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Posted by on Jan 3, 2013 in ACE Partners, ACE School Report | 0 comments

Welcome 2013! The Year High-Tech Learning Gets Personal

Bob Gerhardt, an ACE board member, and I visited the Summit Rainer/Tahoma Campus in San Jose after Thanksgiving to learn about their “Optimized Learning Environment.” The administration chose to rethink the school experience and create a personalized learning experience for each student, keeping him or her engaged “every hour of every day.”

What does this environment look like? There are three areas of focus: blending technology and face-to-face learning in fresh ways; focusing on competency-based progression (not fitting into a classroom schedule) while providing ways for students to master their specific passions; and allowing students to self-direct their education.

Technology is providing the impetus for changing the way we learn. Could this year be a tipping-point? ACE Spectrum would like to open a discussion about the ways technology affects today’s educational process by reporting on the progressive ways ACE Partner Schools teach and the results of their techniques.

First, let’s hear from Bob.

Summit San Jose — Technology Remaking and Personalizing Education

By Bob Gerhardt, ACE Board Member

The mere thought of visiting a single classroom, the size of cafeteria, filled with 200 students from all high school levels, each one working independently, would give the average person pause, particularly for someone whose last personal experience of high school occurred in the late 1970’s. But at the Summit Rainer/Tahoma Campus in San Jose, they are answering the question of how to accelerate each student’s learning experience to achieve the stated mission of preparing them to attend — and more importantly succeed — in 4-year college and beyond. Summit is achieving this through personalizing education. They use cutting-edge education technology and a willingness to discard traditional methods and embrace what works.

Director Mira Browne started her presentation with some impressive statistics. In California, 24% of public high school students are eligible to attend college. In Silicon Valley, that number increases to an impressive 47%. But at Summit, their stated mission is to ensure that every student is college eligible and prepared to succeed once they are there.

The instructors at Summit have developed a very thorough curriculum, including a blended learning math program which allows students to proceed at their own pace and advance as they prove their proficiency. Teaching is self-directed, as opposed to teacher-directed, both empowering and making students responsible for their own progress. Each student’s knowledge set is thoroughly evaluated so a gap in a subject can be identified and addressed using a wide variety of online materials. Every student, as well as his or her teacher and parents, exactly knows their competency on any subject in real time. The magic that drives this new approach to teaching is technology. Each student has a tablet, which permits ready access to a myriad of teaching source materials directed by carefully crafted curriculum and evaluation tools developed at Summit.

Now my favorite part. Not content with simply embracing a new and empowering way to ensure student success, the teachers at Summit

Students learn math in the optimized learning environment of a large rom -- a classroom "without walls."

literally blew away the walls of the traditional classroom! They created one large room where 200 students of different grades levels work together or independently, and have the ability to have one-on-one tutoring when they need it with their team of teachers who act as coaches, mentors and analysts of the student’s progress.

I wouldn’t have believed it was possible, but walking around the class and seeing each student learning math in a myriad of settings selected by them—and apparently enjoying it! Granted, they have to earn their levels of freedom, but this appears to part of the magic of empowering the students, making them the masters of their own success and giving them the tools to achieve it.

It certainly isn’t your parent’s classroom—but as was said during the recent political campaign, you have to do the arithmetic. Two-thirds of Summit students achieve higher growth than their peers and 96% of their students are accepted to 4-year colleges. Way to go, Summit!

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