Friday, February 4, 2011

School Innovation Process - Part I

Back in the Spring of 2010, I was asked, along with one of our site principals, to chair a committee of parents, teachers, administrators and community members to begin investigating the future for our school district and which directions the district should be investigating for long term planning. Initial meetings focused on determining the needs of our students, schools and community as we move into the future. We listed and ranked those needs and identified the top needs receiving the highest rankings. The highest scoring main categories were: Student Communication, School to Home/Home to School Communication, Improving Instructional Program, Technology, School Culture, and Professional Development. Under each of these main categories were specific needs that were submitted and ranked high by committee members. Once those needs were identified, the committee began to research how other schools around the country and world, were addressing those same or similar needs. The results of that research were shared with the committee on subsequent dates. Not surprising, one common thread that appeared through each of the main categories was the use of technology to address the needs.

The committee also interviewed students, adults who were products of the school district, and members of the local community to gain insight as to what they felt was good about their educational experience and what they felt could have improved their educational experience. Our guests had varying experiences with the educational system, primarily due each of their unique life experiences. One idea that shared some commonality was the importance of cultivating caring relationships. This idea of relationships is important because in points at an obvious fact, we are all different. Strong relationships are built upon one to one, honest, personable contact. I’m going to take a little liberty here and stretch an idea, if students feel relationships are important, and yet all students are unique and different, how should be we addressing our approach to teaching and learning when we have 30 students in the classroom?

The answer to that question is designing instruction that is unique to each student. That is only possible when you have fostered a strong relationship with each of your students, clearly identified each of their learning needs, and possess an instruction strategies supply that you can use to pull out tools specific to their needs. At best, what we have been doing up to this point, is grouping our students together (i.e. grade levels, reading levels, pre algebra, algebra, etc. etc.) with what we feel are similar needs and using our “bag” of strategies to address those similarly grouped student needs. Does this strategy work? Sure, up to a point. Could we do better? Of course.

Our school innovation committee is at the point now where we would like to take some recommendations to our school board. These recommendation will focus on what we feel the next steps should be in preparing our schools for the future. I, being a member of that committee, have some thoughts on this and have developed a recommendation I will share at the next meeting. I will explain my idea in a future post. But I will finish with two recordings and a reference to one of my last posts.

Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn have written a book titled, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns . In his recent interview on TheFutureofEducation, Mr. Horn explains the main themes behind his book and their recent updates to the book. I have excerpted out a section of that interview below with the section relevant to my idea. The full recording of his interview is available here:

The second recording excerpt below is from Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. In this recording she shares the 2010 National Education Technology Plan and responds to a question related to why innovation is only found in pockets across our educational system. The full recording of her interview is available here:

Finally, my post here, gets to the big idea I will be sharing in more depth in a future post.

Feedback encouraged...What do you think?

(image courtesy of wwworks on

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