When my best friend’s mom asked me to help set up a bank of computers for Bloomington Public Schools in suburban Minneapolis, she provided me with my first experience in educational technology. I was 14 years old at the time and I can still remember the sense of accomplishment when we finished, while at the same time wondering, “what’s next?”
Take a look at your smartphone. You can’t live without it, right? In two years, not having an adaptive assessment tied to individualized instruction for children will be as ridiculous as not having a smartphone. Imagine having data in one place that tells you if and how students are progressing from year-to-year versus having to cobble together data from different assessments, administered by different teachers in different grades that still give an incomplete view of student achievement. Advanced technology is now available which provides a deep, customized evaluation of student performance and tracks student growth consistently and continuously over a student’s entire K–12 career. This technology is an adaptive diagnostic.
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Blended Book | Blended Learning | District LEaders | Education Elements | Education Elements Team | Heather Staker | Michael B. Horn | Partners | Personalized Learning | Results | School Leaders | Team | Thanksgiving
This year, at iNACOL’s annual conference on blended and online learning, we were honored to host and celebrate the launch of Michael Horn’s and Heather Staker’s book, “Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools.” For a special edition of the book, they allowed me to write a preface focused on how superintendents should think about blended learning, and I’m grateful for that. If you didn’t make it to the book launch party in Palm Springs, you missed some good fun, but don’t worry, you can still get a copy of the preface here. Both Michael and Heather are two amazing people who truly care about innovation in education. I’m thankful for the work they do to provide thought leadership in making blended learning and innovation a way of life for all educators and students.
The last two weeks of my life have reinforced, affirmed, validated, bolstered...the fact that there is only one body that knows best about your customer’s needs and that is the customer themself. As obvious as that seems, I can recall countless times that I have seen the customer’s needs remain hidden despite asking all of the right questions, and doing what appears to be thorough due diligence. We all understand the value of stakeholder feedback, but how do we ensure we are talking to the right stakeholders? …. it would be really cool if I now gave you the right answer… but that would defeat the “question mark” at the end of my sentence. The ever present challenge of accurately identifying customer needs became apparent to me the last two weeks when I had the opportunity to (a) sit with good people (who are great clients) and listen to some of the “fallout” related to some minor product changes, and (b) participate in strategic planning with a new partner who is thoughtfully building a new instructional environment and instructional model because their old partners didn’t take the time to listen. Meetings like these are invaluable, and while we do them often, I know we still don't do them enough.
When I was young, I struggled with math. It was always taught in a language-heavy way, and I'm dyslexic, so that didn't work out too well for me. Eventually, my dad tried something that got me over those language barriers. He drew pictures of what the words and the symbols were trying to convey. Math transformed into mechanisms that I could visualize, and that made all the difference.
An executive in my office has a favorite mantra, one that has become so familiar to everybody in our company that at meetings, celebrations, conferences—really, any gathering of two or more employees—all he needs to do is mouth the first word and the rest of us chime in: “What does success look like?” It’s not all that unique or profound, but it’s still a question that gets at the core of the staggeringly enormous apple that we call education.