iPads < Teachers: Why technology-assisted learning will never, on its own, solve our education crisis

By Peg Tyre


At the Carpe Diem-Meridian School in Indianapolis, row after row of students are wearing headphones and staring into computer screens. Although they look like employees at a call center, they are actually fifteen-year-olds tackling algebra concepts. Their lessons were delivered earlier in the day by a software program offered by Edgenuity and reinforced by an instructor. Now the students are working through problems on their monitors, to show they have mastered it. Their results will be quickly fed back to their instructors, who will use it to shape the next day’s instruction.

Two students finish quickly and check the overhead monitor for their next task. Others are sweating through sophisticated problems. A few, who are struggling with the material, are working on problems that a software algorithm has determined are simpler but will help build the foundational skills they need. And, as in any classroom, some students are using ancient technology that has become less central at Carpe Diem schools — a notepad and a pen — to make abstract doodles.


A student’s desk at the Carpe Diem school in Indianapolis.


The learning center at the Carpe Diem charter school in Indianapolis.

Improvements in public education, we are told, are going to be accelerated, disrupted, and finally transformed by technology-assisted personalized learning (also known as blended learning). For the first time in the history of schooling, kids can interact with their teachers through personal computers or iPads. With adaptive assessment, continuous feedback will create a constantly changing portrait of what kids know, allowing algorithms to re-calibrate lessons to fit students’ needs.

The promise is this: all children, particularly those in isolated rural communities and those in chaotic schools with inexperienced teachers, will be able to get the kind of education that was once reserved for the elite.

Technology will create private tutors that are masters of their subjects. But unlike human teachers — who are expensive and time-consuming to train, have variable levels of talent, and leave the profession in droves — the electronic versions will be cheap, top-notch from the very start, easily updatable, and available 24/7.

In theory, it should work. Kurt VanLehn, a researcher at Arizona State University, conducted a meta-analysis of more than 80 studies of “intelligent,” computer-based tutoring systems — ones used to teach physics to college students, physics, or medical students about cardiovascular physiology — and found that the best of these systems can nearly match the performance of human tutors.

Schools like KIPP Empower, Carpe Diem, and Rocketship, along with sites like Khan Academy, show anecdotal evidence that given the right circumstances, blended learning works. Enticed by incentives from the federal government and deep-pocketed philanthropy, superintendents all over the country, from Tulsa to Ann Arbor, are recasting budgets and issuing bonds in order to invest in the hardware needed to bring blended learning to their struggling districts.


Students work together at the Carpe Diem charter school in Indianapolis.

Blended learning models, which were pioneered for corporations and the military, have been around since the 1990s. The rush to add blending learning in classrooms, though, began in earnest about a dozen years ago. Thus far, however, solid research on the effects of K-12 blended-learning is thin. Smaller studies, most often conducted with older students, suggest that blended-learning can produce a modestly positive effect on learning — although researchers warn the uptick is just as likely to be a product of extended learning time and focus, rather than any alchemy of teaching and technology. It seems to work best when students are learning math, which relies in part on students learning, practicing, and applying procedural knowledge.

Still, everyone wants the magic bullet that will help all kids — especially poor kids — learn more with less.

There have been some high profile setbacks. In Los Angeles, the $1.3 billion effort to give iPads to 650,000 public schools students went up in flames. The software was incomplete, and many students used the tablets to play Candy Crush rather than watch historic presidential speeches. Within a few months, the superintendent was out of a job and the entire initiative was under investigation by the FBI. Across the country, the school district in Guilford County, North Carolina, once held up as a model early adopter, struggled and hit the reset button on their program, too.


A student walking to class is reflected on a window as another student works on a computer at the Carpe Diem school in Indianapolis.

To be sure, schools are successfully using education technology for targeted tasks, like streamlining parent-teacher communication, collecting homework, disseminating grades, filing permission slips, and letting teachers share lesson plans. But efficient, low-cost, sustainable blended learning in the classroom is turning out to be hard to do right. And in many cases, it is freighted with hidden costs: replacing broken hardware, updating software, retro-fitting old buildings for WiFi, and providing adequate training to new teachers.

These days, it’s common to find schools obtaining impressive student gains with technology-assisted learning — but it may be equally common to find schools where it was announced with great fanfare but died a quick, quiet death. Those classrooms are now littered with racks of unused iPads and broken Chromebooks.

Teaching kids, especially those who lag behind, is hard. It requires focus, energy, deep knowledge and resources. Technology changes the equation — but perhaps not as dramatically as blended learning evangelists want us to believe.

Here are four observations that ground the conversation about personalized learning in the messy realities of educating young people — and especially our vulnerable learners.

Students work with an iPad at the Carpe Diem school in Indianapolis.


There is no magic device that helps kids learn more.

When you hear about some grand new initiative to give every student an iPad or smartphone, be very skeptical. No single piece of technology has yet to change the basic nature of teaching and learning. Radio, television, CDs, Smartboards, and personal computers were all hailed as transformative educational innovations in their day. They were not. iPads won’t be either. There is a big difference between finding new ways to deliver information and true educational innovation, which is a far more complicated endeavor. Yes, an iPad can make an endless supply of images, books and instructional videos available to students any time, anywhere. But learning is about engaging with that material in deep, essentials ways that help build, extend and ultimately create new knowledge. It takes more than swiping.

1_aat9n6hwavhyvibfem1oqa2xFor the most part, education software is worse than you think.

Teaching may look easy, but great teaching is complicated.
Master teachers are something like NBA stars; they have a seemingly endless supply of tiny, almost gestural moves that can have a big impact on a kid’s cognition. They make split-second choices about how to introduce new ideas, speak in a way that resonates, order concepts for maximum comprehension, and reinforce ideas and skills. Those choices depend on the teacher’s reading of the subtleties of a specific situation.

Technology-assisted personalized learning has come a long way, but it’s hard to get software to replicate what teachers do. And too often, it ends up being a simple lesson and an electronic worksheet buried among some zippy graphics.

Getting it right will require continual investment on the part of many software designers. What’s the holdup? It’s not clear what the financial incentive will be. Great teachers aren’t likely to buy into the vision of any single ed tech company. They want to integrate ideas — likely from several sources, designers, and companies — into their own creative processes.

Schools that are trying to move from terrible to so-so might grab hold of a one-size-fits-all software package. But until education entrepreneurs develop easy-to-use, software than can be splintered in many different ways, great teachers won’t use it and the promise of technology-assisted personalized learning will be unfulfilled. “It’s like the printing press has been invented,” said one teacher in New Orleans wistfully. “But the great books have not yet been written.”


A student at work at the Carpe Diem school in Indianapolis.

1_updfaadvgk-ykyq6ziiusg2xTech-assisted personalized learning is not going to be the answer for every kid.

For those in the education reform community, making a visit to a Carpe Diem schools is like the hajj. You are strongly advised to do it once. And for good reason. Carpe Diem schools, which exist in Arizona, Indianapolis, Ohio, and soon Texas, look and run differently than the high school you probably attended: no gym, no lockers, no pep rally. Instead, Carpe Diem instruction is delivered through computers and supplemented by face-to-face instruction. Their tasks are directed by overhead airport-style monitors. There are no ringing bells to mark the end of class. Students advance at their own pace.

Since adapting the blended-learning model in 2006, results at the first Carpe Diem school in Yuma, Arizona have been strong. The sixth graders there werefirst in the state in math in 2010. Other Carpe Diem schools have boasted similar results. The per-pupil cost is lower than at traditional public schools, too.

Carpe Diem schools are not for every kid, though. Founder Rick Ogston cracked that he opened Carpe Diem to provide kids with a great education — but many of the initial applicants had exactly the opposite idea in mind. “They took one look at the computers, the lack of supervision and oversight, and thought it would be good way to avoid getting a great education,” he said. “And that’s what we have to watch out for.” He’s joking, of course, but there’s a grain of truth there.

Indeed, in a recent survey by the education tech company TES Global, only twenty-four percent of 1,000 U.S. teachers who used their products agreed that technology “improves student engagement.”

In other words, three-quarters of teachers using educational technology — remember, these are not Luddites but teachers that are already logging in — believe it has no effect, or worse, is a distraction.


Students Grace Melrose, Julia Whaley-Jones and Olivia Wampler work in class at the Carpe Diem school in Indianapolis.


Technology-assisted personalized learning is not going to get rid of a central problem in American schooling: We are not training and retaining nearly enough great teachers.

Everyone wants a plug-and-play school, with cheap, portable, high-quality lessons originated by a single instructor and delivered to thousands of students. It’s a vision — think Khan Academy on steroids — that promises to resolve what has become a seemingly intractable problem in American public education: we aren’t producing that many great teachers. One charter network in Ohio is experimentingwith robot teachers — four foot plastic towers topped with a video image of the (off-site) teacher’s face.

Up close, technology-assisted personalized learning doesn’t seem to reduce the need for great teachers; in fact, the most successful programs seem to rely on them. In the Bricolage Academy, a charter school in a middle-class neighborhood in New Orleans, first grade teacher Diana Turner uses technology to amplify what she does best: explain and reinforce complex mathematical concepts so that six-year-olds can grasp and retain it. She then provides the children with opportunities to use that knowledge in a variety of different ways.


Teacher Liz Retana assists student Samone Jackson with a literary concept at the Carpe Diem school in Indianapolis.

It looks like this. First, Turner gives her full class a high-energy lesson on how to add two digit numbers in their heads. “What does 54 plus 24 equal, Ce’ Leb?” she asks. Ce’ Leb knits his brow. She waits for the answer. “88,” he says finally. “Why do you think that?” she asks. While explaining how he broke the numbers down into tens and ones, he realizes his mistake and amends his answer.

By her students’ facial expressions and body language, Turner can tell which kids are getting it (most) and which kids aren’t (four kids in particular seem a little foggy on the whole idea.) She puts the bulk of her class to work on a simple pencil-and-paper worksheet and quickly reteaches the concept to two of the laggards.

After a few minutes, she reformulates her class again. A group of eight kids begin representing a list of two-digit numbers by counting beans into tens and ones cups, giving them a physical sense of place value. Five others grab chunky plastic covered iPads, don headphones, and listen to Turner via some homemade videos she posted to YouTube. In the videos, she is coaching her students to add two digit numbers on a dry erase board, photograph their results, and send it to her Google Docs account. With fourteen of her students learning with iPads and YouTube or Dixie Cups and dried beans, Turner is free to give a quick private lesson to two students who need it re-explained.

Bricologe principal Josh Densen believes blended learning is great “because it allows us to enhance the teacher’s effect. But it only works so well because we have a great teacher who is running it.”

Can technology-assisted personalized learning work with sub-standard teachers or teachers who work remotely and never meet their students at all? “I’ve seen schools try that,” said Densen, with a shrug. “It’s not something we think is viable.”

School staffing is notoriously unstable. Superintendents come and go, principals are increasingly on the move, and most teachers leave the profession in five years. What happens when superstar teachers like Turner move on?

Densen’s formula is to make sure technology enhances but doesn’t replace the relationship between teacher and student, which from his perspective, “needs to be at the center of every kid’s learning experience.” And that means investing in technology for the classroom but also investing in coaching to help Bricolage teachers grow.


Instructor Mia Washington takes a selfie with students using an iPad at the Carpe Diem school in Indianapolis.

Finding and growing great teachers is devilishly hard. Retaining them is very expensive. Without them, though, technology-assisted personalized learning is just not a way to do more with less. Rather, it is a way to deliver less with less. And that would be a promise unfilled.

STEM Games II combined learning and fun in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Junior high and high school students gathered in Indianapolis Saturday to compete in “STEM Games II: Making Way for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.”

Central Indiana students from 7th through 12th grade assembled at Carpe Diem Meridian school, on the 2200 block of Meridian Street, to practice STEM learning and learn about possible future careers that include parts or all of STEM.

STEM Games II included interactive games for students and featured workshops that developed skills in each of the components of STEM; science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The half-day event on Feb. 7 lasted from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.












STEM Games II combined learning and fun in Indianapolis

Carpe Diem Meridian names new principal

The tuition-free charter school, Carpe Diem Meridian has named LaNier Echols as interim principal. For almost three years, Echols has served as dean of students working to prepare students by organizing college fairs, teaching them how to fill out college and job applications, resolving issues and more.


“I’ve been very impressed with LaNier’s work ethic and her dedication to helping prepare students for college and a career,” said Robert Sommers, CEO of Carpe Diem Learning Systems.

“Effective immediately, she will be serving as interim principal of Carpe Diem Meridian and will also be a very strong candidate for the fulltime position.”

“It’s a natural transition for me to serve as the interim principal and I am very excited about this opportunity to lead the school,” said Echols. “I believe in Carpe Diem’s blended learning model and look forward to preparing our students for successful futures.”

Echols earned a degree in Social Science Education from Florida State University and joined Teach for America upon graduation, which lead her to teach at IPS. She earned her Masters Degree from Marian University and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Indiana State University.

Carpe Diem schools are tuition free public charter schools, educating junior and senior high students for the 21st century with a blended learning model that combines digital learning on computers with instruction by teachers in classrooms. In 2015, Carpe Diem schools will be located in Yuma, Ariz.; Indianapolis; Cincinnati and San Antonio.

Bike donation, new outdoor fitness equipment part of annual IU Health team member Day of Service

| Indianapolis—On Friday, May 30th, nearly 2,000 IU Health team members – donning new lime green Strength That Cares t-shirts – will work in 19 parks, two schools and one neighborhood leaving behind nearly 6,000 hours of donated time to their communities.

Together, IU Health team members will be creating 3,250 walking kits, 34 new picnic tables, 20 pieces of fitness equipment and 9 pieces of new playground equipment, among many other park improvements, to encourage more Hoosiers to get out and get active.  In Indianapolis, this will include a bicycle giveaway to third-graders from three IPS schools as well as installation of Indy Parks’ dynamic outdoor fitness equipment at Riverside Park, among other activities.

“The IU Health Day of Service is about investing in our communities to improve the health of our fellow Hoosiers,” said Ron Stiver, senior vice president of engagement and public affairs for IU Health. “From improving our parks to building school playgrounds to providing bicycles to third graders, our IU Health team will be working to ensure our neighbors have access a healthy lifestyle.”

Volunteers in Indianapolis will be disbursed throughout nine locations just outside of IU Health’s downtown facilities, including Riverside Park, Indy Urban Acres (an eight acre organic farm providing over 30,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to local food pantries), Charlie Wiggins Park (a newly created pocket park featuring 200 colorfully stacked tires as part of a new athletic climbing hill), Watkins Park, Cultural Trail Pacer Bike Share Program, and Carpe Diem-Meridian School.  In addition, IU Health volunteers will work alongside neighborhood volunteers to clean up and revitalize the grounds of abandoned urban properties in the United Northwest Area neighborhood.

WHEN: Friday, May 30
10 am – 4 pm
Best time for coverage is 10:00am-11:30am and 1:30pm-3:00pm


1. UNWA (United Northwest Area ) Neighborhood

Riverside Park, 2420 E. Riverside Dr., Indianapolis, IN 46208

  • Students from IPS # 87 and #42 will participate in bike and helmet fitting/decorating stations as well as a Riley bike safety course with an IMPD bike officer demo from 10:30-11:30 am; Students from IPS #44 will do the same from 1:15-2:15 pm. IU Health team members assembled all 165 bikes being donated to the IPS students today.
  • Unveiling installment of brand new outdoor adult exercise equipment – elliptical machines
  • Mural painting
  • Repainting outdoor equipment, landscaping, general upgrades

Watkins Park – 7700 E. 21st Street, Indianapolis, IN 46219

  • Playground improvement
  • Outdoor painting, landscaping
  • 120 new plantings for front entry
  • Mural painting

General UNWA Neighborhood

  • Cleaning up abandoned lots, clear away debris, landscape

2. Indy Urban Acres (Shadeland Neighborhood), 7700 E. 21st Street, Indianapolis, IN 46219

  • Preparing the vegetable beds, which produce over 30,000 pounds of fresh produce to Hoosiers through area food banks
  • Installing a rain garden (a landscape element called a bioswale)
  • Building shade structure, mulching the agro trail and installing walking pavers painted by IU Health employees
  • Planting 1,100 feet of sunflowers for a “sunflower wall”

3. Carpe Diem-Meridian School (2240 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN  46208) 

  • IU Health team members will work together alongside the students and faculty of Carpe Diem School to create an outdoor fitness area, which will help students stay fit in mind and body.
    -Fitness area

4, Cultural Trail Pacer Bike Share Program (various bike stations along the Cultural Trail)

  • BikeShare rental stations along the Cultural Trail will be staffed with IU Health volunteers to help explain and promote this great new asset from 11 am – 1 pm, as part the IU Health Day of Service.


Can Technology Help Students Find the “Sweet Spot” for Learning?

Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham wrote a book called Why Don’t Students Like School? The book is complex and fascinating – and 228 pages – but you can basically boil the answer down to this: Students don’t like school because school isn’t set up to help them learn very well.

The first thing to know is that everyone likes to learn.

“There is a sense of satisfaction, of fulfillment, in successful thinking,” writes Willingham.

But it’s not fun to try to learn something that’s too hard.

“Working on a problem with no sense that you’re making progress is not pleasurable,” writes Willingham. “In fact, it’s frustrating.”

Working on a problem that’s too easy is no fun either. It’s boring.

What people enjoy is working on problems that are the right level of difficulty.

“The problem must be easy enough to be solved yet difficult enough to take some mental effort,” Willingham writes. He calls this the “sweet spot” of difficulty.

The problem with most schools is that kids don’t get to their sweet spot enough. There are 20 other kids in the class – or maybe 30 or even 40. Everyone is in a slightly different place. Some kids get it and want to move ahead. Others are struggling to catch up and need more explanation. It’s a challenge for teachers. The best teachers try to meet each student’s needs. But a lot of teachers end up teaching to the middle. That leaves a lot of kids bored, or frustrated, or both.

“I think teachers are acutely aware that this is an enormous problem,” Willingham said in an interview. “I don’t think it’s easily solved.”

You can trace the roots of the problem back to the Industrial Revolution. That’s when American public schools as we know them today got started.

Prior to the rise of factories and cities, most people lived on farms and in small villages. Children were typically educated in one-room schoolhouses. “In such environments, education could be individualized,” says Angeline Lillard, a professor at the University of Virginia who has written about the history of education.

Not everything was perfect in the one-room school. But if you were 10 and needed to learn addition, that’s what the teacher taught you. If you were 5 and already knew how to write your name, you’d move on with the older kids.

Then in 1847 in Quincy, Massachusetts a new kind of school appeared on the scene. Instead of being together in one room, students were separated into classrooms based on how old they were. It was seen as a more efficient way to educate children.

“The whole country was so taken by this idea that we could improve through industrialization,” says Lillard. “Mass production was going to be the wings through which we could fly into the future. And schools were no different.”

By the early 20th century, some education experts were actually referring to schools as factories. Elwood Cubberley, dean of Stanford University’s School of Education from 1917 to 1933, put it bluntly: Schools were “factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life.”

“What we lost from the one-room schoolhouse days was individualization,” says Lillard. “We replaced that with an expectation that all children be the same.”

Today it’s a big challenge to deal with the 10-year-olds who haven’t learned addition; they’re supposed to be doing fifth-grade math. There’s not a good way to deal with the 5-year-olds who are ready to move ahead either.

The problem of how to meet students’ individual needs is at the heart of today’s education debates: the achievement gap, tracking, social promotion. These are among the thorniest and most important issues facing American schools, and they all have something to do with the fact that we expect students of a certain age to be in a certain place with their learning, rather than working with each child individually based on their unique learning needs.

“All students are supposed to accomplish exactly the same goals under exactly the same circumstances by exactly the same date and demonstrate their learning in exactly the same way,” says Carol Ann Tomlinson, sounding a bit exasperated.

Tomlinson is an expert on a teaching technique called “differentiated instruction.” It’s a response to the challenge of working with a classroom full of kids who have different abilities and interests. Rather than teaching to the middle, the teacher offers a variety of lessons or assignments so that the students who are ahead get more challenging work and students who are behind get more practice on basic concepts.

Tomlinson’s research shows differentiated instruction can be done. But even she admits it’s not easy. It takes talented teachers and good training.

Keona Walker says she learned all about differentiated instruction during her teacher training. When asked how she pulled it off in the classroom, she laughs. She says differentiated instruction is “possible, yes. Realistic? No.”mooresville04-300x201
Then she heard about a new school with a different approach to learning. The school is called Carpe Diem-Meridian. It’s a public charter school that opened in Indianapolis in August 2012. Students spend part of the day in traditional classes, and part of the day learning on computer. There’s an online curriculum; students move through each course at their own pace. When they demonstrate they’ve mastered the material, they move on to the next level.Walker was an English teacher at a high school in Indianapolis, Indiana. In any given class she would have some students who were ready for college-level work and others who couldn’t “tell you what the verb of a sentence was.” She felt constantly frustrated and unable to meet everyone’s needs.

Walker is the English teacher at Carpe Diem. She says because students spend part of their day learning on computer, she has more time to work with students individually. And she thinks when students work on their own at their own pace they actually have a better understanding of what they need help with. “These are the things I’ve mastered. I don’t need help with that,” they’ll say to her. “These are the things that I can read and understand on my own. [And] these are the things that I really need help with.” That’s what she focuses on with them. She says it’s a more efficient way to teach — and to learn.

Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham is not familiar enough with Carpe Diem to comment specifically on the school’s model. But he says technology is a possible solution to the “sweet spot” problem. He says learning on computers does not necessarily result in better learning, though.

“The technological solutions are more difficult to implement than would appear at first blush,” he says. Teachers need lots of training. And he adds: “The software has got to be really good.”

The software is getting better. So-called “adaptive learning” programs, which have been around for more than a decade, are designed to adjust to an individual’s needs. A student answers questions or solves problems and the software adapts the level of difficulty depending on how the student is performing. Dozens of companies have developed this kind of software. The software varies in quality. Research suggests some adaptive learning programs do help students learn better, but the research is sparse and overall the results are mixed.

Willingham says technology may be a solution to the “sweet spot” problem for some students and some schools. When asked if he would send his own children to a school that uses computers to help teachers individualize instruction for students he says: “The answer would depend a lot on how old my child is.” He’s not sure putting young children on computers for large or even small parts of the school day is a good idea. He says his own kids, who are 6 and 8, don’t use computers at all — at school or at home. He doesn’t see any reason his children need to use computers yet.

That’s a personal choice, he says, not based on evidence that there’s something categorically wrong with young children using technology.

Willingham does note, however, that research shows the emotional connection between a student and a teacher is enormously important when it comes to how much a student learns. He doesn’t think students of any age should spend all of their time learning on a computer. The balance between time spent with computers and time spent with other human beings is important for schools to consider as they think about bringing technology into classrooms. Willingham says this may be the most important question — even more important than how good the software is. Technology is only as good as the way it gets used.

Willingham says in a few years, when his children are in middle school or high school, he might be open to sending them to a school where they would spend part of their day learning on a computer. But he’d have to see the school first and make a decision based on what he thought of the school, and what the other options were for his children’s education.

Carpe Diem-Meridian Students Earn 96% Overall Pass Rates on ECA Exams

Carpe Diem-Meridian, a tuition-free public charter school for middle and high school students that opened in August 2012, is pleased to announce their 2012-13 testing results (ECA) as provided by the Indiana Department of Education, as well as from the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measure of Academic Progress (NWEA-MAP).

On the Indiana ECA exam (End of Course) Carpe Diem-Meridian students who met the standards had100% pass rates on the Biology I and English 10 exams and 90% pass rates inAlgebra I. Students who exceeded standards scored “Pass Plus” rates of 29% in Biology 1, 60% inAlgebra 1 and 67% inEnglish 10.  The scores of the students who took the five NWEA tests(Reading, Language Usage, Math, Science-General, Science- Concepts) in August 2012 and again in May 2013 reflected an average growth of three (3) years school-wide in Reading andLanguage Usage, and in Science-General and Science-Concepts.   In Math the average growth was four (4) years school-wide. These scores exceed the Carpe Diem Learning Schools’ historic average of two years of curriculum completed in one school year.

“Our goal in our first year at Meridian was a simple one,” comments Principal Mark Forner, “to deliver extraordinary academic results, and we feel we’ve achieved just that. We are very proud of our kids and their performance.”

In addition to the ECA exams and the NWEA-MAP tests, Carpe Diem uses the online digital curriculum Edgenuity and teacher assessment to inform student instruction.  “When it comes to data, there is ‘no blame, no shame and NO EXCUSES’,” Forner comments. “All students can learn and must learn, and it’s our job to see that they do.”

The Carpe Diem Learning Schools (CDLS) blended learning model has an eight-year record of academic achievement, student success, and productive work environment for teachers and students.  It takes the best of face-to-face instruction, digital technology and extended learning opportunities to boost student achievement.  The inaugural CDLS school opened in 2005 in Yuma, Arizona, followed by Carpe Diem-Meridian, and in August 2013, Carpe Diem-Aiken will open as the first public charter sponsored by Cincinnati Public Schools.

Carpe Diem-Meridian, 2240 North Meridian Street, is currently enrolling 6th-12th-grade students for the 2013-2014 school year.  Carpe Diem-Meridian is tuition-free.  Interested families may enroll through the website, www.carpediemmeridian.com, or contact the school directly at 317-921-7497.


Carpe Diem Learning Systems (CDLS) consults, manages, operates and builds high quality, cost-effective, innovative charter schools, with high student success rates. CDLS leverages technology, information, and human resources to ensure the financial viability of a superior learning system that assures all its students will be career ready and college prepared. Carpe Diem Schools are tuition free public charter schools located in Yuma, Arizona; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Cincinnati, Ohio.


Carpe Diem SIA Win Award

On Tuesday, March 12, Carpe Diem-Meridian, a tuition-free public charter school for grades 6 – 12, which opened in August 2012, won the regional “Students in Action” award, created by the prestigious Jefferson Awards to promote volunteerism in the nation’s schools.  Carpe Diem-Meridian was deemed a Gold Medal School by the judges and was selected as the winner of the Regional Competition.  The students will receive a check for $1,500 to support their “Students in Action” projects and represent the state of Indiana and their region at the 2013 Awards Banquet in Washington, D.C. in June.

 “It is unusual for a school in its first year of existence to medal at the competition,” comments Regional “Students in Action” Director Amanda Johnson.  “The fact that Carpe Diem Meridian’s students won the competition in their first year of operation is nothing short of extraordinary.”

 “We are thrilled and so proud of our students,” comments Principal Mark Forner.  “Alyssa Starinsky, our Social Studies teacher and “Students in Action” director, has done a marvelous job throughout the school year engaging and encouraging our students to serve others. Our kids took the competition and their preparation seriously – and they delivered. Congratulations to our kids and to ‘Miss Star’!”  

Carpe Diem-Meridian “Students In Action” (SIS) “aims to make a positive, and sustainable impact in the Indianapolis community through community service opportunities and projects that are open to all area students. We want our legacy to be the importance and power of service.”  The students, supported by their media sponsor WRTV Channel 6 and donations solicited through their website, originated a number of public service projects throughout the school year that made a significant impact on their community.

Starinsky has a firm vision for her students, “I want them to be articulate, to be confident, and to be part of life-long service.”  Since August when the school opened its doors, 90% of the students attending Carpe Diem-Meridian are participating in SIA.  They have worked nearly 10,000 service hours and 100% of the money they raise is invested in their projects.

Key accomplishments include establishing a partnership with The Julian Center’s “Circles of Support” children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  This project was recognized by the Association of American Educators who presented them with a check for $500, which was used to purchase toys.  The students are responsible for fundraising, which includes writing grants, as well as promoting their projects, and recruiting volunteer participation from the community. Details of all the Carpe Diem-Meridian “SIA” projects, photos and videos can be found on their website.

 To find out more about the school, and how to become involved as a volunteer or donate to Carpe Diem-Meridian “Students in Action,” visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

 About Carpe Diem Indiana

Carpe Diem Indiana leverages technology, information, and human resources to ensure a superior learning experience at its schools that assures all its students will be career ready and college prepared. Carpe Diem Indiana Schools are tuition free public charter schools using a personalized blended-learning model to educate 6-12th grade students. By August 2013, Carpe Diem Schools will be located in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Indiana; Cincinnati, Ohio and Yuma Arizona.

Perspectives in Education: Carpe Diem

By Kayla B. Mayhugh, Carpe Diem-Meridian sophomore
Being a Carpe Diem-Meridian student has renewed my passion for education. It has also instilled a passion for giving back through community service. Students in Action (SIA) is a public service program for schools founded by the Washington, D.C.-based Jefferson Awards. SIA has been at Carpe Diem-Meridian since day one, and it has evolved a great deal over the past few months. We recently won the Gold Medal in the Jefferson Award’s regional competition, where we presented to a panel of judges about our public service projects. As the Gold medal winners, we receive $1500 and get to travel to the award ceremony in DC in June. This is a huge accomplishment for a first-year school! Our SIA sponsor, Alyssa Starinsky, is one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met. It’s obvious to everyone who knows her that she truly wants to make the world a better place, and she thinks that children have the power to do it. When she says “we are the future,” it stops being a cliché and becomes inspirational.

SIA has brought almost our entire student body together through various service projects, including a Thanksgiving dinner we hosted last November at the Julian Center, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse. A core group of our SIA members joined the Julian Center cooking staff to create a Thanksgiving meal for the mothers and children at the Center. We prepared turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, mixed vegetables, fruit salad, and apple crisp — all handmade! We also ran a game room for the children. For a few hours, their mothers spent some time enjoying a well-deserved rest. By preparing a meal for those less fortunate, we realized that not everyone has access to the luxuries that we do. Though we couldn’t provide everything that a Thanksgiving has to offer, we gave deserving women and children a fun, family-style dinner that will hopefully stay in their minds as something more. To us, the meal was our first big project, and it only wet our appetites for more service opportunities.

Lil’ Leaders is a leadership retreat that SIA is organizing and hosting for the children of the Julian Center. We believe that the children have great potential to be great leaders, and we want to give them the opportunity to hone their leadership skills while they’re still young. Instilling these skills in children makes for better leaders as they blossom into adulthood. To make a lasting impact on these children, we’re not going to preach to them about the importance of leadership and service; we’re going to play games with them. Through these games, we’re going to show the children, and our younger members, how to use their leadership and communication skills to the best of their ability. We’re still in the early stages of planning, but we know that the retreat will teach us, as well as our young participants, a lot about the important of service. Our website, www.CDStudentsInAction.org, goes into greater detail about our projects and opportunities for the community to participate in our service events.

The Students in Action program is a life-changing opportunity that I didn’t have at any of the other schools I’ve attended. Carpe Diem-Meridian has made me not only passionate about education, but also the power of service. Sophomore Amanda Wilcher has said “SIA has strengthened [her] networking, communication, and speaking skills” during her time at Carpe Diem. Many of our other members have called Students in Action “life-changing,” and I can’t help but agree.

Carpe Diem-Meridian has molded me into a better student while Students in Action has molded me into a better person. While each is fantastic in their own right, a combination of the two is priceless. With passionate teachers and caring students, any school has the potential to be a good one. Carpe Diem-Meridian has found the perfect balance of each and managed to make school an enjoyable, amazing experience – while some kids still dread going to other schools. An eighth-grader turned freshman, Sydney Pedigo, says that she’d never go back to a traditional school because of the “lack of opportunity.” One of our seventh graders, AbobakrAbedelmalik, likes the “blended learning” aspect of Carpe Diem. When asked about Students in Action, he muses, “Students in Action has honed my communication skills, and taught me to collaborate.” Many of our students have become passionate about schooling, and now seek to further their education. I know that, as a freshman, I had no idea what I was doing after high school. I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d even do anything. Now, as a sophomore, I have a clear plan for my life, and I couldn’t have done it without Carpe Diem.

About Carpe Diem Indiana

Carpe Diem Learning Schools are tuition-free public charter schools using a personalized blended-learning model to educate 6-12th grade students. To learn more about Carpe Diem-Meridian, located at 2240 North Meridian Street, prospective students and parents may schedule individual tours.Call 317-921-7497 or visit the website, www.carpediemmeridian.com.


How Blended Learning Saved My Teaching Career

By Josh Woodward

Last year was my third year of teaching in inner-city Indianapolis, and I had reached my breaking point. I was a Teach for America alumnus, Sontag Prize in Urban Education winner for excellence in teaching mathematics, a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow, and a two-time attendee of conferences by the Gates Foundation celebrating effective teachers and teaching. But this, my third year, was about to be my last in the classroom.

I adored my students and enjoyed teaching high school math. My students realized significant academic success, as measured by both district and state assessments. Additionally I was able to enjoy some personal success by developing close, personal relationships with my students both in the classroom and through extracurricular activities I sponsored. However, after some deep soul-searching, I came to the realization that, despite such success-affirming indicators, including glowing performance evaluations and a comfortable paycheck, at the end of the day I did not view teaching as a true profession. I despised feeling like, despite my best efforts, I was having little impact in my school beyond the four walls of my classroom.

As U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently stated, “The factory model of education is the wrong model for the 21st century. Today, our schools must prepare all students for college and careers—and do far more to personalize instruction and employ the smart use of technology.” Secretary Duncan’s comments spoke to my frustrations as a teacher. My greatest sources of frustration stemmed from my inability to be recognized and treated as a highly capable professional and the constraints of teaching within the same outdated school model of the last decades.

I had to make a change. So I did. I found a school that uses a blended-learning model, which has enabled me to view teaching as a true profession and career. Without the opportunity to teach in a blended-learning environment, I wouldn’t be in the classroom anymore.

Personalizing Instruction

Blended learning is not about replacing teachers with machines. Rather, it’s about leveraging technology to provide students and teachers with immediate feedback, holding each individual student accountable for his or her academic success, and personalizing coursework to best meet students exactly where they are. Dave Levin, one of the founders of the KIPP charter network, recently emphasized that blended learning relies upon skilled teachers. This point is absolutely critical: Without highly effective teachers and instruction, a blended-learning model cannot be successful or sustainable.

As enlightened and progressive educators, we must get away from the notion that the most important thing about our students is their grade level. Where I currently teach, we have 8th grade students taking 6th grade math, 7th grade history, and 9th grade English. Specific academic courses are assigned based upon each student’s instructional level. In fact, we do not have any two students taking the exact same course load. We also empower our students with the responsibility to choose their work at any given time, while constantly monitoring their individual data to ensure they are not solely working on one particular course while ignoring others.

Of course, school is also a place where social interaction is of the utmost importance. Our students do not just sit in front of computers all day. In addition to their digital coursework, our students have workshops based on their grade level, along with office hours, or one-on-ones with teachers. I am able to design projects, experiments, and real-world applications to bring the concepts that the students are learning through their digital curriculum to life. I am able to teach them how to think creatively. For example, I have found that it is much more meaningful to have my students develop a formula for cutting a piece of Laughing Cow cheese horizontally into equal pieces, or to take a leaky faucet and use math to calculate exactly how long it will take for that sink to fill up than to have them answer traditional questions from a textbook or worksheet. This is truly an exhilarating experience for a teacher. And, furthermore, I feel challenged by it.

I firmly believe that teaching in a blended-learning environment is a path to a sustainable career for teachers who are looking for a change of pace from a traditional school environment to one that values autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

I work amidst a small staff (14 adults, including just four teachers, all with three or more years’ experience) that was entirely hand selected. We collaborate at our daily staff meetings before school and work closely throughout the day to maximize the educational experiences for our kids. With an eye towards sustaining our high-commitment and high-expectations culture, our school leader implores us to be out of the building each day by 4:15 p.m. On Fridays, we release our students at 2:30 p.m. and the last hour of the day is devoted to professional development.

With a small, experienced, and professional staff, we make many decisions collectively. Last year, I enrolled in an educational leadership doctoral program because I felt that becoming an administrator was my only avenue to greater leadership opportunities and an income sufficient to support a family. But in my current school, I am able to take on many leadership roles and earn a higher salary while also staying in the classroom and ensuring that my students receive the best possible math education. This dynamic environment is enabling me to view teaching as a true vocation. I have since left the doctoral program, realizing administration is not my passion: Teaching students is my passion.

It’s clear that changes are needed in our country’s schools. Study after study has made it clear that the teacher is the most important in-school factor for student achievement. But we currently have an epidemic of teachers leaving the classroom just as they’re getting really effective at their jobs. By leveraging technology and personalizing instruction in classrooms led by highly skilled teachers, we can change the educational outcomes for hundreds of thousands of students across this country. But blended learning doesn’t only benefit students—it also provides opportunities for teachers like myself to feel, perhaps for the first time, like true professionals and instructional leaders. Sustainability and professionalism are key to keeping teachers like me in the classroom. The blended-learning model provides both.

Central Indiana students compete in STEM Games

Dozens of students from across central Indiana will compete Saturday in the third annual STEM Games. The ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha organized the event at Carpe Diem Northwest, 5435 W. Pike Plaza Rd.

The games are designed to prepare students for future careers in science, technology, engineer and mathematics.

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 10 fastest growing jobs from 2012-2022 all require skills in the STEM fields.  Students will participate in science experiments that deal with water quality, learn critical thinking techniques and listen to a panel of professionals in STEM fields.

See video here: http://fox59.com/2016/02/06/central-indiana-students-compete-in-stem-games/