Summary (with my personal thoughts interspersed):
This chapter outlines the three phases of a blended learning transformation. If you are like me, that chart was just too small! A link to an enlarged Blended Learning Roadmap by Redbird Advanced Learning: https://yhoo.it/30kVD67 I recommend printing it out and keeping it with the book. The chart is a very helpful roadmap and I will use it with the various stakeholders including helping a few micro-managing priests understand the pathway towards personalization in the school. While the roadmap charts out the three phases of transitioning to personalization, this chapter is mostly about Phase 1.
Phase 1: Building the Foundation – The authors recommend allowing six months to one year for this phase.
Stage 1: Engagement and Vision—Cohesion of Vision and Pedagogy: A clear and cohesive vision and purpose are foundational to any new project. The authors express the importance of bringing key people into the process early and often. The roadmap can help them see the pathway of the expressed vision! It shows the reasoning for the student owned pedagogy of a 21st Century Classroom. For a system-wide transformation, do NOT mix developing the shared broad vision with a preliminary plan—this will allow for a small committee to build a preliminary plan thereby taking greater ownership as it is collectively developed. This is great advice for a diocesan leader and building leader as the work is then delegated once the vision is shared and established within the school community. Table 2.1 should be used by leaders and teachers as a reflection tool to lead the visioning process forward.
Stage 2: Assess—What is the Starting Point?—Where is the school, the individual classrooms on the Blended Learning Roadmap? Knowing the starting point is important so the school knows how to best move forward. I also believe the school needs to understand what it means to be and knows how to be “data informed” in regards to student learning. (I think this is covered in the next chapter.) The table that begins on page 17 is full of reflection questions to be answered in each of the four key assessment factors. A school benefits when an honest reflection with accurate data and findings are determined to lay the foundation. A leader must be sure to show compassion in this stage to honor those currently doing the work and to honor the existing strengths in place that will lead change and innovation forward. This is where the discussions on mindset begin—recognizing a shift (perhaps a radical shift) in both the teachers’ role as educator and the students’ role as learners. It is important for various stakeholder groups to discuss and voice concerns as it allows individuals to acknowledge where they are at as they begin the journey. I believe it is important to understand implementation as a journey where there may be setbacks that will allow for the ongoing learning within the blended learning environment; just as the world continues to shift, the blended learning components will have a need to shift as the educator continues to improve their blended learning facilitator craft.
Stage 3: Planning and Design--The data gathered from Stage 2 informs the blended learning plan and design. I recommend using SMART goals or, as the authors outline, goals that outline the timeframe, the resources and people to be employed, and the activities. Elements that should be included in the plan are listed in Table 2.2 (page 21) within this chapter but each will be explored in greater detail later in the book.
Stage 4: Pre-Pilot--Final stage of phase 1—A designed opportunity to fail small and fast, adapt quickly, and learn from mistakes - so it is referred to as a pre-pilot. Implement blended learning in a portion of classrooms or subjects to test for challenges and limitations. The hope is bugs can be worked out prior to piloting. Table 2.3 (page 21) compares the characteristics of the pre-pilot versus a pilot. I was intrigued with the idea of the Rio Lab Class but noticed they no longer post Tweets to the Twitter account referenced in the book—I haven’t explored their other school associated Twitter accounts, yet. The information on identifying and enlisting pre-pilot teachers (page 22) is very useful.
Other Thoughts – In Summary:
I have started following the authors on Twitter as well as Redbird Advanced Learning. If you are not on Twitter to learn more as an educator I highly recommend it! You can start by following these three accounts as well as Kitty and Mary!
I plan to work, during the visioning phase, with building principals initially and then the identified teachers that will pre-pilot and learn to facilitate the blended learning initiative. I also plan to work with the school education advisory committees to inform them of our initiative at the locations where the school has chosen to pre-pilot. I will continue to work with key stakeholders at the piloting school as the school principal requests—together with the principal, we will lay out the plan for leading the visioning portion forward. Typically, the cultures of our schools are such that individuals understand education to be the same as the methodology in which they (educators and parents) were taught. There will need to be a shift of mindsets (in many individuals)! No doubt! The current instructional model is predominately teacher-led instruction driven by textbook content (written standards/learner outcomes are in place in every school but the textbook is still the main tool used to teach to the standards). Most all of the schools I work with have effective technology hardware (1:1) in place that will assist in starting this journey.
This chapter really has given me the framework to lead a blended learning initiative forward as a diocesan leader. This is specific information I can use and share! I am really excited about the idea of pre-piloting in several schools--it makes a lot of sense as it allows for the risk taking element that is often feared by educators (although not as much by early adopters), and it is done on a smaller scale. Some of my fears of leading this innovation are already dissipating!