More Blended Courses to Come

Seaholm High School is taking another step towards 21st Century Learning in the upcoming 2013-2014 year, introducing blended classes. The classes involve many different subjects that have been taught at Seaholm before, but are now being instructed outside of the classroom in places that apply to the class’s subject.

“The class is unique in ways that, if you were an aspiring writer, and serious about it, you normally wouldn’t be writing from your classroom, you would choose places that inspire you,” Seaholm High School Blended Honors Creative writing teacher Mitch Nobis said. “If you were writing about, let’s say, a swamp, you would go to the swamp to write about it, not the classroom.”

The class is described as unique and independent, according to Seaholm counselor Brian Flatter and World War II Blended teacher Robert Carleton.

“The structure of the class is a blend a traditional classroom experience with teacher led presentations and discussions with online and community learning opportunities,” Carleton said.

Blended courses are unique and have an independent structure that no other class at Seaholm offers. Students are given the opportunity to leave the classroom and learn from museums, historical locations and even in their own home.

“There are many reasons why schools around the state are offering blended. In Birmingham, we are being very careful to investigate blended for three reasons: differentiate instruction for students and staff, increase flexibility (learning space, place and time), and add value to the classroom experience,” 21st Century Teaching and Learning Coordinator David Reed-Nordwall said. “This is our teachers and our curriculum for our students.”

The blended course is a stepping stone that will help students realize their academic ability, according to Flatter.

“For a student that may not be ready for an Advanced Placement course, this may be a way to test his or her ability and independence as a learner before jumping into AP coursework,” Flatter said.

The course was made to enrich the classroom experience and give students the ability to utilize the maximum potential their education can offer, according to Reed-Nordwall.

“Furthermore, this is NOT an experiment,” Reed-Nordwall said. “We are utilizing proven curriculum from proven courses and collaborating with many teams of expert educators to carefully construct what we feel aligns with the excellent results our district and community expects.”

The blended 21st Century Learning curriculum offers a new aspect on Seaholm High School’s education. It offers a new, advanced way of learning that creates a new learning environment, according to Flatter.

The planned blended courses have intrigued sophomores Celia Hoag and Carolyn Foglemen.

“For the blended courses, you don’t have to go everyday, which would be really nice if you had it 5th hour and why I wanted to take the class,” Fogleman said.

The blended courses offered next year will be World War II Blended, (Carleton) Honors Spanish 4, (Carlos Torres) and Honors creative writing (Mitch Nobis).

“Taking the blended course offers an interesting mix of activities,” Flatter said. “Students will be asked to work on elements of the curriculum on their own or in groups with limited interaction with a teacher.”

“Some people worry blended is a suggestion that our schools are doing something wrong, which isn’t the case,” Reed-Nordwall said. “We feel there are sufficient reasons to investigate the benefits through the pilot process and use our findings to develop.”

The courses reach out to students who are interested in independence in the classroom according to Flatter.

“Blended is not for every student nor is it for every teacher,” Reed-Nordwall said. “It also requires different skills from both teachers and students and as such needs to be carefully designed.”

The course is considered a pilot, which is an investigation that is carefully created and assessed. According to Reed-Nordwall, the class may or may not continue after the upcoming year depending how the students and teachers respond to the course.

“The World War II class seems interesting and like something that I would be interested in taking because it’s so independent,” sophomore Sam Siegel said.

The course does not involve much in-class work, according to Flatter. In fact, most of it could be online learning or site-based opportunities, according to Carleton.

“Students will have the opportunity to leave the campus and explore the community to further the learning experience,” Carleton said. “Visits to museums, college campuses, libraries, memorials as well as interview opportunities with people are possible in this class.”

Creative writing is just one of the blended classes that Seaholm offers. The more blended courses that a student enrolls in that require self-directed and independent work, the better prepared some students will be for college, according to Flatter.

“Blended courses are designed to prepare students for college by their independent structure,” Flatter said.

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