Open Sky Education Offers Microschools Beginning Fall 2021
At Open Sky Education, we believe that all children are created equal, each with great value and a unique potential to fulfill a Greater Purpose. We believe that an essential catalyst for reaching this potential is a full and lasting education. We also believe that a full and lasting education should be accessible and affordable for all. To advance these beliefs, we must continue exploring and leveraging emerging opportunities to create learning environments that provide high-quality academics, character formation, and faith faith-forming opportunities.
Many of the limitations of traditional school models create several opportunities as Open Sky Education explores new models and opportunuties:
1) The needs of many students are going unmet by the traditional, one-size-fits-all approach to education.
2) The current models focus on compliance as a critical driver of the model. For many students, this promotes stress over curiosity.
3) In many cases, teachers, parents, and students’ voices are not being heard.
About the Microschools
Personalized, learner-centered models see children as whole human beings with unique God-given identities. Our vision for a new form of learning includes a deep focus on faith and character formation, ensuring a Biblical worldview is central to all aspects of the learning approach.
- We will champion a more holistic view of education as the formation of people in preparation to live flourishing lives and serve a greater purpose.
- We will have a deep focus on creating character-driven, self-directed learners who understand their identity and purpose. Self-directed learning allows the learner to take ownership of the learning process according to their developmental needs. The learner will have voice and choice in the learning model.
- Student Agency means empowerment. We believe in giving students the power to act on their learning. Student voices often get lost in large systems, but in microschools, we think we can “raise the bar” on student engagement in the learning process.
- Technology will serve as both a catalyst and an accelerator of learning in our models. Even if students are not consistently using technology tools in the classroom, we see that technology infrastructure will need to provide critical support to the Learning Guides, parents, and students.
- We will provide powerful learning experiences that present meaningful learning challenges, ignite curiosity in a supportive culture.
Distinctive Education Model Features
Mass customization: Each site will be uniquely customizable based upon its context and the strategies and resources chosen for use at their site and connected to a common educational platform. Using a common platform will allow the model to be more cost-effective, minimize administration costs, and maximize the percentage of funds spent on classroom teaching and learning, and the ability to share ideas and solutions across a continuously growing network
By leveraging the benefits of scale, including cost efficiencies, consistent quality, and results, and the benefits of a small, highly flexible learning environment, the model can focus on the individual students’ needs:
- Intentionally small and student-centered
- Nimble and responsive to change
- Distinctive learning pathway options
- Applications in existing schools or new school starts
- Options for competency-based learning with a focus on rigor and relevancy
Full and Lasting Education: While each Open Sky-enabled microschool will have its own unique identity, all microschools within the Open Sky Education network will provide learning opportunities related to strong academics, character formation, and Christian faith formation.
Progressive use: The infrastructure will allow microschool leaders to provide families the option to use the school as a full-service school (all day on-campus learning for the entire school year) or to unbundle services and select only portions of the microschool’s services while the family provides other aspects of the child’s learning experience. (This will be a critical feature to serve the home school and ESA markets.)
Role of teacher: The microschool model will begin with reimagining a traditional school teacher’s role. We will look at the various dimensions of a teacher’s role, determine which must be fulfilled by the on-site teacher, and then integrate external resources to fill in the remaining parts. Our goal will be to optimize teacher time on what on-site teachers (learning guides) do best and augment with external resources for what those resources and experiences can do best.
“Macro home school” rather than “Micro traditional school”: Rather than starting with the design of a traditional school and then working to shrink that down to a “micro” setting, we will begin by studying the homeschooling sector. We will then create a multi-family model that is as close to the homeschool model as possible while serving children from multiple families with a single teacher.
Continual feedback loops for improvement: To accelerate the potential for learning and improvement at all levels (teacher, site, network), we will collect many forms of data which will be aggregated and measured regularly, then shared with key stakeholders for their learning and continuous improvement. This data will also help assess best practices and resources to rise to the top and be replicated by others. Additionally, the data dashboards will provide parents unprecedented information about their child’s learning progress to ensure a seamless partnership between the microschool teacher and parents on their shared journey to support the student’s learning and growth.
Expandable: The microschool model is designed to be able to scale down to the size of 1 in a home school setting, 10-12 in a parent pod, 25 to 40 in a single microschool, or could serve hundreds of children on a shared site by combining multiple microschools on one campus.
Embedded: The microschool model is also a set of infrastructure and pedagogy that can be embedded into an existing school setting.
As we continue to build on our microschools concept, please visit this webpage for updates and new information. If you wish to connect with us today, please email us.
The Open Sky Microschools Learning Approach (PDF of content above)
Dr. Bernard Bull currently serves as President of Goddard College and is President Elect at Concordia University Nebraska. Previously, he served as a professor of education, Chief Innovation Officer, and Associate Vice President of Curriculum and Innovation at Concordia University Wisconsin.
His work focuses on mission-minded innovation, futures and forecasting in education, the intersection of digital culture and education, and emerging models of Christian education. He has served as a consultant for a wide range of organizations over the years, including public and private alternative schools; faith-based K-12 and higher education schools; state universities; think thanks; professional associations in accounting, dentistry, and education; publishing houses; and education startups.
Bernard is author, editor, and co-author of a number of books, including: Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration in Educational Innovation, The Pedagogy of Faith, Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology, What Really Matters: Critical Issues in Education, Adventures in Self-Directed Learning, Imagine the Possibilities: Conversations on the Future of Christian Education, Prep Talks: Tales of Challenges and Opportunities in Christian Education, and Breathe: A Vision and Framework for Human-Centered Learning Environments.
Erik Ellefsen has served in education for over 20 years as a teacher, coach, consultant, Grievance Chairman for the American Federation of Teachers, Dean of Academics at Boston Trinity Academy, and as Principal at Chicago Christian High School. He currently serves as an Academic and College Counselor at Valley Christian High School (San Jose, CA), a Senior Fellow for CACE, a Senior Fellow for Cardus, podcaster for Digital Education, collaborator in the MindShift project, and board member at Pacific Bay Christian School.