By Lauren Dawes, Head of mLearning at GSMA in London
This guest post originally appeared in GSMA’s mLearning Blog.
Stepping slightly out of the mobile learning space this week, the mLearning Programme was fortunate enough to attend an exciting event hosted by The After-School Corporation (TASC) and brilliantly facilitated by VitalWave Consulting. The two-day intense brainstorming workshop was centred around expanded learning programmes, leveraging the most out the ‘traditional school day’ and envisioning what the ideal or reformed day might look like for students in order to get the most out of their time spent learning.
Also attending the event was the inspirational Principal of Young Scholars’ Academy for Discovery and Exploration (YSADE), a previously failing school in the Brooklyn area of Bedford-Stuyvesant, NY. In 2008, Principal Danika LaCroix took over, determined to create a school that was based not just on academic performance, but a supportive community and a place of mentoring where children learned social and emotional skills in a nurturing environment. And she is succeeding. In the past four progress reports (a complex grading system for the more than 1,700 schools in New York), YSADE has scored an A. Not only is LaCroix’s school against the odds of being a previously failing institution, 10 local shelters feed into YSADE, bringing challenges of unsettled family lives and transiency. However, through her ‘open door’ policy, which encourages parents involvement with daily planners for each student that are updated with comments and homework, LaCroix has minimised student and staff turnaround.
The moment you walk into YSADE, you can feel the warmth and vibrancy. Students’ work hangs proudly from every hallway wall and within each classroom. The buzz off enthusiastic children filters down the hall, led by passionate and engaging teachers. LaCroix ensured that the teacher recruitment process was as much as about a love for children and teaching as it was the qualification to do so. And the day doesn’t end when the school bell goes off. A large part of the success of YSADE has been its enriched learning programme, ExpandED, which was implemented with the assistance of TASC. The activities in the Expanded Learning Time (ELT) programme are designed to enhance the students’ school-day lessons. By lifting the limits off the out-dated school calendar and providing about three more learning hours per day than the typical public school, the ELT programme promises students a more individualised, balanced and relevant education. “If the students are learning about bridges during the day,” LaCroix said, “after school they will be building bridges with tongue depressors.” The extra time enables teachers to include more interactive activities that they may not have had time for during regular school hours and the kids love it, as confirmed by Nia, a young student who claimed that she loved her school day!
Whilst LaCroix claims her success is down to the support she received throughout her career, she is strong, passionate and driven and without these qualities would not have seen the success she has. So on World Teachers’ Day, the mLearning team would like to highlight the truly inspiring hard work she continues to do in order to provide her 209 school children with a platform for a promising future.