This past week, we welcomed 40 outstanding individuals to the Blended Learning in Catholic Schools Symposium (BLiCSS), a unique gathering of blended-learning thought leaders to further innovation in K-12 Catholic schools. We hoped that this event would be an opportunity for leaders in Catholic education to form a unified mission and vision for blended learning in Catholic schools, to share best practices, and to identify research opportunities from across our schools – and it is safe to say that BLiCSS exceeded our expectations!
First, let’s talk about the amazing group that assembled for this event. “Thought-leaders?” you may ask, and let me assure you it’s true! The guest list included the founders and directors of organizations implementing blended learning in the largest number of K–12 Catholic schools across the nation (Stephanie Saroki de Garcia, Jeff Kerscher, and Shannon Tabaldo, to name a few) as well as superintendents and assistant superintendents from archdioceses and dioceses (including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Indianapolis), directors of foundations that are dedicated to cultivating this work, leaders of some of the most successful Catholic blended-learning schools, and everyone’s favorite Catholic school teacher turned edtech activist and Google education+diversity manager, Mary Jo Madda.
Though our time together over three days was short, we managed to squeeze in two school visits, two panel discussions, 10 breakout sessions, a keynote address from Thomas Arnett of the Christensen Institute, and so much more. The sessions covered a range of topics, including the key components of blended-learning programs in Catholic schools and the best practices for successfully scaling and expanding blended-learning programs. It would be impossible to capture the many profound ideas generated and shared in a single blog post, so prepare to hear more about BLiCSS in the future.
But today, I simply want to share that I am inspired. I am inspired by the truly remarkable leaders with whom I talked, worked, brainstormed, dined, laughed, and prayed last week. I have more hope for the future of Catholic schools than ever before knowing that some of the brightest and most creative minds are dedicated to their innovation and success. I can’t wait to see the budding broad-scale change soon bloom.
If you want to be inspired as well, I highly recommend that you check out:
- Seton Education Partners, a nonprofit organization that helps under-enrolled Catholic schools implement blended-learning programs to improve academic performance and enhance vitality. Seton has implemented blended-learning programs in 13 schools across seven cities since 2012, impacting more than 3,000 students. Check out this post with Jeff Kerscher, director of the Seton Blended Learning Network, on key leadership qualities and this post on Rose Oldenburg, an former ACE teacher in one of Seton’s blended schools.
- The iDEAL Institute at Loyola Marymount University, a rapidly growing institute within the LMU School of Education that guides Catholic schools through a two-year implementation and professional development plan. Founding director Shannon Tabaldo and her team are nearly doubling the number of schools they serve every year–and managing to maintain quality along the way.
- Specialty Family Foundation, an endowed foundation in Los Angeles that has invested in and measured the success of blended-learning programs in eight schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles since 2013. The Foundation’s director, Joe Womac, understands blended learning and its potential to impact Catholic schools better than almost anyone else.
- The Remick Leadership Program, a program that prepares school leaders that is led by former principal of a Catholic blended-learning school Melodie Wyttenbach and currently has multiple leaders of blended learning in Catholic schools, including Francisco Castillo-Fierro and Meaghan Crowley Sullivan.
We are so grateful to those who made this possible, including our colleagues at the University of Notre Dame, the Speciality Family Foundation, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (particularly director of educational technology, John Reyes). Who’s ready for next year?!