September 12, 2008

How it’s going

This post was last updated on September 5th, 2011 at 11:04 am

It’s always interesting to hear from others how they promote and support learning in their school district. Here’s my story.

My district is 3 years old, an amalgamation of 7 small districts into 1. Building culture, unity and morale has been challenging but in many ways is going really well. The big challenge I have is that I’m the only person really focusing on technology, outside of our online classes, supporting 35 schools and 7,000 students. I’m good, but I’m not that good. 😉 We previously had some level of instructional support at the school level but staff cuts have pretty much reduced to zero at most schools. So how can I possibly help teachers make the shifts necessary to develop rich, relevant learning for students?

Although I’d love more support, I recognize that’s not likely to happen. What I do have is a group of administrators who for the most part want to push the envelope and provide teachers with everything they can to make them better.

We have a number of administrators committed to changing schools to providing authentic, relevant and connected classrooms. They challenge their teachers to become better, and are truly instructional leaders as opposed to paper pushers. They allow their teachers to try and explore. I’ve begun many great conversations with them and sense their desire for change.

These folks are the real key to the change. So every 6 weeks when they meet, I get some time to plant seeds of change and they’re taking root. The overall plan for our division likely doesn’t look like many strategic plans. We’ve resisted trying to get to specific but rather employ principles of learning that will last.  We are using the new ISTE standards as a guide and specifically this year we’ll pay attention to the second student standard of Communication and Collaboration.

Today I brought in 5 teachers who are on the right track, specifically in the area of social learning.  I asked administrators to move from station to station allowing teachers to share, for them to ask questions and try to learn more about what they do in their classrooms. I then invited any administrators to share with their schools and contact me about developing some ongoing support both face to face and online.

I immediately had some great conversations afterwards from a number of principals as they either enter into social learning or enhance what they have. I have no illusions in knowing there will be some who just don’t buy in, but I’m not worried about those as much as I am glad to have the vast majority looking forward and supporting teachers.

So our model has been to share, invite, support and learn together.  We don’t typically run workshops for blogging, or any other of the latest software. We count on teachers to make the changes and they are. If there is an interest in learning a new tool, we’ll try and find someone or I’ll do the work but we want to focus on big ideas of teaching and learning, “what are the shifts we need to make?” We are building capacity by holding up our champions and doing what we can to allow them to flourish and encourage others. Slow at times but it’s the model we’re sticking with.