Classroom of the Future Is in Arcadia

– Photos by Terry Miller

Arcadia unified embrace’s AltSchool’s ‘Personalized Learning’ technology.

By Terry Miller

Arcadia Weekly recently was invited to go back to the future, if you will… to witness a new and unique approach to learning in an unconventional atmosphere.

The classroom reminded me of college back in the 1970’s to a degree. Comfortable chairs hanging from the ceiling and odd shaped, non-conventional desks on which students are encouraged to write, think and create.

Arcadia Unified opened this new experimental lab school with 32 seventh grade students that focus on Personalized Learning using the AltSchool platform. This experimental lab school classroom utilizes flexible seating, desks and walls that can be written on, hanging chairs, an observation room, a Google Jam Board, and many other cutting-edge, innovative classroom tools and techniques that are not typically used in other public schools.

The future classrooms may look unlike any other you’ve imagined. With the advent of VR technology and STEM and now there’s Alt School technology.

San Francisco-based education company AltSchool announced last week the addition of Arcadia Unified School District located in Los Angeles County, as well as Menlo Park City School District in the San Francisco Bay Area, as the first public school district partners to utilize AltSchool’s teacher-built and student-driven learning platform.

AltSchool is a mission-driven organization that believes deeply in learner-centered education delivered by exceptional teachers and supported by innovative new technology. As a Certified B Corporation, AltSchool is unique in that it runs its own small network of schools and has worked closely with educators and engineers to build a comprehensive personalized learning platform that helps prepare students for a rapidly changing global world.

AltSchool’s mindful plan of starting on a small scale – both in terms of classrooms per school and in total number of school partners – is designed to ensure the school district has time to learn about the platform before beginning to incorporate it widely throughout the district and receive the appropriate level of support from AltSchool. After a substantial amount of interest from public schools throughout the U.S., AltSchool selected Arcadia Unified and Menlo Park as its first public school partners.

“Our goal is to accelerate learning by developing a platform driven by educators to aid teachers who believe that personalized education is critical for student success,” said Devin Vodicka, Chief Impact and Academic Officer, who brings 20 years of education experience to AltSchool, including most recently serving as superintendent of the Vista Unified School District in San Diego County. “By having teachers work hand-in-hand with our engineers and designers, AltSchool’s platform enables powerful personalized education for students with technology assisting all aspects of planning, teaching, and assessing student progress.”

Classroom teachers are the architects of the AltSchool platform. Lessons learned from student-teacher interactions, teacher feedback, and classroom analysis within AltSchool’s own lab schools and at partner schools continue to be critical for the development of the platform. AltSchool’s personalized learning platform is a complete software system that provides students with transparency into long-term goals and day-to-day activities. The tools help teachers key-in on individual student learning, heighten the visibility parents have on their children’s education and allow teachers, parents, and administrators to see and track student progress.

The AltSchool Platform supports:

– Lesson planning or inputting existing curriculum.

– Developing individual assignments for students.

– Capturing evidence of learning (including hands-on experiences).

– Assessing and providing feedback.

– Understanding individual, classroom, and school-wide progress.

– Emphasizing social emotional learning in parallel with academic growth.

– Two-way communications with parents.

“Our teachers, who are highly innovative, have been finding and curating a number of programs to create a personalized learning experience for our students,” said David Vannasdall, Superintendent for Arcadia Unified School District. “The AltSchool platform streamlines all those tools to one space creating more time for meaningful connections between students and teachers.”

AltSchool was founded by former Google Executive Max Ventilla, who was the head of Personalization for Google, and is backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative donor advised fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Arcadia Unified is one of the first public school districts in the country to partner with AltSchool to use its dynamic, innovative learning platform. AltSchool had interest from more than 600 schools to be a part of its partner program.

January 31, 2018

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