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The New Educational Precedent for Huntley

Online Classes are soon coming to Huntley High School.

Today’s technology offers a wide range of opportunities in the classroom. Many teachers record homework assignments, have resource links available, and put classroom notes online. Starting next year, however, Huntley High School will use all of this technology to offer online classes. Instead of teachers simply putting resources online for extra help, the majority of certain classes will be taken online.

Online Classes are soon coming to Huntley High School.

The original plan for these courses was initiated by Superintendent John Burkey. Since then, the team of district staff members has been hard at work planning for future development.

“I really believe that high school kids’ environment for learning must adapt according to technology,” said Burkey, “and currently we are using teaching methods from an era that didn’t have any of the technological advantages that we do now.”

His solution? Blended learning.

Blended learning is a way of teaching that is becoming increasingly popular in high schools across America. It combines learning in a classroom with learning online. This system allows students to be guided by conventional teaching, but also get used to budgeting their own time.

“Having a teacher that you can work with is vital,” said Burkey, “which makes blended learning a great option.”

According to Marisa Burkhart, District 158 Director of Technology Education, blended classes will benefit many students. For example, those who haven’t found success in lecture experiences will be better serviced in an online class. Also, students who struggle in a certain subject can take a blended class in order to free up a period to get extra help with other classes. Even though much of the work will be done outside of the classroom, standard class sizes will remain the same.

“The program is aimed at a wide range of students,” said Burkhart, “especially those who want to familiarize themselves with online learning.”

U.S. History teacher Joe Soss is very excited about the new form of teaching.

“There will be a lot more opportunities,” said Soss. “But the kids who will succeed must be comfortable working on their own without the structure of a regular class.”

One of the main goals of the program is college-readiness. According to Burkhart, Huntley graduates have mentioned that their classes in college involve more online work than they are used to. Burkhart and Burkey agree that since universities use more online coursework, high school students will be better adjusted for that environment by taking blended classes.

According to a study by the publication “Learning in the 21st Century: 2009 Trends Update,” 47% of high school students said they want to learn online mainly to control their own learning experience.

Since juniors and seniors have more freedom over transportation to and from school when classes do not meet, the classes as of right now are geared towards upper-classmen. They are beginning with six classes all taught by different teachers. These are American Diversity (Nixon), Precalculus (Thornley), Recent Fiction (Meyer), U.S. History (Soss), Biology (Marchand), and Honors Biology (Delorenzo). Not all of these classes may be offered next year, but according to Burkhart, they are the strongest possibilities at the moment.

According to Vice Principal Sharon Hartman, these blended classes will not be included in the course catalog. When signing up for classes, students should sign up for the traditional course, and individual teachers will later hold informational meetings in order to gauge student interest about the blended version of that class. These classes will still hold a place in students’ schedules for the days when they do meet. More details will be released soon, but as of right now, Hartman says that once teachers hold these meetings and determine which students will be taking the blended class, their schedules will be changed accordingly.

In addition to blended courses, Burkey is working hard to find other opportunities to use more modern technology in our school. He is working with cell phone companies to make smart devices obtainable to every student.

With these materials, students will have the opportunity to do class work on-the-go at a low cost. He is also trying to obtain faster upgrades for computers and laptops, so classrooms can have the most up-to-date resources at their disposal. Burkey’s ultimate goal is to make sure every student enrolled in a blended course is provided with a device (smart phone, netbook, iPad, etc.) that allows them to do coursework wherever Wi-Fi is available.

The team of developers is looking for student input in this endeavor. According to Burkhart, they are hoping to form a Student Advisory Board in the near future to help students get involved in the program. Since this new way of learning is designed with students’ best interest in mind, they are eager to service students as best as possible.

-Mollie Murk


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