A Rural High School Goes Digital
Story posted January 18, 2016
How can a small, rural district blend technology and mediated learning instruction to cultivate a holistic learning environment for all students? That is the question Center Grove School Corporations asked itself. That is the question that students can now answer.
Blended learning has become an amorphous concept with the advent of new technologies flooding the K–12 landscape. At Indiana’s Center Grove Community School Corporation, teachers are cultivating their school’s own unique approach to technology-mediated instruction in order to meet its students’ individual learning needs. Here, high school students have the opportunity to engage in online learning opportunities offered via its Center Grove Global Campus (CGGC).
To familiarize CGGC’s staff members and students with innovative learning technologies, Center Grove converted a dilapidated transportation building into a state-of-the-art technology hub known as the I3 Technology Center. Set up like a coffee shop, this innovative space enables students and teachers to explore new multimedia and learning technologies in a collaborative and relaxed setting.
The district has adopted a holistic approach to online learning by offering three different categories of coursework—Ignite, Revive, and Niche. Its goal is to create personalized learning pathways for the school’s students. CGGC’s students use technology tools like Google Docs and Canvas LMS to collaborate and participate in course activities.
Ignite is designed for learners taking a course for the first time, and a number of electives are offered through Ignite in an effort to free up students’ schedule space.
Revive is a credit recovery program, and its content is developed internally by Center Grove’s teachers.
Niche is preparing to launch and will be used to welcome new students and families into the community, as well as to provide them with valuable school and community-related information.
Teacher availability is one of Center Grove’s primary means for accomplishing its goal. The school system wants to make its teachers as readily available to its students as possible. Technology serves as the conduit for facilitating student-teacher interactions, communications, and collaborations during and beyond the school day.
The creative atmosphere of the Technology Center sparks and drives different types of conversations that are carried over into Center Grove’s classrooms. The school system also intends to add an innovation center, which will focus on STEM and project-based learning instruction.
The school system works with its Internet service provider, Education Networks of America to ensure that it has the connectivity it needs to provide its 8,000 students with reliable network access. To support its various technology-mediated instruction initiatives, including its one-to-one iPad program, Center Grove relies on its robust network infrastructure. Center Grove also regularly refreshes its Wi-Fi equipment. “We want to make sure our students have what they need and that technology is never the problem,” shares Center Grove’s Chief Technology Officer Jason Taylor.
“We distribute equipment that we feel confident in and that we know we can replace in 24 hours or less. We do not want poor connectivity or equipment failures to hinder the learning process.”
Center Grove utilizes professional development to support its blended learning efforts. When the school system initially deployed iPads, it discovered that some teachers were not quite equipped with the instructional knowledge needed to effectively leverage the devices.
This year, Center Grove is providing its teachers with the professional development and learning opportunities they need to effectively integrate these tools into their curriculum. Instead of posting an online quiz, teachers are employing more effective ways to assess their students’ knowledge, such as having their students create visual presentations or collaborate on projects.
Center Grove’s teachers are also using online tools to share information and communicate with their peers. The school system intends to host virtual professional learning communities in the near future.
College and Career Targets
Ensuring its students are college AND career ready is a priority for Center Grove. Technology-mediated instruction is helping the district achieve its goal by personalizing the learning experience for every student.
By Rachel Little for the Partnership for 21st Century Learning