FERDINAND — A big change that will affect the way Cedar Crest Intermediate students learn is right around the corner.
Beginning next school year, fifth- and sixth-graders will digest materials and work their way through the curriculum at their own pace through Summit Learning, an online education system that will bring significant changes to the way students currently learn at the school.
Southeast Dubois’ School Board approved a learning agreement with Summit at its monthly meeting Wednesday night.
The Summit Learning platform was developed with the support of Facebook and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and its technology-infused curriculum features individualized learning time on electronic devices, project-based learning activities, as well as built-in time for mentoring and enrichment.
“It’s really a 21st century way of teaching,” Superintendent Rick Allen said after the meeting. “It’s getting away from the ... model of sit and get.”
According to information from the January school board meeting in which the idea was initially discussed, instead of simply sitting back and waiting through hours of education to meet standards, students will be turned loose in the core areas of math, social studies, science and English language arts, offering them the chance to learn content in those subjects at their own speed.
Thirty percent of the kids’ grades would be dedicated to this personalized learning time, which will consist of them working on assignments on their Google Chromebooks or other tech devices. Cedar Crest Principal Mark Jahn said this morning he did not yet know how much time this would equate to during the school day. Southeast Schools currently have a 1-1 student to Chromebook ratio.
Students will log on to the program and work their way through tutorials, lessons, and tests on their own schedule during this time, with teachers intervening with groups of students who need help. Advocates say this creates an environment where students can work ahead and teachers can dedicate more time to the students who are struggling. The remaining 70 percent of their grades would come from project-based learning.
“I want to stress that it’s a partnership with (Summit Learning),” Jahn said. “Their platform, their resources gives us a tool to teach and for kids to learn the way we think will be a really great thing.”
Though the kid’s electronic device screen time will increase, board member Elaine Miller stressed that human interaction and contact is still very much part of the program.
“The teachers all agreed that yes, it was there,” said Miller, a former educator, about teachers at a school that currently uses Summit Learning. The kids will also attend area programs such as art, music and physical education that are not part of the Summit program.
The change was spearheaded by Cedar Crest teachers Hannah Sitzman and Kelly Schroering, Jahn and the corporation’s Ready Schools Initiative coordinator, Jim Mehling. Jahn said Wednesday night that all teachers at the school are on board with the move.
He and Allen both recognize that moving to the platform will be a big change.
“I’ll be meeting with parents and I’ll be providing information as we go,” Jahn said. “We’re learning a lot about the actual implementation and going through that phase right now. I’ve talked with some parents already, and I plan to meet with parents, and before school starts I will invite all parents in to learn about it.”
The move to Summit Learning has been in the works for months, during which teachers, administrators, school board members and corporation parents visited and spoke with representatives from schools that currently use the service.
The browser-based program is offered free of charge. The platform is based on Common Core standards, but will be tweaked to meet Indiana standards when implemented at Cedar Crest.
According to Jahn, only one school in Indiana — Purdue Polytechnic High School in Indianapolis — has implemented Summit Learning. The program is active in more than 330 schools across 40 states.