If you think that having some classes only meet twice a week is the kind of change that is going to fix our education system, then you are wrong. Recently, the Palo Alto High School administration seems to have developed a strange obsession with blended classes, or classes that use both in-class learning and online learning to teach the class, with 15 blended courses being offered next year.
These classes are supposed to provide flexible learning environments, develop college readiness and teach technology-based skills, according to the Palo Alto Unified School District website. While this may sound very appealing at first, it has quickly become apparent that all of these goals are either not attainable through these kinds of courses or can be achieved through regular classes.
If you want more flexible learning, blended classes are not the place for you. All that these classes do is involve online learning to a greater degree, which does not make the classes more flexible, rather, just more varied. In the end, this creates an amalgamation of teaching techniques and develops a class that fits no one and is just confusing.
In terms of developing technology-savvy youths, these courses also fall short. Not only are Palo Altan millennials the last group of people that need instruction on how to use modern technology, but, if the goal is to develop these skills among students, then they should be implemented as part of required courses and not alternative classes. And finally, the development of these skills is not even executed well in all of these classes. I found this out first hand in Blended World Literature where the only technological skill we were even introduced to was Google My Maps, an app that allows people to place points on a map. That’s about it. And while this may be helpful to a select few, it is not universaly useful.
My disappointment with this class does not just stem from the implementation of strange applications. I also found that the flex periods did not help with learning the subject of the class, but rather gave what amounted to a prep period that was less productive than an actual class meeting.
While flex is intended to help provide time for students to work on coursework, I can personally attest to the fact that most of the time people are less focused on coursework when they are not in class.
As for developing college readiness, we have classes that do that already. They’re called Advanced Placement courses. They do a far better job of replicating the rigor of college courses and don’t require students to use seemingly out-of-place apps. And if you think that college is a shift away from textbook based learning, then you are in for a big suprise.
Now look, it’s not that I despise education reform or think that our classes are perfect as they are. But these pointless classes definietly invoke the spirit of the phrase “change for the sake of change”.
It is also very concerning that a school as well funded as ours seems to be expending a great deal of resources for what has amounted to a subpar attempt at reinvigorating the high school curriculum. This is especially worrying when considering how many of our classes are in great need of new textbooks and other supplies.
I hope that the administration will continue to work on new programs, but it is important to remember that the quality of student learning is at stake and that great care should be taken with the substance of new classes and the way in which the administration rolls them out.