The year 2020 is shaping up to be a record year - Summer Olympics, a World Cup, a presidential election, and in the education world, the year many strategic plans expire. As districts gear up to write their next strategic plan, we have mixed feelings about the process. At best, the process provides an opportunity for district leaders to coalesce around a shared vision. At worst, the process consumes valuable hours and produces a document that does little to change individual behavior.
We're counting down the days to this year's 5th annual Personalized Learning Summit! We're so excited to gather together again this year and share the experiences and innovation we've all been developing since the last PL Summit. If you've never been to the Personalized Learning Summit before - or you're making the case to attend again - here are the top reasons to join us in Atlanta, GA May 14-16 this year!
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What’s the most meaningful thing a district can do to support innovation in its schools? When my colleagues and I at Education Elements work with schools and districts, our approach to innovation and change involves a framework of 25 key factors, all of which are important. In the past year, though, we’ve been thinking a great deal about one of these – “roles to support teachers” – and the tremendous impact it has on innovation. Specifically, we’ve come to believe that there is a certain kind of innovative leadership, a set of skills and a way of thinking about innovation, that can enable district leaders, instructional coaches, school leaders, and teacher-leaders to have a transformative impact on their schools through the way they support teachers. We believe that one of the single most impactful efforts a district can undertake is to help their district leaders, school leaders, instructional coaches, and teacher-leaders learn to practice this kind of innovative leadership.
Every 4-5 years, I try to pick up a new activity and focus on it until I get to a level of intermediate competency. It started with scuba diving in 2003, snowboarding in 2008, swimming in 2013, and this year was surfing. I took a 3-day boot camp with a private instructor where it turns out I had a different instructor each of the 3 days. While the instruction was 1:1 and technically couldn’t be more personalized for me, I was surprised by how much each instructor met or didn’t meet my needs. So I wanted to break it down for you.
In Putnam County, Tenn., with 23 schools spread across 400 square miles, we share many of the challenges faced by our fellow rural school districts nationwide, including inconsistent attendance, long commutes, and a high "mobility rate" - the rate at which students are moving in and out of the district. Previously, Putnam County teachers had been using more traditional, often low-tech teaching methodologies. But starting eight years ago, we began to make a significant shift toward personalized and virtual learning with the goal of preparing students to be "future-ready," a term we use in Putnam County to encompass both college-and career-ready as a more flexible concept as students often work toward both at once.
The end of one year and the beginning of the next is frequently a time of reflection and introspection, writing lists, and making resolutions. In the spirit of the season, I've been reflecting on my time with Education Elements. I’ve been a part of the Ed Elements team since 2013 - not quite six years - and in that time, I’ve seen quite a lot of change in the work we do and the work schools and districts ask us to do. But, I’ve also been surprised and proud at how much has remained the same in terms of our mission, culture, and how we think about these challenges.