The iShine Student Center is a bright, engaging, stimulus-rich environment. Our students identify it as a safe-to-risk space that is “the happiest place on earth.” We have bright, dedicated teachers who believe it is their responsibility to discover the gifts in each child.
The mission of the iShine Student Center is to create a learning environment that enables students to become self-motivated, self-directed, competent and enthusiastic life-long learners who respect democratic principles and the freedom they enjoy, who celebrate diversity and practice tolerance, who believe in the profound capacity of each person and are willing to serve those in need, who build intellectual and emotional intelligence, who demonstrate critical thinking and depth of understanding, who have passion and capacity for innovation and who work to create a vibrant and sustainable future for themselves and for the world.
Our mission is to create a learning center that is a model for personalized learning. This will require a new vision, new methods and new infrastructures.
The vision of the iShine Student Center is to realize the uniqueness and potential in each child, to evoke extraordinary capacities, to nurture and inspire the hearts and minds of all learners, to activate the will to serve, to invite parents and the greater community as partners, to research and demonstrate the beliefs, environments and practices that optimize learning and transform the structure of schooling itself.
Traditional Structures Based on Conformity
The traditional structure of schooling has been based on an assembly-line approach to schooling, with predetermined, “one-size fits all” curriculum based on grade level expectations. In this traditional approach, teachers lectured to rows of students who were held accountable for textbook exams and big-stake tests. Graduation based on seat-time credit held “time” as the constant and “true learning” as a variable. This paradigm has led to individual and system-wide underachievement.
Each Child is Unique
A more exciting model, personalized learning, involves the understanding that each learner is fundamentally unique. This model holds that children come to the learning experience with different minds, different abilities, different developmental levels, different intelligences, different human dynamics, different personalities, different thinking strategies, different learning styles, different interests, different brain- dominance, different life-experiences, different body-clocks, different life-goals, different motivation and more. This uniqueness demands alternative approaches for every element of the learning experience.
Need to Know Each Child
As we personalize learning, we are called upon to truly know each learner and to collaborate with them in creating learning experiences that meet their personal needs and desires. This knowledge can come from inquiry, interviews, surveys, observations, narratives, review of work, conversations with family members and more. When we discover unique preference and needs, we must vary the presentations, pacing, sequencing, modalities, environment, timing of assignments, assessments, environment, and resources.
Students set goals that will enable them to meet rigorous Common Core and State Standards as well as personal goals. They, then, assist in choosing learning strategies will allow them to meet these goals. We are working to create self-directed learners in a learning-rich environment with mentors, resources and a structure of enabling success.
New Roles for Teachers
Personalized learning calls for a new role for teachers. In this model they must be designers of learning environments where differing needs for quiet, collaboration, research, technology and presentations are all available. They must design curriculum and provide opportunities for students to design curriculum that meets many developmental levels, and various learning styles, intelligences, and interests. This includes learning centers and project-based assignments that are relevant, authentic and student-driven. It calls for a willingness to become a co-learner. Textbooks are replaced by more primary sources and the opportunity to research, often digitally. Teachers are guides and collaborators in a learning environment where students set goals, cooperate in the creation of rubrics and other assessments, and are truly engaged because there is choice and a matching of interests, abilities, learning styles and challenge.
Zone of Proximal Development
In the zone of proximal development, students have a mentor and strategies that encourage intrinsic motivation. The demand made by personalization is genuine flexibility where learning is anytime and anywhere. We are learning that even the sequence of learning tasks toward understanding in any discipline is unique and should not be dictated by a teacher or a published curriculum.
Personalization is performance-based; students continually assess their own competency toward mastery. Responsibility for a learning map of goals in content, process and product moves from teacher to student.
Technology Assists in Creating a School of One
Technology is important as each student can access resources, research, assessments, creative design and connections to many teachers. This is motivational. Students are not idle receivers of information but are active producers and this creates deep learning, where important inquiry allows students to make meaning.
Beyond differentiation, true personalization is more than altering content, process and product. As we vary every element in education to truly respect the uniqueness of each learner, we create a “School of One.” Students sense that they matter. They learn to initiate, to set goals, to check progress, to understand.
At iShine Student Center we are creating a student-centered environment that celebrates diversity in a learning culture. Leadership emerges organically.
Personal Assessment Without Grades
We do not grade students; students are continually doing personal assessments without the judgment inherent in the traditional educational grading system. Students can concentrate on learning without sacrificing self-efficacy. This encourages exploration, discovery of self and world, adventure, intrinsic motivation and a genuine passion for learning.
A New Model
Personalizing learning for each student is, at the simplest level, a willingness to see and know each student and to plan with that ONE in mind. It calls for openness, transparency, empathy, a love of learning, an inventive spirit. This calls for a model, never experienced by most teachers, administrators or parents. This is an invitation to reinvent the learning environment, the role of teacher and student, deepening the notion of meaning and the multiplicity of learning resources. Teachers and parents need new developmental opportunities as they move to this new model.
Learning Centers and Mentors
Classrooms give way to learning centers where open areas invite alternative learning and teachers serve as mentors and co-learners instead of information disseminators.
iShine’s Innovative Approach to Personalize Learning
iShine has as its fundamental philosophy the importance of the uniqueness of each child and the underlying urgency of revolutionizing schooling through personalization.
Five of our staff are involved in action research and a certification process which enables them to become personalized-learning mentors. They are implementing alternative approaches to increase personalization opportunities.
iShine staff will travel to and work with other leaders in the personalizing education movement. We are communicating with other national and international educational sites involved in personalization projects in an effort to learn about best practices.
iShine’s project-based strategies, frequent and authentic assessments, learning centers, technology, enrichment labs, emphasis on intrinsic motivation and other theories into practice have already been a part of our offering through the last few years. We will seek to improve these strategic models as we improve efforts to personalize.
iShine offers iLearn, a class that emphasizes learning to learn. Students study their own learning styles, intelligences, personality, set goals, learn about neurological breakthroughs in learning, study the impact of nutrition on learning and complete independent projects. This course is unique in education and very essential as we create student-centered educational models.
At iShine, we believe personalized learning will fundamentally alter education and are grateful to be pioneers in this effort.
The Community is the Classroom
The staff of the iShine Student Center believes that the community is an extended classroom. We operationalize this by taking field trips to experience learning in places and with people that can teach us experientially and with authentic demonstration.
We also ask community “experts” to share their expertise by presenting theories and practices to us, as personal coaches, mentors, speakers, planners and more. This includes internships where students shadow professionals and learn skills in real time work.
Donations of Time, Talent and Resources
We also ask the community to partner with us by offering us in-kind support to enable us to do what we normally could not do with our limited resources. This includes donating time, talent and resources to us.
In addition we encourage volunteers to assist us. If you are an artist, musician, writer, photographer, architect, poet, traveler and love to share your skills, the Center welcomes your gifts. If you understand construction, have building skills, love to paint, can fix things, have office skills, we can utilize your gifts. If you love children’s literature, are skilled at technology, love to read and be read to, let us know. You can mentor a child, lead a project, help with a field trip, and join a growing number of dedicated parents who partner with iShine to bring dynamic opportunities to children. Contact us with your ideas and your schedule.
Parent Organization Membership
Parents and community members also have opportunities to take leadership positions that foster communication, assist with research efforts, participate in special events, lead fundraising drives and promote iShine Student Center’s vision. Parents are invited to join our parent organization titled Pi- Parents involved.
Community Service Projects
We also emphasize the importance of community service for our children. Students select local, national and international community service projects. The lessons are deep as students see they can make a difference in the world. Gratitude, social responsibility, empathy, compassion and leadership are but a few of the important lessons.
At iShine we provide workshops to help you teach, discipline, encourage and inspire your child. We provide classes that enhance your knowledge of learning styles, multiple intelligences, self-directed learning, math strategies, reading techniques, positive discipline, brain research, study strategies, encouragement techniques, communication hints for living with preteens/teenagers, the art of communication and more.
In addition, we offer classes that are created to help you live at your own creative edge. Nurturing, inspiring and extending your talents is exciting and important. Check our calendar for Adult Workshops and RSVP if you are interested.
The Mosaic Program at iShine Student Center is based on leading-edge research on learning. Our personalized learning program emphasizes innovation, project-based learning, integration of the arts, inquiry and the importance of social-emotional well- being for students, staff, parents and the greater community. We are continuously demonstrating the power of respect and kindness.
Innovative Brain-friendly Primary Program
Students in the primary grades learn in a dynamic and balanced literacy program. They participate in multi-modal learning centers emphasizing the importance of choice and unique learning preferences. Students read, with their teachers, daily. They write in journals, sing about key concepts and move to activate their minds and bodies. They use math manipulatives, participate in hands-on-science, play cooperative games and draw and paint to activate the artist within. Students work beyond the State Standards and Common Core as they evidence the power of personalized, self-directed learning. In our team-teaching model, students have a homeroom teacher working with them on literacy and math and then participate in classes in science, art, social studies, physical education and learning-to-learn with primary teachers who specialize in these disciplines.
Expert Mentor Model Intermediate Program
Students in grades 4-8 have a homeroom teacher that serves as a mentor/coach. They collaborate on the creation of a personal learning map, again encouraging self-directed learning. In addition to the homeroom teacher, students have classes with team teacher/mentors who teach reading, writing, social studies, science and our learning- to-learn class. Teachers are specializing in subjects about which they are passionate. Students not only learn the knowledge and skills of the disciplines, they learn independence and self-initiative as they gain in self-esteem and self-efficacy, all in an atmosphere of contagious enthusiasm for both the discipline and the learning experience itself.
On each Thursday afternoon, students select two exploratory “labs” that interest and excite them. Each class is one hour and lasts for at least four weeks. Some of the classes include: drawing, painting, artistic design, strategic games, vocal music, musical theater, acting, sewing, fitness, creative writing, poetry, speech, debate, Lego design, digital production, comedy club, paper architecture, hands-on science, mask- making, knitting and more. These elective labs build skills and encourage the recognition of interests and talents that make learning come alive for each individual. This lab schedule enhances integration of the arts. Students present of their new knowledge to classmates and participate in exhibitions for parents and the greater community.
Parent Volunteers Appreciated
Believing it takes a village to raise a child, we enthusiastically invite parents to participate, and therefore, have many volunteers throughout our site. This means the ratio of student to mentor can be lower. With the help of volunteers, business leaders and staff, we take field trips, do field studies and enlarge the classroom to include the community.
Student Leadership Opportunities
We offer students leadership opportunities including student government, community service and entrepreneurial projects and internships.
Passion to Learn Evident
While we are rigorous with our expectations to meet and exceed Common Core goals, we do so in ways that allow each child to discover a passion to learn.
Other Areas that Distinguish iShine
~A safe, nurturing environment based on respect and kindness
~Emphasis on the power of belief
~Belief that uniqueness is fundamental
~Creative curriculum design without text books
~Learning centers that allow choice for every student
~Student multimedia presentations K-8
~Community Service as critical learning goal
~”Each one teach one” projects to teach reading to the greater community
~Optimal learning theory into practice- high expectations and strategies to get there
~An emphasis on innovation
~A stimulus-rich learning environment
~A mind-compatible learning environment which is safe-to-risk
~An Emphasis on mastery for teachers
~Teachers and parents are avid learners
~Reaching beyond state standards and common core
~Mapping individual progress to personalize learning
~Creating learning communities to encourage cooperative learning
~Dialogue as essential conversation-learning to listen with neutrality
~Parent participation is invited and encouraged
~Applied leading-edge learning research