In the months since launching our school and district pilot program, the Kiddom team has collectively spent thousands of hours meeting with administrators to better understand their workflows, facilitate contextualized staff workshops, and support ongoing partnerships. Our goal? To build Kiddom Academy, a platform that allows every stakeholder in a school community to be connected and informed to drive student achievement.
We’ve learned so much from these passionate educators about what makes a school leader successful in driving achievement, and which qualities act as barriers to school success. With the goal of helping school leaders reflect and refine their practices, we’ve distilled our learning into three model administrator profiles — and two not-so-great ones. We share these learnings not to pass judgement, but in the hope of supporting the needs of teachers and students everywhere.
Our strongest partnerships with the greatest teacher engagement to drive student mastery all stemmed from leaders who fit a combination of these three profiles:
These leaders understand their staff strengths and growth areas, and leverage strong relationships. Empathizers frequently check the ‘temperature’ of their staff to ensure a balanced workload and plan responsive professional development. In our partnerships, these leaders carefully select education technology tools that leverage the skill sets that individual teachers and teams are developing rather than add another layer of work to busy teacher days.
Visionary leaders set aspirational goals for their teams and communicate them clearly. Because visionaries understand that large scale change doesn’t happen overnight, they plan intentionally for incremental steps towards a larger objective and set aside time for reflection to refine — sometimes over the course of several school years. Many of these leaders choose to pilot tools with small groups of teachers, distill learnings, and then use exemplar artifacts from within the school community to bring new strategies to life for the whole school community. These leaders react to failure with coaching and reflective data analysis rather than negative consequences.
In some of our partnerships, administrators met with us for only a few minutes before seamlessly handing off partnership responsibilities to teacher leaders. While this might seem like an overly hands-off approach, we often found that this staff development strategy led to increased buy-in from teachers and a quicker onboarding process. Principals are not just instructional coaches, but also CFOs, public relations managers, and human resources reps. They simply can’t do it all alone, which is why it’s smart to grow your capacity by building leadership skills in staff. This plan can also prevent staff turnover and foster more collaborative relationships between team members.
Unfortunately, not every school has had the opportunity to bring new tools to their teams due to constraints on time, money, and other factors. Many of the principals we’ve met along the way have had lofty goals for their schools, but struggled to implement them with unsuccessful leadership styles. Here are some models to avoid.
On occasion, we meet with an administrator who makes decisions swiftly and unilaterally, without regard for the current staff skill or student mastery levels. In professional development workshops at these kinds of schools, we heard teachers talking fearfully about what their administrators would be able to see in their accounts, and compliance-based worries about completion of tasks rather than real learning. The key difference between the authoritarian and the visionary was a lack of support for teachers to reach the mandated goals and the punitive consequences for not doing so.
The Impulse Shopper
There are a lot of edtech products out there with convincing sales pitches using trendy buzzwords. We have met principals who go for sparkle over function and fit, and choose separate software to solve every problem facing the school community. Adding tool after tool on top of standard teacher responsibilities causes a whole host of problems. Teachers don’t have time to learn the logistics of each one, and then abandon them, which means wasting precious school funds. Student data becomes fragmented and can become difficult to use in meaningful interventions. When tools are purchased based on marketing materials, they don’t necessarily align to long-term school goals; every year becomes another swing of the pendulum for staff — leading to change fatigue.
The Bottom Line
We share these learnings not to put anyone down, but to share what we’ve had the privilege to witness at schools around the country. We hope that these lessons help school administrators reflect on their leadership style and better support their teachers and students. Based on these experiences, we’ve built Kiddom Academy for schools and districts to include actionable, aggregate data and curriculum controls to help administrators coach, plan, empower, and experiment with intention. Plus, ongoing partnerships with our experienced success team means contextualized support and intentional planning throughout the year.
There is no shortage of news about schools adopting and then quickly abandoning new technology, curriculum, or assessment frameworks. Change is constant in education policy.
As federal and state administrations shift and new research comes out, school leaders race to keep up with trends and purchase or adopt the next best thing. But this ever-swinging pendulum moves at the expense of teacher buy-in and professional training, and the ‘guinea pigs’ of these experiments, our students, can only stand to lose. Often, the failure of an initiative isn’t a reflection of the tool or strategy itself, but the plan for implementing it.
Change fatigue is defined as “a general sense of apathy or passive resignation towards organizational changes by individuals or teams.” Every time a school or district decides to change a curriculum providers, an assessment system, update a gradebook, or adopt new software (and hardware), teachers are going to get increasingly tired, checked-out, or resistant. This is bad for professional development and damaging to kids.
With so many stakeholders involved, and with such high stakes, new initiatives led by school and district leaders must be planned with four key things: vision, time, communication, and reflection.
Have a Clear Vision
What is your goal for using a new tool or strategy? You’d be surprised how many school administrators choose curriculum or other education technology based on brilliant sales pitches instead of first developing objectives and goals for seeking new tools.
Just as teachers are asked to set objectives for learning, administrators should know exactly their intended outcomes before moving their whole school community in a new direction.
Be Mindful of Time
Be more intentional in launching organizational change. Do not select a new system or tool in August, roll it out to your whole staff in September, and expect immediate buy-in and impact.
Build a planning committee made up of a diverse range of stakeholders — parents, students, teachers, and administrators will all bring unique perspectives and needs to the process. This will help you develop a clear action plan for which resources and supports your community will need.
In all likelihood, seeing the results you’re hoping for will take longer than a single school year. Do your research and plan backwards. For example, if you expect all classrooms to effectively adopt 1:1 technology in three school years, you might use year 1 to pilot with a small team of teachers and cull best practices, use year 2 to have successful pilot users train the larger community, and by year 3, your whole community will have had time to train, internalize, and integrate new practices seamlessly into their workflow.
We can’t emphasize enough the importance of setting aside time for staff training and collaboration when adopting new school-wide practices. Without space to safely take risks, refine their practice, and learn from each other, teachers will only implement new tools at the surface level or not at all.
No matter how strong your plan is, if you’re the only one who understands it, it will fail. Ensure that all stakeholders are able to participate through clear and frequent communication.
Build buy-in and encourage feedback with surveys and town halls. Invite your community to participate in the decision making process, test possible tools, and discuss obstacles to implementation.
Develop shared language and help everyone get on the same page — keep an ongoing glossary public for all in your community to be able to communicate effectively and ask questions.
Reflect, Reflect, Reflect
In some cases, as soon as any data, whether reliable or not, indicates a new plan “isn’t working,” schools tend to abandon ship.
Make space for reflection and fine-tuning to adjust course. Collect diverse sets of data to allow for deep root-cause analysis. Anecdotal information from teachers, student achievement data, and community surveys will all highlight different barriers to success.
How do I start?
Despite the possible pitfalls of too much change, at Kiddom, wedon’t believe school leaders should shy away from evidence-based, carefully planned initiatives. In fact, we’ve developed specific resources to support this work with educators around the United States. In this excerpt from Blended Learning 101, we offer some considerations for administrators and teachers transitioning to a new teaching and learning model:
1. Prepare for internet issues (infrastructure and technology). A reliable Internet connection and sufficient bandwidth are vital.
2. On-site IT support and backup plans are critical to buffer schools from the inevitable technology issues.
3. Blended learning coordinators played an important role in supporting schools’ adoption of blended learning.
4. Establishing productive, self-directed learning cultures is important for students to fully benefit from online learning.
5. Single sign-on portals can allow even very young children to quickly access online programs.
6. Teachers’ satisfaction with training associated with the adoption of the blended learning model varied by site.
1. Determine your technological requirements and constraints. How are you planning to use technology? How prepared are you to take advantage of the technology addition? Do you have enough devices or know how to get more?
2. Explore how other educators are implementing blended learning in their classroom and decide what works best for you. There is a video directory of blended learning in action that features different blended learning methods.
3. Get excited about enhancing your curriculum! This is an opportunity to hone your craft: you can revive the joy of teaching that can sometimes get lost in the day-to-day. Finding the right tools to support the procedural skill development to allow you to plan engaging projects is an important part of this process. Try not to feel like you need to reinvent the wheel or record countless videos of yourself (unless you absolutely love it).
Were you thinking about adopting blended learning initiatives at your school or district? A successful blended learning program is the intentional integration of educational technology within classrooms to enhance the learning process. Implementation can take many forms.
But so often at conferences or schools, our team hears teachers lamenting the number of dry lectures about decontextualized strategies they are forced to sit through.
In a 2009 report, the School Redesign Network at Stanford University found these characteristics to be most important in creating high-quality PD:
Focused on Content
Active, engaged learning
Coaching from experts
Opportunities for feedback and reflection
Sustained over time
At Kiddom, we help teachers take charge and lead professional development for and with each other by allowing you to build digital sessions to meet those requirements. Benefits of developing your PD resources using Kiddom include:
Flexibility: It can be impossible to find time to sit down together. With resources accessible online, teachers can access them when and where they want, instead of trying to cram learning into their only free period. Use your lunch break to eat or take a walk… learn when you’re ready!
Accessibility: Materials are stored in the classes until you archive them — they can be used and referenced over time, instead of getting lost in a pile of handouts on your desk.
Engagement: Your colleagues can ask you questions, or send you back attachments to share additional student work, reflections, or feedback. Learning is a dialogue!
Transparency: If you’re an administrator or instructional coach and want to provide targeted feedback, you can align materials to standards like ISTE’s or your own school’s goals for teachers. Help them improve by clearly defining growth areas.
Define your goal: Do you want teachers to learn a new skill, explore new content, or reflect on their practice? Set a learning objective to guide your materials. Make a new class in Kiddom with a related title.
Collect your resources: Add these as assignments to topical playlists in your Planner.
You might include:
Articles about the topic to ground teachers in common understanding
Videos, lesson plans, and student work from exemplar classes to model best practices
Case studies from other schools
Data protocols for individual reflection on student achievement
New curriculum materials for review and discussion
An assignment for teachers to complete at their own pace ahead of a team meeting
Share: Send your colleagues the class code from your settings, and ask them to join the class as students with a username. They should keep their student accounts separate from their teacher ones. When a new colleague joins your class, select them from the drop down menu in your timeline, drag and drop the resources from your Planner, and they’ll have access to the materials.
Another exciting year of teaching and learning is underway. And while a new school year can elicit mixed feelings, it also inspires educators and school leaders with a desire to try and experiment with new tools, systems, and pedagogies to make strides and improve upon last year.
Introducing the Kiddom Pilot Program for Schools and Districts
This year, Kiddom is also offering something new: a pilot program to help schools and districts meet their goals with custom intelligence reports, administrative controls, a tailored onboarding experience, and ongoing pedagogical support.
Last year, Kiddom helped tens of thousands of teachers across the United States improve their classroom experience with a set of interconnected, user-friendly tools. Today, teachers rely on Kiddom’s reports because they’re visual and actionable, offering beautiful analytics to fine-tune instruction. Teachers love Kiddom’s library because it saves them time by giving them easy access to free resources (e.g. videos, quizzes, and readings) from top-notch curriculum providers. Our Google Drive integration removes the need for teachers to use Google Classroom. And of course, students use Kiddom to access all of their assignments, feedback, and progress from one place, on their own terms.
We’ve been laser focused on the classroom experience and it’s paid off. However, we believe it takes a village to raise a child. If we don’t connect the various stakeholders involved in a child’s education, then we’re not meeting our full potential.
Kiddom’s pilot program helps schools and districts plan, assess, and analyze learning more effectively as learning communities.
Our pilot program offers school and district leaders the opportunity to measure the pulse of teaching and learning in their community, beyond a single classroom. Participants receive custom intelligence reports to identify strengths and areas to improve across school(s), as well as a toolset to make timely interventions. School and district-level controls allow administrators to set up community-level preferences, rubrics, standards, and more. Schools and districts also received a tailored onboarding experience and a dedicated support specialist. We also work with the pilot school/district to design custom professional development resources and experiences. Pilot program teachers, principals, and district administrators also get to shape Kiddom: they take part in product feedback sessions where their input informs future Kiddom features and services. These benefits and services are free for pilots — it’s the least we can do.
Unfortunately, there are a limited number of spots available. We’ve already accepted a range of schools, districts, and non-profit organizations. If reading this got you excited, the best way to get started is to complete this pilot program interest form as soon as possible. If your organization meets our requirements and you’d rather get something on your calendar soon, schedule a call with us so we can learn more about your community’s goals and initiatives.
Features and services for pilot schools and districts:
Teamwork makes the dream work!
Custom class, school, and district-level intelligence reports
A sense of collaboration and community is important for the success of any school. Collaborative environments allow teachers to feel appreciated and guided in their role. It’s not rocket science: when teachers collaborate and communicate effectively, they design richer learning experiences for their students. Today, we’re proud announce that collaboration tools are now available on Kiddom.
After months of researching, designing, engineering, and testing, all Kiddom users everywhere can now effectively collaborate with their colleagues. Hooray! 🎉
Here’s how collaboration works
Adding a collaborator is as simple as entering their email address.
As the class owner, you decide the type of access your collaborators gain, depending on each adult’s goals and roles (view vs. edit).
Share your classes with multiple adults — there is no limit to the number of collaborators each class can have.
Adding a collaborator that can view your class 👀
This means a collaborator may only see your class timeline and reports, without the ability to edit, add, or remove any assignments or students.
A collaborator that can view your class won’t be able to see or send comments to students on assignments.
This is best for administrators, instructional coaches, paraprofessionals, or support staff who may need access to student achievement data or assignments for their own focus areas.
Adding a collaborator that can edit your class ✍🏽
This means a collaborator gains modification privileges for assignments, grades, commenting, class settings, and rosters.
A collaborator that can edit your class has the ability to add additional collaborators.
This is best for co-teachers in special education, multi-age, or interdisciplinary classes who share the responsibility of creating and grading assignments.
Teamwork makes the dream work
The Kiddom team believes technology should enable teachers to share and learn best practices across their school communities. In fact, our pilot school communities intend to make big strides this year using Kiddom, all of which are using our collaboration features a little differently.
While we’re excited about collaboration and what it could mean for teachers and learners, we recognize there’s more work to be done. Over the next several weeks, we’re building co-planning feature sets for curriculum to accelerate our vision of building a collaborative education platform.
Update 9/19: Sharing curriculum with co-teachers is now available!
Editor’s note: You can only share personally identifiable information with other teachers and administrators at your school. Please confirm that sharing your class and student achievement data with others in your school community is allowed under your school (or district) technology policy.
As we move through our careers in education, all sorts of people teach us important lessons. A lesson can come in the form of a more experienced teacher who nurtures us with bits of advice and tough love. Teachers or paraprofessionals we share classrooms with bring new strategies to co-planning sessions that we continue using for years afterwards. Our students teach us all the time with their questions and engagement in our curriculum. That’s why at Kiddom, we’ve been talking to teachers, visiting classrooms, and digging into research to build a professional development menu that offers authentic learning experiences for educators.
If you work in a school, it’s likely you’ve spent hundreds, maybe even thousands, of hours in sessions meant to support you in your growth as an educator. At Kiddom, we know that the best of those sessions are those that connect directly to your day-to-day practice, supply you with concrete strategies, and give you flexibility to work at your own pace and collaboratewith your peers.
We believe educators deserve on-going education that is:
Personalized: Our virtual consults help us tailor the workshops we offer to the needs and context of your school community. Our resources are customizable so that they can be useful immediately, because we know you want to start using new strategies in your classroom now.
Grounded in Teacher Experience: We have a team of current and former teachers on staff developing resources based on research-backed practices that we’ve used in our own classrooms. Our in-depth guides can jump-start your exploration of topics like blended learning or standards-based grading.
Inquiry-Based and Exploratory: You don’t want to be lectured at any more than your students do. We design sessions that are self-guided if that’s your style, or collaborative workshops to support your teachers in teams.
Kiddom facilitates a wide range of workshops with teams of educators, from basic account set-up and launch sessions to more in-depth cycles of data workshops using student mastery reports. We can also provide materials for teacher leaders and administration to run their own workshops at school to build in-house expertise and leadership.
Excited? We are too! To get started, explore our menu of professional development offerings and schedule a free consult. If you don’t see any offerings that match your needs, we can work to create custom sessions once we get to know you and your school via an initial consult.