Finishing off a school year, it is important to look back and reflect on some of the initiatives that have happened during the school year. As the school decided to narrow the focus on what we do in means of using technology, I have seen some powerful progress in this area. We have in many areas, gone past “neat” and pushed for “deep in what we are doing. Although we have done some really great things, it is important that we understand that this work and learning is messy, and we can all get better. Having this growth mindset is essential not only for our growth as individuals and an organization, but also in our role modeling to our students that we are dedicated to lifelong learning. As a school, it is essential that we are seen as a learning organization and we continue to grow.
Through this narrow and deepened focus, I have seen a true “elastic band” effect that has been powerful for the progress of our school and students. There are many different areas where teachers can be innovative, but often times these people do not pull up others as they grow. This is not limited to technology, but can be in all areas of education.
At Forest Green and Connections for Learning, in our technology integration plan, we focused our efforts mostly on Google Apps and WordPress, not only for our students, but also for our staff. Although we still encouraged many to do innovative projects that went outside of these technologies, it was imperative that we learned this together and knew it for ourselves and our kids. As our leaders in this area grew, the knowledge of those with less experience grew alongside with them. As well, having a school focus, you knew that you would not have to find the “one” person that may have the answer to your problem; you were probably able to ask your partner across the hall. Sometimes (maybe a lot) you would probably even be able to ask a student. Learning in the same area, while still encouraging autonomy in the paths in which people arrived, helps us to all get better. As one grows, we pull the each other up, hence the elastic band metaphor.
As more schools discuss moving to a 1-1 device setting, I always caution them to ensure that they create learning plans that ensure that they will eventually need the hardware, as opposed to getting the hardware, and saying, “we need a plan”. If schools are to go this way, especially in a time where budgets are getting cut (in all industries), it is essential that we know our learning objectives.
We have a lot of great classrooms, but we need more great schools. By having a clear vision and creating environments in all areas, where people can push one another, while also feeling that their gifts are recognized, we can continue to get there together.