As a Senior Consultant at Education Elements I have the pleasure of visiting more than 100 schools and districts each year--- some are just starting to think about innovation and others have completely re-imagined the thing we call school. As I return to school sites over the course of a year or many years, one of my favorite moments is when the leaders I work with develop phrases, images, and metaphors that clearly articulate their goals and challenges around personalized learning. This week, Yuma School District One Superintendent Darwin Stiffler shared an image with me that I think captures so much of what we try to do in our work supporting districts. The picture above shows what often happens with a personalized learning initiative. Tech folks see it as a “device roll out,” instructional folks see it as “21st century learning,” teachers may see it as “another district initiative.” It’s essential we make it clear that personalized learning is the elephant, not just a tusk or a tail.
The Yuma One team is overcoming this “divided elephant syndrome” by engaging with principals, coaches, technology teams, and teachers in ongoing conversations about vision, design, and digital tools. The leadership team recognizes that a single meeting is not enough to engage stakeholders meaningfully in a shift to personalized learning . Instead, they ensure that every training and conversation that district leaders have with principals is taken back and repeated with school teams, teachers, and coaches . If principals do a design workshop, teachers do a design workshop. If principals talk about digital tools, teachers talk about digital tools. This ripple approach helps to ensure that all voices are included in decision making.
This month, Yuma One completed an intensive design process to create new instructional models and select digital tools that will enable the district to meet the needs of its 9,000 students through personalized learning. See more in this recent press release. I particularly like the way the district worked collaboratively to create their vision and problems of practice that personalized learning could help to solve. The Yuma Team will share their experience getting started with personalized learning at the Education Elements PL Summit this week in a session titled “Leader of The Pack: How To Get Started With Personalized Learning.” They’ll co-present with leaders from Fulton County, Georgia, each sharing how they began planning to move their entire district to a personalized learning mindset and model. Not attending the PL Summit but still want to learn from Yuma? Follow the action on twitter with #plsummit and @edelements.
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.