Thursday, February 2, 2017

Leading Change, One Moment At a Time

Oftentimes, we are not aware that we are leaders, but our actions and words make an impact on everyone we come into contact with. Leaders are often looked upon as figures in the spotlight, but the reality is, we ALL have an opportunity daily to impact someone. Maybe the impact will not turn into change and growth right away. Maybe the impact is a negative one, or maybe the impact is life changing. But in each moment we encounter someone, an opportunity presents itself to demonstrate and promote best practices in education. Everyday, there’s a moment to show how valuable developing significant learning environments is for students and educators.

I have seen my innovation plan grow and evolve over the course of the last 15 months. The overarching (BHAG) goal has been established: “to empower learners to achieve their highest potential, we must analyze our current status and intentionally develop and facilitate a framework of unique environments and learning experiences in order for students to collaborate, communicate, think critically, and creatively in a 1:1 iPad learning environment.” What has ultimately evolved during this graduate program is how this goal can be achieved.
Of the 3 components I have identify in my innovation plan (evaluation of 1:1 iPad environment, establishing vision, and professional development and support), my focus has shifted to the need of effective professional learning. While I have identified vital behaviors that are necessary for this goal to be successful, my time and focus has shifted to changing the culture of innovation through professional learning. Most recently I led a professional learning session with the science department to model components of this innovation plan. This day was filled with active learning, modeling of skills through experimentation, and specific to our discipline and grade level. Teachers were incredibly happy with how much we accomplished together through our session, and were also pleased that we did not spend six hours knee-deep in "discussions" (those moments where you listen, talk, listen, talk, and walk away with nothing physical to implement into your class)!
Moving forward, I will look for opportunities to lead change and continue raising questions of how we can be the best place for teachers to teach and students to learn through our 1:1 iPad initiative. I am actively looking for opportunities to lead change with what I have learned in this program. So while my innovation project has not been fully implemented, I have found opportunities and moments as a classroom teacher to bring to light what teachers need to grow their own significant learning environments: effective support. And while I may not be an administrator and have influence from the top-down, it is my responsibility as an educator to stir the culture that currently exists for us to become the most effective place for our students.
We have accomplished a variety of helpful activities in this program including literature reviews of education trends and digital learning and instruction. While they at times they were lengthy and exhausting to complete, these reviews really helped me to become an expert in the area of digital leading and learning. They taught me how to synthesize literature from the education world. I have confidence when I talk to others about my innovation plan and the research I have done. The variety of authentic projects we created are also helping me to a build a case for my innovation project. Creating videos, visuals, and slide decks serve as quick presentation pieces that are invaluable to the plans I have for my project. These things will be ready to promote implementation as I move forward in making effective change in the digital learning environment of 1:1 iPads.
One thing I need to keep in mind is the flexibility of the innovation plan. While I continue to have conversations with educators and administrators about how to grow and develop significant learning environments, I have to be aware of all needs and continue to ensure that my innovation plan and vital behaviors correlate. I also find it difficult to stay focused on one plan and often try to bring in many aspects that feel important to the plan (but maybe they really aren’t necessary at the time!). At the end of the day, if other good ideas do not align with my innovation plan or goals, then maybe it is something to consider for a later time.
Throughout the Digital Leading and Learning Program, I have learned how synthesize my ideas. I have taught myself how to slow down, write down my thoughts, walk away from them, and come back to them with a new lens to develop what it is I am truly trying to communicate. Learning how to pace myself has been difficult; I often like to have closure on my list of things to do, so learning how to slow down and process what I am learning into our authentic projects really has been valuable in growing as an effective advocate for change in education.

Lastly, using backwards planning through Understanding by Design has been an invaluable tool in developing my innovation project. Having used this method at least three times in this program gives me a thorough understanding of what it means to “plan with the end in mind.” In addition to developing my innovation plan, I have used this method to initially develop a significant learning environment (which I designed around my 7th grade class) as well as my professional learning session. Designing big hairy audacious goals and aligning outcomes, assessments, and activities provides a thorough way to stay organized and focused on developing environments that are conducive to student (and faculty) growth and mastery.

I have realized in the last year that there are some great things happening in education, but there are also some key things that need to be changed. I cannot change the entire world of education as one individual overnight. But I have the tools to bring about effective change and I have the obligation to seek out small moments to make an impact on my students and on my coworkers. Some of the most life-changing impacts we can make on those around us comes in those moments that are small and simple. So if I were to challenge myself as I leave this program, it would be to:

Be open minded
Trust in the process
Seek knowledge
Share with your world what you know and what you believe in.
Believe in the small moments.

Because, as C.S. Lewis says it so simply:

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