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?
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.
- 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 Without a vision and plan to improve, schools remain stuck in an outdated model of learning.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Instructional Models
- Modern Curriculum
- Digital Ecosystem
- 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.