This week, I attended the Virtual Schools Symposium (iNacol) in Indianapolis, Indiana. Attending conferences, and leaving with a nauseating mix of frustration, excitement, confusion and a multitude of questions has become a common occurrence. This conference was no different. I am sitting on my return flight to Phoenix, sorting through a plethora of notes and ideas, and struggling to identify the next steps for our school. My cognitive dissonance is actually the result of conversations, and a session I attended, with a fellow administrator I have been following on Twitter – Stephen Harris (@Stephen_H).
Stephen is the Principal at the North Beaches Christian School in Sydney, Australia and the Founding Director of the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL). I think you will find a quick view of the following video about Stephen’s school both thought provoking, and inspiring.
During his presentation, Stephen made the comment that we don’t need to tweak the current educational paradigm, we need a new paradigm. After only a short time visiting with him, and hearing about his school, it became apparent that Stephen, and his staff, are serious about revolutionizing education–they are truly engaged in innovative practice. Almost immediately, I began considering my role as a new principal, and what I might be able to learn from Stephen, and a school that is half a world away.
Our school is in the beginning stages of developing a blended learning program, and while I have a vision of what that might look like, I still struggle to clearly identify the steps required to develop a truly innovative school. We are flying the airplane as we build it, so to speak, and it is quite possible that our destination will change mid-flight. After attending VSS, and hearing Stephen discuss his school, and hearing Brian Bennett (@bennettscience), talk about how he implements a flipped classroom model, I am concerned that I may not being doing enough to push the envelope. Am I working toward the development of a new paradigm, or just using technology to “spruce up” an old one? So now what? I need some answers, but right now, I just have a lot of questions. As a school leader, am I meeting my responsibilities in the development of a blended learning environment that will inspire our students and address their academic and social needs?
What am I doing…
…to create a school climate that encourages innovation and creativity?
…to develop a school culture that allows staff members to feel safe taking appropriate risks?
…to give teachers and students access to the technology tools that allow them to engage in a meaningful and collaborative learning environment?
…to be creative in the acquisition of resources – time, technology, professional development, etc.?
…to encourage staff members to participate in reflective practice?
…to give staff members access to meaningful professional development and exposure to innovative practices occurring elsewhere?
…to drive instruction to the level of the individual student – personalizing learning for every student that attends our school?
…to encourage change in the way we use physical space at our school and communicate how those changes might dramatically impact our learning environment?
…to go beyond evolutionary change and advocate for a revolutionary approach to school improvement?
The answer to the majority of these questions is “not enough”. I have come to the conclusion that trying to categorize our blended learning program, or make it fit into a box defined by others, is not only fruitless, but detrimental (thank you Stephen). I am comfortable with it being a work in progress, using what works for our students and setting aside what doesn’t. I believe my job in this process is to serve as an advocate – seeking resources, challenging current thinking and practices, and removing barriers, so that our students and staff are able to build an educational environment that meets the needs of our learning community. In order to do that, I will have to keep asking myself: what am I doing?
Please share…what are you doing?