Stories compel us: Last week Education Elements hosted our 4th national Personalized Learning Summit. The event included more than 750 leaders from schools and districts across the country. Our opening session featured George Couros, author of The Innovator's Mindset. His sixty-minute keynote was jam-packed with ideas and inspiration, but one idea stood out to me the most: we need to get better at telling stories.
As a part of an education consulting team I’m often hired to support schools and districts solve complex challenges-- from redesigning teaching and learning, to building leadership capacity, aligning initiatives, increasing staff retention, and restructuring professional development. In all of this work the underlying, often unspoken, need that most teams want our help with is improving team and organizational culture. They want to know how to make schools and districts more effective, engaged, fun, collaborative, creative, and innovative so that they can make transformative and lasting change.
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In 2015 we published the first edition of our Personalized Learning Implementation Framework (aka PL Framework) based on lessons learned from working with schools and districts over the previous five years. At that time I shared how the PL Implementation Framework was inspired by my Grandma Rose’s love of bingo and the idea that, much like on a bingo board, there are many ways to “win” on the PL Framework. Since then, the framework has been used in hundreds of schools and districts around the country, downloaded more than 2,000 times, and leveraged as an invaluable tool to help teams articulate their strengths and areas of need when it comes to designing, launching, and scaling personalized learning.
Four years ago the team at EE had an idea...what if we brought together groups of personalized learning leaders in regional Blended Learning Leadership Academies (BLLA) to help spread innovation and best practices? We hosted these BLLAs for two years across the country, from Chicago to Washington DC and San Francisco. We facilitated collaboration time, hosted choice workshops, shared out highlights from the past year, and hosted silly photo booths.
Recently it seems that innovation is a buzzword on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Need happier employees? Innovate! Need bigger profits? Innovate! Need better leadership? Innovate!
Many educators know Clayton Christensen for his work on Disrupting Class. Fewer may know his philosophical work, How Will You Measure Your Life? I first encountered his ideas in an essay published in The Harvard Business Review in 2010. This essay was the result of a conversation Christensen had with his business school students at the conclusion of every semester. “On that day, we used the thinking we’ve shared in the course for a powerful purpose-- to ensure they are successful not just in their careers, but in their lives as well.” Christensen asked his students not just how they will measure their professional or financial success, but how they would 1) ensure happiness in their career; 2) make relationships with family an enduring source of happiness; and 3) stay out of jail. These are powerful questions and ones you might not expect a business school professor to focus on. I was revisiting Christensen’s essay last weekend as I contemplated a question that I come back to almost every month. How we will measure the success of personalized learning?