Greater Atlanta Christian School’s parking lot may have been empty on Wednesday and Thursday but school is still in session. Classes are being held via a web-based communication portal, Haiku, where students from 1st to 12th grade, access assignments from wherever they are and communicate directly with their teachers.
“Our teachers are well-trained for days like this,” says Dr. Misty Overman, VP of Learning Initiatives and Junior High Principal. "Our assignments are already managed online through Haiku weekly.” For Cyber School, teachers have posted extended assignments, original podcasts, and even managed virtual help sessions with students. A secure browser allows students to continue with assessments, creative tools such as iMovie allow them to demonstrate knowledge, and Haiku notes and announcements expand reading assignments. Grades will count, during these days, and follow-up from teachers is expected on all assignments.
For example, one of GAC’s 5th grade teachers sent out a “cyber assignment" to his students to read two book chapters and create a 3-4 minute iMovie summarizing the chapters. Students were instructed to include music, text, and video for this assignment and will present their iMovie to classmates when everyone returns to campus. Also, students in 1st – 5th grades were sent a “cyber PE workout” to complete. One Elementary parent shares, “On a wintery day, it was incredible to see my girls in our living room, watching the video workout assignment, doing planks, squats, lunges, running in place, and other exercises that I haven’t yet mastered.”
In Junior High, students and faculty alike were prepared, and able to learn and work in a dynamic environment typically thwarted by snow days. A Junior High English teacher said, “I was happily surprised with the work I was receiving by Wednesday evening. Blogs were written, projects submitted, and we are all on track with our learning even though we weren’t physically on campus.” A Junior High math teacher created a podcast for his students and answered graphing and ratio questions online. Watch a podcast from GAC’s cyber school: http://www.educreations.com/lesson/view/ratio-boxes-involving-totals-podcast/16346602/?s=Qnzsfr&ref=appemail
In Senior High one sophomore parent noticed, “My son spent several hours with his Latin III teacher online reviewing vocabulary for an upcoming test. Learning happened right in front of me.” One of GAC’s new Chinese international students spent the day reviewing assignments with his Honors Trigonometry teacher using podcasts that were available thru the Haiku system.
These days still count as regular school days. This is possible at Greater Atlanta Christian where MacBooks replace conventional textbooks, allowing students (and faculty) to not have to make up these snow days later. The differentiating factor between GAC’s “cyber school” and online correspondent schools is real-time learning and collaboration between students and faculty. Students are also more prepared for the digital world we now live in and realize the importance of getting their work done, regardless of the circumstances the world hands them. Parents are thankful that students have work to accomplish that teaches them more than simple memorization or regurgitating facts and figures. A GAC parent shares, “This is an excellent use of a student’s time. My kids are using what they’ve learned in practical ways. Learning should not stop when snow arrives. It’s a life lesson in time management.”
President, Dr. David Fincher shares GAC's rationale, "The GAC difference is that way too many other schools are 'saving money,' giving only token meaningful training, both in time and substantive learning philosophy. If you don’t get the philosophy, nothing changes. I’ve heard often of schools that hand out the tools, but nothing changes except they take notes on their computer or iPad instead of a notepad, or they now have an extra e-reader to carry around. At GAC, we will relentlessly pursue best research-based practices for phenomenal learning results, in addition to best tools."