Blog Archives

Everything is In Place

It has taken a lot of time and effort but we are ready and prepared to start our blended learning project.  The wiring of the building which was supposed to have been completed over winter break took longer than expected. It involved the cooperation of the company that did the physical wiring with the company that handles our network. Weather delays also caused some complications with this. Our devices took a little longer than expected to arrive and the “white glove service” still required some work and attention when connecting it to the network.

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Moving Toward Implementation

We have been really busy this past month, busier than ever before, as we prepare for our launch after winter vacation.  The week of New Year’s was spent getting ready for our Professional Development day on Blended Learning scheduled for January 6.  Stacy was all set to fly in and lead the day with an Aleks presentation in the afternoon for math teachers and Compass Learning Odyssey presenting for the science teacher in the afternoon.  All the seventh and eighth grade math and science teachers attended, even though we are only launching with eighth grade this school year.

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Decisions, Decisions…

We have had content presentations for math and science. Several teachers have logged in on their own to use the demo accounts and to see what each program has to offer. Teachers have been given the opportunity to express their choice and explain their preference. Some teachers were frustrated that the demo accounts did not allow as much access so some material could not be viewed. Despite this, teachers have said which programs they prefer. Now we need to declare our choice for each content area.

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Two Content Demos and Student Trials

Wow! I can hardly believe that it has only been one week since we’ve met Stacy.  We have made so much progress since then, it feels like weeks.  This week we were fortunate to have two content demos with our most serious content considerations- School21 and Aleks.  Stacy and Lauren did the demos first and already provided us with a list of the pros and cons of each program.  On Monday, several math teachers joined the demo for School21 and today even more joined the demo for Aleks.  In addition to the demos, School21 has provided us with demo accounts to “play” with the program and learn its features.  Aleks has demo accounts available on its website.

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Our New Team Member

Today I spent the whole day with Stacy Hawthorne, our new consultant from the Evergreen Educational Consulting group.  In the morning we had a meeting with Rabbi Price and Ann Robbins.  Rabbi Price explained our vision for blended learning as a way of infusing technology into our school and as a tool to differentiate instruction for reinforcement, enrichment and assessment.  Stacy understood our school’s mission and has established blended learning programs in classes, schools and districts.  She explained that when integrated appropriately, technology will engage students more fully and they will then reach higher levels of achievement.  It can generate huge changes in how students learn and how teachers teach.  She also stressed that it removes some of the minutiae, or more mundane tasks, and allows teachers to focus more on the teaching.  It allows for teaching to become more proactive and less reactive.  With her vast experience with implementation, she recognizes all the possible difficulties that can arise and is prepared with suggestions and answers on how to deal with them.

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Our first content demonstration

As more and more questions are raised as we go through this process, I realized that we need to be in much closer contact with Evergreen.  I had a conference call with Lauren and Larry at Evergreen last Friday.  I raised some serious concerns we’ve been having about the pace of our project.  Although this is normally a nine month process for most schools, we are trying to implement it after only four months of work.  We feel that in order for it to be successful, the demonstrations need to be closer together.  When we are advised about making a choice of content, or LMS or PD providers, it is not enough to merely shorten the list to four names and arrange demos.  We would like a brief summary of each company’s strengths and weaknesses.  This will help guide us as to what we should even be looking for.

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One of the struggles…

One of the struggles we face when trying to implement blended learning is our lack of comprehensive knowledge about the many details involved.  When we talk to Evergreen, we often are left with many more questions.  Part of this is due to the fact that Evergreen is allowing us to make the decisions on our own.  At times it seems it would be so much simpler if someone would just tell us what to choose.  It is understandable that each school needs to evaluate its own needs and expectations and that there is no single model that will work for everyone.  It is challenging though to try and put all the pieces together.  It is as if we are doing a puzzle and we don’t know what the picture is supposed to be.

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Today’s Phone Conference with Evergreen

This morning we had another lengthy phone conversation with Lauren, Larry and John at Evergreen. We began by having a brief discussion of devices again. I mentioned that we’ve ordered two different models of chrome books to test. Israel mentioned that they are both HP models since they seem to be the primary manufacturer of devices with 14 inch screens. Larry said he does not believe the Java issue will be a problem. He said most content providers are aware that many users do not use pc’s and there should be content that does not require it or there is some work-around in place. It was reiterated that laptops would afford the most flexibility in choosing content but a big downside for us would be the amount of time it would take to start up each device and for each student to log in. We are also attracted to the idea that students will be learning to use a new form of technology at the same time as learning through the technology.

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Haiku

This morning we spent some time having a demo from Haiku. I am familiar with Haiku as I used it last year at another school. It was impressive to see how many improvements and upgrades had been made since last year. The grade book seemed easy to use and we were assured that it integrates nicely with many online content providers.

Some questions remained after our training session and Lauren at Evergreen assured us that she would follow up with them to get the answers. We were told that the cursor could be moved to type in from right to left but we couldn’t find how to actually type in Hebrew. It also seemed unclear whether school administrators would be able to view the grade books unless they are made public. Making them public would give parents or students the ability to view the grade book. This is not necessarily something we want to make available.

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Overview of Conference Call

We had a lengthy and productive conference call with Larry, John and Lauren at Evergreen yesterday. Larry had posted three documents to Basecamp and they made up the focus of the call. We discussed,

  • Device choices
  • Our Blended Learning Model
  • Learning Management Systems

The conversation started with device choices. Larry had prepared a document comparing different components and features between laptop computers and Chromebooks. We discussed some of our thoughts about why Chromebooks may work better within our setting and the added advantage of exposing the students to unfamiliar technology.

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