Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hapara Case Study... Adding tools to Google Apps to build trust and and allow personalization.

Hapara School Profile: The Met Sacramento

There are many paths to adulthood, and this is something that is well understood by the young adults that belong to The Met, a Big Picture High School, in Sacramento, California. Big Picture Learning is an association of schools in the United States that are committed to the personalization of learning in a unique and creative way.

We frequently speak of personalizing learning in education as a way to meet a few different objectives. We personalize in order to buck the trend that
every student needs to be on the same page (sometimes literally) as his or her classmates all day long. We personalize to challenge students at the level that will encourage them to strive. We personalize to build on the strengths and bolster the weaknesses of a person. And we personalize when we recognize and build upon the individual interests and predilections of a person.

Personalization is a task that is very difficult to achieve in a traditional middle or secondary school environment. Thirty-five students for Fifty minutes in Math class. Four minutes to pass. Fifty minutes in Social Studies class. Four minutes to pass. Fifty minutes in Language Arts. Forty five minutes for lunch. And so on. The traditional structure makes it very challenging to meet the above listed objectives. The Met Sacramento takes a different approach.

Students at The Met meet the same objectives on their way to graduation that their peers in more traditional instructional environments do. They receive credits for their coursework that meets state standards, and they graduate after having met state, district, and school graduation requirements. At The Met, however, students only go to school, the building where the teachers are, three days a week. On these three days, the class schedule equally emphasizes class work, project work, and a four year advisory.
Grace, an advisor, biology teacher, and ten year veteran of the school, explains that while some objectives are met for traditional subject areas in standard form classes, other objectives can be met through the ongoing project work students conceive, design and carry out on their own, in collaboration with their peers, and facilitated by their teachers. Their interests motivate them to work hard, and quarterly exhibitions during which each student presents their work to their teachers, parents, and other community members, help to bring closure and meaning to these efforts.

The advisory is a big deal. Students self select into advisory groups in their freshman year at The Met after they have had a chance to learn a bit about the interest and disposition of each of their Met teachers. It’s a good thing that they have some choice in the matter because the advisory group stays together all four years, and takes up a significant amount of time on the three days the students attend school (the one where the teachers are). Advisories cover a variety of topics, and no two are the same. There is a social emotional learning thread that is anchored in building solid community and respectful relationships.
Where are the young adults on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Part of the Big Picture ideology is that students “work in tandem with the real world of their greater community.” At The Met Sacramento, this is facilitated with ongoing internships. Students intern at preschools, for newspapers, in traditional offices, at veterinary clinics, for graphic designers, in architectural firms and wherever the students and teachers can find and maintain meaningful connections with solid mentors in Sacramento. Grace described a typical internship day as filled with site visits wherein she might observe, meet with a mentor, or even pitch-in herself to get a feel for the work being done by her charges.

What about Hapara? Isn’t this a post about edtech and Google Apps? Educators at The Met believe, as does the Hapara team, that the education of young people is accomplished when skilled educators foster respectful learning environments. Educators at The Met make space for a great deal of autonomy in their students. Teacher Dashboard and Interact help The Met teachers to stay in touch with the work, the communications, and the internet activity of the students who have a lot of freedom to move about in the school building seeking the resources they need to accomplish the tasks in front of them.
Grace indicated that she regularly checks in on her advisory students to see where they are and what they are doing. She gave an example of this as she helped the students in her room who had organized a Thanksgiving dinner with a very large turkey. She opened Interact to see where her leaf gatherers were, and could figure this out by the tabs they had open on their computers. “Oh, they must be in Contemporary Global Issues where it appears that they are working on their Go Green project. They will be here shortly.”

To learn more about The Met Sacramento, please visit their website. To learn more about Big Picture Learning, please visit that website.
The author, Jack West, is a Lead Educator for the Hapara team. You can contact Jack at Jack at Hapara dot com. Spambots be foiled!


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