DORSET - A new aproach to instruction being embraced by the Bennington Rutland Supervisory Union is beginning to change the landscape of teaching and learning in local schools.

In a recent Dorset School Board meeting, Ellen Saltonstall, a seventh and eighth grade English teacher, gave a presentation on the program, known as the Haiku Learning Management System, and how it is being used in her classes. She noted that students are much more engaged during their lessons.

"This summer [the school board] voted to give us chrome books and with a lot of trepidation because we have so many new things that we are dealing with, like the Haiku pages and putting all the grades online," she said. "I was overwhelmed and I thought I would never be able to do this; well I was wrong and it has really changed my instruction. It has changed all of our instruction and it has created a whole new environment in my classroom. Kids are really engaged."

Chrome books are a type of laptop computer.

What Haiku allows teachers to do is basically post assignments on their specific Haiku class page. Haiku is used to extend teaching and learning online that will result in better communication with parents, students, and teachers as well as better monitor student development. The goal is to work towards ePortfolio, which is an online-centered program that is augmented by a platform builder and assessment module such as Haiku.

"This will allow students to create an academic portfolio online that can maintain their plan of study, track goals and achievements, and help build a resume for the future," said Dan French, Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union superintendent.

Rosanna Moran, The Dorset School principle, thinks that Haiku is a great tool to use and helps teachers and students interact in a positive way. "It has increased student engagement," she said. "It has given an avenue for the use of technology where everyone has equal access. It has opened up ways for students to respond whereas in the past a shy student might not enter into a discussion in the classroom, but when it's posted in Haiku on a discussion board it gives them a better way to voice there opinion."

Added Moran: "We need to give it some time and give it a proper assessment. I definitely see an increase in student engagement. You put technology in [students] hands and they are more invested."

Students might be more invested due to the social media aspect that the Haiku Learning Management System adds. Students are allowed to comment on assignments and instant messaging can be used to interact with each other to work on projects and other assignments. They can even "like" things on Haiku.

Jackie Wilson, Curriculum Director at the BRSU, said that social media engages student in a way that fits the culture they are growing up in. "To put kids where they are comfortable now, which is in that social environment with those social tools right in hand, I just think that it matches their learning style," she said.

It also makes the teacher's job, if not easier, simpler. When a teacher posts an exam to the Haiku website and the students complete it, Haiku actually grades if right when the exam is complete, saving the teachers time allowing them to focus on the next assignment. It also allows teachers to interact with other teachers using Haiku.

"We are using Haiku in a way that teachers are sharing to build some of their units of study," said Wilson. "When all the teachers can collaborate using that learning management system and share their resources and plan together around our standards it is great not just for our teachers but for our students as well."

Dorset is not the only local school to use Haiku as the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union (BRSU) has implemented the use of Haiku to the other schools in the district: Manchester Elementary-Middle School, Currier Memorial School, Mettawee Community School, and Sunderland Elementary School.

Melody Troy, the principal at Sunderland Elementary School, said, "It is a direct link between teachers and students and one of the best things is that parents are more involved in their child's learning."

Haiku allows for parents to keep track of how their child is doing and better understand and help kids as they work on an assignment. To learn more about the Haiku Learning Management System go to www.haikulearning.com.