“Connected” Connecticut Boarding Schools Ready for 21st Century Learning

| August 29, 2013

Editor's note: We want to thank Scott Wilson for contributing this post. Scott's the Chief Executive Manager at Tutor Tango, an online tutoring service for grades 7-12.

A fast-growing trend in online learning has revolutionized both K-12 and higher education over the past few years. The offering of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in particular has even caught the attention of world leaders, who convened a special panel to consider their impact at the World Economic Forum last winter.

Not surprisingly, some of the nation’s most prestigious universities are leading the way in online course development, with MIT and Harvard teaming up to invest 60 million dollars in a delivery platform called EdX, and Stanford professors launching two of the most popular digital learning ventures, Coursera and Udacity.

Some Connecticut boarding schools are doing their part to prepare students for “learning’s next wave” by integrating both blended learning (the mixed-use of traditional and digital learning activities) and supplemental online offerings into their curricula.

The South Kent School (SKS) offered a variety of online math courses through iTunesU to its students this past summer. According to Gonzalo Garcia-Pedroso, SKS’s Information Officer, all faculty members maintain online course offerings via iTunes U throughout the year as well. SKS students can access these courses on their iPads, which have been implemented into the curriculum since 2010. “We currently boast a 99 percent digital curriculum adoption rate,” Garcia-Pedroso said, “and [we] have reduced the use of paper by more than 80% across campus.”

The Indian Mountain School in Lakeville, CT, does not currently offer courses online, but has issued iPads to ninth graders, which include e-textbooks in sync with textbook websites on smart boards in the classroom. Sam Decock, the Associate Director of Admissions and a teacher at Indian Mountain, integrates the use of iPads into his 9th grade Latin class. “My students responded enthusiastically to the [blended curriculum] and have even taken it upon themselves to be creative in their use of this new technology,” Decock said.

Anne Tortora, Principal at Academy of the Holy Family in Baltic, CT, is excited that her school is developing new policies regarding online learning. “We are incorporating Skype in the classroom to expand our offerings this year,” she said, “and we so subscribe to e-books.” She added that all of Holy Family’s students took selected online courses this past summer, and that faculty will be developing their course pages this year via Blackboard Engage, a company that offers web- and mobile-based platforms for school websites.

The Westover School, in Middlebury, CT, was one of the four founding members of The Online School for Girls (OSG). Today there are 12 member schools, including Miss Porter’s School, in Farmington, CT, and other private boarding and day schools for girls around the country. Heather Nuzzo, Westover’s Science Chair and OSG Coordinator, said that their students enroll in online courses as “an extension of [Westover’s] curriculum.” For example, seniors who have completed AP Calculus at Westover can take Multivariable Calculus through OSG. “Our goal is to make sure that an online course fits well within a student’s overall course of study,” said Nuzzo. “It also creates an opportunity for students to consider both the challenges and benefits of an online course for them as learners.”

Katherine G. Windsor, Head of School at Miss Porter’s, summed up the importance of the OSG: “It teaches girls to be literate, participatory, and fluent in the skills of the 21st Century, and the delivery mechanism of its courses...teaches a skill set vital to girls today: technology, communication, analysis, and access to global concepts.”