Getting to Transformative Change

In my last blog post, I discussed the transformative change needed for a school or district to move to a personalized learning model. In a transformed system, deep learning occurs when the focus shifts from students mastering required content to students creating and using new knowledge in the world. Learning is also accelerated when students have access to technology tools and other resources for communication and collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving and creativity.

Created by Wanda McClure Hopkins

Created by Wanda McClure Hopkins

Changing our learning environments to a personalized model is disruptive and our business-as-usual way of doing things will not move us forward. After spending a few days at Tech & Learning Live in Atlanta talking with leaders who have made big changes, I have new insight into how disruptive change can happen.

1. Start with visionary leadership
Nishant Mehta, Head of School at The Children’s School in Atlanta, asks everyone in his school to approach each day as if it were the first day of school. The excitement and expectation of the first day continues throughout the school year as teachers prepare students for their futures – not our past.  Students pursue their passions and share their learning with authentic audiences.

2. Remove silos
Wanda McClure Hopkins, Elementary Director at Amana Academy Charter School, believes in a flat leadership structure. This team approach has made it possible for her to remove silos that exist in traditional school settings. Teachers and other school leaders work together to develop solutions for engaging students in expeditionary learning. Allowing everyone to lead from where they are is vital to getting buy in for disruptive change.

3. Deconstruct and remix
Systems cannot successfully change with a “this is the way we’ve always done things” attitude. There may be great worth to the work that we’re doing, but we need to be able to deconstruct programs and think critically about each component. Some aspects of the school day like fixed schedules may need to be thrown out in order to move forward with personalized learning. Existing programs may also need to be remixed with new ideas in order to bring about meaningful change.

4. Get out of your comfort zone
When implementing change, it’s important to go into environments that may be out of your comfort zone. Making site visits to other schools that are implementing personalized learning with a variety of models will give your team a better picture of how personalized learning fits. Site visits will stretch team members and lead to rich conversation that will steer your next steps.

5. Focus on each learner
Each and every student that enters our schools is unique and deserves a unique learning experience that will develop their talents and skills. Dr. Yong Zaho suggests that we need to make sure that our students are “out of the basement” ready instead of test ready. We tend to measure success thorough standardized tests instead of focusing on skills that will allow students to get jobs when they leave us.

6. Just do it
Planning is important but don’t spend a year meeting with committees and just talking. Small implementations of your ideas will provide data and feedback that is important to how you move forward. Find the champions of change in your school and involve them in implementing potential solutions. Kate Matthews,  ‎Lead District Instructional Technology Specialist in Fayette County Public Schools and EduVue co-host, goes into schools and works with teachers to implement change with a “yes and” attitude.

Getting to transformative change will be the hardest but most meaningful work that you will ever do. Bring together the right team and you’ll have amazing results which will accelerate learning for all students.

Donna Teuber is the team leader for technology integration in South Carolina’s Richland School District Two, a Project RED Signature District with 1:1 computing in grades 3-12 impacting 21,000 students. Technology leadership has been key to the success of the Richland Two initiative, and Donna has created a Technology Leadership program to provide school administrators with the tools to lead the initiative at their schools, as well as leading the R2 Innovates! innovation incubator which provides teams of teachers with the training and resources that they need to implement innovative practices. 

Related toolkits

Learn more now with materials from these toolkit and resource collections: