Blended Learning Coach Helps EpiC Elementary Develop 21C Learning Strategies

Two decades as a communications and technology educator helped prepare Susan Maynor for a new type of job requiring mastery in both areas.

As the first Blended Learning Coach at EpiC Elementary in Liberty, Missouri, Maynor helps teachers design and evaluate blended learning strategies. The K-5 school opened its doors in 2014, houses 300 students, and uses blended learning to inspire students to "be creative and think big."

EPiC stands for Every Person is Inspired to Create and centers learning on three pillars: Empowering Creativity, Equipping Students and Engaging Communities.

The mother of two wasn't looking for this job when it arrived, but had long been an involved parent in her children's schooling. In fact, the year before EpiC opened, she was on the district's Elementary Innovations Committee. When asked to take a more active role as a coach, Maynor was up for the challenge, she said.

"I'm passionate about transformative learning for everyone. Why limit learning to a textbook, a lecture, or a worksheet when we have access to the world? By leveraging the power of digital tools, digital resources and engaging with experts in our community, all learners can unlock their creativity and find solutions to real problems," Maynor explained.

Maynor had taught in a blended environment before coming to EpiC.

"I first learned about blended learning when I attended a technology conference many years ago. At that time, it was so new, I'm not sure it was even called blended learning. Because I was teaching in a Mac lab at a high school, I immediately latched onto the idea, and spent the next several months redesigning all my classes to be housed on online platforms only, and to be more self-paced," she said.

Blended Learning at EpiC

EPiC is as an incubator school for the district. Many ideas are born and tested in this environment with a scaled, system-wide implementation, Maynor said.

"We utilize a co-teaching model, with two teachers per 50 learners. We also have additional staff to include a principal, administrative support, blended learning coach, special education teachers, and specials (art, music, and physical education) teachers," she added.

Because the school takes such an innovative approach to learning, part of maintaining community support is through consistent communication, she said.

"We constantly take pictures and create videos to share on our different media platforms. We also invite our community for showcase nights, which we have instead of parent-teacher conferences. Over the last three years, we've hosted tours with over 2,000 visitors to our campus, giving us the opportunity to share our story and learn from others," she said.

Access to technology is key to blended learning at EpiC. Each student has and iPad and access to Mac Airs and Mac desktops, which include editing and design software. All teachers have laptops and iPads.

The school building is wi-fi equipped and has wireless data projection systems, Apple TV, and wireless sound cards. The school has a broadcast studio with green screen technology, cameras (point and shoot, HD video), and a 3D printer.

As a Blended Learning Coach, Maynor helps supports all aspects of the school's blended learning program including assessing teaching strategies and encouraging community support.

"My biggest responsibility is to keep us moving forward. I am the third teacher working with small groups of kids. I edit videos for our story. I seek out and build community partnerships and research new technology platforms. I write grants. Whatever it takes," she said.

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