Open High School

Imagine “one-on-one tutoring for every student in every subject” and you get a picture of Open High School, a virtual charter school serving 250 Utah students in ninth and tenth grade expanding to up to 1500 students 9-12 next year.
The name comes from a commitment to use open education resources (OER) where possible and to share what they develop.
The curriculum is hosted on MoodleRooms.  Curriculum Director Sarah Westin draws content drawn from a variety of sources including OER Commons, Curriki, and a little Hippocampus.  Some specialty courses are licensing from Florida Virtual School.  Courses are leveled for different academic goals and to meet individual needs.
Teachers and students make extensive and integrated use of Twitter (#openhs).  History teacher Jennifer Klein has conducted ‘twistory,’ teaching history in character on Twitter (and glows when she talk about it).
The faculty uses a variety of strategies for communicating with students including text, email, gchat, Skype, Voicethread and sometimes a good old-fashioned phone call.
Instructional tools include:

  • · Vimeo: video sharing
  • · Flicker: photo sharing
  • · Glogster: poster mamker
  • · GeoGebra: math sketch pad
  • · Oneeko the screen sharing application
  • · Grockit, Brightstorm, and Khan Academy: tutoring
  • · Raptivity: science learning interactions
  • · business simulation

Active collaboration takes place in Teacher Commons.  To ensure that no one or nothing drops through the cracks, the faculty uses HighRise as a case management tool to track interventions and conversations related to individual students.
They just integrated the Genius student information system (but they miss their BrainHoney gradebook)
They are experimenting with a variety of fitness strategies.  They plan to use something like Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir, a very cool mash up of individually recorded student videos.
More than 80% of the students live within 50 miles of Salt Lake, so the school community can gather monthly for social activities.
Each student is required to document at least 25 hours of community service.
Open High is highly personalized in terms of attention, partially personalized in terms of academic path, but not really competency-based—it’s generally an age cohort model built around courses and semesters.  The school remains somewhat constrained by year-end tests (rather than on demand end-of-course exams) and seat time requirements.
Director DeLaina Tonks is able to be very selective about her faculty with about ten applications for every position.  The first wave drops off asked to produce and demonstrate a two-week instructional unit.
In another year, the 9-12 Open High platform will be robust enough to support not only their students and share with other blended and virtual schools nationwide.  Founder David Wiley, board chair Robyn Bagley, and the faculty are making an important contribution to American education.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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