Where to Now? Trustees Examine Digital Innovation in Education

With representatives from the Stanford Online High School (OHS) joining the Andover trustees on campus, this year’s Winter Trustees Weekend focused on developing innovative teaching methods for the digital age.

The representatives spoke to the trustees about online classroom dynamics, diverse learning styles and the importance of creating a sense of community among faculty and students. Stanford OHS offers online courses for students in grades seven through 12 from all around the globe, with classes conducted using web-based video technology, according to an Andover press release.

“The significance of having [representatives from Stanford OHS] here is that we’re just really curious to know what else is out there in the education-land. It’s an incredibly active, exciting place right now, people are looking at alternatives, and technology makes new approaches available to people,” said Nancy Jeton, Special Assistant to the Head of School.

“However, technology is but a tool, and as we seek to find the best ways to teach and learn, we want to learn what kind of tools people are using and how they are using them. It’s a great question to know what impact any of this will have here; the trustees, along with faculty, are engaged in that kind of thinking right now,” she continued.

Peter Currie ’74, President of the Board of Trustees, said, “It’s interesting and it’s important for us to learn about what they are doing. The fear I had was that this would be viewed as the Trustees overemphasizing technology. And, in fact, what we heard was that it is the emphasis on community and teachers that matters most.”

Caroline Nolan, Director of the Andover Institute, also led a discussion on innovation and pedagogy, presenting the sustainable operating model she has been developing over the past three months in front of the Trustees, the Academic Council and members of the Strategic Planning Task Force. The Andover Institute, still in its “silent stage,” is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2014.

“[Nolan] is in the process of setting up this Institute, and it is an idea that is still in the planning mode. It will be a space where different kinds of innovation, investigation and administration of teaching innovation happens. For example, all of the global programs that we have will be clustered and administered there,” said Jeton.

Trustees also directly communicated with the student body by participating in a discussion co-hosted by Trustee and Student Council leaders on Saturday morning. Students had the opportunity to voice their ideas on the strategic planning process. The conversations centered on two key questions: “How can we move ourselves closer to learning and away from grades?” and “What would a great mentoring program, between faculty and students, look like?”

“We try to get situations where Trustees have face time with different members of the community. So this weekend, they were able to be joined by members of the Academic Council, faculty members of strategic planning task force and students. That’s normal, but what’s different was the kind of topics that they engaged in,” said Jeton.

Larry Muench, Director of Facilities, updated the Board of Trustees on the major construction and renovation plans on campus, including a report on the Sykes Wellness Center, which is nearing the end of its design phase. Groundbreaking for the new health center is expected to take place in September if the Trustees vote to release the project for construction in May. Muench also reported that a solar array will be installed on the ice arena, which will cover nearly the entire roof and will provide 35 to 40 percent of the rink’s electricity. The project will begin this spring.

The Stanford team came to campus at the invitation of Chien Lee ’71, the Chair of the Board of Trustee’s Education Committee, according to the press release.