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Haines Elementary Technology Grant Paves Way for New Approach to Learning

By Casey Cora | May 1, 2014 7:53am
 Students at Haines Elementary school participate in a field trip to Argonne National Laboratory to learn about prairie restoration, part of a "blended learning" project.
Students at Haines Elementary school participate in a field trip to Argonne National Laboratory to learn about prairie restoration, part of a "blended learning" project.
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Haines School

CHINATOWN — A neighborhood elementary school is among seven Chicago schools to receive grant money that aims to change the way students are taught.

Haines Elementary, 247 W. 23rd Place, will get $100,000 in grant money to implement a new “blended learning" framework at the Chinatown school.

The model combines the traditional teacher-in-front-of-the classroom approach with one that puts students in front of computers to work at their own pace as a computer program keeps track of progress.

Haines Principal Ginger Lumpkin said the new model would change the way students learn in three key ways: It allows teachers to “pinpoint” and correct problem areas based on data; students engage in “real life” projects with teachers; and it gives students more choices about how they learn.

“What it does is it just really elevates learning. A nontraditional classroom setting, we’ve found, is really beneficial to students,” she said.

The grants were announced Tuesday by Breakthrough Schools, a regional pilot program that partnered with three other groups — the national Next Generation Learning Challenges and Chicago’s LEAP Innovations and the The Chicago Public Education Fund.

How schools use the grant money is up to them, a Breakthrough Schools spokeswoman said.

At Wildwood Elementary School in Edgebrook, for example, some students used video editing software to complete their “real life” project, while others are making everything from cosmetics to compost systems, WBEZ reported.

At Haines, Lumpkin said some of the money would be used to train teachers and increase the number of tablets and computers available to students.

“Now we won’t have to depend on teachers sharing and they’ll have more autonomy on how to structure blending learning in the classroom … teachers will have the ability to use the technology flexibly,” Lumpkin said.

The $100,000 grant will be an expansion of a grant-funded pilot program already underway for seventh-graders at Haines, which offers project-based learning lessons centered on environmentalism.

The blended learning method will be rolled out through the entire school by 2015.

Other recipients of the grant money include Wildwood Elementary, Cesar Chavez Multicultural Academy Center in Back of the Yards, Chicago Academy High School in Dunning, Chicago International Charter School in West Belden, the yet-to-open Great Lakes Academy Charter School in South Shore and a school in the KIPP Chicago Public Charter School network.

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