Now comes the hard part. Learning doesn’t mean anything unless we can put it into practice. Sure, we went to Educon. We were inspired. We saw some really neat models of how real teachers and real students are working in real schools to build a better world. Then we came home. And there was email to answer, and neglected tasks to be completed. There were problems to follow up on and fires to put out. The immediacy of impending projects is looming. So it’s easy to get caught up in the work, to become absorbed by the daily to-do list and the email deluge and the urgency of the moment. The time for all of the dreaming of a better world has passed. It’s time to get back to work.
But before we lose the spirit of the experience, I want to nail down a few to-do list items. These aren’t necessarily big steps. And they’re probably not useful to anyone but me. But it is a roadmap for moving forward.
Meet with the Team and Form a Plan
In truth, this is already done. One of the advantages of driving from Cleveland to Philadelphia is that we have to spend 7 hours together driving home. We talked about the experience, and we formed some tentative plans to move forward. Two of the four people on the team had never attended Educon before. In some ways, it was overwhelming for them. I think we’e worked through some of that, and have boiled down the experience into some concrete action plans that we put into place over the next year or two.
For me, it’s exciting to see others in the district thinking along the same lines, working to introduce more inquiry, relevance, and Next Generation approaches to the classes in our schools. I’m thrilled that everyone who attended the conference is as excited about this as I am.
Nail the PD Plan
We’ve been working on a plan for professional development for months now. We have a pretty good idea of what we want to do. The focus is on pedagogy. We’re going to use a badge system to validate learning, and tie that system to the LPDC system and to graduate workshop credit. We want to have several topics, with three levels for each one. So you could become an expert in one area, or a novice in three areas, and get the same credit. But we still need to work out the details. What are the criteria for each badge? How do we identify and assess the learning targets? How will the PD be delivered? Which topics are most critical, and need to come first? What role does technology play in all of this? We have the broad strokes. Now it’s time to fill in the details.
Fix my PLN Problem
All my peeps are on Twitter. But I don’t read Twitter. Maybe I need to reduce the number of people I’m following. Maybe I need to change the way I interact with the Twitter feeds. Maybe I need to follow more lists and hash tags. Maybe I need to find another way to interact with my learning community. But for the past year, I’ve been largely disconnected, and it’s time to re-engage.
Move Forward on 1:1
Last year, we formalized a plan to move to a 1:1 program beginning in 2015. So far, we’re on track. If the funding holds, we should be able to move to laptops for teachers this year. At the same time, we can prepare to move from classroom sets of devices for students to a real 1:1 program. That will probably include a pilot for student 1:1 next year. Bigger than that is the work with teachers to prepare them. If we spend all this money and time and effort on technology, and nothing changes in the classroom, we’re wasting our time.
Adopt a New LMS
We have been using Moodle for a long time. But we have had very little adoption of it. Our ability to support it is limited. Teachers have found it confusing. Upgrading is tedious and tends to break things. While the price is attractive, it’s clearly not meeting our needs anymore. One of the most popular features of Moodle is the ability to deliver assessments. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the least efficient aspects of the program, and when a teacher has 30 kids all taking assessments at the same time, the server slows to a crawl.
We’ve been talking about replacing Moodle for a long time, and we’ve been struggling to reach consensus on the best tool. I think we are at a point where we know what the tool is. The challenge now is finding a way to pay for it. But having a functional LMS is critical for our NextGen efforts, both as a way to organize and deliver content for students, and as a way to structure professional development.
If we can get all of that done this spring, I’ll be thrilled. It’s an ambitious plan, and there’s not really anything coming OFF the plate. But this is the direction forward. I have a great team to work with on it, and we’re going to make this work.
Photo credit: Ramkarthikonblogger on Flickr.