Chicago HS drill uses online program to maintain learning

Schools across the nation are preparing for the possibility of widespread closings due to H1N1. And although VOISE Academy High School in Chicago isn't a typical American high school, it shares the same concern of all U.S. school districts - how to keep education going despite a flu epidemic, or any emergency.

VOISE (Virtual Opportunities In a School Environment) Academy is different in that it blends an online curriculum with face-to-face instruction. A recent continuity-of-learning drill at VOISE showed how teachers can engage students in case of an emergency shutdown. For the drill, 150 sophomores stayed home for the day and participated in classes over the Internet.

A key component of the drill was SAS Curriculum Pathways, a program available at no cost to all US educators. Kemi Jona, Director of the Office of STEM Education Partnerships and member of the VOISE Design Team, was pleased with the results and the role played by the SAS program.

"The engaging digital content of SAS Curriculum Pathways is a valuable part of the technology structure students and teachers need to continue meaningful instruction away from the classroom," said Jona.

SAS Curriculum Pathways provides standards-based content in the core academic disciplines - English, mathematics, social studies, science and Spanish - for grades 8-12. It also offers training and professional development activities to help teachers maximize the resources.

"We'll work with any school or district concerned about maintaining teaching and learning during a closure to best incorporate our resources into their continuity plan," said Bruce Friend, Director of SAS Curriculum Pathways.

The US Department of Education and International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) list the program as a recommended resource. Aligned with state standards, SAS Curriculum Pathways offers lessons, activities and interactive teaching tools, plus links to more than 4,000 academically appropriate Web sites. Designed for wide-ranging classroom environments, technology capabilities and learning styles, the product is used in one-computer classrooms, virtual schools, small groups and 1-to-1 computing initiatives.