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Continuity of Academics School Reopening Task Force Report June 2020

The KMS program offers a thematic and dynamic curriculum, challenging students to consider their place in the world and their role as global citizens. Utilizing a blended-learning approach, faculty guide students in their pursuit of high-level academics and athletics. Our mission is to “provide a highly individualized program” and “the technological infrastructure to support distance learning.”

Due to the nature of KMS and athletic training/travel, we have been ahead of the curve with regard to online teaching and learning. Best practices have been articulated and include the following: dynamic learning ingredients, guiding standards, and the 4D education model - focus on content, skills, character, and meta-cognition or meta-learning.

KMS offers the gold standard in both theory and practice. We “flex” between in-person classrooms and Google Classrooms due to athletic demands; but also because it is aligned with our educational philosophy. A blended hybrid model is in alignment with constructivist principles. It is student-centered - allowing for choice, independence, relevance, and personal growth. Indeed, “knowledge is not linear, nor is the process of learning. Learning is a journey, not a destination. Each point of view is a temporary intellectual stop along the path of ever-increasing knowledge.” (Brooks and Brooks, 1999)

Now, in the face of a global pandemic, both KMS teachers and students have risen to the challenge. We are excited for the ways in which education is changing for the better. Flexibility and personalization remain the hallmarks of a KMS experience. Learning continues - no matter the time, place, or circumstances. We also recognize that now, more than ever, parents are partners in teaching, and compassion and care for one another is at the center of everything.

The KMS Continuity of Academics Committee views our task as an opportunity for collaboration and creativity to improve our pedagogy. Teachers, parents, and students were surveyed about their experiences with online learning this spring.

Each Academics Task Force member evaluated and articulated KMS blended learning using the following questions:

1.) Should we revise the KMS Standards for Blended Learning?

With the advent of COVID-19 this spring, it became glaringly evident that the world is interconnected. Our lives were radically altered in the span of a few weeks and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Global collaboration and communication are both essential and, thankfully, easier than ever before. In addition, we sharpened our focus on diversity and equity, recognizing inequalities and the need for a sustainable future for all people and the planet. There is, however, more work to be done using the UN Sustainable Development Goals in overall curriculum planning and our grade-level themes, as well as within individual classrooms. It is with these perspectives that our KMS Standards were reevaluated. Using The Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning goals, the global citizenship standard was expanded as follows:

KMS Educators inspire students to become contributing and responsible global citizens:

  • Globally competent students investigate the world beyond their immediate environment. Higher-order analytic skills and research abilities allow students to produce and consume media, develop arguments, and draw defensible conclusions.
  • Globally competent students recognize their own and others’ perspectives. This includes the ability to recognize and express their own perspective, examine perspectives of others, and recognize cultural bias.
  • Globally competent students communicate their ideas effectively with diverse audiences. They reflect on how effective communication affects understanding and collaboration and also recognize how diverse audiences may perceive different meanings from the same information.
  • Globally competent students translate their ideas and findings into appropriate actions to improve conditions. Real-world applicability of knowledge and skills is essential. These types of opportunities may take place within the traditional school environment, in an outside of school environment, or even at the self-direction of a student.

2.) What are KMS online expectations?

Introduction:

Online learning has always been part of the KMS experience. However, the exclusively online learning experience necessitated by COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for both faculty and students to study, refine, and improve our efficacy. What follows are general expectations and guidelines to be applied in situations where students and teachers are not able to meet in person - due to an unexpected situation or those that we plan for on a regular basis such as travel for training and competition.

Motivation:

To succeed at KMS and in online learning means to develop the skills and characteristics that are critical for excellence in college and beyond:

  • Time management/making and following schedules
  • Self-discipline/self-regulation
  • Communication skills/self-advocacy
  • Persistence
  • Resourcefulness
  • Productivity skills/efficiency
  • Strategies for reading retention
  • Strategies for effective writing in the digital media
  • Strategies for information management
  • Knowing when to seek help and being proactive in doing so

Learning Environment:

To the extent possible, create an academic space for yourself that limits distractions and promotes productivity:

  • Put away/turn off your phone and any other unnecessary technology and dedicate your attention to the online classroom.
  • Turn off and/or close social media apps and other browsers that are not relevant to the class.
  • Be in a sitting position (not lying down)
  • Sit at a desk/table where you have space to set up your electronic devices and have room to take notes and display books.
  • Select the quietest space available to you. Avoid areas where others congregate.
  • Though KMS does not want to formally institute an on-line dress code, we do ask you to dress in a way that demonstrates respect for your learning, for your peers, and your teachers.
  • Don’t speak about or share information about others without their knowledge (via side-chats during class or otherwise).
  • Any recordings or images from any class (on-line or otherwise) may not be shared other than for the educational purposes for which they were intended.
  • Be respectful of others (both peers and teachers), their viewpoints, and their identities.
  • Be patient, kind and forgiving. Online learning presents many varied challenges. Approach the online learning environment with resilience and compassion for yourself and others.
  • Come to class with an open mind, curiosity, and an eagerness to learn.

Attendance:

Whether online or in-person, teachers will hold classes following the schedule in effect at the time. That said, there is flexibility in what a “scheduled class” might look like. There may be one-on-one meetings between teachers and traveling students, or regularly scheduled classes. Failure to attend any scheduled learning opportunity without prior agreement with the teacher will be counted as an absence with consequences as outlined in the KMS Student Handbook.

When online learning is solely to accommodate individual absences due to athletic travel, it is incumbent on the student to communicate with the teacher in advance to arrive at reasonable meeting schedules and class expectations to accommodate the expected conditions during the period of travel.

Due Dates and Timeliness:

During periods of online learning, deadlines for regular homework submission will take time zones and other variables into account. For example, if students are attending a class synchronously (live), a teacher may ask them to submit their homework at class time. If students are not attending synchronously, the teacher may ask them to submit their homework before the beginning of the next class meeting or prior to viewing a recording of the class.

It is incumbent upon the student to communicate and discuss in advance with their teachers an inability to meet a deadline and to arrive at a reasonable alternate due date.

Honor Code:

Academic honesty, and everything it entails and affects, applies equally to every learning environment - including online learning. Thus, whether in-person or learning distantly, every KMS student is expected to adhere to the KMS Academic and Online Honor Code.

Working with Parents:

Parents are welcomed and essential partners in the educational process at KMS. Whenever possible, please observe what your child may be struggling with, try to determine why, and discuss what you find with the relevant teacher.

The extent to which parents should help a student with his/her academic work clearly depends on the situation. How much help to give is always a judgment call. That said, the best policy is always to help your child become more resourceful and independent in their learning.

Technology:

It is the responsibility of the student to have the electronic equipment and internet access needed for successful online learning.

  • It is expected that students will set up and test their connections and ability to attend class in its expected format prior to each class. Please do not expect a teacher to interrupt a class to help a student with electronic or connection issues.
  • KMS has a variety of resources available to help resolve electronics and connection issues. If you can not resolve the issue on your own, please contact Chris Bianchi (cbianchi@killingtonmountainschool.org) for suggestions and/or guidance.
  • Unless instructed otherwise, all assignments must be submitted to Google Classroom to be considered completed. In general, if it is not there, it is not done.
  • All assignments not in digital format must be submitted using a digital scanner app (Dropbox, Tiny Scanner, etc.). Pictures of work are often cropped, too dark, too light, at odd angles, or otherwise difficult to read. A scanner app eliminates many of the readability issues and creates a smaller file that is easier to upload to Google Classroom.

3.) How is KMS online learning structured?

  • Teachers will meet with their classes three blocks per week, as in spring 2020. Classes can continue to “flex” to either online, in-person or a hybrid model, depending upon the needs of the teachers and students.
  • Teachers will utilize subject-specific software to assist in delivering content, to differentiate learning, and to maintain student engagement. As always, the goal is for learning to remain dynamic and active instead of passive and predictable.
  • KMS alumni have reported that the flexible and self-directed nature of the KMS learning experience has proven beneficial to their preparedness for higher education. To encourage our current students to likewise take charge of their learning, additional faculty office hours--whether in-person or online--will be structured into schedules so that students can elect to seek out guidance in their learning processes.
  • To enhance both in-person and distance learning, we are investing in more technological resources such as classroom cameras, iPads or physical Jamboards in every classroom. Additionally, departments are utilizing more online resources (online textbooks and/or other curriculum resources).
  • Teaching assistants and/or tutors will be a regular presence in classrooms and study halls to enhance student learning and serve as additional checkpoints to ensure the continuity of academics.
  • Additional “lab” times will be available upon teacher request to allow students to work independently while staying engaged in the learning process.

4.) How is the KMS Google Classroom standardized?

As a G-Suite school, KMS utilizes Google Classroom extensively. This task force has made it possible to codify Google Classroom Tips and Best Practices. This working document will provide a database of resources for both new and veteran teachers. Classroom assignments, assessments, communication, content, navigation, and organization are referenced with links to videos and/or tutorials. This resource has also been shared with the VSLA member listserv.

5.) What are useful online tools?

As noted above, the integration of technology within a student-centered curriculum is an integral aspect of 21st century blended learning. It provides opportunities for our students to become global collaborators, active participants in their learning, innovative decision-makers, and problem-solvers. These are the skills and competencies needed to thrive while at KMS and beyond.

The newly-created KMS Digital Teaching Resources includes a plethora of professional development, education, and social media links; highly recommended online teaching and learning tools; subject-specific resources; as well as games and fun. Constantly updated, this is a valuable addition to the KMS Continuity of Academics report for fall implementation, as well as a long-term reference tool.

6.) How do we successfully engage online students?

Through...

  • Differentiation - Online learning lends itself well to differentiation. Students have the opportunity to “go beyond” or slow down as needed; software and multimedia resources can be customized; there is a focus on skills rather than content; multiple points of personalized contact, feedback, check-ins.
  • Voice and choice - Employ a variety of assessments; with online teaching we had to get creative quickly as the “mood” of the classes depended on what was happening with the pandemic as well as their individual family experiences.
  • Guest speakers - From former alumni to parents and community professionals, this is a great way to generate excitement and discussion among the students. For example, in April, the seniors virtually interviewed KMS alumnus Gabe Robsinson-Leith about what it is like to go from an intimate snow sports academy like KMS to a big university like UBC (where he was in lockdown with his roommates). They engaged in thoughtful discourse and appreciated the opportunity to hear about life after KMS, as well as the thoughts of a college student living through this novel pandemic. World Languages teacher Claudia also regularly uses virtual guest speakers as part of her #educationwithoutborders initiative. Argentinian educator Mario Aveni was a hit guest teacher in Claudia’s Spanish 5 class during lockdown, using Google Earth and other digital platforms to discuss the location and events of the adventure tale, Los Sobrevivientes.
  • Small group work/discussions - Small, rotating group work and projects foster greater engagement.
  • Student teaching - It works wonders online, because the students are generating the questions.
  • “Finding the hook” - Start with a question or provide practical applications/connections to real life. This strategy was successfully utilized in Shayna’s 10th and 12th grade English classes during the spring, when she noticed morale in her classes dropping at the height of the lockdown. Instead of reading novels as planned, she switched gears to more dynamic and personal digital storytelling/interview projects. The seniors conducted interviews of each other and an elder, then uploaded their interviews to StoryCorps Connect, where they will be archived by the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. As an alternative final exam, they then created a website to commemorate their experiences as the KMS Pandemic Class of 2020. Shayna’s 10th graders embarked on a 2020 Mother’s Day Memories project. Selections from their interviews were featured on Vermont Public Radio’s “The Frequency.”

7.) Pedagogy - What are the Essential Objectives?

KMS recognizes the value of in-person, face-to-face, relationship-based learning and acknowledges that online learning is not intended to serve as replacement for but rather a complement to and continuity of learning away from school. Online teaching is a process of risk, experimentation, and creativity where teachers act as facilitators, mediators and advocates, with the end goal of creating a student-centered, inquiry rich and technologically charged learning environment.

The following essential objectives for online learning communicate how faculty will apply digital and experiential instruction when student-athletes are away on training trips and/or in the event of a school closure.

Essential Objectives for online learning: Faculty will...

  • Focus on the most essential standards in the content areas that will support movement to the next grade level as well as reinforce previously taught skills and offer opportunities to deepen learning.
  • Maintain flexibility in curriculum in order to differentiate instruction to support asynchronous and synchronous pedagogy.
  • Create lesson plans that inspire critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity among students.
  • Meet the learning style or needs of all students by providing weekly individualized support blocks and access to resources, including technology and media skills essential to successful outcomes of instruction.
  • Create and enable a culture of continuous feedback, in order to promote student growth.

It has always been the mission statement of the Killington Mountain School to teach students to learn to balance their responsibilities in an environment that includes academics, athletic training, competition and world travel, and to facilitate this dynamic by providing a highly individualized program, skilled teachers and coaches, a dedicated staff and the technological infrastructure to support distance learning. We’ve been doing this for over 40 years. Today, we continue to support our student-athletes with relevant and up-to-date curricula that reflects the latest in pedagogical research and by prudently adapting and responding to the world’s ever-evolving challenges.

Committee Members: Malena Agin, Robert Cavanna, April Hayden, Shayna Miller, Brad Ramsay, Claudia Revenko-Bowen