Collaboration is a popular word today. People working together to create or produce something is certainly not new, but with the advent of social media, online tools, and flexible travel options, there are increased opportunities for joint efforts aimed at improving education.
Some of my personal favorite ways to bring about collaboration to refresh online learning programs are with lunch and learn events and user groups. Both of these events bring Edgenuity® users together to share programs, policies, best practices, and, most importantly, great ideas. Last week, I attended one such event in Kansas City. More than 80 educators from Kansas and Missouri gathered at a beautiful facility to learn from district and charter leaders. I walked away energized and amazed at the creativity, resiliency, and passion of our district and charter colleagues.
As you might imagine, many representatives were from rural communities. Though many schools are found in remote locations surrounded by cornfields and green pastures, distance and dollars are “no hill for a climber,” as my mother-in-law taught me. Administrators and teachers get the job done with what they have, and here are some creative ideas I heard from great educators that are worth sharing.
- Internet access is often an issue for rural students, so how about equipping a school bus with a Wi-Fi hotspot? Kids can access the Internet on the rides to and from school, or the bus can be used anywhere in the district when mobile learning is needed. Filters put in place by the district can control access, just like at school.
- Since dollars are scarce, one district decided not to hire substitutes. Instead, they use Edgenuity’s online courses and programs for short-term lesson plans and pull in an aide or site staff member to facilitate classes.
- Time should be considered as a variable, not a constant. In this regard, why not offer 24/7 schools? Some students and teachers need flexible hours, so why not let them work in the middle of the night if this fits their lifestyles and schedules?
- One district records teacher instruction and posts the videos nightly so students can watch them to learn or review after hours. There are privacy issues to consider, but careful setup can alleviate the issue.
- F does not have to mean failure. F does not have to mean repeat. Alternatives could include using F to mean not finished or I to mean incomplete. How about N for not yet? Reframing how we talk about failure and the opportunities it brings about could help motivate both students and teachers to continue striving for success.
- Many districts are redesigning learning spaces. The reasons for doing so are many, but one educator suggested that a key reason should be that the word redesign says loudly and clearly that “we are doing school differently here.” Another administrator said her district built a “Starbucks of Education” that has couches, round tables, work spaces, and softer lighting to promote collaboration and interaction between students.
- Finally, many people talked about empowering students by giving them the opportunity to express their own ideas about learning and school. Suggestion boxes, weekly check-ins, and surveys can be used to easily get good feedback from students.
(Special thanks to Dr. Joe Childs of Mitchell, SD; John DeWalle of Mehlville, MO; Dr. Brandon Eggleston of Joplin, MO; and Tim Kuehl of Tiffin, IA for these great ideas.)
Some of these ideas may not be new to you, but seeing others who have successfully implemented them and are seeing good outcomes from doing so may entice you to try them out for yourself. If you have suggestions for improvements or additional ideas, engage with other educators on social media using the hashtags #edchat and #education (and be sure to tag @EdgenuityInc so we can see your great ideas!). Educators are great at borrowing (we often fondly say stealing) ideas to refresh online learning programs, but I prefer to say collaborating for the good of our schools and students.