Age of Awareness
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Age of Awareness

Back-to-School Bucket List for Ed Leaders

dis-PLACEd Guide to Fall Planning

By Breanna Morsadi

With an unprecedented displacement in education, there are many conversations — formal and informal — contemplating what to do next. One of those conversations happened as a group of educationalists gathered to discuss plans for fall and beyond by asking, “How will we co-create new places of learning?” This dis-PLACEd challenge, hosted by Project ARC co-founders, Dayna Laur and Tim Kubik, and guided by Edcamp Foundation Co-Founder, Mike Ritzius, resulted in an idea share that focused on the opportunities that lie within this ed disruption. After sharing powerful lessons learned from the first half of 2020, this network of educators and community members has some thoughts on what shape leadership might take to ensure these spaces meet the needs of all learners for the future of education. If these ideas haven’t yet made your back-to-school bucket list for fall, perhaps they should.

Start with the Student

Within this massive disruption, are we intrinsically motivating our students and developing their natural curiosity to learn? A shift toward learner-centered education is on the rise, where personalized needs are met through differentiation. Start with the student by including them in the conversation of their own learning and curriculum. Increase natural socialization by having students teaching students when possible, through mentorship or skillshare programs. Consider how young people can create their own systems within the school community, rather than assume their role as a mere receiver of information. Here, we have the opportunity to tap into the assets of our community (either virtual or in-person) to develop authentic opportunities for collaboration with technical experts who increase the relevance of the content for our learners.

Support participatory leadership

More than ever, those in leadership positions are looking towards one another and the greater collective for support during this ed shift. This allows us to consider the power of stories, including the stories we tell ourselves regarding our roles within power structures and hierarchies of authority. Consider reimagining your role to support participatory leadership structures that work for the current ed ecosystem we are navigating. Ask yourself whether you are leading through the crisis or managing the response in your own community, and if you actively look toward participatory leadership models, such as the teacher-powered network, for best practices to collaborate in more progressive ways.

Move to what matters

Standards → Competencies

Seat-time → Depth of Knowledge framework

One size → Variety of personalized learning approaches and starting points

If you are indeed supporting the whole person, how does it show up? Take a serious look at the communication and reports you share with parents and students, and ask, How and where are non-content aspects (e.g. SEL, Habits of Success, Wayfinding skills) of the student represented? If these aren’t represented anywhere but are on your school website, that says something about how much you are prioritizing and tracking these skills. What is measured matters, so what are you measuring?

Commit to equity

Committing to equity is a tall order, but we can all start within. As a base point, we should be brutally conscious of our own biases. Do you pause regularly? Do you reflect on how your words, values and actions are resonating within your community? Whether you are a leader or administrator planning a strategy, or a teacher planning a lesson, challenge your own bias and look at your plans through other lenses today to help make those plans more equitable. For deeper institutional change, create as much personalization within your curriculum to honor diversity, equity and inclusion. Consider digital equity. Being truly learner-centric is inherently equitable because you are meeting each learner where they are. Most importantly, living and upholding equitable values within your learning community and modeling those to staff and students daily carries more influence than writing any single plan for equity could. Serve as an advocate for equity in your community by ensuring there is BIPOC representation among your staff and school community, all demographics of students have access to an equal education, and all voices are equally valued.

Make learning visible and celebrate it

Within the massive move to remote learning, how do we make learning visible and celebrate the process? Many schools are jumping to Google Classrooms and other platforms as a digital space to share curriculum with their students. What is missing from this space is the messy, magical middle where learning is visible. What replaces the space where the process happens, where projects are attempted, where questions are asked, where failed attempts are redeemed, and where true learning comes to light? Headrush is a learning management system that shows students’ stories of learning and embraces student-led, teacher-designed, as well as co-created learning experiences. Tools like Headrush make student portfolios, group projects and community exhibitions visible so learning, although online, is a process shared and celebrated by all. Find tools that empower students to become more self-directed, while enabling teachers to scaffold best practice.

Empower community

We shouldn’t just acknowledge our learning communities, but empower our learning communities by recognizing their full worth and elevating their voices. How do you empower your community? How are you informed by your community? All too often school boards hold parents meetings capped at 50 people when representing 70,0000 students. Spark ground-up initiatives with your community by involving all stakeholders; educators, staff, administrators, parents, technical experts, greater community members, and students should be at the table. Listen through their frustration, pain, grieving, milestones and victories. Pose community chats, circles, and challenges, and celebrate your wins together. Follow up, take action, and empower your people.

Redefine PD

It is clear we need a skillset shift on behalf of educators if we want ed systems change to happen. By redefining PD, thought leaders can cross-pollinate to achieve long-term, impact-driven change within schools rather than deliver “drive-by” workshops. Let’s borrow more home-grown structures of leadership from the start-up and the tech world, and marry best practices with education. With support through implementation, active learning opportunities and time for work-embedded co-design, PD can be more meaningful moving into the future.

Take it from the practitioners in the field, doing the real work in the realm of education on the daily; this is the future of quality education. While this ed bucket list may sound ideal for many school leaders, it is important to remember that small actions made by many can and will make a big impact. What will your impact in 2020–2021 be?

For more, liberate your learning with Headrush as a learning management system and Project ARC’s online course to support the development of authentic project learning experiences (APLEs) that models and integrates high-level SAMR tools for best online learning practices.

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