So this started as the â€œSchool 2.0â€ project a couple of months ago, but in light of recent discussions regarding the terminology, I think Iâ€™ll rename it to the above. My colleague Rob Mancabelli and I have started working with a number of districts who have begun looking at school change in systemic ways in light of the opportunities this Read/Write Web offers to teaching and learning. A few months ago, I wrote about the initial meeting with one of those districts, and I just wanted to post an update on the process there for those who might be interested.
In January, we had a daylong retreat with district administrators and members from a regional support entity where we talked in broad brush strokes about what we thought this project might become. I was really enthusiastic coming out of that meeting because of the willingness the people in the room had for having honest, sometimes difficult conversations and for the ways in which they looked at this idea not just from a school standpoint but from an entire community standpoint. It was a great start, and Iâ€™d urge you to read the original post for context.
Yesterday, we met again, only this time we were joined by representatives of just about every constituency of the district. We had the original members of the school administration and technical support staff as well as the regional group. But we also had a business owner from the town, a representative from a corporation with long roots in the community, a board member, three teachers, someone from the town library, a town councilman, the teacherâ€™s association president, two parents and last, but certainly not least, two students from the district. In all, we had invited 25 people to attend, and all but two made it.
In a few words, it was a pretty amazing discussion. We talked about how these tools are having an impact in many areas of life and society. We tried to imagine the potentials and opportunities they might bring to the school and how those fit with the community at large. We struggled with the limitations of money and the weight of the state test scores that most thought were the number one factor in assessing the effectiveness of the school.
And, in general, we struggled with getting a clear picture of just what â€œitâ€ is that we want to move towards. Which, in some strange bloggy way, weaves me back to a Tom Hoffman post thatâ€™s been floating in my brain for almost a month now. (BTW, I appreciate Tom more than he thinks, I think.) It’s more complex than this, but Tom suggested I was “stuck” because I have “never been willing to place his bets on any existing model of school or education reform.” And that comment moved some molecules in my brain that, in actuality, have helped get me somewhat unstuck. (Thanks, Tom.) Now I’m not saying that this particular district is going to buy into a model of reform that’s already out there, but what I’m realizing in this process is that for now, we have to work within the frame of what schools can become in the current environment, not necessarily some vague idea of what we think they should be.
To that end, this particular group began envisioning what their school and their community could become in the next 3-5 years with a lot of conversation, a lot of support, and a lot of work. I’ll quote here from one of the planning documents they have created in terms of what they see, for now:
- A community where the conversation is more about what students are demonstrating than the scores on the test
- Where residents have a window into the classroom
- A community that can participate in a more global conversation about learning and teaching
- A school that is the center of learning for the community
- One that has a more open network to the world
- One with more opportunities for global learning
- One where the desks aren’t in rows
- Teachers that have wider learning networks and are excited about new technologies
- Teachers that have freedom to learn and feel supported and not fearful
- Students that have more freedom to learn and are drivers of their own learning
- Students that have more collaborative learning experiences and interactions with the local community
- Learning that is centered around essential, big questions
There are more, but that’s a pretty good taste. Again, the thing I find so interesting about this process so far is the depth to which they understand and are talking about the connections that can happen. And that it is a shift not just in the culture of the school but in the community as a whole. It’s very cool.
Right now, the members of the planning committee are looking at what needs to be learned and moved forward in the next 3-6 months. We’re meeting again next month to dig into it some more.