Professional Learning: Focus on Teacher Proficiency and Mimic Student-Facing Instruction

When 21st Century education encourages students to work collaboratively, embrace technology, and develop digital literacy, why should professional learning be any different? After all, professional learning efficacy determines the extent to which personalized learning environments can be achieved for students; teachers need to experience personalized learning firsthand in order to create personalized learning environments in their classrooms. Professional learning plays a vital function in creating and leading the modern classroom as teachers learn how to facilitate an entirely different type of learning environment, one in which the teacher shifts from owner to facilitator. In order for professional learning to effectively equip teachers, K-12 education needs a new approach to professional learning, one that personalizes the experience for teachers.

Single-Point Solutions Don't Work

The new and ever-evolving landscape of  technology solutions flooding the market creates the potential to personalize classroom environments on a massive scale. Thus the question becomes increasingly more pertinent: how do we capture this potential and realize it in our classrooms? How can our students really benefit from technology advancements in education? How do we choose the right solutions for our district, and most importantly, what are the necessary changes to our school district's infrastructure and methodology needed to make the most of new solutions?  This fast pace of new technology solutions is only getting faster, and district administrators are turning to nearsighted, single-point solutions which fail to address the fundamental factors that enable districts to modernize and transform teaching and learning for the 21st Century.

To address this problem at its origin, research suggests that the approach and methodology for technology implementation are often more critical to sustainability than the actual features of any chosen technology solution. In order to experience measurable and widespread impact from technology solutions, districts must a) address the underlying causes of problems that they are looking to solve, and b) consider the social complexities that affect change initiatives when seeking technology solutions, both which ultimately begin with a unified vision at the district level. 

Why are single-point solutions ineffective? 

We recognize a problem, and our initial response is to find a way to alleviate the symptoms of the problem instead of the source. Single-point solutions aimed at modernizing classrooms can produce temporary results, but they often create unforeseen consequences and necessitate further solutions as they fail to adequately address the source of the problem or its contributing factors. Without a concerted district effort and a systemic approach to technology integration, solutions and initiatives cannot provide sustainable value.

Technology integration is technically simple but socially complex.

Technology initiatives often grow obsolete, not because they lack the potential for enhancing learning experiences, but because they lack direction. Does your district's leadership share a vision for what the modern, student-centered learning environment looks like? This in addition to a plan for implementation are critical for success. What does the addition of a new solution hope to achieve? How is responsibility for implementing the solution delegated across roles within your district? Consider potential solutions the within the greater context of your district's goals and moving parts, and implement solutions through a robust social infrastructure - the end result being cohesive teaching and learning experiences. 

Technology integration requires a holistic approach in order to create sustainable value.

This holistic approach at the district level, or Digital Convergence, is the successful intersection of five major categories of the educational system: Leadership, Instruction Models, Modern Curriculum, Digital Ecosystem, and Professional Learning. Clearly addressing the intersectionality and highly-dynamic nature of technology adoption allow districts to achieve technology integration at scale. Consider the five Drivers of the education system, benchmark your district's current status, and work toward measurable outcomes so that the value of any given initiative or solution becomes concretely discernible relative to your district's goals, alleviating the ambiguity  and headache of modernizing the 21st Century learning experience. The ever-increasing rate of advancement in technology will only bolster the need for this methodology to ensure school districts can systematically and sustainably personalize learning by remaining at the leading edge of technology advancement.

 

 

Driver 1: Leadership

horse-black-head-silhouette-of-a-chess-piece_256At Modern Teacher, we take the words Thought Leadership seriously. We strongly believe district leaders are the champions and drivers of #Digital Convergence.   Movements gain their strength and momentum from the individuals within an organization, but it’s the leaders who invite and encourage others to be a part of the journey from the beginning.  This invitation unifies the organization through ownership and belonging. Digital Convergence is not a grass roots concept, but it is a grass roots effort. Without leadership playing a key role in providing continuous messaging and opportunities for staff training and growth, the transition and scaling of modern learning environments will begin to stall, resulting in ambiguity and uncertainness.  Good leaders know that planning a clear course with thoughtful guidance, facilitation and direction will provide a clear path toward the destination and serve as guideposts should the organization begin to veer off track or begin to question their direction.

Start with Strategic Planning & Stakeholder Identification

Leadership begins the work of Convergence by laying the groundwork through strategic planning and stakeholder identification.  Superintendents, cabinet members, and other key stakeholders must work collaboratively to set a shared vision for the transition to the digital classroom.

Once established, leadership must bring the vision to internal stakeholders and the community to gain participation and buy-in. This involves inviting staff and community members to envision classrooms differently from what they remember, as well as assuring teachers that more technology will not lead to more complexity.

By identifying key stakeholders to engage in and communicate the work of Digital Convergence, the movement grows.  School principals, assistant principals, digital coaches, and teachers are introduced to Digital Convergence through the development of culture conversations and planning tools that facilitate the shift toward modern learning environments.

Eventually, all stakeholders understand the vision, share a common vocabulary around that vision, and are able to execute against that vision with a solid plan in place to secure funding for long-term technology adoption and to create adequate training and support for sustainable and effective technology adoption.

Request an excerpt of our State of the Industry Report for a case study on how one district has used this Leadership guidance to promote Digital Convergence, and explore an overview of the Digital Convergence Framework for more details on the Leadership Driver.

 

8 Essential Insights from the State of the Industry Report on Digital Convergence, 2016-2017 School Year

captureWith the sponsorship of Modern Teacher, the National Council on Digital Convergence is releasing its first “State of the Industry Report on Digital Convergence” – a body of research that explores the compelling work of four innovative school districts in their transition to the modern learning environment. The Report serves as a vital resource for K-12 leaders, educators, and other stakeholders beginning or already engaged in the work of Digital Convergence. Following are eight must-know insights from the Report:

1. Leadership Matters Most to Digital Convergence

Digital Convergence begins with leadership. Setting the tone from the top, creating a shared vision, engaging stakeholders – these are just a few of the many leadership priorities that make the transition to modern learning environments a success.

2. Instructional Models Need a Modern Lens

Traditional pedagogy and assessments are inadequate and ineffective in the modern learning environment. School districts must rethink and redesign instruction and assessments to ensure high levels of rigor and relevance.

3. Modern Curriculum Personalizes and Individualizes Learning, While Maintaining Accountability

Technology has made it possible to remove the boundaries of the traditional school system. School districts must design curriculum to support the capabilities of self-paced, personalized learning while ensuring students are accountable and receive proper remediation when needed.

4. Digital Resources Provide the Most Value When Interconnected, Interdependent, Integrated, and Supported

School districts must develop processes, infrastructure, and a network to ensure digital resources are interconnected, interdependent, and integrated to provide equitable access to a seamless, consistent user experience.

5. Professional Learning Must Equip Leaders and Educators with 21st Century Skills and Competencies by Providing More Comprehensive Education in the Context of the Modern Learning Environment

School districts must provide teachers and staff with education that goes beyond feature-function training and targets how to perform effectively in a 21st Century learning environment. Just as students should receive self-paced, personalized learning experiences, so too should staff.

6. Single-Point Solutions Prevent Digital Convergence

School districts are overwhelmed by the number of vendors and technology flooding the K-12 education space. Learning management systems, devices, digital content – as single-point solutions, they alone cannot ensure a school system effectively transforms the traditional classroom into a modern learning environment. Instead, school systems must approach the transition to 21st Century teaching and learning in a fundamentally systematic and comprehensive manner.

7. Progress in the Digital Convergence Framework Follows a Unique Pattern

The Digital Convergence Framework helps leaders, educators, staff, and other stakeholders to prioritize action items across key areas of work. The Framework is especially useful as the work of Digital Convergence follows a non-linear shape. Leadership, the most fundamental Driver of Digital Convergence, must lead the overall progress, while the remaining areas of work should remain relatively uniform. Unbalanced progress across the five areas of work prevents school districts from approaching Digital Convergence systematically.

8. Tracking and Measuring Against Success Indicators is Vital to Achieving Optimal Outcomes

School districts must prioritize the work of transitioning to modern learning environments. Identifying, measuring against, and sustaining key priorities across the organization are vital to successful outcomes.

By accounting the impressive and ongoing journeys of four school districts, this year’s Report highlights the common challenges all school districts face and outlines unique strategies every district leader, educator, and staff member should consider. The National Council on Digital Convergence releases the State of the Industry Report each year. If you’re interested in learning more, contact us.

 

Changing the Conversation to Digital Convergence

Organizations across the globe are #ChangingTheConversation when discussing the transition to modern learning environments in schools today. When engaging in this type of dialogue, the conversation often shifts focus to emphasize technology instead of learning. In this sense, technology could be considered a conversation hacker that slips into the room when school leaders discuss modern learning. Technology, and similar topics, shift the focus away from learning and on to a subject that alone, does not produce the scaling transformation of learning we are hoping for in schools. Despite the temptation to focus on technology, many districts now realize the transition from traditional classrooms to modern learning environments, at scale, takes more than investing in, and integrating, technology into the curriculum.  This scaled transition involves more than training our teachers to incorporate new pedagogies and best practices into lesson design.   Additionally, many leaders are well aware that a solid vision of a modern learning environment alone won’t bring about the significant shifts in student outcomes most organizations are hoping to achieve in classrooms across the nation.  So, if it’s scaled transition we’re hoping to accomplish, how on earth do we succeed?

We’ve introduced the concept of Digital Convergence in this blog earlier and spoke in detail about the barriers that occur when single point solutions are expected to make a widespread impact. Many of us have fallen victim to the short-term progress these single point solutions provide. Our goal at Modern Teacher is to provide our partnering schools with the appropriate facilitation and resources to overcome these pitfalls and build the energy needed to achieve Digital Convergence.waterwheel

Recently, I was working in a district when we began speaking about the energy derived from old fashioned water wheels that, at one time, dotted the landscape across the country. These water wheels provided the power to mill flour, grind wood into pulp for papermaking, hammer wrought iron, crush ore, and pound fiber for use in the manufacture of cloth – all from a simple channel of water! Imagine if we could capture that vision and convert it into scaled, modern learning with a 21st Century twist?

Jim Collins, best-selling author of the book Good to Great, speaks about the energy stored and supplied by a fly wheel in much the same manner. Successful organizations don’t pinpoint one specific event or solution that transformed the organizations from good to great. Instead, they recognize the shift from good to great as a cumulative process occurring over time. Individual members within the organization may work toward independent goals, but it is the unifying of these independent components into a greater whole that propel the organization forward and allow for transformation. Such is the case with Digital Convergence in school districts.

We believe that if a school district is able to complete the following items, then they will begin to generate an internal energy source that is capable of scaling the work of modern learning to every classroom in a district

  1. Communicate the vision of a modern learning environment to all stakeholders.
  2. Bring this vision to life in the form of an instructional model tha t guides best practices.
  3. Create curricular units that embody the spirit of the instructional model and are designed for modern learners.
  4. Develop a mature digital ecosystem that supports users with the tools, content and processes needed.
  5. Engage all members of the organization with the opportunity to approach fluency and mastery in architecting, managing, facilitating and coaching these modern learning environments.

DigitalConvergence1 This is Digital Convergence, what we believe to be the system utilized to make the transition to modern learning environments possible. Digital Convergence doesn’t happen overnight. It’s part of the initial push that begins to turn the flywheel one time around, then two, then three, then 1000 times around until you hit a breakthrough. For this reason, we state Digital Convergence is dynamic, always changing, just like the water wheel, the flywheel, and the landscape of the modern learning environment.

 

What is a Modern Teacher Leadership Forum?

Screenshot 2016-08-22 13.55.54 We’ve had several inquiries as to what the Modern Teacher Leadership Forum page on our website was all about, so we thought we’d take a minute to explain the concept and explore the content you would encounter should you attend a Leadership Forum.

Leadership Forums on Digital Convergence are 2.5 day excursions in which district and school leaders from all over the country come together to discuss some of the most compelling questions we face today around educational innovation. Districts all over the nation are addressing similar questions from their local communities and school boards. Attending a Leadership Forum provides leaders the opportunity to collaborate around potential solutions to these questions that represent best practices in teaching and learning.

We’ve divided the 2.5 days into a series of sessions where you’ll explore, in detail, the fundamental changes K-12 school systems are undergoing as they begin to shift from traditional classrooms toward modern learning environments. We’ll take a close look at how districts are beginning to leverage Digital Convergence to make this transition, as well as examine some of the challenges districts face when employing single point solutions instead of a system-wide approach.

You’ll hear stories from the field about how others are thinking through these complex yet game-changing opportunities and have the chance to learn more about the Modern Teacher Digital Convergence Framework. This framework, developed in partnership with the National Council on Digital Convergence, outlines the Stages and Drivers of Digital Convergence. We’ll share our implementation model and our comprehensive set of processes, tools, content, and resources available to support the work of Digital Convergence.

Recognizing that innovative conversation requires rest, we’ve sprinkled in some “me-time” throughout the forum so that you can explore the venue, go for a walk or a run, see some local sites, or simply relax in your own private space. You’ll have the chance to debrief the conversations of the day with new colleagues and friends during several late afternoon networking hours and enjoy delicious meals throughout the day, served up by some of the greatest chefs in the area.

We figure the best way to learn about and discuss innovative ideas in education is to bring interested leaders together in a stress-free environment away from work. In a sense, it’s Modern Teacher’s way of recalling the great era of salons that occurred during the early decades of the 20th century. Our Leadership Forums are meant to foster this type of social gathering around new ideas and intellectual conversation. We hope you’ll take the time to submit a request to attend one of our upcoming forums.

Forums Map

The Digital Convergence Assessment

We’ve tweeted a great deal lately encouraging school staff to take our Digital Convergence Assessment, available without charge on the Modern Teacher website. The assessment allows individuals and groups to assess themselves against the Digital Convergence Framework that has guided districts nationwide! Screenshot 2016-07-18 18.36.33

Our blog has been increasing awareness of Digital Convergence, the successful intersection of five major categories of work through which scalable transitions to modern learning environments can successfully occur. These five categories, called Drivers, are Leadership, Instructional Models, Modern Curriculum, Digital Ecosystem, and Professional Learning. We truly believe Digital Convergence is the fundamental change needed in school systems if we are ever going to fully move forward and begin to experience the innovation and personalization society is expecting.

School districts throughout the nation are encountering an urgent need to transition to modern learning environments as a means of satisfying society’s ask of its public schools. Conversations related to the purchase of devices, digital resources, learning management systems and other single point solutions are often on the agendas of school administration and move digital learning forward. Without doubt, school systems have a great deal of work to do in this arena. The question is, where to begin? The answer, the Digital Convergence Assessment.

We want to help you get started. The results of the Digital Convergence Assessment will provide a starting point as it relates to Digital Convergence. Upon completion of the assessment, you will receive an overall score, or Digital Convergence Stage, accompanied by a detailed report outlining the actionable steps, or Success Indicators, your district needs to undertake. But there’s more. Taking the assessment with a handful of key stakeholders who represent key departments within school systems (Leadership, Curriculum, Instruction, Technology, Finance, Professional Learning) provides rich discussion on key questions that target each of the Drivers of Digital Convergence. The dialogue generated around the assessment encourages a new level of awareness as to why Digital Convergence is greatly needed to unify traditionally siloed components of the educational system.

Screenshot 2016-07-18 18.36.43

The assessment is free and the start of a new school year is a perfect time to initiate planning and discussion about the transformation of learning! Take the Digital Convergence Assessment today or Contact Us with any questions.

Preparing for the Future: The Classroom of 2020

The phrase, “The Classroom of 2020” has a futuristic ring that might quickly invoke visions of The Jetsons and Star Trek, popular television shows that aired on network television in the seventies and eighties. Time magazine published an article in 2006, “How to Bring Schools out of the 20th Century,” referencing Rip Van Winkle awakening from a long sleep, walking lost and disoriented through his home town until he happened upon a school. He didn’t have a GPS or a cell phone like everyone else; but the classroom environment, unchanged after 100 years, gave him comfort and allowed him to orient himself to his surroundings. The reality is that the year 2020 is less than four years away and, unfortunately, most of the classrooms of 2020 will look much like the classrooms of 2010, which looked much like the classrooms of 2000… It’s a trend that you can draw back for about the last 50 years. This is largely due to some key barriers to change that we see in our work. Our goal, as many schools across the country begin the shift from traditional classrooms to modern learning environments, is to force Rip Van Winkle into relearning what education looks like in 2020. Ultimately, innovation in the classroom has never happened at scale and will never happen by dropping in fancy new technology. Innovation has happened and will only happen through a fundamental change in the culture of our schools, classrooms, and district organizations. Culture change really only takes root if it is led, in part, by teachers themselves. However, in order to scale this cultural change, we must recognize innovators outside of the classroom at the administrative level that play an essential role in supporting this change by coordinating their organizations to make sure it will flourish.

So what will the most innovative and effective classrooms of 2020 look like? They will have made the massive cultural shift from a teacher-centered traditional room to a flexible, modern, learner-centered learning environment. More specifically, there are two trends that may become far more prevalent in the next four years thanks to advances in technology: personalization and competency-based education. Both of these trends will be driven and supported by Digital Convergence.

First, before proceeding, let’s be clear on what is meant when using the word “technology” and the term “learner-centered” as they both pertain to the classroom. We aren’t suggesting that the role of the teacher will be reduced. In fact, in a modern, learner-centered environment, the role of the teacher arguably becomes more important. Technology gives teachers the freedom and flexibility to better utilize their pedagogical and content-area expertise. Rest assured, our vision for the classroom of 2020 – let alone 2040 – relies on the critical, yet evolving, role of the classroom teacher.

The first trend we will begin to see more of in 2020 is greater adoption of personalized approaches. We’ve already started seeing a considerable amount of research that personalized learning approaches work. In four years’ time, advances in classroom tech will simply allow us to move further away from one-size-fits-all, teacher-centered instruction. This will be fueled by software that will be able to build and manage sophisticated learner profiles, deliver content based on learner responses as they move through a lesson or module, and allow for easier differentiation of instruction. There are already a number of companies and even school systems that have developed software that incorporates all three elements, and these early approaches will only improve over time.

The second trend we’ll see more of is somewhat of a natural outgrowth of the first, and that is competency-based education (CBE). Though this isn’t a new idea, it is still rare to see it in practice at scale. The term CBE refers to a system through which learners move by demonstrating competency or mastery of material. No grade levels, perhaps no letter grades, no seat time requirements, no Carnegie Units, just a learner progressing through content of their choosing and moving on after they’ve shown mastery. Part of why this has historically been so difficult is the amount of personalization of both instruction and data management required to pull it off, as well as a policy environment that acts as a huge barrier. By 2020, we will begin to see more districts embracing the tech tools that make standards-based grading and demonstrations of mastery easier. Eventually, more states will make the policy shifts toward flexible scheduling, grading, and attendance frameworks that are required to make CBE work. We’ve already seen about two-thirds of the states in this country begin to make this policy shift, and we can anticipate more movement in that direction.

Districts that incorporate the above innovations will be those that make necessary changes both inside and outside of the classroom. That’s because this transition affects, and must involve, all parts of a district’s organization. This is why we talk about Digital Convergence, the coordination of all components of the education system required to move towards the digital teaching and learning that makes personalization possible. Such alignment is an absolute requirement to move towards the classroom of 2020. What will your classrooms look like in 2020? Will they look the same as they do now? Or will they embrace the possibilities we see to transform teaching and learning through greater personalization?

The Digital Convergence Platform

Modern Teacher’s Digital Convergence Framework is guiding districts nationwide in the transition from traditional classrooms to modern learning environments. Districts like Baltimore County Public Schools, MD, Colonial School District, DE, and Fraser Public Schools, MI are sharing their messages on how these changes are supporting their teachers and students, but how are they managing this innovative and impactful work? The answer lies not only in the framework, but also in Modern Teacher’s Digital Convergence Platform, accessible via modernteacher.com. While the framework guides districts through the 7 Stages of Digital Convergence, the platform organizes these efforts into an intuitive online system for collaboration and task management.

DCF Page

Modern Teacher’s Digital Convergence platform allows districts to track their completion of Success Indicators directly within the framework. These Success Indicators (or SIs) are actionable steps that guide the district through Digital Convergence. The platform seamlessly organizes and updates these markers of progress.

Dashboard

In addition to the interactive framework, the platform includes a customizable Dashboard, shown above, that tracks the district’s progress on their unique goals. Every district will move through the framework differently, and having a tool to set and manage goals allows districts to decide when and where to focus their efforts. The platform is flexible to accommodate each district’s individual pathway through Digital Convergence, displaying data only for the Success Indicators relevant to the district.

SI View_Top

Within each Success Indicator, Modern Teacher provides a description and set of resources to help districts get started with the work. As districts decide how to approach each piece of the framework, the platform allows them to break each SI into smaller, manageable tasks with individual owners, as shown in the Tasks section above. These task-management tools, in conjunction with the platform’s customizable notifications system, keep everyone up to date on team progress.

SI View_Bottom

But perhaps the most valuable component of the platform lies in its collaboration tools. Features like a live News Feed and SI-specific Discussion Boards connect each user with Modern Teacher’s National Network. While the platform offers a range of privacy settings, users who opt in to the collaboration features can message others within their district, or across districts nationwide, to discuss and partner on the work of Digital Convergence.

From providing the resources to get started, the task-management tools to get organized, and the social features to get connected, Modern Teacher’s Digital Convergence Platform offers everything a district needs to progress through their unique Digital Convergence journey.

Want to get started? Contact us for a demo, or complete our Digital Convergence Assessment to see your district’s current stage in the framework. The Modern Teacher Team is excited to get to know you!

 

Visit Modern Teacher at ISTE 2016

Visit booth #2355 at ISTE 2016 ISTE 2016 in Denver is just around the corner. This is the time of year where excitement in educational technology builds as the idea of spending four days with incredible thought leaders sharing educational best practices becomes real.

Attending ISTE allows time to learn more about teaching and learning strategies involving educational technology from those who are actively working toward redesigning classroom experiences. Attendees will hear from forward-thinking presenters who are in the process of rethinking traditional education environments within their districts. There will be plenty of opportunities to get hands-on with new technologies in the playgrounds, interact with vendors, experience new products and platforms in the Expo, meet up with old friends, and make new connections. ISTE is all about connecting, collaborating, and expanding views.

What we love most about ISTE is that everyone is friendly, willing to share, and ready to learn from each other. ISTE provides a unique opportunity to make incredible connections and collaborate with fellow educators.

If you’re attending ISTE, please look for us in the Modern Teacher booth (#2355) of the Expo or in the Bloggers’ Cafe. We’d love to share our work around transitioning traditional classrooms to modern learning environments through Digital Convergence.  Feel free to make an appointment by filling out the contact form at the bottom of this post should you want to identify a specific time to talk in greater detail or to get to know us more.

Visit our booth to learn more about what the folks at Modern Teacher do, experience a hands-on demonstration of our newly released Digital Convergence platform, and take our Digital Convergence Assessment in the booth. By answering a series of questions related to the Drivers of Digital Convergence, you will learn your district's stage in the transition to modern learning, but also gain valuable insight as to what steps need to be taken to continue progressing.

Additionally, should you introduce your administrator to the Digital Convergence Framework by having them take the assessment, we’d be happy to provide you with a free copy of Teacher as Architect, Modern Teacher’s blueprint for blended learning in the classroom. The book is also available in the ISTE store as well as on Amazon.

Download our white paper on Digital Convergence and stop by to learn more about how our success indicators provide actionable steps toward Digital Convergence.

We also hope you'll add our badges to your conference nametags, especially if you're working toward being a #ModernTeacher and #DigitalConvergence in your district.  We'll have plenty to share, so stop by the booth and badge up.

Start following @ModernTeacherCO, #DigitalConvergence, #ChangingTheConversation, and #ThoughtLeadership on Twitter to stay up to date with what others are doing and saying on the topics of Digital Convergence and the transition to modern learning.

And, if you can’t attend ISTE 2016 in person, following the twitter feed, #ISTE2016 is an excellent virtual alternative.

Denver, here we come!

Make an Appointment to Learn More

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Celebrating the Digital Convergence Whitepaper

Celebrating accomplishments is an important indicator of success for all organizations; that's why it's a key piece both embedded in the Modern Teacher Digital Convergence Framework and within the culture of our organization. Recently, we have completed the publishing of a white paper on the topic of Digital Convergence and are pleased to make it available for download to the public.  This is an important step in building awareness and growing the movement of Digital Convergence, and we're happy to celebrate it!

Whitepaper Cover

To begin to reshape the nation’s schools and move toward student ownership of learning through the eyes of Digital Convergence, we needed to provide an entry point to the conversation. We thought a white paper was the perfect venue to define Digital Convergence and to identify the barriers organizations may encounter as they shift their focus from traditional classrooms to modern learning environments. We also wanted to provide the public with a solution-oriented path toward a successful transition to modern learning environments via our Digital Convergence Framework.

Modern Teacher’s whitepaper explores Digital Convergence – a fundamental, systemic change occurring in K-12 schools across the nation as they transition from traditional to modern learning environments. Download the whitepaper to learn more about technology’s disruption of K-12 education and the five crucial drivers that ensure digital solutions provide measurable and sustainable value for students, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders. The whitepaper provides essential lessons for all administrators seeking to advance their school districts.

The publishing of this white paper is a celebrated win for Modern Teacher. We are committed to moving the work of Digital Convergence forward, and building awareness is the first step. The good news is that there are school districts throughout the nation who are following this path and making great strides in transforming teaching and learning to meet the needs of modern learners. We hope you will become one of them.

After reading our white paper, we hope you will take the assessment to discover how your school, district, or organization measures up in Digital Convergence. Your assessment report will provide you with an overall stage and detailed data to identify your unique starting point in the Digital Convergence journey.

5 Barriers to the Modern Learning Environment

All across the globe, the importance of transforming learning has hit front and center. Skillsets needed to connect and collaborate in a global society are the focus of the conversation, and the traditional curriculum employed in most classrooms is not inclusive of the creative thinking skills and perseverance required to succeed in a global economy. There have been glimmers of hope. Teachers across the globe have been sharing their success stories about the transformation of learning through innovative practices that engage and empower their students. In these classrooms, learners are encouraged to take ownership of their learning through personalization. In fact, most school districts across the country take great pride in pointing to teachers within the district who are using classroom pedagogies that shift the ownership of learning from the teacher to the student. These teachers, whether it be through the utilization of digital devices, makerspaces, student authorship and content creation, or the incorporation of authentic learning experiences, have managed to promote 21st century learning by placing their students at the center of the learning environment. Why is it that we can’t replicate this transformation of learning as a nation at scale? Why can’t we make this powerful transition to modern learning environments at the district level a reality?

barriers

Modern Teacher has spent the last few years working with school districts in the midst of transitioning from traditional classrooms to modern learning environments with Digital Convergence. We have learned a great deal about this transition along the way. Through our work, we’ve discovered there are several barriers that school districts face when making this transition. These barriers end up causing a halt to the many positive strides that are taking place in school districts across the nation. 

  1. Lack of vision for what the modern learning environment looks like. While many teachers and entire school districts recognize that a change is needed, few have a clear understanding of the road ahead. Without a vision and plan to improve, schools remain stuck in an outdated model of learning.
  2. Little to no communication from leadership about the plan to execute against the vision. Even in districts with visionary leadership teams, classrooms remain unchanged if those leaders are unable to communicate their vision. Oftentimes, individual schools and teachers operate independently, sometimes successfully implementing their own visions, but frequently remaining unchanged year over year. In these cases, district-level administrators need to earn their title of “leadership” by communicating with and uniting their district around a common goal.
  3. Single point solutions don’t produce results. There’s certainly no shortage of educational vendors selling solutions to the range of problems faced in today’s districts. From tablets and chromebooks to LMSs and Student Information Systems to professional development consultants and new curriculum programs – the list goes on and on. While these products can provide districts with support and improvement in certain areas, the problem is that they are all single point solutions. They are meant to solve an isolated problem, instead of integrating into a larger solution.
  4. Traditional professional learning methods are not effective, do not address the adult learner, and are costly. The education community advocates for student choice, personalization, and ownership over the time, pace, path, and place at which students learn. Why not treat professional learning for teachers and administrators in the same way? Many districts treat teacher PD as another isolated problem to be solved with an isolated solution. This perspective creates a barrier, preventing teachers from experiencing their own learning with the same new and flexible methods they are encouraged to use with their students.
  5. Ambiguous or non-existent metrics for success. Any teacher could tell you about the importance of measuring progress. How can you expect to effectively address your students if you have no information on their current level of skill or their improvement over time? The same question can be applied to districts as a whole. If no one has clarity into the district’s strengths, weaknesses, and progress over time, no one can accurately plan to keep the district moving forward.

When a district partners with Modern Teacher, we spend time building awareness of these barriers and taking actionable steps to avoid them so that the transition to modern learning environments at scale within a district becomes a reality. How? It all starts with a unified vision.

The need for district leadership to co-construct a vision of what the modern learning environment looks like, and then work to communicate that vision to all stakeholders, is essential. Districts also need to develop a plan for executing that vision; otherwise the vision only results in conversation. Realizing there is no magic bullet to transform educational practices, organizations must work to unify solutions together. Professional learning needs to redefined and realigned to meet the needs of adults. Metrics need to be created to leverage data and track progress so districts are able to identify success. At Modern Teacher, we work with districts to address these barriers from a strategic perspective. For us, that process is called Digital Convergence.

Our Digital Convergence Framework explores five categories, or Drivers, of today’s education system:

  1. Leadership
  2. Instructional Models
  3. Modern Curriculum
  4. Digital Ecosystem
  5. Professional Learning

The coming together of these Drivers is what we define as Digital Convergence, and we believe through Digital Convergence that the barriers to change will be overcome, modern learning environments will be employed at scale, and true transformation of learning in classrooms across the country and globe will be realized.

If you are interested in discovering where your district stands along the Digital Convergence journey, take our assessment and learn how you measure up. A member of our team will follow up via email with a report and a call to review your results.

Welcome!

Welcome to the Modern Teacher Blog! We're excited to use this space to discuss Digital Convergence and the transition from traditional classrooms to modern learning environments. In short, Digital Convergence is the process of multiple components of the education system unifying to form a new whole, greater than the sum of its parts.

DigitalConvergence

Modern Teacher's Digital Convergence Framework focuses on five categories, or Drivers, of this education system: Leadership, Instructional Models, Modern Curriculum, Digital Ecosystems, and Professional Learning. You can expect each of these topics and more to be discussed in this blog, and we look forward to co-constructing a better understanding of each one with the education community here.

Thank you in advance for contributing your thoughts and supporting Modern Teacher's mission. Be sure to share and follow us on social media, and stay tuned for new blog posts every few weeks!

Thank you,
Dr. Shawn Smith
Modern Teacher President
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