Celebrating Student Learning at Brandywine

Celebrating Student Learning at Brandywine

Exploring a blended learning project from start to finish.

Written by Jeff Gerlach on Tuesday, 12 May 2015.

May is #michED month and this week’s theme is to celebrate student learning. With this in mind, I want to highlight some of the great work of Angela Mellott and her students at Brandywine Junior/Senior High School while working on a business plan project.

Angela has done a masterful job of creating blended learning spaces that teach business content knowledge and skills in close proximity to creative spaces that allow students to work on their proposals collaboratively. The capstone of the project was to present their business plans to a panel of area business professionals. Angela centered the design of learning around this authentic interaction, which I think fostered a memorable learning experience for her students.

This week I asked Angela three questions to celebrate the great work that has been done, reflect on how we can improve for next time and openly share our experiences so that others can add their voices to our conversation about blended and/or project-based lesson design.

Jeff: Your students just wrapped up a semester-long business plan project, what was that experience like?

Angela: It was great to see all of their hard work pay off, they were confident with their businesses and felt comfortable with the presentation portion since they practiced over Google Hangout. We practice in class, however having an outside reviewer seemed to be a huge asset this year. Students have researched, developed and designed their own businesses from the ground up and it was great to see the excitement and pride in their ownership. Throughout the semester, there were times in which the students were not motivated to work on their plans so we would switch topics and return after a brief break. Once the project was completed, they were able to add supplements such as business cards, flyers, postcards, engraved pens and even baked goods (for the student with a bakery) which allowed them to be creative.

J: The culminating event was for the students to present their business ideas at LMC- Entrepreneurship Day to a panel of area business professionals. How did students prepare? How did they do? What kind of feedback have you gotten from students on the whole process?

A: All business plans were submitted to the college before we left for Spring Break (end of March). When we returned from break I had the students create a Google Slides presentation over their actual company. In advance of their presentations at LMC-Entrepreneurship, I wanted to give them the opportunity to practice. We took time to peer review and you were able to connect with students through Google Hangouts to listen and provide feedback to enhance their presentations as well. Overall, I was very pleased and impressed with my students. They worked hard and were somewhat nervous presenting but they accomplished the ending goal which was to present their projects with confidence and to “sell” their business venture. When we returned from the trip, I had students fill out evaluation forms on the sessions that they attended, how they felt the day went and advice for next year's students. In the next week or two I should be receiving the evaluation rubrics from the business panel which will aid in my preparation for next year’s entrepreneurs.

J: Reflecting on the whole experience: What aspects of your project-based design were particularly exciting for you this year? What are some things you might do differently next year?

A: Having all of the student materials online in our classroom community made it an easy transition for students as they developed the next stage of their business. Providing them with a checklist and a weekly guide as to what parts of the plans they should be doing was beneficial to keep them moving forward.

Most exciting part was when I realized that no matter which learning environment they are in, the students are productive and continue to produce quality work no matter where the location. Allowing the flexibility with the blended environment provides for a unique learning atmosphere where students are in charge of their learning and the confidence to complete the tasks at hand.

Next year, I would change a few things on my end in the course overall such as opening up modules for those students who chose to work ahead, having several checkpoints where I meet individually with the students and discuss their progress with them and utilizing new technology tools.

About the Author

Jeff Gerlach

Jeff Gerlach

Jeff Gerlach (@JGer1) is an instructional design coach for Michigan Virtual University. He works with teachers to design blended learning experiences for students through presentations, school partnerships, online courses and 1:1 coaching. He holds a master's degree in educational technology from Michigan State and has experience as a face-to-face teacher in the metro Detroit area where he blended his classroom for six school years.

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