The Teacher Advocate, Star School Leader Recipient
This is the third spotlight in a series of twelve, in which we feature the winning recipients of Kiddom’s annual Star School Leader Award. Look for the others over the coming months by signing up for our newsletter, or check out our School Leadership page, which we will update with each new spotlight.
To the compact gait of an elementary school student, the path between a teacher’s classroom and the principal’s office may seem far and long. Such is not the case at the Wellton Elementary School District in Arizona, where Principal Tammy Taylor leads her staff by example. Mrs. Taylor started her journey in education as a classroom teacher for fourteen years, and she continues to teach today, in addition to being principal of a school that serves K-8 students.
The Makings of a Star School Leader
In college, Principal Taylor made an honest effort to become a veterinarian, but her grades in organic chemistry wouldn’t cut it. (Who among us can relate?)
Her friends and family pointed out that she thrived in roles that let her work with kids: one job as a daycare provider, another helping kids find books at the public library. When she found her true calling as a 2nd grade teacher, she put away her chemistry textbooks and never looked back.
“The thing I like most [about being a principal] is being able to interact with all the students. Because we are a small school, everyone knows me. Seeing the kids outside the community and they still recognize you—that close-knit kind of a family atmosphere is what I really like the most.”
— Principal Tammy Taylor, Wellton Elementary School
Principal Taylor stays connected by regularly popping into classrooms to say hello. But these visits are strictly as a community member and not a supervisor. Under her leadership, teachers receive a lot of trust to lead their classrooms without intervention. “Unless they need help or I see a problem, I just let them do their job.”
Wellton Bulldogs and the Wall of Kindness
As a small school for a wide range of students, Wellton Elementary emphasizes a personal responsibility to the community. But the community wasn’t always so harmonious. After observing a need for dissolving conflict between grade levels, Principal Taylor implemented some creative ways to bring students together.
With the help of its students over the past three years, the school has added five murals to the campus, each brandishing quotes about kindness. Throughout the project, students had the chance to adorn the walls with their own handprints and express themselves creatively in honor one of the greats, Vincent Van Gogh.
Another way Wellton imparts a sense of kindness and responsibility is through a house system inspired by Harry Potter: every year, fourth through eighth graders are sorted into four houses. Through themed challenges and activities, they exercise teamwork, kindness, and inclusivity. This gives students a chance to work with people of a different ages and interests.
World Kindness Day brought on another opportunity for the initiative — students wrote anecdotes about giving, receiving, or witnessing kindness on pieces of paper. These speech bubbles were housed in the cafeteria for several weeks. This let students read stories from their peers at lunchtime, and keep the theme of the activity at the top of their minds at least once a day.
How does Mrs. Taylor foster a supportive teacher community?
Wellton is a school of 200 students and 10-12 teachers. In many cases, there is just one teacher per grade level. As such, getting teachers to convene and align can be difficult, but Principal Taylor keeps an open environment for communication and colleague support holding morning meetings for professional development.
These trainings are sometimes divided by grade level, but are often conducted as a unified group where staff invent ways to collaborate across grade level. For example, in one meeting, the intermediate staff shared activities and games they created for the primary staff.
Before she became principal, Mrs. Taylor worked with Donors Choose to get sewing machines for our school. Now as our Principal, she helps teachers apply for donations through Donors Choose. This is just one of the ways that Mrs. Taylor has inspired teachers and staff members at Wellton Elementary. With her positive attitude and incredible energy, she has been an excellent role model for our teachers and staff.
— Lisa Jameson, Teacher at Wellton Elementary
The State of Technology at Wellton Elementary
For many school districts, technology used to be an afterthought, or a special treat. But Principal Taylor has witnessed technology tunnel to the forefront of her students’ lives and helped her school in the effort to become a 1:1 (student to device) community. “It’s not like when we were students and, you know, ‘Yes! We got a computer class this semester.’ This is their life.”
The longer we prolonged having (technology as) part of their educational and academic life—which is the majority of their time during the year—I think we felt like we were holding them back. So having added that in, to me, is just important.
— Principal Tammy Taylor
This initiative also helped Principal Taylor to extend a helping hand where her teacher’s didn’t have bandwidth. “We are short-staffed to be perfectly honest. So our ideas, we have incorporated this year some online tutoring.” Eighth graders that are eligible can take algebra online, which frees up the math teacher to work more closely with students still approaching that level.
Advice for Other Schools Implementing 1:1 Technology
As the principal at a 1:1 school, Taylor understands that implementing a new tech initiative can be scary. But first and foremost, it’s important to remember that everyone learns at a different rate. “Baby steps. Start with one program and get them to where they’re competent and then you can add another one. Even our most reluctant teachers have slowly started to use it more and more in the classroom.”
For administrators that are hesitant to embrace technology, Principal Taylor recommends leaning on the people and resources in your community as mentors. She notes that kids are often more likely to listen to other kids than to a teacher.
Just find those teachers and students that have those strengths, and use their strength. Having the older kids who know how to do it go in and show the little ones can take some of the pressure off the teacher trying to figure it out all on their own.
Whereas the teachers may be reluctant to use tablets and other devices as part of their instruction, the students themselves often feel right at home. “We had the 7th graders go in and help the kindergarteners learn how to log into the program and show the teachers how, for about two months.” By encouraging collaboration and relying on the students to step up for their community, Principal Taylor enjoyed a much smoother transition to using tablets in grade K. “By that time the kids could get in on their own. And the teachers were less worried about spending time with log in.”
This anecdote emphasizes the dual intent of technology at Wellton Elementary. Principal Taylor understands that it can be used to enhance the classroom experience in different ways. “At the primary level, it needs to be there to help support and help fill in the gaps of our students. In the intermediate, we have it to help and improve their comprehension and understanding of the subject areas, as well as knowing that our state testing is done on the computer.
All in all, what makes Mrs. Taylor such a sensational leader is her ability to pinpoint and rely on the individual strengths of people in her community. “The kids are why we’re here the most. The adults, we help guide them, but you have to trust them to do their job and that’s what I do. I trust them to do their job.“
Recap: What Makes a Star School Leader?
Great school leaders empower their teachers. What teachers do is one of the most difficult, and often thankless jobs. And while we all agree that teachers are the true heroes of every school system, it takes a special kind of leader to enable their teachers with the right support to focus on the important things. Like teaching.
The Star School Leader rubric stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme:
Empowering others by setting a positive attitude, culture, and environment.
Empowering others with the right use of technology as a means and not an end.
Empowering others through supportive coaching and access to professional development.
A recent study about teacher confidence in educational technology (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) found that 99% of all teachers and school leaders are using digital technology in their classrooms. It also found that nearly 96% have seen benefits from the technology they’re using, including improvement in student achievement, cited by 32% of all participants.
But seen is a key word here. How can we gain visibility on how digital technology is improving student achievement when so many factors go into a student’s education? Hopefully this is something we’re considering when choosing technology for our schools.
We recently conducted our own study to learn more about how and why administrators are deciding upon educational technology used in the classroom. What we hoped to gain from our study was some understanding of the most effective methods administrators use to conduct research for tools and solutions used in their school systems.
Let’s be clear — we know humans to be the real problem solvers in education, and that we can never rely too much on the method as a means to an end. But we were interested in learning more about the research behind the tools and systems that our greatest resource of all — educators — are using to solve those problems. We invite you to follow along in our findings here.
How do admins stay up-to-date on innovative instructional models in 2019?
Perhaps like us, it was no news to you that 74% of all participants cited “education conferences and meetups” as a source for staying up-to-date on innovative instructional models. We were a bit surprised at how unpopular “books and research papers” (1%) were, but not so much about the low score for “PD from the district” (1%).
Where do admins discuss new instructional models within their network?
Again, we found that meetups and conferences were very popular for discussion here. “A lot of administrators end up going to at least one educational conference/event every year. A lot of them walk away with great information, so this isn’t surprising to me,” says Amanda Glover, our partnerships lead at Kiddom.
While it’s no shock to discover educators love to share their knowledge with others, what was surprising to us were the chat groups (38%) and social communities (26%) built around such conversations.
Are admins satisfied with the effectiveness of those discussion mediums?
At 72%, the trend suggests a high satisfaction with the discussion mediums administrators are having around innovative instructional models.
Of the administrators who weren’t satisfied with said mediums, nearly half (44%) cited “lack of proactive systems were keeping them up at night” and “lack of timelines of academic performance reporting”.
What’s keeping admins up at night?
We all know working in education can keep you up at night with a million things running through your mind. But what are the top concerns?
When asked, administrators said the top three topics are “lack of human resources to improve student achievement” (56%), “lack of financial resources to meet district demand” (53%), and “lack of proactive systems to improve student outcomes” (34%).
How have admins tried to remedy the above concerns?
Our study found that nearly ⅓ of all participants are requesting more funding to address the problems keeping them up at night.
What is very telling about the current state of education is the use of creative staffing, intervention, and systems adjustment — these cost saving efforts are likely a direct result of increased budget cuts across the board.
We were surprised to see such a low effort to use tools and technology, considering the fact that technology can save schools so much time and money!
How do admins vet technology they purchase to support their remedies and address concerns?
While it is no surprise that word of mouth is still one of the most common ways administrators vet technology, one trend evident across the board is that administrators are rarely relying on just one place to make their decisions, and are often vetting across multiple sources.
And that concludes our study — we hope this gives you a fresh perspective of how educators are making decisions around the educational technology and systems applied in the classroom.
As educators make these decisions, we hope to see more steps towards measuring the success of the tools in place. So often this data is siloed — grading and mastery data sits in the LMS. Curriculum data sits in curriculum management systems, and even there it may be scattered across spreadsheets and hard drives. Cloud-based platforms have helped a lot here — but they’re not ultimately designed with educators in mind, with a way to calibrate and measure the success of curriculum across a school system.
We’ve designed the K-12 OS to do just that, because we believe that in today’s educational climate, many schools and districts don’t have the time or money to make decisions without data. To learn more about Kiddom Academy, book a demo with us today.
Kiddom Academy picks up where the LMS leaves off, offering an operating system for K-12 schools and districts to measure and act on classroom intelligence. If you’re ready to see what the K-12 Operating System can do for your school or district, you can book a call with one of our specialists today.
If you’re no stranger to Kiddom, you know that our curriculum sharing capabilities make working with colleagues easy, even if you can’t meet in person. The great news is that Kiddom isn’t just about sharing curriculum. There is a whole array of ways users can collaborate and share with teachers and students alike!
Here are three advanced collaboration techniques Kiddom helps you super-charge collaboration in your classroom (feel free to mix and match based on your needs — and if you come up with a new way to collaborate and share using Kiddom, we’d love to hear from you!).
Are you a faculty advisor for a student-run club? Give your student leaders editing access to the class so that they can post announcements, assignments, and other important information for their members.
Step 1: Set up a “teacher” account with Kiddom for your student leaders and add that account as a collaborator to your students’ club on Kiddom.
Step 2: Provide the credentials to your student club leaders.
Step 3: Step back and let your student-run club truly be student-governed! When students have the authority to create and post club information, it gives the ownership of the club back into the hands of those it belongs.
Calling all administrators, team leaders, and curriculum leads: Are you tired of the same old professional development days? Do you need to create a space for teachers to learn on their own time, at their own pace, without the need to always bring everyone together in a room to go over simple housekeeping items? Kiddom has you covered! Create a PLC in Kiddom for your cohort and start uploading materials from Google Drive, your computer, the web, etc. It’s that simple!
2. If your school is on the MS O365 platform, you can easily link documents, .pptx files, and more by copying and pasting a link in the description of the assignment. From there, teachers can download and make copies of any materials you want to disseminate to them.
Not only will this help to disseminate information more quickly and efficiently, but you can also start using your face-to-face PD time for deeper inquiry and creation!
As educators, we know it’s important to meet with colleagues outside of our grade level so that we can plan scope and sequence for our content area. Kiddom makes it easy to share curriculum, lesson ideas and comments with colleagues teaching other grades.
Create a class that houses cross-grade level curriculum
Add your colleagues as collaborators to your existing classes/curriculum
Go further: Create a PLC for teachers across the district that teach your content area.
Once the PLC is created in your Kiddom account, the world of planning became a whole lot nicer. You won’t have to rely on monthly or quarterly district/school-wide content area meetings; you can plan and build ideas together without needing to be in the same room. It’s a great way to get a head start on those infrequent meetings with colleagues in different grade levels and schools.
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Sarah has 10 years of public education experience, including being a founding staff member of a STEM high school in Pennsylvania. If you're no stranger to Kiddom, you know that our curriculum sharing capabilities make working with colleagues easy, even if you can’t...
I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.
How many times have you already looked at your phone today? You might’ve sent a few texts. Maybe you opened some emails. Perhaps you shared a document, or viewed a presentation. It’s easy to forget that just over ten years ago, none of these actions were simple or ubiquitous — the iPhone wasn’t launched until 2007, and most devices in the office (or classroom) were tethered to a desk, as the “cloud” had yet to take shape.
texts a day sent on average (Source: Text Request)
hours a day spent on smartphones (Source: Hackernoon)
To understand why the time is right for school systems to adopt their own “operating system,” let’s explore how technology has evolved over the past thirty years across six major waves.
Wave 1: The Closed OS
When people hear “operating system” they might think back to the early days of educational technology, when the ecosystems were closed; back then, you were either a loyal Microsoft or Apple user, and those were pretty much your only options. As classrooms only had one option or the other, the computers subsequently ran Windows or MacOS. It was a binary landscape, to say the least. As a result, Apple and Microsoft dominated the education market for years. During this time, most schools used on-premise servers to store all of their data (many still do). But this created numerous issues, including but not limited to limited collaboration, restricted mobility, and increased security risks. This lasted from the 1980s through the early 2000s. However, something called “the cloud” was brewing in the sky.
Wave 2:The Early Days of the Cloud
In 2004, something outrageous happened: you no longer needed to store emails in a local server. This was thanks to the release of “Gmail” by Google, a relatively new company then. One year later, Google purchased a company called Writely, which would ultimately become what is now known as Google Docs. With the ability to create and share content, Google secured a place to store it all in 2007. Originally called Platypus, this would later be known globally as Google Drive. These three pieces were built on the belief that the future was about the cloud — the ability to access anything, from anywhere, on any device — and it had a tremendous effect on the way education systems operated, from the classroom to the district.
Wave 3: Enter Devices
The cloud was a disruptive force, but it wasn’t easily accessible, as laptops and computers were still rather expensive. While the original 2007 iPhone changed the game for what one could do on a phone, it was challenging to be productive, no matter how “smart” the device was. It wasn’t until 2012 that Google began to develop the first Chromebook, which caused the first major shakeup to the laptop ecosystem in years. Meanwhile, Apple stuck to their guns on a premium price point for Macs and iPads. During this time, Microsoft often stressed how much students needed to learn how to use Office, since that is what they would use in the “real world”. In the end, they were both impacted by an evolving market. Chromebooks delivered 90% of the functionality at a fraction of the cost, and by 2014, schools began to purchase them in bulk. Over the last four years, both Microsoft and Apple started to change their education model. Google’s lower price point for school devices significantly drove prices down and made them affordable to nearly everyone. This gave more and more school systems the opportunity to consider how technology might transform learning experiences with the goal of providing greater equity and accessibility. When any technology becomes a commodity, the end user wins.
Wave 4: Workflows
Years later the foundation Google has established paved the way for Google Apps for Education (now G-Suite). In the process, they effectively solved a major interoperability challenge: the offering was completely free, which challenged other players in the edtech space. While Microsoft and Apple ignored this paradigm shift for years, they were forced to evolve or be forgotten in the K-12 space. Office 365 was eventually launched, and although it was “free,” schools still needed to license Office, which was expensive. Apple’s iCloud simply never gained the traction it needed and as a result, Google continued to flourish and eat up more of the K-12 market share.
The one major challenge still facing Google was that the combination of GAFE and Drive together offered a clunky experience. This is likely because they were developed and housed in different parts of Google. They didn’t “talk” to each other well — a problem that often persists even with today’s apps. Teachers needed to ask their students to create an assignment in Docs, download a copy of that to a local folder on their desktop, upload it to Drive, and finally, move it to the teacher’s folder. That’s a lot of steps to take for every single assignment, not to mention, a lot of room for error.
While Microsoft and Apple were consumed with their device strategy, Google was solving this workflow problem. The answer soon arrived via Google Classroom: a way to enable Drive and GAFE to “talk” to each other directly. Classroom condensed those four steps into one seamless action and worked across all devices and operating systems. This simple solution simultaneously saved teachers time and helped us move towards classroom interoperability.
Microsoft has tried to launch their own version of Classroom, as has Apple, but both are inferior (and quite frankly, late-to-the-game) offerings. This is where the evolution and innovation of the LMS really hit a wall. The key advantage Canvas had, as it began to steal market share from the incumbent, Blackboard, was simply that they built a pure-SaaS product first and foremost. Blackboard got too comfortable and believed their loyal customer base would never leave.
Keep in mind as well that Classroom was never meant to be an LMS, or provide visibility for admins into the classroom.It was created to enable teachers to operate their classrooms more effectively. While this workflow was a huge value-add over the last four years, not much has happened since for K12, leaving the door open for new players.
Wave 5: Cross-Platform Applications
The next interoperability challenge was how to enable the various apps to run on any device in order to reduce the friction in schools who just wanted to teach and learn, and not worry about which device enabled it. For those who remember what happened with LAUSD in 2014, when content and curriculum cannot be accessed and used easily, technology fails. In the past few years, we can now operate Windows apps, like Powerpoint, Notes, et cetera, on a Chromebook or Android device. We can operate Android apps on Chromebooks, and we can even use Dropbox with Google or Microsoft as people seek their own custom, best-in-breed solution. We have now seen this convergence of enabling all types of applications to run across any device and OS. The focus on applications reduced the amount of friction for the end user, who just wants to access the content and does not care which OS or device they are using. It should just work.
Wave 6: Data Unification
The most important question for us today is, how does the data living across different applications speak to one another? Andhow do we make that data useful and meaningful for end-users of education technology? Schools can continue to work towards “personalization,” but the reality is that developing a holistic profile for every student across applications will be an absolute necessity to support individualized instruction. If classrooms are utilizing a learning management system, most of the achievement data will probably be with Google, Microsoft, or Schoology, to name a few. But regardless of any LMS’s collaboration features, their tools do not offer the ability to aggregate achievement data across applications for schools to make informed decisions about curriculum and instruction or resource allocation. As a result, the data necessary to make timely decisions and improve student outcomes currently lives scattered among a plethora of learning apps that don’t “speak” to one another. And this is where Kiddom comes in. We approached the challenge by building for interoperability from the start. We considered all of the major stakeholders in the K-12 environment when we designed our analytics. Because Kiddom connects the dots between curriculum, instruction, and assessment, we effectively streamline the workflow necessary for educators and administrators to build student-centered instructional models.
Kiddom picks up where the LMS leaves off, offering an operating system for K-12 schools and districts to measure and act on classroom intelligence. We define a K-12 operating system as a set of interconnected tools to enable schools to operate more productively, increase student outcomes, and improve upon their respective instructional models. If you’re ready to see what the next wave of education technology can do for your school or district, let’s talk. As a former “Googler” who led the Chromebook initiative into schools and districts, I’d be happy to connect with you and your colleagues to address any challenges, fears, or questions you have about our incredibly useful tool for K12 education.
Sarah has 10 years of public education experience, including being a founding staff member of a STEM high school in Pennsylvania. If you're no stranger to Kiddom, you know that our curriculum sharing capabilities make working with colleagues easy, even if you can’t...
Many people think you need to have a 1:1 laptop ratio to do blended learning, but with the station rotation and lab rotation models, teachers are able to maximize a classroom with limited technology.
In this post, which comes from our Blended Learning 102 guide, we’ll give you an overview of the similarities and differences between two of the most common blended learning models: station rotation and lab rotation. We’ll also share some tips to set up each model, and include a few ways Kiddom helps with implementation along the way.
Rotation Models: The Basics
Station and lab rotation are two blended learning models which belong under the larger umbrella of “Rotation Models”. A rotation model is when students move between learning stations, either 1. on a ﬁxed schedule, or 2. at the teacher’s discretion, where at least one station incorporates online learning.
While one group of students is engaged in independent online learning, the teacher facilitates activities for another group; activities such as small-group instruction, group projects, individual tutoring, or independent practice.
Choosing the Station Rotation Model
In a station rotation model, the teacher organizes students into groups within the classroom, where at least one station is a computer-based learning experience. These groups can be fixed (remain the same each day; grouped by learning styles) or dynamic (change depending on student skills/needs).
This model allows you to differentiate your teacher-led instruction by creating small-groups in class and personalized learning experiences on the computers. As mentioned, station rotation is a great option when you have limited classroom technology or limited access to a school laptop cart. It addresses many issues caused by large class sizes and can be used in classrooms of all ages, even kindergarten. You can also introduce students to the 21st century technology skills they need in small chunks of time. The possibilities are endless, which can be a bit overwhelming, so let’s get specific.
The station rotation model changes the role of a teacher by allowing for greater flexibility through small group instruction. This impacts how you plan your instruction for each day, although, it doesn’t mean you plan completely different lessons for each group.
Your lesson plan format may change to include the student groups and how you plan to address their unique needs with varied question types or examples. The beauty of grouping is that the groups can be dynamic, as student achievement levels or needs change. This will inspire more daily data-driven planning as well, rather than waiting until the end of the term to look at student data. Using a platform like Kiddom makes it easy to track student performance in real time and make decisions about student groupings or send individual assignments based on mastery levels.
How you plan to differentiate is also flexible. You can hear a teacher’s’ first-hand explanation of these changes by accessing the Khan Academy Case Study of Kipp Los Angeles School. In this case study, you can hear how using stations allows the teacher to support her english language learner students by giving them more opportunities to speak in a small group.
Activities to Maximize the Potential of Each Station
Individualized assignments (i.e. remediation or extension)
Interactive activities (i.e. discussion boards)
Group work with roles
The computer station can be used for many learning goals. Some teachers or schools sign up for an adaptive learning platform, but paying for that type of resource isn’t necessary — you can get creative with your stations by accessing free content.
One option would be to use Kiddom to send personalized assignments to individual or groups of students. On Kiddom, students can access those assignments, check their scores, ask questions or make comments, and monitor their own progress towards mastery.
Getting Started with the Station Rotation Model
An easy way to explore how a station rotation model might impact your class would be to establish a “stations” day once a week. Depending on how many devices and students you have, you can start with 2–3 small(er) groups.
One small group could work independently or in pairs on activities appropriate for their current achievement level, such as practice from the previous days lessons, independent reading, journaling, etc. Another group could be working with the teacher on either a mini-lesson or a teacher-facilitated group discussion. In a third group, students use a computer to develop their social emotional skill of self-management by doing a progress check and setting a goal for the week. Using the computer station to allow students to check their progress is a way to ease into the benefits of this blended learning model. It wouldn’t require much additional software and can help you establish and refine the classroom routines needed to make transitions from station to station.
Working in stations one day a week would allow you to experiment with the classroom management supports you’ll need for your classroom to help things run smoothly. For example, you’ll learn how long it takes your students to transition from one station to the next and you can adjust accordingly. Anyone trying out stations knows that routines are very important and it’s okay not to get it right the first time.
A visual schedule like this one can help students know where they should be at the appropriate time and help them take ownership of their schedule.
Choosing a Lab Rotation Model
The lab rotation model is another option that works when you don’t have a full set of computers in your classroom. In this model, students rotate to a separate computer lab for the online-learning station. Many schools that use lab rotation have a co-teaching staffing model or have paraprofessionals in the classroom to facilitate transitions, but that is not a requirement. Students can either rotate to the lab as part of a class or as an online learning class of its own. This model can be used for all grade levels.
One common way the lab rotation model is used:
Teacher delivers a mini lesson and does a formal check for understanding.
Students who demonstrate proficiency are ready to rotate to the computer lab to complete independent practice or personalized practice.
Students who need additional assistance get to work with the teacher in a small group in the moment.
This blended learning model allows you to intervene right away when students need additional support. The teacher’s role in a lab rotation model can be very similar to a traditional teaching model, in that you may still deliver whole class instruction.
The main difference is that you can intervene with a small group without having to manage the entire class of students at the same time. If you do not have a co-teacher or paraprofessional, you would rotate with your entire class to the lab and sit with the small group in the lab.
Getting Started with the Lab Rotation Model
Kiddom can help maintain consistency of expectations while in the lab. Establishing a routine and leadership roles for students when they rotate to the lab can alleviate classroom management concerns. Using Kiddom in the lab will enhance the lab rotation model by allowing you to direct student learning in advance, so you can focus on teaching instead of giving instructions.
It also opens the line of communication. While you may be working with the small group of students, students can comment/respond to comments on assignments. You can support student interests and learning needs by sharing personalized assessments. Finally, just like in the station rotation model, students can access their progress reports on Kiddom and know how they are performing at a skill based level.
One of the biggest considerations for implementing a lab rotation model is scheduling. Whether you are piloting the model yourself, or your entire school is transitioning to a lab rotation model, you will need to be on the same page with your colleagues about how and when the lab can be used by your class. Just like in station rotation, it may be easiest to start with a lab rotation day. In this case, you can reserve the lab for your class on a given day and experiment with rotation options on that given day.
This blog post is based on our Blended Learning 102 Guide. For more information, we encourage you to download it here.
Hello, and welcome to our recap from last week’s Change Management Initiative webinar with EdSurge and Kiddom! Our very own Melissa Giroux, School Success Lead at Kiddom and contributor to our Change Management Guide, sat amongst the four panelists.
In this insightful discussion led by EdSurge CEO and Founder Betty Corcoran, you’ll hear from current and previous administrators who have been there and survived to tell the tale. Listen to hear their success stories, tips, and even a few educational failures encountered while rolling out new tech initiatives at the school and district level. Please watch the video here or view a partial transcription below.
Webinar Transcription start:
Betty Corcoran: [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to today’s webinar, which is about making edtech initiatives stick. My name is Betty Corcoran, and I’m the founder and CEO of EdSurge. We’re really, really pleased to be here with you today. Just a quick note before we get started; this webinar will be recorded and the recording made available to you and others via e-mail. After the live event, we also really encourage everyone to ask questions using the Q&A button in the Zoom webinar window, and we’ll answer those as we go along. So please feel free to jump in, join the conversation, and be a part of it.
I’d like to start by thanking our panelists for joining us today. We have four terrific people here: Kyle Pace, who is director of technology at the Grain Valley School District in Missouri. Kyle has led technology initiatives as an instructional IT coach, starting with implementing Smart Boards, to today when he’s rolling out 1,100 Chromebooks to middle school teachers. Melissa Giroux is the school success lead at Kiddom in New York City. She’s been a teacher in New York, she’s been a founding teacher of an alternative school, and now she works with Kiddom to support teachers. She is also an EdSurge columnist — I hope you read her stories, talking about a wide variety of schools implementing technology.
Mikkel Storaasli is the superintendent of the Grayslake High School District in Illinois. Mikkel got his start as a math teacher in Leyden High School and rose through the ranks serving as an assistant principal and now is obviously superintendent for the high school district which has two high schools and almost 3000 students. And Pam Moran, Executive Director of the Virginia School Consortium for Learning, has really done it all. She’s been a teacher and one of the country’s top administrators serving at the Albemarle County Public School District in Virginia, and she’s the co-author of a new fantastic book called Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools. And I’m really pleased to say she’s also a featured speaker at our Fusion Conference, which is going to go on next week. Yay. Thank you all for joining us.
So, broadly speaking, you know what? Newton was right. It takes more energy to make a change than it does to keep things going as they are. And yet our world is continuing to change — that pace of change is accelerating — and that means that we have to figure out how to make change something that our communities; our staff, our students, our families, can embrace and welcome. We’re going to talk through ideas of what has worked with leading practitioners, and of course invite anyone who’s on this webinar to weigh in with questions and thoughts.
So a couple of things to start off: Studies do suggest that most educators feel overwhelmed by the number of new initiatives. They get ahead of a lot of them, but it is challenging. And let’s take a look at how technology reforms compare to other school reforms. 36% of teachers felt that technology reforms in the last two years had a pretty large impact on them. That’s a third of all of our teachers. And on the other side of the coin, only 59% of educators feel that they have the support that they need to implement reforms — that really should be 100%. So before we ask the panelists to weigh in and share some of their experience, we’d like to ask anybody who’s out there who is tuning into this webinar to answer a very short poll and give us some thoughts about your own experiences….
1. Has your school implemented a tech-based initiative in the last two years?
I’ll take a second for you to just click yes or no.
2. Do you feel that you have the support that you need to master the initiatives that are being implemented in your district or your school?
So just take a second and fill those out. We will come back to that poll in a couple of minutes and give you the results.
I’d like to start this conversation by asking each of you a question. Kyle, let’s talk about that Chromebook initiative; 1,100 Chromebooks! Take us through how you’re doing this rollout. So much of getting people to embrace change is building on trust. So what are you doing to get all of those middle school teachers who are saying “Oh my God, here comes 1,100 Chromebooks!” — How do you build trust with that community?
Kyle Pace: [00:05:10] Yeah absolutely, that’s a great question. Literally a month ago we brought one-to-one to all of our middle schools and gave every student a device. So that was a huge initiative just right here at the start of the school year that we added on to all of the devices that we already had in our district. So it takes a lot of planning and preparation and an outstanding team to build that trust for sure. We didn’t just drop in 1,100 devices and say “OK, teachers: here you go.” You know, we had already been introducing the devices for a good two years prior to this moment to get teachers comfortable with, “What does this look like with my teaching, and what does it look like for student learning? And how does this enhance teaching and learning?” And that all came through our two instructional technology coaches that worked a lot with all of the teachers at these schools to build that trust; to build that system of support, to show them what’s possible, to help them when things don’t work, to be there and celebrate the things that went awesome with them as well. And so our district’s commitment to that looked like… you know, we started out with just one instructional technology coach. Then we got two instructional technology coaches, and created a concrete plan of not only how we’re gonna support teachers and how we’re going to continually work with teachers, but also how we’re going to work with and support our administrators in all of this “new” that’s coming along, as well.
Betty Corcoran: [00:06:56] So before we let go of this, maybe just take us through those numbers and that timeline, because you said that you were working on it for two years, you now have two IT coaches. Remind us, how many teachers and administrators are these folks supporting and can you give us a couple of milestones on that ramp up?
Kyle Pace: [00:07:15] Yeah, absolutely. So this began at… we started with our high school actually, so our high school is in the third year of being one-to-one. So we started there and we started very small, created some pilot groups…
Betty Corcoran: [00:07:33] So that’s one teacher? Two teachers?
Kyle Pace: [00:07:34] Yes, so it was about half a dozen or so teachers.
Betty Corcoran: [00:07:38] Okay, So start with about a half-dozen teachers, that’s great. And they did it for a semester or a full year?
Kyle Pace: [00:07:44] They did it for the entire second semester of the year prior of what this would look like with the students fully supported.
Betty Corcoran: [00:07:54] How did that how did that ramp go?
Kyle Pace: [00:07:57] So then we ramped up to giving all of our high school students the device the following year, so that was approximately 1,300 devices that we rolled out three years ago to our high school students. Lots and lots of communication and resources and support had to come out ahead of that; we wanted to keep our parents in the know. Parents were also being asked to pay a Chromebook insurance fee for the first time, so that was something new that parents weren’t used to. So we had to make sure we were communicating the why behind this very regularly and very carefully. We wanted that to be very purposeful.
Betty Corcoran: [00:08:42] So now you’ve got the 1,300 high school kids using it, and as you said you started to get the middle school kids, so overall then what’s what’s the ratio? You’ve got two IT folks and they’re serving how many?
Kyle Pace: [00:08:54] Yes so we’ve got two Instructional Technology coaches that are supporting approximately 200 teachers, maybe just shy of that, that are teaching with a 1-to-1 environment.
Betty Corcoran: [00:09:10] Terrific. Well we’ll come back to those stories, but that’s a great start. Melissa, you’ve seen initiatives go well, and you’ve seen them stall. Tell us a little bit about a time when you started to see those early signs of “Oh my God… we’ve had enough initiatives!” And then, what did you do when you addressed that?
Melissa Giroux: [00:09:29] Yeah, absolutely. One of the key signs for me, from both an administrator perspective and a teacher one, is around that Why? and that trust that Kyle was speaking about. When I go into a school for the first time, one of the things that I’ll ask both the admin and the teachers, whether or not they’re in the same room, is “Why are you using our platform? Why are you using technology in the classroom?” That Why question and the variance of answers that it generates is often a really big warning sign. And for people focusing often on the products and the solution instead of the Whyand goals for the solutions —
Betty Corcoran: [00:10:04] Instead of the pedagogical reasons.
Melissa Giroux: [00:10:05] Exactly, the objective for implementing anything new, whether it’s technology or not. And so seeing teachers’ blank stares at that question, confusion, looking around at each other, or immediately kind of disengaging is a pretty scary sign. And from the administrator point of view, one warning sign I’ve seen is that fatigue. I think most admin have really good intentions, but they hold so tightly to initiatives. The freedom that tech specialists in these pilot teams that Kyle’s describing had to kind of play around in a low-risk way… this kind of takes the pressure off that head admin who’s leading the charge. It’s exhausting to try to be the sole driver of a new change, and so when I see an admin who already looks fatigued at the idea of pushing a new initiative, that makes me a little nervous, that they’re holding out a little too tightly, instead of building that trust and a little bit of experimental freedom.
Betty Corcoran: [00:10:59] Cool. Is there anything that you’ve done that actually is just kind of a great, sort of, almost a warm-up exercise or a scaffolding to try to deal with that kind of fatigue?
Melissa Giroux: [00:11:14] Yeah, absolutely. I think breaking people into smaller groups, where they have the chance to talk amongst each other, if they don’t have an answer to that “Why a new piece of tech?” question, whether breaking them into their department teams or their grade teams. Letting them sort of grapple with that in an open-ended way before I jump into anything technical has been a great way for me to be able to on-the-spot tailor materials as I hear things bubbling up in conversation. Teachers don’t get an awful lot of time just to talk to each other about the work and take a step back. So often those 37-and-a-half minutes of PD time are go-go-go, and then everyone leaves, and we don’t know what happened. So investing that time, and pushing my partners at schools to invest that time, into just a little bit of discussion to give me a fertile idea bank of ways that I might support them moving forward helps.
Betty Corcoran: [00:12:08] Mikkel, I’m sure that what Melissa said really resonates with you, because as a district leader you have had to kind of coordinate and connect all of the various pilots and initiatives and really try to help people answer that “Why.” How have you tried to do that? How do you make people see things as a unified whole, not “just another initiative.”
Mikkel Storaasli: [00:12:34] Yeah I mean as a district administrator I think a lot of times we’re the ones maybe at fault you know, for initiative fatigue. You know, we’re the ones that are seen as…
Betty Corcoran: [00:12:43] Thank you for saying that! I’m sure your teachers appreciate that.
Mikkel Storaasli: [00:12:47] Yeah, hey I’ll cop to it, absolutely. You know, what I think we have to do is exactly as Kyle said and exactly as Melissa said, you start with the “Why.” You have got to use that Simon Cynic idea of “This is why we’re doing this.” I don’t have a great answer. You know, it’s difficult to communicate why we’re doing all these things or how they all fit together. What I would say is we just have to be relentless about communicating why we’re doing it. Having some sort of framework, whether that’s a mission statement or a strategic plan, or a well-articulated set of goals, and communicate to people this is why we’re doing it. We may be doing all of these different initiatives, whether it’s a tech initiative or reading, or math, or PBL, or blended, or what have you. But they’re all pushing in the same direction. And again, just being relentless about communicating that “this is why we’re doing it, this is how it fits into the grand scheme of things, and this is why overall this is the direction we’re going and how it’s going to benefit our students.”
Betty Corcoran: [00:13:47] And just out of curiosity. In, say the last initiative that you’ve really started to rollout, maybe something that you’ve started to do this September, how have you framed that “Why” for your community?
Mikkel Storaasli: [00:14:02] Well you know like I mentioned we just rolled out a new strategic plan and a new mission statement — that’s why it’s on my mind, I guess. One key line, so to speak, of our mission statement is “relevant, engaging, authentic learning” and really pushing that — and it’s part of our goals. It’s really something that we’re trying to make sure teachers understand, no matter what you’re teaching, that’s what we need to be pushing toward. So we’ve got a couple of blended learning pilots, for example, where students are maybe in C in class three days a week and somewhere else in the building. Two days or a week, or what have you. And really communicating why that’s that’s important for students why we think allowing them or helping them learn how to manage their own time is important, and they gets into like technological issues and things like that. But it really gets to, again the relevant, engaging, authentic learning. Not just the use of their time but if and when they decide to go to college, they’re probably gonna be taking a blended course and are gonna have to learn how to manage their time regardless. So again, trying to to communicate how it fits into the grand whole.
Betty Corcoran: [00:15:12] Yeah. And Pam, in your book you have a really big important observation, (a lot of big important observations), but one of the ones that I really liked is that we have to realize that teachers themselves are at very different developmental stages, and you summed up with an idea you call squash, which I really like. Take us through an example of what these stages mean and what squash has to do with it.
Pam Moran: [00:15:39] Well I think that I’ve learned as an elementary principal for 10 years, which was part of a journey to being a superintendent for 13 years, that we live in a world where change is coming at us all the time in schools, for a variety of reasons. It was true in the 80s, it was true in the 90s, and it’s true today. What I think was absolutely critical for me, as an elementary principal, is that we were going through a process of trying to reinvision what we wanted curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment to look like, just for a principal. The teachers worked really hard on it. I was really working on it, and we had some support from the University of Virginia, in an educator who was in the Curry School of Education. And what we were trying to do was to build the integrated model around in firing the arts and writing as a set of pathways to getting at what we didn’t call at that point time, “deeper learning”. But I think we call it deeper learning today. Sometime right before the Thanksgiving holidays, teachers came and sat down with me and said “Gosh, we’re feeling really squashed here.” There was so much coming at us from so many different places. And what really emerged from that, is that they were overwhelmed even though they embraced the world and they wanted to be doing the work, but when you were trying to balance teaching kids, trying to invest in professional learning at the same time, and doing all the things that the division also expected us to do, that sense of being overwhelmed cause them to feel like they were squashed.
What we did, and I came back to the idea that sometimes you have to relieves the pressure and take a break. Let’s step back and take a break. And the way we got to the take a break conversation was interestingly by having a parent at school who worked at a local restaurant and worked with us to prepare a menu that was served on a day right before the Thanksgiving holidays, that was a professional development day, and the theme was squash. Literally that day had every single part of the meal was made from some version of squash, including the bread pudding. But what it did was it just caused everybody to sit back and say, “You know, what we’ve got to be able to do is to take small bites of this work, versus taking big bites, to use the food metaphor. And we need to maybe be more invested in doing a slow meal versus a fast meal.”
Betty Corcoran: [00:18:40] I love that point.
Pam Moran: [00:18:41] And it was interesting because, one of the things that caused us to think about that metaphor more is that one of the teachers said, “You know schools should be run like a great restaurant. Where you have really good service, where the food is then really cooked to perfection, where you take your time and you enjoy your meal and before everybody gets up, that you realize that you had a really fun evening. And if our work isn’t like that, if we can’t run like a great restaurant, then one of the things that we have to do is to ask ourselves the question, “What are the barriers to doing that?”
The other thing that I learned as the superintendent was that change can come from a lot of different places, it can come from the grassroots, it can come top down. But the reality is, when you embark on change, if you don’t have a process to do what I call somewhat of an aim small, miss small model, where you actually are not trying to create change that’s going to cut across the full organization, but rather to start with almost a prototyping space, so that you know you can always make mistakes. And we see it rolled out in the front of EdWeek every time there’s some big division that’s had a national fail in terms of rolling out an initiative, that if you aim small, miss small, and you really think about how can you test out this, then you get some people who know that they’re in it to help you figure out what the barrier’s going to be, where the mistakes are going to happen, and how to fix those before you take it out to the bigger audience of the entire staff, so I think that would be the two things I would offer up.
Betty Corcoran: [00:20:30] Those are some amazing points. I’d love to come back to this aim small, miss small point again. But we do have that poll ready, so just going to pause for one tenth of a second to show the polls. So of the people who are currently on this webinar… Yes, 81% have had some kind of tech initiative. And we’re kind of running neck-and-neck here about whether they feel that they have the support. So that makes this conversation incredibly timely.
To hear the rest of the webinar, please watch the full video on ourYouTube channel here, and we also encourage you to check out our free guide on Change Management to learn more about successful edtech implementation for your school or district.