innovate to educate

When virtual class time is innovative, student engagement soars

The eSchool Media and Xirrus Innovate to Educate Community Winner reveals what it's like to forge ahead into virtual learning

Innovation doesn’t simply involve throwing technology into a classroom. It requires unconventional ideas, foresight, thoughtfulness, and dedication to student learning. And as the world becomes more connected, schools are making every attempt to help students develop the skills they’ll need to be a part of that interconnected world.

In the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), students are learning in unique ways while developing these much-needed skills through individualized and personalized learning methods, said Sarah Sprinkel, FLVS elementary principal.

FLVS is one of two Community Winners in the eSchool Media and Xirrus Innovate to Educate awards program, which recognizes the unique ways schools and districts are leveraging technology to improve student learning.

Sprinkel’s expertise spans 35 years in education, and she retired more than once when she had what she described as “a wonderful opportunity to learn what was going on in the virtual world.”

Her past experience in child development involves using observations about how children learn to form standards and course requirements. FLVS leaders wanted to see if she could do that, and develop best practices, in the virtual world.

“I was always the go-to person who made sure the practices our teachers used were developmentally appropriate,” Sprinkel said. “People used to talk about developmentally-appropriate practices as though they weren’t good. But it simply means that if you teach kids the way they learn, they’re going to learn.”

FLVS implemented a strategy called ClassTime, which uses live video lessons that require students and teachers to work as a class in a blended learning environment online twice a week. Students work independently with their parents three times a week.

Students interact online by participating in class discussions, sharing information, answering questions and working as a class with teachers. The strategy keeps students engaged with approaches such as voting tools, chat boxes and breakout rooms.

(Next page: Overcoming virtual challenges to ensure student success)

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Laura Ascione

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