La Salle Prep continues to educate its nearly 700 students via digital learning during the mandated closure of all Oregon schools through April 28 to stem the spread of COVID-19.
La Salle is no stranger to digital learning. It was the first brick-and-mortar high school in Oregon to offer digital learning - also known as distance or virtual learning - during a snowstorm three years ago. Ice coated the metro area's streets one January morning, prompting most schools in the Portland metro area to close, as they already had several times for inclement weather that season. Rather than lose another school day to Mother Nature, La Salle told its students to log into their iPads, locate their lessons, and study at home.
Since then, the school has scheduled periodic digital learning days - even when roads are clear - to familiarize teachers and students with this learning channel.
School embraces innovation
Digital learning is just one way Lasallians have embraced innovative and emerging platforms to prepare students for college and careers. Every student utilizes an iPad to take notes, submit assignments and read and annotate e-textbooks. The school offers a few "blended online" courses that pair online instruction with in-person discussions. Some teachers give "flipped" lessons, in which teachers create and share material for students to study before class, then use class time to discuss concepts and answer questions.
Students also use technology to keep schedules, assemble portfolios of work, make videos to present what they've learned, share resources, and make online surveys to gather data. During the closure, teachers may have students gather virtually via meeting apps such as Zoom.
“The core of this idea is to keep learning going for the students even when circumstances do not allow us to be on campus,” said President/Principal Andrew Kuffner. “We have all of these amazing digital tools at our fingertips and already integrated into our classes, we are blessed to be in a position to leverage them to support our students' learning and sense of community during this time."
Unexpected challenges, unexpected lessons
In addition to keeping students on track academically, digital learning also can teach them how to be more self-reliant and resilient when faced with unexpected challenges - such as the closure of their school building.
Talia Felcher '20 said the break in routine means she’s unable to see teachers and friends, compete on the track team, or go to Moab, Utah, for a field study she’s been looking forward to since her freshman year.
“Although these are all quite disappointing for me and my classmates,” she said, “I personally am happy that we are still able to continue learning from home.”
The distance is also making many students appreciate what they have at La Salle.
"Right now, I am not able to do the things I used to be able to do," said Noa Taylor '21. "It makes me realize that I take school for granted."
La Salle student body president Lucas Wobig said he misses saying 'hi' to friends as he walks down the hall, and popping into classrooms to talk to teachers.
"Even though I still keep in touch with my close friends," he said, "I miss the La Salle community."