Three different models of the integrated online classroom are examined and evaluated in this study. All three models utilize the PowerSchool Learning platform (formerly Haiku Learning). The study compares and contrasts the models, highlighting the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Three Models of the Integrated Online Classroom
In the 2017-2018 academic year, three different models of the integrated online classroom were utilized in Yeshivat Kadimah High School in St. Louis, MO. This study seeks to compare and contrast the three models.
All three models utilized the PowerSchool Learning Platform (formerly Haiku Learning). The platform allows teachers to create online classrooms, and organize these classrooms by pages. The platform also provides numerous assessment tools (e.g. Discussion Boards, Online Polls, Practice Quizzes, Exams, etc.), in addition to allowing easy integration of other tools widely available online (e.g. embedded video screencasts, Quizlet, etc.). The three models made different use of the tools available online, and compared and contrasted the results.
The three classes in which the models were utilized were Gemara, Halacha, and Navi. In Gemara, the content available online was plentiful. Students had easy access to vocabulary flashcards, practice quizzes, and screencasts of the Gemara being read. However, when the Gemara text itself was being taught students used hard copies of the Gemara, and generally did not use their Chromebooks. The fact that much of the material was available online did not have a measurable negative impact on the students desire to participate and learn during class. Students took notes inside their Gemaras, and made limited use of their laptops during class time. Students did use laptops for note-taking when notes were written on the board. All students in this class preferred taking notes on their laptops, rather than with pen and paper. Though students participated actively in class, it was noted that students used the online content extensively on their own time. The content was used to practice reading skills, review vocabulary, and study using practice exams. Students also noted that the availability of content online made the learning experience in the classroom more enjoyable. This was due to the fact that it allowed students to learn with the knowledge that much of the important information was easily accessible online for review later.
In Halacha, all content – including the text being studied – was available on the online learning platform. This resulted in students using their laptops through the entire duration of the class, even when the text was being taught. Although practice exams were available online for this class, there were no screencasts or vocabulary lists available. Two drawbacks were noted in this model. First, Chromebooks were distracting to many students at times that the text was being taught. Second, students noted that it was difficult to take notes and follow along with the text simultaneously, since the same Chromebook was being used for both activities. Indeed, some students noted that a greater abundance of online content in the halacha class could have lessened the need for notes, and may have alleviated this second drawback somewhat. Students did note that having the text available online provided a significant organizational advantage.
Finally, in the Navi class the learning platform was essentially used only for practice quizzes and exams. Hard copies of the Navi were used when learning the text, and notes were taken frequently by about 40% of the students. It should be noted that Navi was the only class in which a significant number of students opted to take notes by paper and pen. This is likely due to a combination of two factors. First, the online platform was used in a very limited fashion in this class. Second, using Chromebooks to take notes was more difficult in this class since learning was being done directly from the Navi itself.
The results of the study indicate that the online learning platform is best utilized when it compliments but does not dominate classroom teaching. Providing students with an abundance of online content can increase classroom participation, so long as Chromebooks are not in use during textual learning time.
This video screencast presents and analyzes all three models of the Integrated Online Classroom as described above. This video is a screencast reading of Gemara that was embedded into the PowerSchool platform for the Gemara class mentioned above.
Rabbi Daniel Freund is a teacher and the Assistant Principal at Yeshivat Kadimah High School in St Louis, MO. He has taught Talmud, Tanach, and Halacha at the high school level for more than 10 years. Rabbi Freund also holds a Masters degree in Educational Leadership and is an Adjunct Professor at Bellevue University.