Saturday, August 19, 2017

BOLDly Going Foward

Weston Kieschnick BOLD SCHOOl—Old School Wisdom + New School Technologies = Blending Learning That Works

I had the chance to take members of our leadership team to the Model Schools conference this summer. Being this would be a significant expense, I reached out to school improvement consultants and colleagues on their recommendations regarding which sessions would be “Rigorous & Relevant” (no pun intended—well maybe a little) for the team to attend. I created a well-thought-out five-day agenda with dates and times for sessions we should all attend together. It was going to be great.

We left the day after our student’s last day of school. To say it was a hectic time for teachers to head off to a conference and pack up their classroom to end the school year and travel to the other side of the country was truly an understatement. We all boarded the plane on a red-eye approximately 30 hours from when our last student left for the summer, and we were all exhausted.

After boarding and waiting for the plane to take off, I realized the agenda I painstakingly created never got sent. For an instant, I felt sheer panic. Then I looked up. All of the leadership team members were on their digital devices accessing the Model School app and collaborating on which sessions they were going to attend---together. There are so many lessons for me as a leader at that moment, but the one I want to compare it to was from one of the first sessions we attended as a team.

Author Weston Kieschnick shared with our leadership team and other attendee’s insights from his book, BOLD SCHOOL, Old Wisdom + New School Technologies = BLENDING LEARNING THAT WORKS! With an endorsement from John Hattie; “Bold School…needs to be a part of every educator’s toolbox,” we were all hooked. Kieschnick’s enthusiasm for teaching was evident in his conference address as well as on each page of his book. Through familiar characters found in well recognized iconic movies and his personal experiences as a teacher and instructional coach, we learned both the definition of blending learning and the framework needed to create a Bold School.

In Kieschnick’s book, BOLD SCHOOL he positions Hattie research and the list of what works in education to support student learning. A Bold School doesn’t move away from those instructional teaching practices that evidence and research have proven to be impactful. A Bold School continues to create blended learning experiences for students with a “mix of traditional face-to-face instructional time and digital instructional tools” (p. 5) with a “goal-strategy-tool paradigm” (p.28-29).

“The Bold School Framework for Strategic Blended Learning is a thinking process” (p. 36). This progress includes moving from identifying the priority standard or academic outcome, selecting an instructional strategy that works aligned to your student’s needs, adding an intentional digital tool to support the learning goal, planning for rigorous application of the pertinent new skill, and continuously self-assessing the effectiveness of instruction by monitoring and measuring student progress. The student's new knowledge needs to be rigorous for our students and relevant as we prepare them to think critically as they engaged in the world around them now, and for their future not yet known.

Why the book is such a treasure for teachers is the guide he provides to go BOLD with, Blended Instructional Strategies. He encourages teachers to blend evidence-based instructional strategies shown to impact learning with technology.  Although to be BOLD it requires strategic thinking and planning on how to use high effect size strategies with technology that are tools, not pedagogy. He dedicates each of the last thirteen chapters is to a different instructional approach accompanied by a technology tool to engage the student and make the experience relevant.

There is an application in this book for how a school leader can approach adult learning as well. The goal of heading to the conference was to give members of our leadership team an opportunity build on our school improvement initiatives and come away with new ideas and insights for our work. The plan for how I was going to achieve this goal was in a top-down mandate of which classes they would be required to attend as a team. The Voxer chat group we created was to be our tool to communicate new learning. The goal, strategy, and tool paradigm were all in place, but without first considering the strengths and insights of our adult learners, opportunities can be missed. 

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