Originally Published: October 5, 2015 6 a.m.
It has been my privilege to be the principal of Taylor Hicks for the past 11 years. During my career at Taylor Hicks, I have learned sometimes it is better to be quiet and let teachers and students do the talking. Following that belief, I asked one of our fourth-grade teachers, Roberta Runyan to summarize the overall sentiment of our staff and how our new school model - The Blended Learning Model - is working. In addition, several of our students weigh in on how they feel about their experience so far.
In Ms. Runyan's words, "Bringing blended learning to Taylor Hicks has given our staff a cohesive vision and the tools necessary to help direct our energies in the most effective way. It has enhanced how our students meet specific learning goals by helping them find and fix missing skills, explore new concepts, and be more creative learners. As educators, we value the student experience most, and the blended learning model allows for a more personalized and authentic experience for each student.
"On an average day in our technology block, some students are finishing the final drafts of their realistic fiction narratives while others are practicing their keyboarding skills on Typing Agent or honing their math fluency on Fact Master. Students who complete these assignments quickly can review their math skills on Khan Academy or practice important Literature concepts like "theme" and "main idea" on MobyMax. Those needing a bit more time can continue their work while those who finish early are still engaged in meaningful learning all while mastering 21st century technology skills. Students identified as gifted can often be found on Khan Academy, where they can extend their knowledge on a topic of interest - from learning how to code their own games to exploring the math and science of our solar system.
"All of this is done in close collaboration with my teaching team. Our ELA teachers have more time to teach the story elements and writing process in class, while we can help with typing final drafts and submitting papers on Google Classroom during Technology block. As the math teacher, I can pull small groups to re-teach something they missed in class or make up a missing assignment without them missing a beat during Math block. This used to be precious time lost in the classroom that is now completely adaptive to each student's needs!
"Blended learning has also given me incredible data that enables me to access tools, provide support, and strive for deeper understanding from my students. It also frees up my math block and homeroom time to better meet the social and emotional needs of my students which gives me better rapport and makes me a more passionate and creative teacher. I wouldn't have it any other way!"
As the principal, when I enter the classroom, I am a total distraction. Students are saying "Hi, Mr. Moore!" or coming up to me to give me a hug. For this article, I entered technology block classrooms with a camera to capture our "technology time" in action, and students were so engaged that they didn't even see me with a camera taking pictures. While my ego took a bit of a hit ... it completely validated our new initiative!
Here are quotes from students learning in our Blended Learning Model:
Bentlee Crockett, first-grade student, says, "I like to have math in the morning and reading in the afternoon with two different teachers!"
Brody Hanna, first-grade student, states "The Chromebook helps me read. It helps me stay focused!"
Dannyelle Fisher, second-grade student, says, "The Chromebooks help you learn how to read and do math. It teaches you how to get smarter and you can get a good job when you get older"
Sam Moosman, third-grade student, describes "It is awesome! I love technology. I do the objectives and the Chromebook has made my brain better. It shows me what stuff I have done and how good I am doing."
Brynn Thein, fourth-grade student, explains, "During technology time, everyone is at their own level. Some people are working on things they have learned yet. Those who might already know things are doing harder stuff. Kahn Academy has hints that help you work through math problems. If I wasn't using Kahn Academy, I would have to ask Ms. Mundinger. There is only one teacher and a lot of kids. It helps students because you are so focused on the computer."
I encourage any parents, or community members, to visit Taylor Hicks and see the magic happening on a daily basis!
Brian Moore is principal at Taylor Hicks Elementary School.