Wednesday, May 25, 2016

#NYCDigital Playbook: Strategies To Update Learning, Teaching, + Building Relationships

Remember the good old days? Families spent time together, students weren’t distracted, crime was down, and everyone’s voice was heard...  

If only that were true, but it’s not.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reminds us with this quote where he shares wise advice from his wife:


And he is backing his words with a promise to make New York the most user-friendly and innovative city in the world. He is doing that with work to expand WiFi access to all residents by providing or increasing connectivity at housing developments, in schools and libraries, in subway stations and throughout public spaces and parks. He has also recently released the #NYCDigital Playbook which outlines how residents will experience services and how digital tools will be used to strengthen communities, online and off.


Here is purpose of the #NYCDigital Playbook:

The guidance within the Playbook challenges all of the city agencies and service providers to rethink the way they reach New Yorkers. The  #NYCDigital Playbook has  6 principals and 12 strategies with significant implications for those who serve students and their families.  

Here are the 6 principals:
Here are the 12 strategies:
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These strategies can help educators, students, and families make a case to make improvements that would benefit our schools. Here are some of the implications these strategies have for education:


#1 - Accessible Services: This means that content should be accessible to people who speak different languages, are at different reading levels, have different vision ability etc. This strategy can only be implemented if teachers provide students with digital materials where they can use tools like Google Translate, text-to-voice, enlarging text and images, etc.


#2 - Communicate Simply: Out with guidelines and policies that are difficult to read and understand. In with documents and materials written in plain language. This means schools and districts will need to rewrite a lot of documentation such as discipline codes, internet acceptable use policies, and more.  New York City has already started this work with their social media guidelines (and soon internet acceptable use policy) written with students, teachers, and parents.


#3 - Reach Out to Residents: This means that services should recognize users and not make them start from scratch. This means out with outdated paper and pencil records. In with creating systems that have single sign on for students and teachers.  


#4 - Test with Users: The best way to create services that work well for teachers, students, and their families is to involve them. Human-centered research, design, and evaluation are powerful tools for creating services that satisfy stakeholders. This can have an impact in areas of both learning and assessment. Rather than making decisions for students and their families, make it with them. This relates to teacher evaluation as well where teachers feel their voices haven’t been heard and methods are punitive rather than supportive.


#5 - Organize Around Needs: Create seamless services that feel simple and intuitive. For teachers this might mean the process for receiving funding through grants and others means is more simple. It can also mean record keeping processes are simplified. For students and their families this means signing up for programs like Pre-K or applying to high school is not a difficult process.


#6 - Build Capacity: This means building capacity of city staff to provide services to the community. For teachers this could mean supporting their efforts to participate in professional learning opportunities.  


#7 - Build On What Works: This means that schools shouldn’t create new systems for teachers, students, and their families, but rather build on the strong relationships stakeholders with social media networks, search engines, and other third party sites and applications. Want to strengthen the home-school connection? Use Facebook.  Want students to share their work? Use Instagram.  Want to connect students to experts and mentors, use Twitter.  This also means embracing, not banning the resources teachers, students, and families already use and enjoy.


#8 - Tie Services + Neighborhoods:  This strategy addresses the need to provide internet to empower teachers, students, and families with access to information and resources and strengthen bonds between stakeholders—online and face-to-face.


#9 - Create Standards: This doesn’t refer to teaching or learning standards, but rather that we must put in place clear standards for digital design elements, technical options, and data sharing and collection so that services we provide are consistent and recognizable.


#10 - Mobile First: Innovative educators have always known that cell phones can serve as powerful tools for learning as well as strengthening the home-school connection. The Digital Playbook recognizes that residents increasingly use mobile devices as their primary tool and is the method in which they access key services. To reach the greatest number of residents, mobile and SMS communications should be the first way we deliver content and connect with staff, students, and families.


#11 - Engage Private Partners: Innovative educators understand that we are not on our own. Community and technology partners are eager, willing, and ready to help develop and implement effective services. Teachers and their students in NYC benefit from partnerships  we have with companies such as Google, Common Sense Education, PBS, Duolingo, Intel, Mozilla and many more. Joining forces with public-minded partners will make service delivery more effective for New Yorkers and efficient for government.


#12 - Be Accountable + Transparent:  We must ensure staff, students and their families understand how their personal information will be used and what they stand to gain.

So, what do you think? Do you see ways to use these principles and strategies to make a case and support the work you are doing with students and their families? Which will you focus on first? Which do you think will be most difficult to address?  Share your thoughts in the comments.  

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