Driving Dynamic School Transformation

CEO, One-to-One Institute

It is difficult to change a tire on a moving vehicle.  Educators are asked to do this every day, week, school year.  Adapting, flexing, reacting and responding are key to effectively serving every learner every day and ensuring everyone is moving forward on a personalized path to realizing full potential.  Let’s not also forget the need to be current with research and best practices and apply those concepts ‘just in time’ on the job.  It is exhausting to think about.  Having a network and the camaraderie to support everyone in this community is important.  An ever-updated playbook is also important, and now, the technology uptick in schools is accelerating on many fronts.  How can schools harness the tech tools to make sure that tire gets changed, and at the speed of motion, while not missing a beat in the learning process?

The NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition says, “Schools are not yet adept at moving teaching innovations into mainstream practice. Innovation springs from the freedom to try out and implement new ideas, yet schools generally allow for top-down changes that unfold in prescribed ways. Current organizational promotion structures rarely reward innovative approaches and improvements in teaching and learning, much less allow these breakthroughs to be scaled and replicated. As a result, many educators become frustrated by the rigid confines of a school that is in desperate need of transformation. Scaling pedagogical innovation requires the removal of restrictive policies, adequate funding, capable leadership, and strong evaluation practices — a tall order for the majority of K-12 public schools, which are receiving fewer resources.The reality is that many teachers are not prepared to lead innovative, effective practice, and there is a kaleidoscope of systemic factors that must be addressed to resolve this complex issue.(8)

The report further notes that this is one of the ‘wicked challenges’ because many required systems to make this happen are not in place.  To achieve this ‘challenge’, scaling teaching innovations and teaching complex thinking need to be solidified practice. Both, the report says, are needed for the longer term impact of ‘rethinking how schools work’ and ‘shifting to deeper learning approaches’.

Our experience at One-to-One Institute shows that fully re-invented learning ecosystems are elusive…even when robust technologies, emerged best practices, etc., are adopted.  Retrofitting inventions (based on innovations) into an existing, traditional systems set doesn’t get to the desired transformations.  Unless all systems are transformed, the inventions are merely worked around disruptions…and not in the sense of a disruption replacing former systems.  One example:  for educators to engage in learning communities for just-in-time professional growth experiences, the lock-step daily schedule and episodic professional development contract language need to be re-imagined.  How can time and language be re-invented to accommodate consistent, ongoing adult learning?

An analogy I often think about is the adoption of the Affordable Care Act.  We’ve all been touched in some way(s) because of this new, national plan.  The whole system is affected…that means you and me…and how we do business or used to do business with our medical providers.  All of those changes have affected how I plan, organize, make appointments, check diagnosis for services, prescriptions, etc.  It’s also caused me to spend hours on the phone trying to resolve issues that never existed in the services I received or sought. Now, all this time later, I’ve got a new playbook for everything I do that is medically oriented.  Am I better off?  Probably not. Is the country better off? It depends on what metrics you’re using, but this systemic overhaul has rocked my world in the hopes of providing healthcare to all Americans, which I believe is a lofty goal.  It makes me imagine what the country’s education system would experience, if the same dramatic overhaul were to happen to all of its current components, structure and outcomes.

Food for thought, discussion and debate.

Leslie Wilson, founder and CEO of One-to-One Institute, has served education for 38+ years  in top level, key decision-making roles at state and local levels. Recognized as an international expert in education technology, Wilson is a frequent writer, presenter and interviewee. Among her many publications, she co-authored, “Project RED-The Technology Factor, Nine Keys to Student Achievement and Cost Effectiveness” which is the most broadly used research around successful implementation of 1:1 technologies in schools.

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