Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Incorporating Innovation into Strategic Planning that Will Enrich Learning

It takes more than ensuring educators and students have access to technology when schools begin the work of developing a 21st century strategic school plan. As innovative educators, students, leaders, and families, are well aware, technology is just a tool. In and of itself technology does not equate to either innovation or greater effectiveness. In fact poorly used technology generally results in substandard instruction. In some cases this further results in dropping technology-(rather than learner) driven programs and support. This is important to remember when developing a strategic school learning plan. What's most important is learning always come first.

I've heard one too many educational leader, teacher or parent proudly state that they are part of an innovative school as evidenced by the fact that they have laptops or Smartboards in every classroom. That is not impressive. What is impressive is when the conversation begins with how student learning is enriched in new ways and learners are engaged with innovative tools and ideas. I was recently asked by a school leader for feedback on how to ensure their school's strategic planning could help ensure educators were preparing 21st century learners for success. Here is what I shared.

The goals, dreams, and vision for learners, not technology, need to drive the plan. Technology can help meet these desired outcomes but tech in and of itself is should not be the defining factor. For example a school goal could be formatted like this:

  • School goal for learners:
  • Specific technology used:
  • How will this accomplish the goal in ways not previously possible:
  • How will this enrich student learning:
Here are some ideas on how your school can get started on the road to developing a strategic plan for learning.
DEVELOPING A STRATEGIC PLAN FOR LEARNING

  • Develop a school strategic innovation team
    Ideally this team is comprised of teachers, school leaders, students, and family.
  • Take a simple assessmentHave team members come together to take a simple assessment to see where the school lies on the continuum of 21st century success.
    This measures a schools success in five dimensions.
    • Infrastructure: Hardware, Software, Networks and Tech Support
    • Human Capital − Teacher Effectiveness
    • Curriculum Coherence, Learner Centered Instruction and Digital Content
    • Leadership
    • Student Achievement Outcomes
    • Here is a sample simple assessment
  • Start the conversationDoing this enables team members to start a dialogue, develop, common language., and begin thinking about areas in which they want to grow.
  • Select a dimension of 21st century success on which to focusAfter taking the simple assessment, discuss and select a the dimension(s) on which it makes sense for the school to focus
  • Determine where you are and want to go
    Once
    the dimensions are selected the team should determine the specific areas of focus using the Rubric for School Innovation to determine where the school currently stands and strategically make a plan for moving to the next level in the continuum.
  • Fine-tune your focusOnce the dimensions of focus and plan are discussed the team can work to create an innovation roadmap. You can see samples here by clicking on any model school and looking at their roadmap. This will be the school's guide for moving along the continuum of 21st century success. There should be a lead writer assigned to drafting the roadmap, but all innovation team members should be invited to the document (Google docs works well) as it may make sense to have certain team members take the lead on various parts of the roadmap.
  • Ensure innovation road map has an educator and student-driven hardware purchase planYour school has a hardware budget. That doesn't mean that those not in specific classrooms should determine hardware purchases. Educators and students don't like to feel imposed upon. Instead, excite teachers and learners by inviting vendors to share various possibilities with classrooms and encouraging teachers to write hardware proposals with input from students. Let teachers and students partner to use the technologies. The educator as the pedagogical expert and the students could server as a partner in using the technology effectively. In my district we did this by selecting ten commonly use technology tools and invited vendors to join us. Each teacher wrote a proposal for $1500 worth of equipment (this is dependent on school budget). This results in teacher and student buy in and a partnership with leaders, educators, and students to make decisions on instruction aligned to school goals. Upon receipt of the hardware and implementation of teaching and learning, classes publish their work sharing lessons, videos, photos, and student testimonials. We have begun this work in a newly launched (and soon to be populated) site http://InnovateMyClass.org. School interested in using this tool can contact me.
  • Review and finalize innovation road map with innovation team
    When the innovation roadmap seems complete the innovation team should review the document together and revise/update. When the document seems in good shape it should be shared with the school staff for their final input.
  • Share road map with staff, students, and familyShare the innovation road map with the school community and incorporate feedback.
  • Celebrate success with innovation field trips
    Celebrate and learn from/about the work your school is doing with an innovation field trip. Read the School Innovation Field Trip Quick Guide to learn how.
Developing an effective strategic plan means schools focus on student success and keeping their eye on the prize. Technology is the tool to achieve the prize, not the prize itself. As the saying goes, "It's all about the kids," and with them as the starting point schools can begin effective planning.
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