How to introduce a great digital program – Discovery Education

Introducing new digital programming to schools and districts is not an easy thing to do. How do you decide what is good? How much should you be spending on these programs? Why should you spend anything when you have free resources like Google?

First, just like anywhere else, there is no such thing as a free ride. Quality programming costs money. The challenge is where do you spend your limited resources.

The other big problem is a very hard one to solve. Once you have a program ready for implementation, how do you find the time and resources to train a busy staff on how best to use this new program.

I don’t think we have solved this last problem yet.

I am very interested in Discovery Education. I have used this resource for years, I have attended their principal’s conferences and have trained our staff on how to use the program in the classroom. For a time, our school was the only one in our district that had access to Discovery’s Science Techbook.

I have also done work on the Science Techbook revision that has been taking place over the past year.

So, I know this resource and I believe it has a huge amount to offer educators. The problem remains, how do you tell busy teachers and administrators about a resource that could really enhance student learning?

This has been difficult. Sadly, in my former board, they have cut back or possibly eliminated the use of this resource. They have done this for a simple reason – people were not using it.

Again, this is understandable. People are very busy and they really need to take a pause if they are going to learn about new resources and tools for learning. There are so many out there – how are they to choose?

The answer is a simple one but it takes time. Districts need to commit human resources and time to teach people how to use complex digital tools. Putting them out there and expecting something to happen just won’t work. Teachers are simply too busy.

While I am happy to talk to anyone about Discovery Education, I am not getting lots of offers to come in and teach teachers about Discovery. Maybe the best thing for now is to simply blog about Discovery Education.

So, I have set up a new blog Discovery Education In Canada and I plan to post every day on some aspect of Discovery Education and how it can work as an excellent digital resource for teaching and learning.

This is a bit of a challenge as I have to download material from the DE site so that people who are not registered with Discovery can see the material I am referring to.

I have four posts out now and I started on Saturday. No idea if this is going to spread the good news, but if you don’t try you will never know.

So, the experiment begins. I hope you take a moment to look and maybe even share a post or two.

Discovery Education Future is Now Conference – part II

New panel discussion: Creating a Culture of Change

Where do you start with staff regarding digital transformation?

The basic idea – show teachers what is possible.  When you give them a model – this could be your classroom – are you willing to do this?

Thomas Gentzel – Executive Director National School Board Association-  need to be able to ask the right question.  There are plenty of examples where initiatives haven’t worked.

What works?  Engage the community – how is technology being used in the classroom

Second – a strategic view on where the system wants to go – before purchasing equipment.

Michael Martiano – Superintendent St. Mary’s County- start with a cadre of our teachers – the level of excitement generated by early adopters spreads to other teachers.  Build that cadre of support first.

Chris Kennedy – as a district, set the high level – this is what we are about as a district.  Rather than look to pilot schools, we replicate the conversation in each school then link the schools together.

Michael Martiano – to bring this change to the system look where your money is invested – move from traditional texts to digital across the board.  I will never allow for another traditional textbook adoption

Allan Lee – superintendent Baldwin County – engage the community to see the benefits of technology – how students are learning, telling the stories of success.

Michael Martiano – sometimes we don’t take advantage to tell the stories about technology – communities need to become aware of the advantages of the digital transformation.

Thomas Gentzel – the traditional jobs are a way of the past and we need to tell the community we are preparing for the future.

Chris Kennedy – As practices change, we see improvements using the old measures – this reassures the public.  We are still doing some traditional assessment and the students are doing better.

Allan Lee – Key point – ‘I no longer have to wait to learn’. Individual students learn in a distinctly different ways.  Elementary teachers realize that the learning environment is dynamic – high school teachers need to see this.

Digital Renaissance Learning Academy – building capacity in the schools – you need a critical mass of highly qualified teachers – Baldwin County Schools

So what is the district going to do to assure success?  The decision about the device comes lst – teachers will not change unless they have the good PD that they need.

Next Speaker – Kaya Henderson Chancellor DC Schools

Demonstrating the power of blended learning.

Technology cannot replace a good teacher, however it can assist with differentiation, it can assist students to be more engaged.  Students take responsibility for their own learning.  Blended Learning allows teachers to deliver curriculum in totally new ways.

How do we encourage blended learning?

Supporting our teachers means to support teachers as they try something new.  They also have outside partners that help teachers to develop.

Creation also of blended learning feeder patterns – centers where students can focus on learning blended learning techniques.

Integrate the work into our everyday structures.  Supporting schools that are integrating technology into key subject areas.

Developing Teacher Leaders

panel host – Dr. Karen Beerer, VP Discovery Education

Dr. Gene Carter Executive Director ASCD– Leadership is inclusive.  It can be learned.  We have the opportunity to encourage teacher engagement.  We need them to sustain the energy for innovation.  Higher ed personnel have resp to prepare grads to be effective teachers; schools must provide job-embedded learning.  Teacher leadership is integral to change in schools.

Marie Izquierdo Chief Academic Officer Miami-Dade – Digital leadership model – focus on visionary teachers, innovative, willing and open to have other teachers come into their classrooms.  They are designated as model teachers that can contribute to the learning of their peers.  Very rigorous mentor-mentee teachers – has ed to a great amount of success.

Anthony Nash – Superintendent – a title does not make you a leader.  It is critical that we create an atmosphere where teachers feel free to take risks.  Teachers need to hear that change is going to be messy.

Aileen Altman Mitchell Principal – Middle school principal – many partnerships with universities, Discovery Education and other organizations.  Key formula for success – making sure teachers are empowered to be leaders.  Teachers worked in teams – focused on professional development theme of their own choosing.

Dr. John Malloy Director Hamilton Wentworth – We who lead believe that we are distributing leadership more than we are.  Do we have the right conditions for shared leadership?  Challenge – what don’t you know that people think you should?  A block can happen if we cannot be honest learners together.

How do we build a culture where teacher leadership can happen?

  • you need to create systems where teachers can collaborate and try new things.
  • we have to broaden the definition of leader so more people consider their potential
  • need to resource and support teacher who do not want to become formal leaders
  • we are learners first, leaders second
  • rust must be earned – if your behaviours go against this you will destroy any opportunities to work in tandem
  • everyone needs to learn how to learn together
  • technology at best is a tool that can facilitate good teaching.
  • Reflection, learning, and risk-taking are necessary for developing a culture of teacher leaders

Changing the PD model

English: Blended learning methodology graphic
English: Blended learning methodology graphic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Learn together and no experts needed to bring in, because leaders emerge in all conversations within a school.
  • learning can be exponential if we depend on ourselves for PD rather than to ‘wait’ for the expert
  • time is precious – can we give teachers time to collaborate with their peers during the day?  We don’t need to bring in people, just free up the schedule!
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