The Brave New World of Remote Learning

Posted by Elizabeth Gildred on Mar 20, 2020 5:17:11 PM

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In the midst of government mandated school closures last week, Horizon Prep has transitioned all instruction to an online format.  On Friday, March 13th students gathered their textbooks and necessary items in anticipation of the eventuality.  Faculty convened on Monday, March 16th to make final preparations for the shift, and on Tuesday morning school resumed in their virtual classrooms. 

Conquering New Modes of Learning

Praising the swiftness in which faculty and staff adapted, Matt Davis, Director of the Schools of Logic and Rhetoric, said the following.  “As a team, our teachers have jumped in with both feet and transitioned to online learning. For our teachers who are digital natives, this has been an easier move to navigate, teach creatively, and engage in an online world. For our digital immigrants, it has been more of a challenge. They have been teaching for 20-30 years, but say they feel like they are new teachers all over again. Our digital immigrants are getting up to speed on the new platforms and are courageously diving in even if it takes them a bit longer.”

As before, middle and high school students attend classes in blocks of 45-90 minutes. All classes are meeting, including AP classes and those in the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA).  Teachers are making use of tools such as webcams, using their iPhones as document cameras, and utilizing the whiteboard functions of their online programs.  

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Students at this level were previously accustomed to utilizing an online education technology platform to maintain communication and assignments.  However, like most of the country, the school has found Zoom to be invaluable for communicating in groups of three or more.  Parents have also commented that the ability to see one another online has proved invaluable in contributing to maintaining normalcy.

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Horizon Prep’s Director, School of Grammar, Abby Koch shared, “We are providing fun and interactive learning while maintaining the goals for our student’s academic growth and progress.  It’s all supported by our solid curriculum that’s already in place.”

A Grammar School parent had this to say, “We have been so impressed by all the communication and the obvious boatload of preparation the teachers and administrators have put in to create this remote learning experience for the kids. From our 5th grade perspective, the learning week is off to a flawless start!”

In further praise for the online migration, one mother reported on day one, “My two son’s classes were excellent.  Both of them were 100 percent engaged.  By the end of the day they were reasonably worn out and ready for the virtual bell to ring. Having them focused helps minimize distractions with my other children as well.  The other children’s schools are not requiring actual work, but making it for enrichment only.  Horizon Prep’s structured schedule is having an immense impact on the whole family.”

A recurring theme in parent feedback has been an appreciation not only for the continuation of academic rigor, but also in maintaining the familiar amid uncertain times.  “I like my son logging on for his classes at his regular school time.  This gives a bit of normalcy to the day,” reported one parent.

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Cathy Towner, Director of Early Education, said, “At Horizon Prep we are joining millions  around the globe and confronting decisions we’ve never had to consider before, and maybe never could have imagined having to do so.”  

Commenting on how Horizon Prep is providing curriculum even at the preschool level, she continued, “We know our Early Education students are hungry to learn.  We’re matching their curiosity and passion with work-from-home materials and suggestions to keep little ones engaged and connected with the teachers.  This gives them the stability of some of their normal school routines during this time.”

Early Education students are able to hear their teacher read to them via voice recordings, can dance and sing along to YouTube links to familiar worship music they are accustomed to during Praise and Worship time and chapel, and are even checking the daily progress of their caterpillars to chrysalis as part of their botany curriculum.  Their online school day still begins with the Pledge of Allegiance and Early Education teachers are suggesting activities utilizing common household items.

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Echoing the sentiments of many parents, one said, “I am very impressed with Horizon Prep!  The school is doing an incredible amount of work to keep the kids on track and make home-based learning engaging.  I have many friends across the nation who haven’t heard anything from their teachers or schools since they closed.”

Parents are getting a unique perspective into their student’s daily classroom experience.  While they have a new appreciation for educators as everyday heroes, the overall response to distance learning has been positive.  Matt Davis summed it up by saying, “For us, we are stepping into a whole new space that may change what our education looks like into the future.”

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Topics: Remote Learning, Online Instruction