Classroom Technology Opinion

EAA Pioneers Flexible Blended Learning Spaces

By Tom Vander Ark — August 01, 2014 4 min read
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Five Detroit schools utilize flexible learning spaces to accelerate student learning. These innovative environments reconsider four components of teaching
and learning:

  • Space & time
    : creative ways of using space, furniture, scheduling and location to promote student learning;

  • Staffing and roles
    : rethinking flexible ways to use staffing to personalize learning;

  • Grouping of students:
    different approaches to grouping students and providing individual work time to ensure growth; and

  • Resources:
    maximizing supports from the teachers, technology, and peers to promote deeper understanding.

The flexible learning space, called a hub, provide a student-centered environment where student responsibility grows from primary grades to high school.

Students participate in a blended instructional program where they access information from the teacher, technology, their peers and their own inquiry. The
same content is provided in 3 different ways--independent virtual courses, hybrid courses and as individual searchable libraries of content aligned to the

The Education Achievement Authority
(EAA) is Michigan’s school improvement district (like the LA RSD and TN ASD). The EAA operates 12 of what were the worst performing schools in the state--6 middle schools
and 6 high schools. The EAA created an innovative school model andlearning platform called Buzz. The 5 schools benefited from a Next Generation Learning Challenge grant.

Kindergarten Hub at Brenda Scott.
In the Kindergarten hub at Brenda Scott all 90 students are grouped in one large learning space. A lead teacher and two other teachers use real-time data
to flexibly group students based on who needs additional support and those students who are ready to learn new material. This flexible learning space not
only ensures that real-time data is being used to drive student growth but provides ongoing professional development for teachers as they can see best
practices modeled by a master teacher and receive real-time feedback on a daily basis. Academic growth rates doubled with the hub strategy.

SCL Village at Phoenix.
The Student-Centered Learning Village at the Phoenix Multicultuaral Academy uses a kinesthetic approach to learning in which space, color and furniture
organization has been recreated to help young students, for many of whom English is a second language, to understand the various parts of the learning
process--one room with no furniture and a large interactive white board is used to introduce learning, another room with a variety of furniture
arrangements, one to one computers and small group instruction is used for students to practice what they have learned and to drive deeper understanding
while a third space with large tables and hands on projects is used for allowing students to apply what they have learned.

The Middle School Hubs at Nolan.
Classroom walls have been removed to create large redesigned classrooms for 120 students at Nolan P-8 school. Traditional desks have been replaced with
modular furniture. Students’ schedules are divided into large blocks of work time in which they can choose which subjects to work on. Piloting a seat-time
waiver--two teachers oversee groups of up to 50 students in the hub who work on technology and projects while two other teachers use real-time data to pull
students based on students who need remediation verses those who are ready to accelerate forward. Each teacher serves as a mentor and success coach for
meaningful communication with 30 students through conferencing and virtual communication via Collaborize Classroom.

The number of students who achieved two or more year’s growth increased from 39% in 2012-13 to 67% in 2013-14.

The Movement at Law.
The newest flexible learning space is at Law Academy, a P-8 school modeled after Nolan with an enhancement--students in “The Movement” work on
interdisciplinary projects they work towards mastery of standards.

PASE at Southeastern.
The Preparatory Academy at Southeastern High School serves just under 100 students from 10th to 12th grade. The media center has been
converted to a college-like library environment with study rooms, an assessment center, modular study spaces and classrooms for lectures and break-out
sessions. Each week students set goals and create an individual learning plan for math, science, social studies, English and an online elective. Teachers
provide a weekly schedule of lectures, labs and tutoring sessions that students may opt to attend. Students in PASE demonstrate the greatest amount of
ownership for learning as they assume responsibility for setting goals, monitoring their progress and mastering course standards. More than three quarters
of students made a year or more of progress in reading and math in 2013-14, a significant improvement over prior year in both subjects.

Under the most challenging circumstances in the country, the EAA created dramatically better learning options for Detroit students and piloted school
models of national importance.

For more, see Smart Cities: Detroit and Agilix Powers Personalized Learning

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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