Creating a Culture of Innovation: The Benefits of Making Your Practice Public
The following post comes from Sunshine Darby, the Technology Training Supervisor for the Dysart Unified School District in Surprise, Arizona. Sunshine has eight years of experience teaching middle school science and seven years of educational technology experience. In addition, she has taught technology integration courses to pre-service teachers at Arizona State University.
Dysart just experienced a phenomenal year as we were awarded the Model District Award from the North Central Association (NCA) Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement and also hosted the National School Board Association (NSBA) Technology Site Visit. What makes us different? As I reflect on the past year some interesting points begin to surface and these are the jewels I am pleased to share with you.
As we prepared for our NSBA visit we shared the following information with each school:
- We asked teachers to plan lessons that allow students to do something that would not have been possible if the technology was not available.
- We challenged them to meet the 80:20 rule. Essentially, this means technology should be in the hands of students 80 percent of the time and in the hands of the teacher 20 percent. We got this idea while visiting schools in Newport News, VA during their NSBA site visit the year prior.
- We encouraged them to find a special way to greet their visitors. For example cheerleaders, dancers, or a special song. We also encouraged them to use students as tour guides, allowing for students to gain leadership opportunities.
We found that there are many paths that can lead to success. Each school had their own style and what worked in one place did not necessarily work in another. Some of the styles we witnessed, as each campus built their own innovative culture, are as follows:
Case #1 The Committee Model: A committee was formed, incluing the principal, a teacher leader, and several other interested parties. This group not only organized their visit, but they collaboratively planned their own professional development. The committee became wildly popular and it came to have club like feel as they even had their own t-shirts printed.
Case #2 The Set Your Experts Free Model: In this scenario a new principal realized that she had a very tech savvy staff. She emphasized to them that it is ok to experiment with technology. She had every grade level meet with technology trainers to ensure lessons including technology were rigorous and not just flashy. In addition, the principal encouraged the use of student owned technology (Bring Your Own Technology or BYOT). This led to increased technology use throughout the school. Students were more engaged and the teachable moment became an opportunity for instant research and deep discussion. The grade-level teams worked together sharing ideas and equipment.
Case #3 Teacher Leads the Charge with Administrative Support: This school had a teacher leader who had a close relationship with both the principal and instructional coach. Administration knew that there were some technology hot spots on campus and allowed the teacher leader to coordinate and support them. The teacher leader, instructional coach and administration planned staff meetings that intentionally modeled the use of technology.
Case #4 Expectations, Follow-Up and Follow Through: Administration at this school set the expectation that every teacher will integrate technology into their lessons. Equipment was consolidated and redistributed based on teacher applications. The instructional coach introduced a New Century Learning reflection template, and monitored and coached teachers along the way. Each team was responsible for planning with a technology trainer and the instructional coach to ensure high quality lessons. Teachers were supported through team teaching and by having student experts trained. The teachers were encouraged to push the boundaries of their comfort zones, while staying true to good instruction practices. Because this was mandatory for all teams, they were also responsible for taking part in a Technology Showcase at the end of the year for parents and community.
Ultimately we found, it's not all about the "stuff." No matter how many devices a campus had, all of them were able to generate access to New Century Learning. With the current budget issues schools are facing, I believe it is more critical now than ever for our stakeholders to understand what is happening in our schools.
In closing, I want to say you don’t need a national award to showcase the technology at your school or in your classroom and I challenge all schools/teachers to find ways to make their practice public.
Sunshine Darby is the Technology Training Supervisor for the Dysart Unified School District in Surprise, Arizona.