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How Does Curricular Development Occur?

While students and many of our teachers enjoy a variety of things during the summer months, there is a flurry of activity in our summer office. Between the end of June and late August, various individuals are working to set and develop coursework for the school year to come. The contributing members of this process include the Curriculum Committee, Instructional Systems Design Team, and highly qualified, certified teachers.  We all work to accomplish two primary things.

Screen Shot 2013-08-13 at 9.27.07 AMFirst, the Instructional Systems Design Team must clear all information out of the courses from the previous quarter (be it summer school, or spring coursework). Gradebooks, comments, feedback, and saved assignments are all cleaned from the courses to make room for new students. So long as there are no students in a given class shell, we can easily make changes to these classes based on the previous running of the course. In some cases, this means editing content and/or assignments. We adapt lessons according to how well students understood, grasped, or liked aspects of their classes. We work to refine the things that we can for the next round of students to come.

Second, we work to develop new courses. This means building a class from the ground up. We start with curriculum mapping. We develop content and assignments that match up to PA state standards and the Common Core.  For us, this is a hugely important. Many schools use a given set of textbooks in their classrooms. Because textbooks are crafted for wide, sweeping audiences, they are not necessarily as specifically aligned to a state’s given set of educational standards. When we craft our own courses, everything is aligned in a way that is efficient and strongly supports student learning in our home state.

Next, we add in differentiated assignments and stream new videos and audio clips. This year, we are working to develop 11 brand new classes, which include classes in core subject areas (chemistry, math essentials, and middle school language arts) and electives (marketing, digital photography, and study skills).

By the first day of school, on August 28th, students will have the opportunity to take courses built just for them. They will have the chance to learn from content that is hand-crafted, adaptable, creative, and helpful to students of various learning needs.  What makes this process really special is the fact that students can hear and see our own teachers in these classes. In many cases, they record and develop their own videos. Their voices are also present in the content itself.  Within all of the text, teachers explain concepts to their students in a familiar tone. This helps to make learning fun and conversational.  In a cyber environment, we feel this is extremely important. In an age when online curricular content is frequently purchased from larger companies, we feel proud to offer our students hands-on, approachable learning that is aligned to standards.

Keep your eyes and ears open for new 2013-2014 courses! Our teachers will be working hard to continually adapt and modify these courses. We look forward to working on them with you throughout the school year!