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How Exploration Led to Blended Learning

Tuesday, July 02, 2019 by Kourtney Bradshaw-Clay

How Exploration Led to Blended Learning

Hi there Higher-Powered Learning blog readers! Today, I have the pleasure of introducing the newest member of our Higher-Powered Learning team: Kourtney Bradshaw. 

Kourtney is a native of North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina for her undergrad. She then moved to Baltimore to teach and attain her M.Ed. Most recently, Kourtney taught Kindergarten-2nd grade at KIPP One in Chicago. She came to understand and utilize blended learning in the best way possible: organically, thoughtfully, and because she wanted to provide her students with a better education that met the needs of ALL students.

Kourtney joined our Higher-Powered Learning team last month and by day three, she was traveling with us to our spring professional development in Minnesota. Her relentless curiosity, real-world experience, and caring approach quickly endeared her to our BLAST members in Minnesota. I’m thrilled to introduce Kourtney to you all and for you to read her great blog post below. We’re eager to help teachers meaningfully utilize technology in the context of Catholic education to help them engage in Higher-Powered Learning!

-Fr. Nate Wills, CSC
Director, Higher-Powered Learning Program

Kourtney BradshawGrowing up, I was continually exploring. My father dubbed me, "the butterfly." He was thrilled by my ability to jump from topic to topic and simultaneously ask so many questions.  

My explorations led me to the University of North Carolina, where it was impossible for me to decide on just one thing to study: so I studied English, Public Policy, and Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. However, at the root of everything I studied, I was concerned with educational disparities. I became more aware that not every person had access to explore and demonstrate their curiosity as I did. Some kids didn't have adults who are thrilled by their inherent curiosity like my father was for me. With gentle urging from a few professors and family, I decided to make the leap into the classroom and pursue dual master's degrees while working as a teacher in Baltimore City Schools.  

In Baltimore, I worked alongside educators who spent their spare change and every ounce of spare time for the benefit of their students in an effort to close the achievement gap. But I knew there had to be a better way to teach. I began exploring technology as a means to better understand my students' data and keep them engaged with their learning.

While teaching Kindergarten in Baltimore, my principal gave me a nickname: "Dora the Explorer." She found it comical that I constantly changed the layout of my room, but my aim was to give the students time and space for exploratory learning by spending more time interacting with technology and each other. While I didn't have a name for what my classroom was doing, it was producing results.

When I went on to teach first and second grade in Chicago, it bothered me that I had a set of computers in my room that went unused for the majority of the day. I transitioned my students to smaller groups and began using software to push my intellectually gifted kids and help remediate learning gaps for other students. Incorporating technology allowed me to be a better teacher and gave my kids more freedom over what they were learning. I still didn't have a name for my "unique" teaching style, but my kids were happy, and they were making academic growth.

Higher-Powered Learning - ACE Blended Learning

Earlier this year, when I began interviewing with the Higher-Powered Learning Team, I was a little apprehensive because—while the concept was familiar—the term “blended learning” was very new. However, after learning about the work the team has accomplished in Indianapolis and Minneapolis, I was hungry to learn more and explore the factors that led to their success.

After my first month on the team, I am inspired by the educators who are discovering there is a better way to teach! I am delighted to join the Higher-Powered Learning Team and take on this journey of exploration with you all. I have spent so much time exploring and researching this model, and I am now ready to do more intentional exploring and share my findings with you.

About the Author

Kourtney Bradshaw-Clay

Kourtney Bradshaw-Clay

Kourtney is a native of North Carolina and attended UNC for her undergrad and then moved to Baltimore to teach and attain her M.Ed. Most recently, Kourtney comes to us after teaching K-2 at KIPP One in Chicago where she has been using blended-learning methods for several years.

Along with her hard-working approach and a history of innovative tech usage for differentiation in her classroom, Kourtney brings a lower-elementary educational expertise to our HPL team.