High School Student Thrives with Online Learning

Sophie GarrettMost high school kids start their morning rushing to the car to make it to class, but for 15-year-old Sophie Garrett, school starts in the comfort of her own room—online. On a typical Monday, Sophie begins her day at 10:30 a.m. when her dog Marty jumps on the bed and licks her face. She then walks down the stairs to get some breakfast, usually chocolate chip waffles with tea, and then returns to her bedroom for class. Since her professors and classmates will only see her from the waist up on camera, Sophie stays in her pajama pants, but puts on a presentable T-shirt.

The Stanford Online High School (OHS) is based in Stanford, California, so even though class officially starts at 8:30 a.m., around the world kids are following a different schedule. Sophie is on Eastern Standard Time, so her classes are pushed forward three hours—starting at 11:30 a.m. and ending at 10 at night.

“This is a teenager’s dream, staying up late and sleeping in,” Sophie’s mother Wendy says. “Eight o’ clock in the evening is kind of primetime for her, so it works with her biological clock.”

Sophie’s first class is Latin, one of her favorites. She logs onto the program Saba Centra and puts her headphones on to prevent hearing any reverberation or Marty barking. As students enter the virtual classroom, they chat using a text box at the bottom of the screen. This gives boys and girls the opportunity to socialize before and after class like they would in a typical high school.

As the professor begins the lecture, a video window pops up so everyone can see his or her face. On the computer screen, students watch the agenda slide, which is much like a PowerPoint presentation, to follow along with the content.

Sophie StudiesIf a student has a question, they can click the “hand-raise button” to get the professor’s attention. The teacher can also call on students in class and bring up their face on camera for everyone to see. Much like a blended classroom, these “classes” operate more like discussion times. Students do their homework, reading, and group projects in between them.

Classes are organized much like a college schedule; she doesn’t have them every day. On off days, Sophie does homework and participates in extracurricular activities, like exercising with the Wii Fit to get her PE credit or singing in the Girl Choir of South Florida. Maximizing her time by participating in these activities and working hard in her accelerated curriculum means less time wasted, which is exactly why Sophie started OHS in the first place.

“The reason I wanted to go online specifically, and not to a brick and mortar school, is that I went to a regular middle school and I always found myself bogged down by all the extra time that was being wasted,” Sophie said. “It was actually very difficult to sit down and do work or study at all because everyone was always talking around me and being noisy. And online you don’t have those distractions.” Continue reading

The Artists of Alva: Heather Little

This is the first post in our new series of articles, “The Artists of Alva”. Each one will feature one of our talented staff and show not only some of their personal and professional artwork, but also what inspires them and drives them creatively. 

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Creative Director Heather Little loves working on a blank canvas—starting from scratch and using that freedom to create anything imaginable. However, she has chosen the canvas of the computer as the backdrop for her art instead of the easel. She has been professionally creating digital art since she graduated with a BFA degree in graphic design in 1996.

“I pursued experimenting and creating art using a computer because the possibilities are endless; technology is always evolving,” she said. “Plus, I really don’t like getting dirty with chalk or paint all over myself.”

Heather’s first piece of digital art was done on the Commodore 64 computer when it first came out with paint programs in 1986. The picture was of a night cityscape of the riverfront in downtown Cincinnati, OH, where she grew up.

“That’s when I realized that I really loved technology,” she said, “…that there was this new drawing software program that you could use to make art. It wasn’t just about painting or drawing anymore; the computer was another tool. I saw it as the future of art.” Continue reading