School Name: Leadership Public Schools Oakland R&D Campus
Grades Served: 9–13
Location: Oakland, CA
Operator: Leadership Public Schools (LPS)
Operator Type: Charter
Students at Opening: 350
Students at Capacity: Up to 600
Blended Model Type: Flex
Key Features: Entrepreneurship, Experiential Learning, Dual Enrollment
As the spotlight on blended learning has grown in recent years, so, too, has the list of digital content providers and organizations supporting schools and teachers. From digital curriculum to data-rich learning management systems, the landscape can be dizzying.
Leadership Public Schools (LPS), a successful California charter school network, has resisted the urge to turn to long-term contracts with external providers. Instead, it sees itself as planted firmly in the R&D space. With LPS Oakland, a new 9–12 school, LPS is expanding its role as a “collaborative innovator,” working with teachers and students to design blended learning environments and tools that will help lay the foundation for key skills, personalize learning, and promote 21st century thinking. LPS aims to involve students in both the production and consumption of technology.
The LPS model focuses on five strategies, each of which leverages technology:
- Provide personalized learning and empower students to own their data to help them accelerate both the backfill of missing skills and acquisition of new content
- Support teachers through powerful use of digital tools and real-time data feedback
- Scaffold key concepts so students can access core college prep content
- Build opportunities for critical thinking and deeper learning within and outside of class
- Introduce students to college through online college courses with wrap-around support
These expectations are firm but the structures are evolving. The initial focus of the program has been using technology to maximize student collaboration, student-teacher communication, the infusion of writing across the curriculum, and the development of digital citizenship and independent learning. Undergirding all of the work is the development of instructional strategies that maximize the use of extensive formative data by both students and teachers. The classroom structures of time and space are evolving as students and teachers learn how best to leverage technology resources.
Although the learning goals are fixed, the actual content and tools can evolve from year to year as teachers test and evaluate open educational content or refine their needs. The emphasis is on providing the very best teaching and learning, not just digital learning. Where there are gaps, LPS develops its own tools and platforms or pushes vendors to further innovate. At any one time, there are multiple innovations, individual strategies, and products in varying stages of development across the LPS network. A team of teachers designs, adopts, and adapts each idea. It is then prototyped in one or two classrooms with pioneering teachers, iterated by a larger group of teachers through collaborative innovation, and then built into the network-wide practices and expectations. When something works — or doesn’t — the information flows across the LPS network and beyond.
LPS is committed to developing blended courseware and other resources that are free or low cost, modularized, and modifiable, in order to be easily transferable to schools with constrained facilities, schedules, and staffing. One of the most visible examples of collaborative innovation at LPS is ExitTicket, a sophisticated online “clicker” or real-time student response system that lets students use any kind of technology — including mobile devices — to take online, concept-level quizzes and get immediate feedback. The teacher tracks this just-in-time data on an IPad heatmap and can intervene immediately according to student need. Growth and mastery data is immediately updated for both teachers and students. ExitTicket grew out of a need across LPS schools to track concept mastery and leverage data in more integrated ways and is now available nationally at www.exitticket.org.
Beyond content acquisition, LPS strives to be innovative in how students apply their skills. Currently, students use afterschool time for experiential learning activities. An active student “Geek Squad” provides personal IT support for each staff member and develops video and web-based content for the school. Through a partnership with TechNovations, other students are learning programming and software design. In 2013-14 structures to provide experiences like these to all students will be designed.
A successful partnership with Merritt College is in its third semester of offering online college courses to LPS Oakland students. An on-campus teacher helps students structure their time, de-construct syllabi, navigate online discussions and handle complex readings. To date, LPS students are out-performing their traditional and online Merritt peers.