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!
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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