Tag Archives: Sevenstar

Designing a Dream School

Guest post by: Dr. R. Mark Beadle

Milton Hershey School

As I thought about this title, I remembered a story you have likely heard:

Early one morning, a mother went in to wake up her son.

Wake up son, it’s time to go to school!

But why, Mom? I don’t want to go.

Give me two reasons why you don’t want to go.

Well, the kids hate me for one,  and the teachers hate me, too!

Oh, that’s no reason not to go to school.  Come on now and get ready.

Give me two reasons why I should go to school.

Well, for one, you’re 52 years old.  And for another, you’re the Principal! Source

Maybe if we had dream schools, principals, teachers and even students would feel excited about coming to school. I feel blessed to have helped dream and deliver a dream school—one traditional and one online.

As part of Speak Up 2016, Project Tomorrow surveyed more than 5 million students, educators and parents about key trends and research in science, math, technology, and the future of education. They asked these stakeholders about their dream school. These are the responses from school administrators and high school students (sortable):

ResponseAdministrators*Students**
Augmented reality apps12%26%
Chromebook or laptop for every student to use at school77%67%
Cloud based communications and collaboration tools (e.g. Google Apps for Education, Microsoft Office 365)65%51%
Admins: Dashboard or portal to track student academic progress over time (e.g. classes taken, course grades, test scores, absences) even if students change schools. Students: Online site that tracks all of my school year information including grades, test scores and activities from kindergarten through high school even if I go to different schools61%59%
Digital content (animations, simulations, online articles and resources)51%46%
Google hangouts or other online group messaging in class32%48%
Interactive whiteboards52%50%
Internet access anywhere at school69%70%
Learning management systems (e.g. Blackboard)40%33%
Mobile apps for learning39%54%
Online or virtual classes35%41%
Online tests and assessments61%52%
Online textbooks58%53%
Online tools that help organize schoolwork and provide access to important information50%49%
Online tutors50%45%
Online, video and digital games31%50%
Online videos and movies31%51%
Social media tools for students to connect and work with others (e.g. blogs, wikis, social networking sites)31%44%
Tablet for every student to use at school43%42%
Tools to help students create media projects (e.g. video, audio)54%48%
Virtual reality experiences and hardware (headsets and devices)29%33%

Laptops and Internet access share the top two spots in both the student and the school leaders’ dream schools. Tablets are low on the list for the high school students surveyed. Half (49 percent) of the students report using a school owned device. Three-quarters (76 percent) report having their own laptop to use and 44 percent report having a tablet. It would seem that most students surveyed have their own device and do not need a school provided one. Only 4 percent report not having internet at home. So, another conclusion is that the top two items in a dream school are already happening for most students—laptops and Internet access. (Whether or not that access in school is fast enough and universal is another question.)

Some differences between what school leaders would have in a dream school and what students would have should be noted. School leaders ranked digital content, online tutors, tablets, media creation tools, and learning management systems much higher than students in their dream schools.  Students ranked mobile apps, online videos, and digital games much higher in their dream school than did school leaders.

This list of 20+ digital tools and strategies leaves no doubt that the dream school would be technology rich. It also shows the challenge of resourcing a school and training teachers to effectively use the variety of tools already available. It raises the question: Is it possible to keep up? Certainly, keeping up and delivering a dream school will require a reallocation of resources—both money and time.

Forty-one percent of the students said online classes would be part of their dream school (35 percent of school leaders said so). Yet only 3 percent report taking mainly online classes this year. This seems to be an area where schools could close the gap between reality and what is desired. They could deliver more choice and more personalization at a lower cost if they made a digital shift. More than a third (36 percent) of school leaders report already offering online classes and 57 percent report they have no plans to offer them (note: two-thirds of the leaders were not in high schools).

Students reported classes in these subjects as the most desirable for online learning: Computer Science, World Languages, the Arts, Psychology, and college or study skills. These subjects were reported to be most often already taken as an online class: English, Math, and Health. Sevenstar has partner schools offering their Health class online in the summer so students can take more rigorous classes or more fine arts classes in the regular school year.We find that the use cases for online learning are most often due to credit recovery needs or scheduling conflicts. Online classes are typically only utilized when it’s inconvenient to offer a credit in the classroom. Is this a lack of vision for the use of online learning by school leaders to enrich the learning opportunities for students?

The amount of data contained in the Project Tomorrow results provides a wealth of material to guide our decisions as school leaders.

 

The author: Dr. R. Mark Beadle was a Principal for over 20 years before helping to start Sevenstar, an online Christian school that has served over 40,000 students.  He thinks that being an educator today must be one of the best times ever to be involved in helping students. The future is bright with opportunity to make a difference. You can connect with him on Linked In or write mark@sevenstar.org.

*The specific question for school leaders was: “Imagine you are designing a dream school for today’s students. Which of these tools or strategies do you think holds the greatest potential for increasing student achievement and success? (Check all that apply)  More than 2,000 leaders replied, and about 1/3 were at the high school level.

** The specific question for students was: Imagine you are designing your dream school. Which of these tools would have the greatest positive impact on your learning? (Check all that apply) The students were all in high school for the results above and numbered 109,030.

The picture at the top of the article is of a building at the Milton Hershey School (PA).