District Personalized Learning Bingo
My Grandma Rose loves bingo. Whenever I or one of her ten children or seventeen grandchildren visit, she always asks us to join her for Tuesday night bingo. Her favorite is blackout bingo-- which I find to be the most difficult (and therefore most frustrating) version of the game.
Instead of having to muster the luck to get five squares in a row, you have to hope the bingo caller will shout not five, but all 25 (okay, 24 if you count the free square) of your numbers. Needless to say, I’ve never won. Yet the clarity of blackout bingo-- you either have it or you don’t, and you know how you’re doing compared to benchmarks-- always appealed to me.
As our team developed the Education Elements Personalized Learning District Framework over the past year, I kept coming back to this idea. How could we help districts know if they’ve met a goal, if they’re on track, and how close they are to achieving a benchmark? Every time I sat down with a superintendent, CTO, CAO, teacher, principal, coach, board member, or dean to discuss their goals for personalized learning, they always wanted to know-- where have you seen this go wrong? What are the things we should learn from other district’s mistakes? After answering these questions countless times, I started keeping a list. Over and over again I saw that if a district lacked a clear vision for personalized learning, schools and staff wouldn’t understand the rationale behind the initiative. Likewise, if there wasn’t a culture of innovation present, it was difficult to build ownership and sustain excitement and support. Even basic things like budgeting and staffing could become major issues if not planned for in this new, personalized environment. We took this list of lessons learned and came up with a “bingo board” of our own. The Education Elements Personalized Learning District Framework encompasses the 25 areas we think are essential for a district to effectively launch, support, sustain, and grow personalized learning. We use this to guide our work at both the school and district level and to help school systems identify strengths, area of need, and potential roadblocks.
Each bingo square has guiding questions that help teams assess where they stand in that category. For example:
We believe districts should generally move from left to right-- starting with a needs assessment, developing a vision, strategy, and roadmap, and making design, curriculum, and support decisions after that. However, we also realize that in many instances a budget is set or staff roles are very difficult to change and therefore the bingo board provides the flexibility to move through and stamp squares as you complete them-- based on your specific context, strengths, and needs.
There are no free squares in our board, but we think that by focusing on these 25 key areas you will ensure that personalized learning can be even more enduring than the game of bingo. We’ll see if Grandma Rose agrees…
About Keara Mascareñaz
Keara is a Managing Partner at Education Elements who focuses on how to build and scale a culture of innovation in large systems, how to create national communities of collaboration, and how to keep laughing when pursuing daunting, large-scale changes. She was lucky to collaborate with co-authors Alexis Gonzales-Black and Anthony Kim to design the website and toolkit for The NEW School Rules: 6 Practices for Responsive and Thriving Schools.