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Peak Charter Academy Students Get Best of Both Worlds with Online, In-Person Learning Strategies

From the advent of the computer to the introduction of the Internet, the classroom has changed in numerous ways. And it never changed more dramatically than when the classroom became fully online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
After several years of embracing teaching in-person and online simultaneously, Peak Charter Academy is now limiting time spent on laptops and getting back to the fundamentals of in-person education.

Students working in hallway.
 
Peak Executive Principal Steve Pond shared that teachers will be keeping laptop usage to 15 minutes per class period, but with every rule comes a few exceptions. Scholars will be able to use their laptops in class for online assessments and for activities previously approved by Pond or his deans.

Students working on laptop.
 
“Technology was driving everything, and one of my philosophies has always been that technology should support learning, not drive it. The reliance on technology continued in the last year because it was a new norm, and we didn't like it.
 
“We really wanted to get people away from the trend of coming into class and immediately going electronic.”
 
While they aren’t the first thing scholars see in class anymore, online programs still play an integral role in enhancing student learning at Peak. Two of the biggest tools in the bag for all National Heritage Academies’ (NHA) partner-schools are Dreambox and Lexia. Dreambox is a tool for scholars to hone math skills and Lexia is used for students to sharpen language arts abilities. These applications are being used to replace the stereotypical homework routine.
 
Scholars at Peak complete their homework via Dreambox and Lexia and are graded on completion. The work done is then evaluated to identify where scholars are struggling and how teachers can support their students’ needs. It’s this kind of support that has helped Peak outperform the local district in all subjects.
 
With a variety of age groups at Peak, Pond and his leadership team face different needs from all age groups. For scholars who were in earlier grades during the pandemic, handwriting skills declined without in-person learning. The biggest challenge was getting current middle schoolers detached from their devices.
 
“That became their contact and that became their social and emotional connection with their peers, especially when they weren't able to be with others during the pandemic,” Pond said.

Students working without technology. 
Now that the classroom is full and school looks more familiar for students and teachers alike, the balance between in-person learning and online education will be easier to find. That means scholars at Peak will be engaging more in-person while also taking advantage of the unique benefits virtual resources can provide.
 
Through the entire hybrid learning experience, Pond thinks the quality of the technology and the tools used for learning improved. Striking a perfect balance of in-person and online learning isn’t such a daunting task anymore.
 
“We do have high-quality things,” Pond said. “We've got amazing folks in Curriculum and Instruction at NHA that have worked not only for printed materials but online resources, and we can provide the best resources to our kids. It needs to be high-quality, engaging, interactive teaching using those high-quality tools, and using technology to support in-person instruction and online.”

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About Peak Charter Academy
Peak Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Apex, North Carolina, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.

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