Urban School, San Francisco

Highly innovative school not constrained by any curriculum requirements at a state or federal level. High fee paying, independent school with 400 students and at 1:1 programme dating back to 2000. Very mature in its use of ICT and the vast majority of teachers on board. All 400 students in years 9 to 12, plus teachers, using MacBook Air computers. IPads regard as quite inferior in comparison to the productivity capabilities of the MacBooks. Only acknowledged disappointment is not having touch or stylus input on the MacBooks. Discredited BYOD and pointed out several flaws in that approach, mostly around inequality and not protective of the teaching/learning environment.

Blended learning initiatives (BlendEd) unique in the focus on face to face time requirements of 6 hrs minimum per course. They are looking at incorporating Adobe Connect to allow for online synchronous time with students. Class sizes limited to 15. Making good use of Canvas (LMS) and Screen Flow for recording Flip sessions, which are then uploaded to Vimeo channels (not YouTube – less ads).

Teacher professional development currently focused on training teachers to be excellent blended learning practitioners and online course creators.

My final observation is in regards to the US education system and the Grade Point Average requirement for college acceptance. Students have their GPA recorded from Year 9 onwards as it all counts towards their final standing at the end of high school. This creates a system where Year 9 students are compelled to take learning more serious and greatly enhances self-regulation -something students at the Urban School have in abundance. A student’s GPA is practically finalised by mid Year 12 and the pressure to perform in end of year exams does not exist.

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