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Back to School: MN Connections Academy embraces tech in teaching kids

Online educators are harnessing a love of technology to better teach kids.

MINNEAPOLIS — Smartphones, iPads, laptops. Students are surrounded by technology these days and the devices are getting into kid’s hands at a young age.

So rather than avoid it, schools are evolving to incorporate it. One of those schools is Minnesota Connections Academy, an online school teaching curriculum aligned to Minnesota State standards and benchmarks.

Principal Melissa Gould oversees it all. “We’ve used technology to bring the curriculum to life. It’s very much like a classroom in your own house.”

E-Text books deliver lessons and instant technology allows for fresh information and the students own environment to supplement learning, “We try to incorporate some real-life experiences. So, students are doing things in their own home and their own neighborhood to apply the learning.”

With everything at your fingertips, inside your home, isolation might be a concern. But Principal Gould doesn’t see it that way, “Students are going to go into virtual classrooms and join their peers from across Minnesota. Sometimes kids choose to use a webcam, sometimes not, but they definitely can hear each other’s voices. They chat back and forth in an online chat.”

And teachers like Alex DeGroot feel they get more one-on-one interaction than in a classroom, where they could be dealing with 30-plus students, “They have a learning coach that can be alongside of them to help them with their daily lessons, make sure everything is going ok and then have support from the teachers.”

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Lesson feedback is almost instantaneous as teachers can tell if the student understands the concept, needs more instruction or is ready to move on to the next topic.

And the type of schooling Minnesota Connections Academy offers is a great option for kids who don’t excel during regular school hours. The flexibility gives them the options to schedule their day however they want, which is important in rural areas where kids need to help on the farm. But the school isn’t just for rural kids - of their nearly 3,000 students, about 50% are enrolled in the metro area,so this option is becoming more of a reality for many kids.

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