Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Snow Day to the Rescue: School Change

It's a snow day today.  A needed day to catch up on curriculum planning, responding to student work, and prep--the kind of time I was wishing for when I wrote yesterday's post, Overwhelming Workload.

Schools are quickly changing, and if we embrace these changes with the needed thought, reflection, revision and planning, the changes will be positive.

What structures, processes and tools do we need to embrace?
  • Blended Learning: The best way to learn is to use a variety of tools and processes online and off in strategic, targeted ways.  It is the job of the teacher to embrace, lead and respond to the blended learning environment in timely, thoughtful ways. 
  • BYOD and Diversified Tools: Rather than foster two distinct learning environments including school and away from school, teachers and students should embrace life-long, integrated learning environments.  To embrace this well, schools will have to take into account the wonderful tools that students access at home and intersect the use of those tools with school tools in dynamic ways.  One way to do this is to, as much as possible, utilize learning platforms that can be accessed 24-7 on multiple tools at home, in the community and/or in school. It is also essential that we begin to look at ways to host students' at-home tools in school. 
  • Streamlined, Inviting, Targeted Organization: The Internet today is a wild west of information and ideas. Teaching teams need to work together to streamline and organize information in ways that make the information easy to access, use, manipulate and respond to. 
  • Personalized and Differentiated: As we coach each child to competency in essential skills, concept and knowledge, facility with learning-to-learn skills and habits, and motivation with regard to developing interests and passions, we need to utilize tools, strategies and structures in engaging, student-centered ways.  Learning menus, social media, RTI, PLCs, learning workshop, quick-feedback online learning programs and ePortfolios are all tools that can help to build this dynamic emphasis.
  • Expertise and Role Definition: In this knowledge laden age we need to target and identify the areas of learning we will foster with depth and engagement. Teams need to divvy up the responsibilities in many ways as it's impossible for one to do it all with regard to traditional teaching and learning.  
  • Deletion and Refinement: We need to get rid of practices that are no longer engaging, efficient or profitable on a large scale.  It might still be possible to utilize some of these activities with individuals and small groups because we know that learners thrive with diverse strategies dependent on need and interest. PLC teams should continually discuss what's working and what's not to best build effective teaching repertoires and practice. 
  • Learning Community: As much as possible all decisions should be made in tandem with the learning community including students, families, community members, educators and leaders. 
Building learning teams, practice and vision for best effect is both challenging and exciting as this process is leading us forward to schools that have a greater potential of reaching all students in engaging, life-enhancing ways.  That's an effort worth our time.