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Providing Relevant Instruction to Reach Remote Learners

July 30, 2022
A Story of Teacher & Student Success

Featured Educator

Brenda Peterson
IT & CTE Coordinator
Pathways Charter School
California

Engaging Students Through Technology

Finding a way to reach and engage our students can be challenging, especially in a world where students are more digitally driven and becoming increasingly used to things in their life being tailored specifically for them. But what if we could find tools to use in our classroom that would allow for students’ learning and schoolwork- assignments, projects, activities, and interactions- to receive a personal touch, too? What if we had content to offer that spoke to students’ digital inclinations and interests, and supported student voice and choice in their educational pursuits? With the help of eDynamic Learning, one devoted, innovative teacher is doing just that for her students and they are excelling because of it.

Brenda Peterson is the IT and CTE Coordinator and a teacher at Pathways Charter School, a non-classroom-based independent study program operating across several counties in California. In college, Brenda set out to become an educator in the traditional classroom; however, the technological evolution of education and embedment of technology into the classroom was too great of a calling, and she found herself drawn to education outside of the brick-and-mortar classroom. Before landing at Pathways Charter, Brenda collected many experiences along her journey that enhanced her effectiveness as a teacher and a leader, and she has used these skills for over 15 years to support other teachers and students. Brenda is a dynamic and multi-faceted educator, and at Pathways Charter, she assumes many responsibilities including teaching the concentrator and capstone courses for two of the school’s CTE pathways using eDynamic Learning curriculum in the areas of Digital Media and Game Design. By leveraging these courses, Brenda is able to foster existing interests for students who want a career in these areas and to inspire exploration for students who are interested in digital elements of the world.

Meeting Students Where They Are: A Flexible Education

Pathways Charter School has a unique opportunity to support students across several California counties, and because its reach is so large, there is a great deal of diversity and circumstance.

Brenda works with students who attend the independent studies program for a variety of reasons: Some are teen parents who can’t attend school during traditional hours, some are phenomenal athletes whose training schedule requires flexibility, some need to work during the day to support their families, some have special needs or have high anxiety and for their mental well-being need a non-traditional school environment, and some prefer the independence the program offers

Just because circumstances are different from student to student and a flexible, adaptive education is at the forefront, doesn’t mean students shouldn’t have the same breadth and variety of courses offered at a traditional school. Pathways Charter School takes advantage of their ability to offer unique, relevant, and engaging content by offering CTE pathways in the areas of Graphics and Media, Game and Simulations, Child Development, and Entrepreneurship. For many students, participating in these courses is exciting and very beneficial because they can lead to industry certifications, setting their futures up for success before they even leave high school. Providing these courses is one way eDynamic Learning helps Brenda support, challenge, and engage her students. At Pathways, one value that is evident is the student-teacher relationship. Because each teacher has a roster of less than 30 students, teachers get to know their students’ stories and their interests and can help guide them in their personalized study programs. This includes adding relevant eDynamic Learning courses into the mix such as Digital Media Fundamentals 1a and 1b, Digital Media Web Design 1a and 1b, and Game Design 1a, 1b, 2a, and 2b, that Brenda facilitates. Many students choose to take Brenda’s courses because they already have a vested interest in the field of technology and plan to pursue a career in digital media and game design. Not only is Brenda able to meet her students where they are, but she’s also able to catapult their interests to new heights.

“Kids are coming for all different reasons and that is Pathways hallmark- individualized education- so it makes for a lot of juggling to try to find and create what fits best for students, and eDynamic Learning’s curriculum helps make that possible.”

Maintaining Student Interests When Many Are Wavering

Maintaining student engagement and encouraging students to stay involved in their studies provided new challenges during the 2020-2021 school year.

“We were in quarantine a lot, and there wasn’t as much we could do to support our community and our students. And some students just dropped off.”

As difficult as this was for Brenda to manage and to accept, she was able to engage students through a variety of strategies that paired well with eDynamic Learning’s courses. She was also able to take advantage of customization opportunities presented in the eDynamic Learning courses and brought in relevant, real-world learning events and connected students with their communities.

“I want students to be successful so that’s why I have so many choices and options.”

In Brenda’s classroom, there are times when the eDynamic Learning curriculum is delivered as it was created, but there are other times when differentiation is the name of the game. Brenda is passionate about keeping in touch with current topics and local and global communities, and when applicable, she sometimes offers different ways for students to demonstrate mastery.

“The more I’ve learned about how I can customize eDynamic Learning courses using Buzz (Agilix), so many options have been opened up. For example, I can look at the upcoming lessons, and based on the topics, I can say, ‘That sounds interesting. Watch this YouTube video and answer these questions.’ Or I can easily edit or add an option to attend a virtual conference and have students fill out a reflection worksheet afterwards.”

Brenda has found that offering students voice and choice in how they engage with their learning and how they demonstrate learning has led to increased student engagement and participation. She has been able to delve into deeper discussions with her students when they connect during virtual office hours. Offering different pathways to mastery has also been a rewarding experience for Brenda because she is able to open the doors for students to connect with their community and current world events that relate to these career paths. By customizing the curriculum and incorporating events or bringing outside elements, such as media, to the courses, she is able to potentially spark previously unignited interests.

Inspiring Futures Through Personalization and Student Passion

Sometimes it takes a perfect storm of flexibility and personalization to allow students to discover a passion and find a future pathway to pursue. For one student, Brenda was able to offer that flexibility and customize eDynamic Learning’s curriculum to offer that personalization. A few years ago, Brenda had a student in her Media Arts course. This particular student had taken art classes in middle school and knew she was artistic, but she didn’t have a plan for what she wanted to do beyond high school. And then, through an eDynamic Learning lesson, she found her inspiration.

“It was just a random lesson that was in the eDynamic course that was on lettering and different typefaces. She had never really thought about that and neither had I. She started researching and spent hours and hours and made a whole website with the history of fonts and alignments like all of the Sans fonts. She taught me so much, and she was like, ‘I found what I want to do.’ And it was just one lesson that took her off.”

The rest of the semester, Brenda was able to customize the student’s curriculum and adapt assignments so the student could focus on her newly discovered passion. By using the tools at her fingertips and the eDynamic Learning curriculum to individualize the content, she was able to foster the future of an inspired student. Sometimes it just takes a personal touch.

Brenda was recently recognized by eDynamic Learning as a 2021 Career Compass Award recipient for her incredible work with her CTE students in helping guide passion to purpose. We know she will continue to inspire her students through community connections and personalization to help her students see a bright future for years to come!

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