Maker Learning Network Launches Long-Term Solutions to High-Quality Learning Online


Since school closures hit the nation, educators across the country have been scrambling to meet the needs of students now at home. Responses have included everything from implementing digital curriculum and instruction all the way to many still duplicating thousands of packets.

For those schools working to convert school to virtual learning at home, they were challenged with how quickly they could do so. According to Allison Bravo, iLEAD Schools Online Program Coordinator, her schools were able to convert a couple thousand site-based learners to online in just one weekend.

Bravo—who acknowledges that they already had thousands of students attending school online—said the entire site-based staff were trained on a Thursday, shut down their sites on Friday, and worked on Monday to be 100% up and running online by that Tuesday.

Bravo noted that one of the first major considerations in transferring to 100% online is the concept of equity—making sure all learners have access to devices and internet at home. “Some families were going to have serious barriers about digital learning,” said Bravo. “We worked hard to remove those barriers over that initial weekend.”

But beyond the technical challenges of going 100% online, there are also considerations of making sure that learners at home are also engaged in hiqh quality, personalized and relevant instructional experiences. Enter the The Maker Learning Network. They, along with their partners at iLEAD Schools, were besieged by requests from parents and facilitators for learning resources at home.

Bravo and her team stepped in to answer this call to action by developing Home Schooling Answers—a new website for anyone interested in pursuing high quality, deeper learning at home.

“We started noticing that there was an onslaught of resources being made available,” said Bravo. “There were good intentions, but many were possibly not very helpful in the end.”

Bravo and her team said that they really wanted to curate a high-quality collection of key resources, but also quality information on how parents or others could successfully implement them.

“As always, we really thought about the learners first,” said Bravo. “We wanted to develop something that kept them engaged and learning at personalized, meaningful levels.”

Bravo said many of these countless lists of resources that were being developed and shared seemed to lack context.

“We were really worried about how these online tools would be or could be used. There were big lists that were not organized and were overwhelming to us as parents and educators,” said Bravo.

The Maker Team addressed these concerns by not only assembling resources, but by also developing a Getting Started Framework—aimed at helping create the right environment to have learning occur. Initially, the site launched with a TK-5 Framework—including foundations and deeper learning opportunities. But now, the 6-8 Framework is also live with 9-12 coming online soon. Bravo said they also tried to think about parents at home and what they might need such as Sample Schedules.

In the works for future integration are also day-to-day lesson plans that are project-based, as well as resources for special education, social emotional learning, and a parent university.

Bravo and her team really see this site as an on-going portal for all those interested in how to facilitate successful learning online. Long-term, Bravo said she really sees this as being aimed at educators and how to get started as an online facilitator with standards, guides, and more.

This means that Home Schooling Answers is intended to become a destination for professional learning for any interested educator or parent facilitator.

“Whether you’re an online educator or not, this is going to provide new ways to look at engaging learners, communicating with them, and reaching them—especially those that have not been engaged or successful,” said Bravo.

The reaction from the parents at home, and the educational community at large, has been both positive and appreciative.

“The online activities and suggestions are outstanding. I hope everyone is having the amazing experience my kids are,” said parent Marcia Meddock Boden.

Parents, educators, and others are sharing the website and resources already, as well as connecting on the Homeschooling Answers Facebook Page.

Bravo believes that many will discover that online learning offers learners more choice, flexibility, and personalization, It also really impacts the role of the facilitator or teacher, according to Bravo. “Facilitators can really step in and be just that—facilitators. It’s really more personalized,” said Bravo.

Collaboration has shifted to asynchronous discussion boards, live Zoom meetings, and more. “[Educators] really have to check-in, get feedback, and engage the learner,” said Bravo.

In the end, Bravo sees this entire situation for all to begin to see learners in a new light.

“This experience is going to transform us all. I hope it’s for the better for all kids,” said Bravo.

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Michael Niehoff

Michael Niehoff is a Getting Smart Columnist. He is a teacher, leader, blogger, and student advocate.

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