Personalized Learning Has Arrived: New Podcast Episode

October 02, 2020 Sarah Williamson By Sarah Williamson
Jean Sharp Apex Learning

Jean Sharp, the Chief Academic Officer for Apex Learning, was a recent guest on Remote Possibilities, a new MarketScale edtech podcast hosted by Kevin Hogan. In this episode, Jean shared her belief that in order to stop the significant student learning loss following the crisis, we must be intentional about our path forward and attend to the social-emotional needs of our students. We share a few highlights from the interview below.

How did Apex Learning respond when the crisis erupted in the spring?

As a company, we realized that districts were looking for support, and they wanted partners to come alongside them, not vendors selling more products. We knew that administrators needed to focus on district leadership and the needs of educators, students and families as the pandemic began to unravel.

Do you think this crisis will spur new innovation?

One of the challenges that many experienced this spring was attempting to replicate the classroom experience with remote learning. Digital curriculum is not designed to replicate the classroom experience, but rather to take advantage of technology and multimedia to support a new learning experience for students.

Digital curriculum provides students with the flexibility to choose the time, place, path and place of learning. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are attending school every day, but educators should have an understanding of how to support students who are struggling, how to get them reengaged, and troubleshoot when things are not going well. This fall, we have the opportunity to be intentional about how we want to set up an online instructional model.

We are concerned about the repercussions of this spring where students struggled to connect with online learning and the numerous waivers for standardized tests and graduation requirements. Learning did not matter as much as we believe it needs to matter. One of the questions we have been asking is how are we going to intentionally reset expectations and inspire new learning that matters —whether that’s done all online, in a hybrid model, or in a traditional classroom environment—as we go forward?

How has the crisis changed how Apex Learning helps schools and districts?

Addressing student learning gaps has become a major priority and one of the biggest challenges for every district. Finding opportunities to identify these gaps is important. When students have been out of the classroom for up to seven months, educators need support in defining learning paths and personalizing the learning experience for each student. Apex Learning recently partnered with NWEA to provide with student test scores so they have the ability to provide each student with the content they need to succeed.

As a company, our main priority is meeting the academic needs of our students, but we also recognize that in order to meet those needs, we need to address their social-emotional needs first. To meet the needs of the whole child, we partnered with Suite360 to provide social-emotional curriculum available to districts.

What changes do you think the pandemic will illuminate in education?

As Chief Academic Officer, I believe there is an urgency for education administrators to become navigational leaders. This requires adopting navigational skills, making a plan, evaluating the possibilities and staying flexible, even when those plans change. I am a big fan of failing forward. Teachers did an amazing job with the conditions they had in the spring, but when we look at engagement of students, we know we can do better. I urge all of us to consider what we want to do differently this school year and how we can achieve a better outcome together.

To listen to the full episode:

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