:

Kelly, F. S., McCain, T., & Jukes, I. (2009). Teaching the digital generation: No more cookie-cutter high schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Wesson, K. (2010). Neuroplasticity: Experience and your brain. Retrieved from http://brainworldmagazine.com/?p=717 on Feb. 1, 2011.