Building Digital Academies to Transform Culture

In education, we need different and alternative ways for students to learn

The traditional classroom and school make up is archaic

We have students with completely different life situations than just 10 years ago

Create Alternative Opportunities for Students

  • Take a look at the at-risk student population in your school/district
  • Students today have different needs (need for different schedules, other things to do than school)
  • Doesn't mean they aren't intelligent; a lot of times, it is exactly the opposite.
  • Some students originally fail in traditional schooling because they do not want to do homework.  Some students may not have a choice, they may have too much going on in their lives.
  • Many students do not want to organize binders or complete "busy" work for a grade when they already know the material.
  • Many students today desire personalized learning options in their schools.
  • Creating alternative options for students isn't about the instructor maintaining control of the classroom.  Its about student growth sometimes at the expense of archaic instructional practices.

What does the Alternative Opportunity for Students Look Like?

Create a Plan Based on your Student Body and Needs

  • Look at building data to determine your needs.
  • Graduation rates? Attendance data? Discipline data?
  • How will you finance your program?  Does it need financing or is built into your regular school operations?
  • What will the space look like? Remember, usually the students who will take advantage of the Digital Academy are students who were not successful in the traditional learning environment.
  • Use your space in a unique way. Think of a comfortable learning environment.
  • Will students be taking classes for advance credit and/or credit recovery?

Computers, Network, Software

  • Base the type of computers you purchase on the lab space and furniture.
  • Network infrastructure is important.  Make sure your network has the bandwidth to handle the course offerings.
  • Select a company who will offer the classes.  I have experience with PLATO, APEX, and A++.  Different companies offer different courses and incentives.  Select the company that best fits your needs.

Instructors and Background Programs

  • Find the right type of instructors: teachers who are there for student growth.
  • You will also need intervention specialists to assist students with Individualized Educational Plans.
  • Background Programs such as clubs and sessions with school nurses and school psychologists can help students feel as if they are part of the regular school setting and help them grow.
  • Schedule time during the instructional day to allow students to participate in clubs and seek counseling (from nurses, school counselors, psychologists).

Changing the Culture

Increase Your Data

  • Even if your school does not have alternative hours of schooling, your attendance will increase.  More opportunities for students will increase their desire to be at school.
  • The graduation rate (if applicable) will increase.  More students will stay enroll in school and more students will be successful.  
  • Discipline will decrease.  More than likely, at-risk students will take advantage of the digital academy.  Many times, at-risk students have a greater chance of receiving consequences for discipline infractions.  
  • When students are on task, there is a less chance of disruption.

Student Experiences

  • Create clubs, go on field trips, take college visits - do things in the digital academy that allows students to experience things they have never done before.
  • We offer our students food in the beginning of the day (after traditional hours) and administrators get food for students for celebration days.
  • Administrators recognize students who excel or promote the brand in a good way.

Share with those who Care

  • Create a plan for how you and your school district will create the academy.
  • Meet with stakeholders (community partners, businesses, colleges, not even local businesses - branch out (ex. Minor League Baseball game))
  • Share your plan with the staff.  Get them involved in the planning process.  Let them share ideas with you regarding the academy.
  • Share with parents the plan.  Collect data from parents and students (by using electronic surveys) to find the types of classes to offer, the right programs to offer, and the right staff to hire.
  • Find the right software to offer.  Meet with different reps of companies who offer online course work.  Find the match that is good for your school.
  • Speak with other schools - you may be able to form a consortium to save funds.

Create a Culture

  • Determine whether you will have additional programs for students.
  • Speak with other schools and professionals about adding additional programs to your academy.
  • Will you have a flexible bell schedule?  Will students be allowed to take classes after the traditional school day?  Collect data that will determine if this benefits your students.

Contact Information

Bobby Dodd, Principal
Gahanna Lincoln High School
Twitter: @bobby__dodd
School Twitter: @GLHSLions
Blog: The Principal's Blog
Parents Blog: Gahanna Lincoln H.S. Parent Blog]]
Facebook: Gahanna Lincoln H.S. Facebook Page
Website: Gahanna Lincoln High School

Remind 101 Account: text 81010 with the message @glhsinfo