Lessons in Blended Learning:
Authentic Learning Drives Creation of Medical Academy

Author Anne Pasco
By Anne Pasco, Blended Learning/Ed Tech Dept. Chair, Huntley High School, District 158, Huntley, IL.

In this new monthly blog, Anne Pasco will focus on one subject and discuss how blended learning has transformed the learning environment in that subject at Huntley High School. Every post will include a link to a sample lesson from the class.

The times they are a-changin'

Blended learning. Another education buzz phrase that seems to be everywhere. Why? What’s so great about it? Yes, the world is changing. Yes, we use technology more. And yes, there’s a greater push to have it in our high schools. But really, who cares? Lots of us went to high school—it can’t be that different now, right?

There’s the rub. It is. Now, more and more students are doing college curriculum (Advanced Placement) in high school, pushing their athletic and leadership limits for scholarships, and working part-time jobs outside of school. Plus, they need to be prepared for jobs they (nor we) can’t really describe, yet we need to train and prepare them for those jobs!

Four years of lessons in blended learning

At Huntley High School, we’re in our fourth year implementation of blended learning classes, where students learn the skills they need for this new world—self-advocacy, utilization of resources, innovation, understanding of learning needs—as they learn the content required at each grade level.

Come along on this journey with me while I introduce you to the transformative nature of blended learning for our Huntley High community. Every month, I’ll focus on a different class and how we leveraged Haiku Learning to meet the needs of our students, the lessons we learned, and how we enjoyed it all along the way!

A cranial nerve testing project in Haiku Learning's platform

The need for authentic learning

Renae St. Clair is a former Math teacher who saw a specific need: students need to be authentically exposed to the medical community. She, along with district support, created the Medical Academy.

When students enter the real world, especially if they go into a health or medical occupation, they need practical, hands-on application knowledge that cannot be conceptualized on a multiple-choice test. Students may know the information and even produce the right answers on a test, but when it comes to applying all that information in person, they become nervous and their mind starts to go blank.

Unfortunately, authentic learning opportunities—like cranial nerve testing and vitals testing—did not fit into our traditional “factory model” of school. Even in today’s world, high school education can still be very paper and pencil driven.

Lesson 1: Authentic assessments provide deeper learning

Before, when looking at cranial nerve testing, St. Clair would have focused on the content and not considered how it impacts the students and how are they able to do it.

“I cared about my students’ comprehension of the material not about the process of learning and doing the material. I cared about what they knew and what they didn’t know, not what they went through to get there” said St. Clair.

Using Haiku’s digital learning platform has allowed St. Clair to provide an authentic environment for student application learning while still having students immersed in the content knowledge. By building “application assessments” into the curriculum using Haiku, students now get to experience and apply those skills before taking their certification exams to become professionals.

“Blended makes me focus on the students and not on the curriculum,” said St. Clair.

By teaching them how to learn, she said they now understand more deeply than if the focus was just on learning the content.

“In essence, the end result is the same but the process changes.” She likens it to a line from the Miley Cyrus song “The Climb” (a favorite of her students) that says it “ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side. It’s the climb.”

Lesson 2: Blended learning minimizes time constrictions

Blended learning through Haiku also solved some other constrictions as well. Before blended, these assessments were given either before or after school. This was cumbersome at best. Students needed rides, had to reschedule work, or be late to athletic events.

In other words—school didn’t fit into our everyday life!

With the blended format, students sign up for a specific time during their blended class days to take their assessment. Since other students are free to work on other material, be in other areas of the building or even outside of the building, the teacher and student can concentrate collaboratively on that single assessment.

Lesson 3: Don't underestimate the importance of usability and flexibility

What good is a learning platform if your teachers don’t like using it? Or your students have trouble navigating it? With Haiku Learning, that hasn’t been a problem for St. Clair.

“Since Haiku allows an easy drag and drop, cut and paste type of environment, I don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to ‘do Haiku’ ” said St. Clair. “It’s easy to set up a framework and then students are able to go in and do what they need to and find what they need to.”

She especially likes the features that enable student editing, such as the wiki projects feature. “Wiki projects is a phenomenal tool that had not existed for me in the past,” said St. Clair. “It’s very easy for me to create things that students can provide input with.”

Overall, it came down to usability and flexibility for St. Clair.

“Haiku is extremely user friendly,” she said. “Haiku gives us a little bit of structure but then gives the teacher and the student the flexibility to adapt the structure to fit their needs.”

Sample lessons from the Medical Academy

I hope you learned a little from our own experiences. Would you like to see more examples of what we've done in our Medical Academy? Check out a sampling of lessons and projects.

And join me next month, when I will share lessons learned from one of Huntley High’s English classes.

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New Google Drive Tool Saves Teachers Time in Haiku Learning

While your schools have been abuzz with new students, schedules, and (probably) lots of meetings, our Product Team has been abuzz preparing a new, exciting feature for you.

Meet the Google Drive Picker!

We told you it was coming! You can work more efficiently with the new Google Drive Picker. It’s an easier, faster, one-stop shop for “picking” and adding all kinds of files:

  1. Google Docs: The new interface looks like a window into your google drive, providing a familiar view of your folders and files from which to choose. Even better—use the search box at the top to let Google find the exact file for you.

    New Google Drive Picker feature

  2. Google Maps: NEW! Get any map you need in seconds. Simply type a location. Then click “select” and the picker automatically embeds the map.

  3. Google Videos (aka YouTube): Stop scrolling to find the embed code and then copying and pasting it. Just use the search box to find a video and choose Select.

Feel free to read more about this new time-saving tool. Better yet—log in to your class and take it for a "drive" yourself!

You can also read about our other site updates in our version 9.4.0 notes. As always let us know what you think!

New from Haiku: A New Look, a New School Year, and Google Apps Changes are on the Way!

For most of us, August brings with it falling leaves and the start of school. For those of us at Haiku Learning, the summer simply flew by! We’ve been hard at work with several start-of-school projects and are excited to welcome you back to enjoy the fruits of labor.

A Shiny New Look!

If you haven’t already checked out the new design refresh, when you login you will see that Haiku Learning has a new look. From Haiku Learning’s first day, balancing a streamlined feature set with good looks has always been top of mind. Now with our third major refresh, we are pleased to show off our most recent, mobile-inspired interface. For a complete list of what has been changed and updated during the refresh, take a look at our summer release notes for versions 9.0, 9.1, and 9.1.1.

Ready for the New School Year...All Systems Go!

Over the past year, we have been working on eliminating single points of failure in our server architecture. We are pleased to be kicking off the school year with a High Availability system fully operational, which allows us unprecedented redundancy in the face of critical server issues. To test our readiness, last week we commenced Operation Chaos Panda, simulating system failures to test just how redundant we are. We are pleased to say that our new system held up to the challenge.

Google Apps Changes Are on the Way!

In just a few weeks, those of you using Haiku’s Google Apps integration will see a few changes. We will be replacing Haiku Learning’s custom document selector with the Google Drive picker, which, when creating content, will be like having a mini Google Drive embedded in your Haiku Learning class. From the new picker, you’ll be able to see folders, an expanded list of file types, and even embed maps and videos! We will be in touch with our Google Apps schools with further details about these changes this week.

For more information on other changes and fixes that went out this weekend, check out our Version 9.2 release notes from this Friday’s launch.

Welcome back!

Haiku Learning Honored as One of the 2014 Indiana Companies to Watch

Haiku Learning has been recognized as one of the 2014 Indiana Companies to Watch.

In its fifth year, this program is presented by the Indiana Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (OSBE), its Indiana Small Business Development Center, and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). The program is endorsed by the Edward Lowe Foundation and celebrates Indiana’s privately-held second-stage companies — established businesses that are past the start-up phase.

Goshen-based Haiku Learning and 26 other companies from around the state will be honored on August 20 in Indianapolis.

From 2010 through 2013, these companies generated $379 million in revenue and added 622 employees (both in Indiana and out of state), reflecting a 120 percent increase in revenue and 96 percent increase in jobs for the four-year period. That translates into 40 percent annual revenue growth and 32 percent annual growth in employees.

Haiku Learning is a full suite of beautiful, cloud-based tools designed to get schools up and running with digital learning in minutes. Known for incredible usability and rapid adoption rates, Haiku Learning’s robust digital learning platform supports K-12 blended and online learning. Teachers use Haiku Learning’s content-centered approach to craft an online environment that best suits their instructional style. As schools grow their toolsets, Haiku Learning becomes an ever-more-invaluable hub for communication, student activity and engagement, traditional and standards-based grading, and collaboration.

Companies to Watch firms must employ between six and 150 full-time equivalent employees, have between $750,000 and $100 million in annual revenue or working capital in place, and demonstrate the intent and capacity to grow based on employee or sales growth, exceptional entrepreneurial leadership, sustainable competitive advantage or other notable strengths.

Haiku Learning: More Beautiful Than Ever

Haiku Learning's new look is here!

New Look for Haiku Learning

With this new design, we’ve cleaned up, refreshed, and modernized Haiku Learning in a number of ways. Thanks to its simplified buttons, tabs, and icons, Haiku’s flattened visual style dazzles on smaller displays, minimizes distractions, and makes it easier for you to find the things you need most.

Even better: in the week since our new design first launched, we’ve gathered feedback from the community and put together a second wave of improvements tailored to our customers’ needs. We couldn’t have done this without you, HaikuMasters! Just another reason why we’re grateful to work with such a wonderful community of educators.

Check out our knowledgebase to find out more about what's changed with the new design.