ASTE Board, Southcentral Representative –
Ever find yourself lost in the catchphrases of the educational realm? It is a real possibility that educators use a word, but have two or more different interpretations of it as we continue delving into the future of education. What was once a single path is now a web of pathways to acquiring knowledge. Trevan Walker, Principal of Seward High School, uses the term “hybrid high school” to describe Seward High and explains that his vision is not that of a blended approach of online content delivery and face-to-face delivery. It is “the provision of the greatest possible opportunities for student success” through “institutionalized flexibility”.
The hybrid high school concept in application at Seward High School is a multi-faceted picture. It is the simultaneous acquisition of credit through traditional scheduling and alternative credit options. Walker states that they have expanded their definition of “alternative” credit options to include performance based options, online education, mentorships, college courses, and blended instruction within the master schedule. “I am talking about a unique path to a diploma for ALL kids, the high-flyers and the most at-risk kids alike,” Walker relays. He continues on to explain, “We have also expanded our more traditional body of instruction to meet student needs rather than require students to adjust to what is offered… institutionalized flexibility.”
When asked about the role of technology in this concept, Walker describes a series of changes that occurred. First and foremost, the release of traditional control structures had to occur. Students must be able to choose their own paths which includes how, when, and where they take courses – face-to-face, online, blended, independent study, college schedule, etc. According to Walker, there is simply no way for this to be done without complete integration of technology. The goal, of course, is a 1:1 ratio for student computers. Last year, they had 160 for 182 students, so they are getting closer. They offer daily and overnight checkouts.
Second, Professional Development enters stage left. All the teachers at Seward High either have or are in the process of finalizing a “digital parallel” of their classroom curriculum. The definition of a digital parallel in this case is the use of an LMS or learning management system to offer an electronic version of what happens in the classroom from lessons and discussions to homework submission. The applications of this are far-reaching in a state where families and sports teams often travel for chunks of time. Walker says the transition for the staff to the hybrid model has taken 3 years to get to this place of technology inclusion. A series of colleague share-outs of techniques and enthusiasm for what has made positive strides in their classrooms and practices combined with formalized PD to build awareness of what resources are available topped off with technology goal setting has helped them get there.
Walker says that his greatest epiphany has been that the staff allows him to say that it is “our burden” to meet the students’ needs.. “A hybrid high school will always look different in every application, as it should, to meet each situation,” Walker continues, “The greatest success is meeting students with the greatest flexibility.” He wrapped up the interview by stating that the technology is the vehicle that makes this flexibility possible. Too true, Mr. Walker, too true. .