UM, Missoula Schools to Showcase Innovative Partnership

May 01, 2014

MISSOULA – The University of Montana and Missoula County Public Schools have embarked on a groundbreaking collaboration called SHAPE P20 to transform the relationship among classrooms, schools and student experiences across the education continuum – with the potential to shape the future of public education in the United States.

Faculty and staff from UM, the Montana Digital Academy and MCPS will gather Thursday, May 8, in UM’s Phyllis J. Washington Education Center to present new and innovative blended-learning project models to invited guests from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, the University and Missoula public schools.

SHAPE P20 is funded by a gift from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. A crucial piece of this partnership revolves around the emerging concept of blended learning, which has been spearheaded by the UM-based Montana Digital Academy.

“What a privilege to bring together exemplary K-12 teachers, University professors and academic administrators from both sides to refine and create leading-edge approaches to learning,” said Roberta Evans, dean of UM’s education college. “It is exactly this shoulder-to-shoulder learning that excites education professionals and fosters true change in school systems and universities.”

 Blended learning, the combining of Web-based educational technology with highly effective face-to-face instruction of students, is the basis for a new graduate level course created by the Montana Digital Academy as a part of the SHAPE P20 project, said Robert Currie, executive director of the academy.

The course, Montana Online Blended Learning for K-12 Educators, otherwise known as MOBL K-12, was developed by Ryan Schrenk, MTDA project manager, and introduced teams of MCPS teachers and administrators to several different models of blended learning.

“I’m pleased to see the innovative blended-learning projects developed by Missoula County Public School teachers move from creative ideas in January to concrete proposals today that will be implemented by the district next fall,” Schrenk said.

“MTDA provides online courses to thousands of students across the state each year, and we have been looking for a way to introduce blended learning as an option for schools,” Schrenk said. “Once again, Washington Foundation support and the leadership of Dean Roberta Evans gave us the opportunity to be a part of the innovative SHAPE P20 project.”

The MCPS team focused on researching and planning projects that later will be implemented in elementary, middle or high school classrooms in Missoula.

“Missoula County Public Schools is proud to have more than 40 innovative educators participating in this class,” said Hatton Littman, MCPS director of technology and communication for Missoula County Public Schools. “Professional development opportunities like this demonstrate our investment in high-quality teaching staff and always enable teachers to bring new projects and ideas back into their classrooms.”

Littman said MCPS continues to make progress on a district goal to transform the learning environment and personalize professional growth through professional development opportunities like this one.

“We value our partnerships with the University of Montana and the Washington Foundation,” she said, “which make realizing our goals possible.”

For more information on SHAPE P20 and its blended-learning component, visit http://coehs.umt.edu or call 406-243-4911.

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Contact: Peter Knox, communications and outreach manager, UM Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences, 406-243-4911, peter.knox@mso.umt.edu.