Five ways to break the chains

A while back, I shared with my superintendent the video “Changing to learn, learning to change.”  He let me know that he loved the video, but how on earth would we, as a district, move forward in this way?  I sent him the following response:

1.  Invest heavily in helping people understand how important it is for us to stay current, not just to blindly use technology.

2.  Treat the 95% of the student body, not the 5%.  95% of the student body can use media appropriately, and to create and learn from it.  It’s genuine higher-order thinking.  We have to get away from the thinking that since 5% might misuse it, no one should have it.  Want to truly innovate?  Unblock everything of value, and challenge the staff to teach the students the way people in business and polite society use these tools for positive gains, and then create appropriate consequences for misuse.   A picture is a picture whatever the medium, a threat is a threat, no matter the medium.  We need to stop killing the messenger.

3.  Leverage standards, not be slaves to them.  We have so much access to data that can help us do a better job teaching, and no real skills and incentive to access them.  This should become second nature.  We should have a point person for disseminating assessment data and making it digitally accessible to all teachers, not just the ones who have taken a few hours to learn how Pearson Access operates.  Imagine each teacher getting an email a week before school, with all the links and shared docs they need to get started with REAL information to work from.  IEP’s should be online personal databases that we can click and view at any time from any machine.  We push a lot of paper and invite people to use a lot of difficult online tools when all we need is for them to be able to interact with the data.

4.  Start looking at the organization as a whole, living, thinking system (a la Peter Senge).  What do we need to teach our 
organization as a whole?  I’m not talking about the people, exactly.  The people come and go, and very little changes.  The organization as an entity needs to be able to change.  What barriers are there?  How tall are they?  Is anyone actively trying to break through them?  Can we wear them down?  Can they be traveled around?  What works?  Why does it work?  How can we leverage that?  

5.  Look beyond the conference.  We, as a school culture seem to think if we are doing things well compared to the other schools in the conference, then we are doing well.  But to take a look at the BEST school we know of, wherever that is, and start trying to do what they do, now that is vision.  If all the schools in the conference (or region, or state) are 20 years behind in innovation, would we notice?

There is a lot more.  If you are really intrigued, you can visit the blog for Dr. Scott McLeodDangerously Irrelevant, to get a really good feel where this 21st century movement is trying to go.  Even if much of it is far-reaching, it begins a conversation I think more people need to join.

Sorry if that is more of an answer than you expected, and I hope I don’t come off as too critical of our district.  I’m not.  I am very proud of the work we do here.  But this is a vision that we could stand to consider for a while, because I think at the heart of it is the future of public education itself.

Thank you for your support and openness to discussion.  I really appreciate that quality, and we are better for having it as part of our district.  I would love to continue this discussion at any time. 

Are these conversations happening in your district? Surprisingly the issue often is not disinterest, but lack of information or strategy. The more people who speak up and ask for change, the more likely it is to happen.


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