mySevern is the online hub of Severn School. It is designed to make teaching, learning, and communicating easier by connecting all of our digital tools and resources into one interactive platform — everything from academic classes and advisory groups to clubs and counseling services. For families, it is also a central location to submit forms, access grades, manage accounts, and stay up-to-date on school news and events. And this past spring, when our campuses closed due to COVID-19, mySevern enabled us to hit the ground running during remote learning.
In the Classroom
mySevern is a powerful learning management system from Blackbaud through which our teachers can provide resources, custom curriculum materials, and online instruction for all students in grades 6-12. It provides a private and secure platform for students to connect with their peers and teachers. In addition to uploading assignments and participating in online discussions, students can take online assessments. In our Lower School, teachers use mySevern paired with Seesaw, a digital portfolio app, in varying degrees as is appropriate for each grade level. For example, for PS-2nd grade, mySevern is geared toward communicating with families while 3rd-5th graders will begin use more of the online classroom features this upcoming school year. As our students grow, so does their use of mySevern to manage assignments and resources for their classes. Families have full access so they may provide additional support to their children at home. At any time, students and their families can log in to see what's expected, what's happening, and what's coming up next.
The Bulletin Board is a running scroll for teachers to post photos, announcements, and reminders. For our youngest students, parents access the class bulletin board for important information and class updates along with links to their child's Seesaw account. As students get older and learn to use mySevern on their own, teachers refer them to the board for updates on classwork and homework.
Course Topic Pages
For our younger grades, teachers use Course Topic pages to give families curriculum overviews, class expectations, and schedules. For older students to access and use directly, teachers share much more detailed information on topics pages, essentially building their lessons and units online, including embedded videos, photos, links, downloads, moderated class discussion boards, and more. The topics section of many classes will also include relevant resources from other departments like technology and counseling. Our teachers construct very individualized learning for their classes, personalizing their mySevern pages with digital resources that they create themselves.
For students at the appropriate grade level, their mySevern account includes helpful links to our school calendar, student and faculty contact directories, a news section for schoolwide and division announcements, and a "My Day" tab where they can check their personal schedule, see what assignments are due, and monitor their progress in class. These features are designed to support students as they develop executive functioning skills and work toward independence. Along with the personal attention students get from their teachers each day, these tools empower them to take ownership of their learning.
For Extracurricular Activities, Athletics, and Advisory
Teachers and coaches also create special Groups using similar features to manage athletic teams, advisory groups, clubs, community-building initiatives like Middle School Service Day and Upper School Unity Day, and other programs like Upper School Admiral Hour. Group members use them to share ideas, plan, give feedback, and more. The athletics pages also include a list of upcoming games and locations. Having a section for each club, team, and event helps to keep students organized and engaged through every part of their experience at school.
In addition to having access to classroom highlights and materials, families can view information about each of their children including progress, schedule, attendance, and conduct notes. We also provide an online community directory and resource boards for everything a family might need at Severn School including:
By 2018 every teacher at Severn had created their mySevern pages. Since then, they have continued to build and tweak as they guide students toward using the platform more fully in the classroom and at home. In mid-March 2020, when schools all over the country scrambled to move to a 100% remote model, we already had the basic structure in place. Teachers jumped into their mySevern pages to make changes that would support student learning, independently and coupled with Zoom class meetings. We learned a lot during the two months of campus closure, and that experience leaves us better prepared to handle future change.
As we look farther ahead, we envision mySevern as a tool to provide even more opportunities to enhance education at Severn. For example, this past spring we offered "The Harlem Renaissance" as a fully online class for Upper School students taught by four teachers with a focus on different disciplines, Ms. Julia Maxey (history), Mr. Frank Donn (music), Ms. Mary Ellen Carsley (art), and Mr. Pat Mooney (literature). Without mySevern it wouldn't be possible for our teachers to align their schedules to co-teach this class. But together, they created a uniquely in-depth course for our students, offering multiple perspectives while teaching from their area of expertise.
An Investment in Our Future
Online instruction will never be a replacement for classroom teaching at Severn School. But used thoughtfully and with purpose, it offers significant value to our students as more and more institutions of higher education enrich their programs with this same type of instruction. mySevern is one of many tools we will use to carry Severn School into the next era of teaching and learning. The time and energy we invest in innovative practice and pedagogy will strengthen our academic program for years to come.