NORTHAMPTON, MA – Many young people who are involved with Department of Youth Services (DYS), the state’s juvenile justice system, have been challenged by traditional teaching approaches used in their previous school settings. But there may be a powerful way to increase their engagement and accelerate their learning, using blended learning – online learning combined with face-to-face instruction.
Thanks to a new initiative spearheaded by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS), educators in selected DYS schools will be trained in how to use free and low-cost educational technologies. CEEAS is a national organization committed to helping alternative schools implement transformational, student-focused practices that improve the lives of students they serve.
The Massachusetts DYS and their educational partners, the Collaborative for Educational Services (CES) and Commonwealth Corporation, were selected by CEEAS to join five other states and Los Angeles County in the “Unjammed Initiative.”
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to learn to use these technologies and techniques to personalize learning for our students,” said Woody Clift, Director of the DYS Educational Program at CES, which is based in Northampton.
Blended learning offers students more control over when and where they learn, as well as the pace of their studies. Some of the techniques that can be used include:
- Developing digital portfolios of students’ work
- Providing opportunities for collaboration among students (using wikis)
- Extending learning beyond the classroom (using tablets)
- Increasing participation in post-secondary learning through online courses.
This coming summer, a team of DYS teachers, administrators, and residential staff will participate in the four-day Unjammed Technology Camp, where they will learn how to use blended learning technologies. According to Clift, their classrooms will become “learning labs” when they return, so that other teachers throughout the DYS educational system can learn about and ultimately integrate these tools into their own teaching practice.
While the program will be implemented in schools within four DYS facilities in the first year, Clift hopes that with continued technical assistance through Unjammed, blended learning “will blossom throughout the DYS educational system across Massachusetts.” In addition to improving teacher skills in using new technologies to personalize education in DYS, the initiative will identify solutions to security concerns surrounding the use of the internet in DYS schools.
For more information about CES’s educational programs at DYS, please visit: http://www.collaborative.org/programs/dys