Thursday, February 27, 2014

We are moving in the direction of Virtual Classes at Hoover High School. We felt is was essential to pilot  this type of educational setting and have done so second semester with English 12. Ms. Gerndt was interested in this pilot and has done an amazing job! Below you will see a reflection of her first unit of study for this class.

We just finished our first unit of study, which is also our hardest unit of study, and things went pretty well.  Both virtual and traditional took the same final test so that we could compare apples to apples, and the virtual group did great!  Although several of them were more nervous about taking the test than normal, the grades came out to be consistent with their previous work.  Hopefully this experience will help to build the confidence in those who were nervous so that they enter a college course without freaking out over the first big test.

Right now we are communicating through e-mail and Edmodo.  This system seems to work very well for this group.  At first there were a few students who were not truly reading the e-mails, but that problem resolved itself very quickly and naturally.  The joy of communicating through e-mail has been the individual attention that each student is able to receive.  It has been so easy to communicate with each of them as individuals…way easier than it ever is in a 50 minute class period.    

For our weekly work, our deadlines are generally on Sunday night by midnight.  Only a few students have struggled to consistently meet the deadlines.  I have been able to quickly e-mail those few and get a plan in place in order for them to find better success in the class.  They have been happy to come in and work with me until they get back on track.  I plan to wean them from this time with me by having them come meet with me less frequently each week.  Hopefully this gradual reduction in structure will help them to form better habits!

The schedule seems to work very well!  Having this as their last class instead of their first class seems to have some great benefits.  When  students come in for extra help or to take a test, they do not seem rushed at all.  If I need to see a student, I am able to e-mail them in time for them to pop by on their way home.  In general they seem much more likely to stop in for help than my BOL zero period ever did, and I think this is because they don’t have to get up early in order  to do it.  With that being said, I have had several students who need to come for help during zero period because they have increased their hours at work in the afternoons.  That has worked fine this year because zero is my off period.  It may be helpful if we can make that happen again next year.

Several students have already noticed that they are maturing more through this class than any other they have taken.  One girl told me yesterday that she never realized that she procrastinated until starting this virtual version of class.  Now she knows it and is forcing herself to stick to a schedule.  Two other girls told me that they are starting to learn how to know when they need help.  They didn’t realize how much was automatically clarified in traditional classes simply by having other students ask questions.  A boy told me that he was surprised at how quickly he could complete the work and learn the material when he didn’t have all of the distractions and interruptions of a class with 20 something other people in it.  Another boy said that he feels like he is in a college level class now that he has a higher level of independence.   All of these fringe benefits make me so happy! 

Although these students are learning the traditional course of material, they are also learning so much more.  They are learning to study independently, to manage their time, to seek help when needed, to communicate with adults, and to follow through with a commitment.  These skills will translate to every aspect of life as these students mature into adulthood, and to me that should be the ultimate goal of education!

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