Students Talk about Blended Learning at #ASCD13

Mickey Revenaugh, Connections Education, hosted a student panel at #ASCD13 titled Why I Hate High School, but the conversation was really about Loving High School Now.  The five students now enjoying the benefits of #BlendedLearning represented Nexus Academy in Columbus, VOISE Academy, and Chicago Virtual.
Justin Pratt, Nexus Academy of Lansing, is a soccer star who enrolled as a senior after serious academic setbacks junior year in his traditional public school, “I’m taking English 11 and 12 at the same time this year, and my face-to-face English teacher always knows exactly what I need help on; I am getting A’s and B’s now and even come to school when I don’t have to, which NEVER would have happened where I was before.”
On the level of rigor, Justin said,  “it’s challenging but more of a fun challenge, it’s better than flipping through a book, sometimes you’re online searching for an answer and you learn something you hadn’t expected.”
Douglas Cornelious, a junior of Chicago Virtual Charter School, wants to be a surgeon.  He visits the physical campus twice a week which leaves room for competitive boxing and mixed martial arts, “I work through my curriculum on my own and make a list of all my questions, then go bug my teachers for answers when I am on campus–that works a lot better for me than sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher talk at me – blah blah blah, I don’t get a word you are saying.”
From Taylor Kimmons, a senior at VOISE Academy: “One of the programs I really love at our school sets the reading level for stuff in our English class so it is a good fit for each of us. It’s a little bit higher for Clarencia King, [also a senior at VOISE and Taylor’s best friend] and a little lower for me, so we can both move ahead at our own pace.”
From Shaquan Carey, a senior at Nexus Academy of Columbus, “We’re like a little family at my school. When we see another student is struggling, we help them out. Even the shy students-kids like me make sure they are included and don’t get left out. You really need to come visit us at Nexus Academy of Columbus and see for yourself!”
“Every single day is different.” said Shaquan.  Teachers push us every day, even though I found the answer, they push me to challenge myself not to accept a simple answer but to go deeper.”
Mickey found it amazing and heart-breaking that Clarencia King, a senior at VOISE Academy, travels almost two hours each way every day to get to school. She walks half an hour to the train, rides for 40 minutes, transfers to another train and rides for 40 minutes, then walks 10 minutes to school. After school she has softball practice and other activities, then spends another 2 hours getting home. She has her sights set on University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for next year, and is very anxious that after all her hard work and dedication she might not be able to afford to go there.
VOISE is a 1:1 school with aspects of blended learning.  Nexus and Chicago Virtual are flex schools featuring online curriculum and  individual progress. About flex programs, Mickey asks “what kind of students do well at your school?” The students answer students that don’t want to work hard or learn new skills may not do well.  Shaquan said, “You won’t do well if you don’t like computers or if you’re lazy.”
All of the blended students felt that their high school was preparing them well for college, from helping them learn how to manage their time, to training them to seek out help when needed, to nudging them daily about college applications, and scholarship opportunities. “I see my guidance counselor every morning when I walk in the door, and every morning she asks me, ‘which college application are you sending in today?'” joked Justin Pratt of Lansing.
Mickey Revenaugh is a co-founder of Connections Academy, a national network of virtual schools, and is now building out Nexus, a network of schools that combine the flexibility of online learning with support and application of onsite schools.  She’s vice chair of iNACOL and a champion for student voice at conferences.
Mickey thinks we have work to do on the chasm between high school and college so students like Clarencia, Taylor, Justin, Shaquan and Douglas can make a seamless, affordable transition through more early college, more articulation agreements, and better access to financial aid/financial planning.
For more from Shaquan and Justin and others at Nexus Academy, check out this video.
Connections Education is an Advocacy Partner of Getting Smart

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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