– Terra Graves –
Just to refresh your memory (or if you didn’t read last month’s piece), I got a new job as a department administrator and coordinator of a district-wide digital curriculum, communication and collaboration project. An excerpt from January:
At the most basic level, we are trying to get 240 district-level folks, 240 administrators, 3,500 teachers, and 64,000 students to live in Microsoft Teams. At the highest level, we are trying to provide equitable access to learning and create innovative learning environments to produce future-ready graduates.
This project will also support the 1:1 program implementation at three new schools (one elementary and two middle schools) opening in fall 2019, and three more schools opening fall 2020. These schools will serve as models for what we want all of our schools to become eventually. Since its inception, my department has carried the philosophy: “Pedagogy first. Technology second.” While much of this project entails training on the technology tools (Microsoft Teams, OneNote and Class Notebook, Accessibility Tools, Forms, and Sway), all teachers and administrators at these schools will receive professional learning through our existing 21st Century Educator Badge Program.
At the time of publication last month, we were just about to begin our Microsoft training extravaganza. Now, all district-level departments (Curriculum and Instruction, 21st Century Learning, English Language Development, Gifted and Talented, Special Education, Social Emotional Learning, etc.) have completed three full days of mandatory Microsoft training, including Teams, OneNote/Class Notebook, Accessibility Tools, Forms, and Sway. Part of these days included a half day with me to learn about the District’s vision for this project, begin planning for the creation of digital resources for teachers, and the first domino to fall in this project is our Curriculum and Instruction Department. They will soon embark on an immense task: repackaging curriculum resources into OneNote notebooks so that teachers can have easy access to all of their instructional materials in ONE place.
A word about the word, “mandatory.” Don’t we all just LOVE it when we are forced to go to a training? I’ll admit, when I am facilitating a class of any kind, I prefer when people have a choice about attending. A captive audience is very different from a captivated one. While the intended outcomes of this project will certainly benefit everyone in the district, the steps we need to take will require a lot of effort, cooperation, and willingness to change our delivery systems. Some people are ready and excited for the change; others, not so much. Change is hard enough when it’s something you want. It’s harder when you’ve been told to do it. I felt encouraged when one of the training participants said, “I’m glad this is mandatory, because it will actually happen.” The overwhelming support we have from district leadership is making all the difference in our forward progress. When something is mandatory, it removes the element of choice. I believe in choice. Choice is usually motivating. Too many choices can be debilitating.
Our three new schools will open next year as 1:1 schools (every student gets a device they have access to in school and at home). Principals of these new schools had the luxury of hiring folks who WANT to work in that environment. They are motivated and ready for change! This is the driver of my project deadlines: provide the teachers at these schools with digital curricula, ready to use with students on the first day of school in August.
The new schools will be the first benefactors of this work. Many of the Global Elements for Effective Flipped Learning (GEEFL) confirm that we are setting them up for success. Below, I share my thoughts on a few of them:
Thank you for tuning in for the second piece on my journey as a new administrator. I hope that my discussion about how the GEEFL support my work will allow you to use them either as a guide for changing your practice or confirming your existing practice as a flipped educator.