Tag Archives: Leadership

Deliberate Leadership for School Change: an Overview of the Lead4Change Model

Large-scale school change often involves both complex systems (lots of different people, schools, organizations, etc.), as well as, things that teachers have never experienced themselves.

That's why schools need a model of deliberate leadership for school change. One such model is Lead4Change.

Lead4Change grew from early learnings from the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) about what strategies successful schools were using, and were often missing at schools having less success. Working with a variety of schools designed to motivate students, it became clear that the lessons generalized nicely to all kinds of school change, not just 1to1 laptop and tablet initiatives.

This 16 minute video provides an overview of the model.

My school district is applying this model to our technology initiatives, MLTI & Advantage 2014, and several districts, including mine, is using it to help shape our work around Customized Learning.

 

Strengths of the Early MLTI Program – Let’s Keep Them Going

Maine's learning with technology initiative (MLTI) is going through changes this year:

  • The contract renewal framed it not as a Maine contract, but as a multi-state contract, in hopes of making it easier for other states to do their own statewide initiatives.
  • When our governor announced the new contract award, it wasn't for our 12-year partner, Apple, but rather for HP.
  • The governor is allowing districts to select from any of the 5 finalist (Apple is included).

I'm not sure how all these changes will play out. My hope is that Maine's educators will rise to he occasion and take MLTI to the next level. My fear is that this will eventually kill what has been an internationally recognized learning program.

But it has made me think back on MLTI and what we identified that made the early MLTI such a powerful initiative. I found a couple old articles that address that question:

What we identified then as the strengths of this initiative include:

  • Access to technology
  • A focus on learning
  • A focus on leadership
  • Context-embedded professional development
  • Technology as a tool, not a curriculum area
  • Thinking how technology can change/improve teaching and learning

I hope Maine's educators, including the DOE and MLTI staff, continue to place an emphasis on these areas, and, despite the changes to program, MLTI continues to be the strong impactful initiative we had 8-10 years ago.

 

What We Want from Technology – MLTI, Customized Learning, and School Vision

There have been many discussions around Maine since the Governor announced schools would have choice over which solution they select for MLTI for the next four years. But most of those conversations have focused on the device, or its capabilities, or why it is “my preferred device,” or why people are worried that the device they aren't that familiar with will not be sufficient for the task at hand…

I wish so much more of those conversations had instead been about school visions for learning, and what we hope to get from technology for learning. What role can technology play in learning? What is your school's or district's vision (ours is here), and what is the role of technology in fulfilling that vision?

And for Auburn, as I would guess for other districts in the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning, we are concerned about technology's role in helping us succeed with implementing Customized Learning (such a critical part of our vision).

Here is what we think the roles for technology are for learning, especially for Customized Learning:

  • Instructional Resources for Building Foundational Knowledge
  • Instructional Resources for Using Knowledge, Creating, Complex Reasoning, and Projects
  • Learning Progress Management
  • Supporting Independent Learning
  • Assessment
  • Home School Connection
  • Student Motivation

How are you currently using technology for each of these? What are teachers doing (maybe in your district, but maybe in another) that shows you exciting ways technology could be used for each of these? What is best technology practice for each of these roles?

But much more importantly, as Maine's districts think about selecting a solution for MLTI, how does each proposed solution measure up against each of these roles for technology?

You don't have to be interested in Customized Learning to be interested in these roles. But I don't beleive a school can make a satisfactory decision about which solution to select if they are only thinking about the device or the operating system…

 

Schools Have MLTI Choice, But Compare the Solutions!

When Maine's Governor announced that he was awarding HP the contract for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), and not to Apple (who had been Maine's partner in MLTI for the last 12 years), he also told schools that they could choose from any of the 5 finalist proposals. Schools had flexibility to decide which solution matched their needs best.

But many of the discussions that have followed seem to have focused almost exclusively on the device (mostly the HP laptop, the MacBook Air, and the iPad). I think because of the focus on devices (and the passion techies have for their devices!), the conversations seem to have bordered on “Platform Wars” at times (with the vim and vigor that all religious wars have!)

But MLTI was never supposed to be about platform, nor the specific device, and not even “job skills.” It was always supposed to be about tools for learning. And I wish schools would discuss learning tools more, and less about device, OS, and job preparedness.

Not even the proposals are about the device. The device (laptop or tablet) is only one component of a whole solution: device, network, software, tech support, projection, professional development, etc. (Supposedly, in support of learning…)

So I'm hoping that schools are looking hard at their school visions for learning, thinking about technology supporting teaching and learning, but also doing a side by side comparison of the solutions as they work to make their decisions.

Any of you who are involved with Customized Learning may have participated in the Complex Reasoning training. In that training, we learned that Decision Making happens effectively when you identify criteria, rate the possible choices against those criteria, and then choose based on the ratings and analysis.

I encourage each of us, as we think about what direction we are going to go, to think not primarily about our preferred OS or device, or “job prep,” but rather about comparing the full solutions:

  • How does the PD compare? (And is it focused on teaching and learning, or on the device and the software? Does it focus on leadership for implementing 1to1 and for school change?)
  • How does the software compare? Is it just productivity tools or is it a good set of software for teaching and learning (including productivity tools)?
  • How much technical support can we expect? Repairs? Imaging? Set up?
  • What about data storage? How much? How easy? What happens after the contract?
  • What about the device? Appropriate for student use? Battery life? Quality of network? How well does their projection solution work, not just for teachers, but for kids?
  • What is the provider's experience with education? (Not simply providing tech, but in helping schools use their tech for teaching and learning – how well do they understand teachers' context?)

Auburn has a good idea of what choice we are selecting, but I'm not arguing that you choose what we choose. I am arguing that you look closely at comparing the 5 solutions against all these criteria. If you and your decision makers do that, and you choose something different that we did, that's great! At least you compared all elements of the solution.

I would just be disappointed if you chose based on “one criterion” (e.g. OS, favorite platform, or “it's the device I use”) or used criteria that don't match the vision and purpose of MLTI (e.g. used “job prep” instead of “learning tool” for your purpose), even if you end up making the same choice we do.

The State has provided a side by side comparison document (available here).

You don't have to use the point scores from the Review.

Do your own rating, but compare the solutions against all those criteria.

 

Overview of The Phases of Implementing Customized Learning

Implementing Customized Learning can certainly seem like a daunting task! I have written previously about the need to find a way to think of approaching implementation in a manageable way.

In reviewing the work of other schools and organizations further along in the process of implementing Customized Learning than we are, there are lessons for school leaders about effective and less effective approaches to implementation. By looking at the contrasts between the implementation efforts of an initiative that works and those that do not, educators can learn something about what the successful schools have done and what the less successful schools might not have done.

One of the major lessons for leaders has been “not all at once!”

There are many components to the school reform effort, and following a certain sequence seems to lead to successful implementation more often than other processes. Although there is flexibility in how districts implement each phase, successful implementation of Customized Learning moves through these five phases:

  • Awareness Phase
  • Classroom Culture Phase
  • Instructional Design Phase
  • Instructional Implementation Phase
  • School Structures Phase

Each phase focuses on building the capacity of teachers to implement a system of Customized Learning, but by making the transition manageable by breaking it down into doable steps. Below is an overview (the “deliverables,” if you will) for each phase:

Awareness Phase (In the Current System)

  • Overall Goals for this Phase: Examine our collective beliefs about learning and school; Start to build a mental picture of Customized Learning
  • Own the Learning Training (Customized Learning Awareness)
  • Shared Vision, Burning Platform, Beliefs of Learning Documents Established
  • Able to Articulate Beliefs of Learning, Vision, Mission
  • Explore How Beliefs Match Practice
  • Familiarity with Curriculum Organization
  • Start to Make Learning Transparent to Students
  • Able to Articulate Basic Information about Customized Learning and a Student Centered Environment

 

Classroom Culture Phase (In the Current System)

  • Overall Goals for this Phase: More consistently create a learner-centered classroom culture, including procedural efficiencies; Make the curriculum more transparent and navigable to students
  • Classroom Design & Delivery Training
  • Create a Learner Centered Culture that Honors Student Voice and Choice
  • Create Procedural Efficiency in a Learner Centered Classroom (e.g. Rules, Student Input, Standard Operating Procedures)
  • Tracks Student Progress on Specific Learning Goals/Targets vs Activities/Assignments
  • Learning is Transparent so Students Can Navigate Their Own Learning (e.g. Student Goal Setting, Use of Curriculum Organization)
  • Initial Use of Mission, Vision, etc., as Decision-Making Screen
  • Recognize It Is Not About the Tools, But Rather About How the Tools Are Used (Parking Lot, SOPs, PDCAs, Code of Cooperation, Affinity Charts, etc.)

 

Instructional Design Phase (In the Current System)

  • Overall Goal for this Phase: Designing lessons and units for Customized Learning that reflect instruction for both lower-level and higher-level thinking
  • Instructional Design & Delivery Training
  • Balanced Instructional Model
  • Unpacking Learning Targets with Students
  • Instruction Organized Around Measurement Topics (Curriculum Model)
  • Student Self Pacing & Acceleration
  • Instruction for Lower Taxonomy Levels (e.g. identifies online resources for Level 2 Goals)
  • Instruction for Upper Taxonomy Levels (e.g. Seminars, Projects, etc.)
  • Consistent Use of Mission, Vision, etc., as Decision-Making Screen
  • Separates Academic Feedback from Non-Academic Feedback

 

Instructional Implementation Phase (In an Evolving System)

  • Overall Goal for this Phase: Become skilled at consistently implementing the practices (motivation, interventions, grading and assessment, etc.) to carry out the lessons and units.
  • Has and Uses an Explicit Model/Language of Instruction (e.g. The Art & Science of Teaching)
  • Uses a System of Recording and Reporting Student Progress
  • Use of Individualized Learning Plans
  • Applies Assessment for Learning (Formative Feedback)
  • Uses Formative Approach to Calculate Progress and Rubrics, Instead of Points and Percentages
  • Applies Effective Practices in Student Motivation & Engagement
  • Demonstrating Proficiency on Learning Targets Through Different Approaches (Multiple Pathways)

 

Structure Phase (The New System)

  • Overall Goal for this Phase: Design and implement the schools systems and structures to support pedagogical practices developed and implemented over the previous phases.
  • Grading and Reporting System
  • “Rank & Advancement” (Grade Levels)
  • Scheduling Students
  • Grouping and Regrouping of Students
  • Course Organization (Seminars, “Merit Badges,” etc.)
  • Understands and Embraces Invention Reasoning

 

We are quick to point out that staff are alway free to “dabble” a phase or two ahead of where they are now. In fact, their explorations often help us figure out how to better implement the coming phases. Using the term “dabble” also helps make clear that, although their explorations are welcome, their task is to get good at the deliverables for the phase they are currently in.

Here is a phases chart you can share with your staff.

 

Are We Ready to Trust Teachers with School Change?

It won't surprise any of you that once you really start digging into how to systemically implement Customized Learning, it doesn't take long to figure out that you need shared leadership, and that teachers need to be an active part of that shared leadership.

In Auburn, we're even working with teachers and the Association to see how we might re-envision the contract, so that it is both fair and flexible. Fair to teachers in terms of working conditions, compensation, training and support, and benefits. But flexible enough to the the new system to allow us to redefine professional development (and adjusting teacher roles), grouping (and regrouping) students, “courses” and other ways to organize “delivery” or “coverage” of the curriculum. (We've reached some interesting philosophical agreements about what a “from scratch” contract might look like, but, to help everyone bridge between that vision and what we have now, we'll probably focus on simply tweaking sections of the existing contract this round.)

But one of the issues that has come up several times, is an expanded role for teachers as decision makers: in allocating resources and creating budgets; in supervising and evaluating teachers, and working with those who need extra support; etc.

It's an interesting question. School leaders are asking teachers to trust them to change schools to a system that we may philosophically believe will be better for more students (including, perhaps some innovative, but unprecedented, changes to their contract!). But are school leaders ready to trust teachers to help design and lead that work, to help us all successfully implement customized learning?

Recently, I came across Trusting Teachers with School Success, a book that looks at 11 schools that have done exactly that, and relates their successes and challenges. You can learn more at their website: www.trustingteachers.org.

 

Social Media for School Leaders

I just returned from the national middle school conference (AMLE12) in Portland, OR.

While there, I attended a wonderful session on Social Media for School Leaders by Howard Johnston and Ron Williamson. Their presentation showed a wonderful balance of the realities of today's viral communication and the school context.

The presentation addressed the role of social media in five areas:

  1. Social Media and Schools
  2. School Safety and Crisis Management
  3. Communication
  4. Productivity
  5. Professional Growth

What they made clear is how important a tool social media is to schools and school leaders, and the enormous opportunity lost when schools shun social media. They raised the following questions suggesting why school leaders might want to pay attention to the potential of social media:

  • Do you communicate with students, families and staff?
  • Do you monitor community views about your school?
  • Do your kids use social media?
  • Do you need to stay on top of cutting-edge educational topics?
  • Do you need to promote good news about your school in the community?

And they recommended a 5-step plan (in part, based on findings from the Pew Internet and American Life Project) related to social media and school safety:

  1. Learn about social media and how it works
  2. Recognize that most teens use it responsibly
  3. Don’t attempt to ban it
  4. Help students, families and staff know about how to manage social media
  5. Focus on responsible student use

Johnston and Williamson provided a great list of resources available to school leaders: