Rossland Secondary School will be one of the first schools in British Columbia to delve into a new realm of learning called blended learning.
The goal is to provide personalized and inquiry based learning in a blended learning environment, which will offer students a variety of courses, even within a smaller school environment.
Karen Lavender, the school’s new principal said the new approach will only affect grades 10-12 at the school, as administration switches to a 21st Century learning model.
The blended learning structure leaves behind set timetables and gives students a structure of open resource areas and structured seminar times.
Lavender explained that what it will really be doing for the grade 10 to 12 is opening up their learning potential .
“Students will still take specific courses and they will still come out with their course credits,” Lavender said. “They will still be matching all of the learning outcomes required for each of the courses. What looks different is that instead of going to math class at a specific time on a specific day, the kids can pick when they do their math and they can pick when they do their phys-ed and they pick when they do their art.”
Students will have resource areas, a classroom with a teacher and 30 kids in it, she explained.
There will be a math/science resource area that will always have a teacher there.
“It will always be open, the same thing with the English/Socials area,” she said. “The elective areas won’t be open all the time but it will show when it is open.”
Students will manage their time with the help of a facilitating teacher, which will include when they’re going to take what course and how long it’s going to take them to finish the course. They will be able to take courses by semester, as they are currently do, or they can take them over the whole year span.
For example, if a ski academy kid decided that they want to have fewer courses through the ski season they can do that. They could focus their course time between September and the middle of November, and the beginning of April and end of June.
She said the students would still have courses through the ski season, but maybe just one or two.
“They can pace the course as they like, with the help of the facilitator who makes sure that their progress is continually moving forward and they’re not going to end up at the end of the year with a huge pile of work on their plate,” she said.
“Teachers will be resourcing the areas available for one-on-one help. They’ll also be running seminars that kids can sign up for depending on the course. “
For some of the courses, like the physics and chemistry courses, the teacher is currently putting some specific difficult lessons online. That way, the kids can go ahead in September and start watching some of the lessons on videos. Then they can go into the resource area and get the help on the practice.
Instead of having the teacher teach the whole class and having the kids go home and do the practice, and maybe not understand it, they can prepare ahead of time. That way if they don’t understand it, they’re not stuck until the next day. “They can actually be at the school or at home or on the bus looking at the lesson and then get the help at the research area,” she said. “Every teacher will be doing it differently depending on the theme or topic or outcome.”
Lavender said some of the main benefits are that students will become far more independent learners.
With the help of a teacher advisor in the first couple years, she estimated they will be able to understand more of their own learning styles: Where they need help; where they don’t need help; if they are procrastinators or not; and how to time manage better.
“So in terms of time-management and work ethic the students will learn a lot about themselves so that if they do go on to post secondary, they will be better prepared,” she said. “If you put yourself in a math class where you either completely understand or you don’t get any of it, the students who get it don’t need to stick in the classroom and listen to something. They can carry on and keep moving until they get to the point where they’re stuck and need a little more one on one support.”
She said that the kids that are really struggling are sitting there getting more and more confused and lost in the subjects, as it is now. But with blended learning, they will be able to actually work through that stuff at the pace that they need so they can fully understand before they move on to the next subject.
Teachers at RSS have been meeting through the job action once a week on their own. The Rossland staff have been working on this model for a number of years, and this year there’s really been a push to get things moving, she said.
“One of the things that happen with this type of learning is the students are still responsible for their learning outcome set out by the Ministry, but what changes is that in some courses they can meet the outcomes based on their areas of interest,” she said. “The content isn’t always told to them so they can learn about something they want.”
This model will also allow RSS to have more variety of classes, and Lavender said they are offering more courses in September than was offered last year, with fewer kids.
Students will use Moodle, an online course management system, to organize their studies. Though they will use online components, Lavender cautioned that it is not online learning, as traditional teachers will still be teaching. The online portion will just be a component of the course work.
Teachers will collaborate on planning, facilitating and assessing student work while also working with students individually.
“This is the direction the ministry is starting to head in,” she said. “This is a forward move and I imagine that once we’re doing things people will think wow, this is where education needs to be.”