Carpe Diem: blended learning comes to Indianapolis

As mentioned earlierCarpe Diem Schools is one of the high-performing charter school operators that is expanding to other states. Carpe Diem is based in Yuma, Arizona, but this fall it opened a new school in Indianapolis — Carpe Diem Meridian.

Carpe Diem is known for using a “blended learning” model: its students spend about half their time with teachers and the rest at computers taking online courses. “How Indiana Schools Are Blurring The Lines Between Computer & Classroom”, Kyle Stokes, State Impact (NPR), September 6, 2012.

How does it work?

Aside from its stripped-down, no-frills décor (think of a Chipotle without the burritos), the lower level of Carpe Diem’s brand new school building on North Meridian Street in Indianapolis looks like you’d expect a school to look: There are a handful of classrooms where teachers lead small groups of students in projects.

Upstairs, though, looks very different.

One cavernous room — “the learning center” — makes up much of the upper level at Carpe Diem, lined from end to end with small cubicles. Each cubicle is equipped with a computer screen. At any one time, several dozen students use them to work on lessons, quizzes and tests from an online curriculum.

As they work, a few teachers pace the room, carrying Nook tablets displaying each student’s progress in real time. When a student raises her hand, a teacher steps in to help.

Carpe Diem founder Rick Ogston says the school’s model is designed to allow students to master “textbook” skills upstairs, in the learning center. Then students rotate into classrooms downstairs in 35-minute periods throughout the day to apply that knowledge in projects teachers craft to encourage critical thinking and creativity.

Ogston says data from the online curriculum links the two together, helping teachers craft their lessons and know how far each student has progressed at any one time.

A video clip offers a glimpse: “Fox News Reporting: Fixing Our Schools”, August 15, 2012; see also “Fixing our schools — here are solutions that work”, Juan Williams, Fox News, August 16, 2012.

Carpe Diem has a reputation for helping students succeed, and a reputation for efficiency (low cost per student). What would be the impact if Carpe Diem were to open a campus in San Antonio?

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