The 2017-2018 school year has been a groundbreaking experience for our students, teachers and parents. Not only did we launch our middle school at Yeshivat He’Atid, we introduced the Summit Platform to our fifth and sixth grade students. The Summit Platform was selected because it embodies the mission of our Middle School program; it incorporates personalized learning time, it builds habits of success (possibly a blog post for another time) and it helps students grow into independent and self-directed learners. After attending some training sessions which highlighted the ‘ins and outs’ of the Summit Platform, we were ready (or so we thought) for this amazing journey towards independence.

For the first few weeks of the school year, we spent our Personalized Learning Time (PLT) ‘onboarding’ students and getting them familiar with the platform. We explored Summit together, previewing some of the focus areas, creating the norms for PLT and discussing the notion of self-directed learning. After spending a considerable amount of time preparing ourselves and the students, it seemed like we were ready to begin the adventure.

Getting the students to ’buy in’ to Summit was not too much of a challenge. They enjoy having the opportunity to direct their own learning and like the fact that Summit is technology-based. However, the parents of our middle schoolers had a much harder time understanding how the platform works. Several of them believed that the students spent their entire day on a device and that all teaching and learning took place online. For Back to School Night, my colleagues and I tried to explain the Summit Platform to our parent body. However, our initial presentation focused too much on the terminology used throughout the platform (i.e. power focus areas, additional focus areas, content assessments, projects, and goal setting to name a few). We did not provide enough information about the content being taught in each class nor did we explain what PLT looks like for students and teachers. I sensed that several parents left BTSN with more questions than answers.

Since our first presentation did not do justice to the Summit Platform, we invited our parents back for a second evening (with their child) to access the platform together. For this presentation, we asked our parents to log into Summit and navigate the platform alongside their child. We looked at the platform together, searched the focus areas together and previewed some of the projects together. This hands-on presentation allowed the parents to experience Summit firsthand; they were able to see how their own child was progressing while exploring the rich content and resources that are available to support student learning. After that evening, it seemed like the parents had a better understanding of the platform and were excited for the learning opportunities it presented.

Our journey with Summit has only just begun. There have been moments of great excitement and moments of confusion and frustration. We have taken many steps forward, but we have also had our missteps along the way. Future blogs will continue to shed light on the successes and setbacks that have come with the integration of the Summit Platform.