Education is changing at an exponential rate. And, why would we think that the members of our community even care to keep up? After all, in western society, we subscribe and even thrive on individual thought. The explosion of information available to everyone, and the fact that most people have a distant memory of what school was like for them (and therefore should be like for their children), it is, quite frankly, not on everyone’s radar. This is a problem. Unless we educate ourselves, our students, our parents, and our community, we run the risk of backlash. The Rocky View Schools 3 Year Education Plan, coupled with Alberta Education’s move toward more community engagement compels schools to take a look at how they engage their community and the larger societal context.
Engagement Must be a Continuous Cycle – Engagement Cycle
Through two successful implementations (One to One and the Flexibility Project), I think we have honed in on a process that has worked. It is a combination of education, information, engagement, data gathering and re-education. I wrote a blog that illustrates how a school can implement an “engagement Cycle”. It is a continuous cycle of data analysis, education, awareness, engagement, and evaluation that is imbedded into the natural rhythms of the school. It is not rigid, but rather a set of principles. Principles give latitude as to the “how”. I wrote a blog about it for an ALP3 workshop that outlines this cycle. Engaging the Larger Societal Context in Education. I believe that schools must find ways to include community in the journey of school transformation and no one size fits all. At SCHS, this cycle has worked very well. Please visit the link to learn more.
Who is our Audience?
The concept of personalized learning has become a hot topic in the cutting edge world of education. At SCHS, we took this one step further. We discussed, how do we engage our community differently in their learning and how do we communicate that? The other question we asked was, “how can we leverage our involvement with the Alberta Flexibility Project to enhance the learning experience at SCHS”? The answer was simple, yet revolutionary. If you change the nature of conversations, you must dissolve old paradigms. The old paradigm we were questioning was the concept of parent/teacher interviews and how we communicate more effectively. Further, another old paradigm we were challenging was the notion that students need to be in front to teachers for 125 hours. We sent a Springbank Community High and Personalized Learning/Communication Brief for Parents out to our parents. Click Personalized Learning Paper for the Personalized Learning/Personalized Communication proposal shared with the community and with Alberta Education.
What Kind of Communication to you Prefer?
Angela Spanier (Director of Communications at Rocky View Schools), once told me that you need to get information out 3 ways. Historically this has been largely through school newsletters which are printed monthly, coupled with the “handout” for students to bring home to parents. At School Council meetings, parents traditionally get the information, if they choose to engage in that 2 or 3 hour meeting each month.
With the advantages open to us through Social Media, I would like to add to Angela’s statement outlined above. I think that, to get information out to the public, you must be strategic and make the information available through their preferred way of communication. To that end, Springbank Community High School devised a 21st century communication plan. The cornerstone of this plan is to look at information in “soundbites”. Parents, students and even the community have a plethora of ways to give and receive information: Twitter (with several hashtags to organize the information), Facebook, Powerschool, Website, Blogs, Newsletters, Moodle, Mahara, School Council, emails, and personal communication. Parents and students have been invited to follow Twitter.
Follow the school on @SCHSrvs
Follow SCHS on Facebook
Sharing your Expertise – Contributing to the Larger Context
Since becoming a One to One school, we have been working with other schools in the jurisdiction to assist them in their desire to implement this kind of initiative in their own schools. For example, we have been working with RVS high schools (Chestermere High, Bert Church, Cochrane High, Springbank Middle School, Banded Peak School) to assist with their process in moving to a one to one environment. Through Skypes and personal contact, the schools have shared their learnings, and is providing mentorship to these schools.
Sharing our process for Instructional Leadership to Rocky View Schools’ Principals is deeply satisfying. Through this process, we have gained recognition outside of the jurisdiction. In May, we will be assisting in the production of instructional videos for both Rocky View Schools and Authentic Education (Grant Wiggins-Schooling by Design).
We also have a connection with the Westwinds School Jurisdiction. Our partner school is Cardston High School. To date, we met face to face and have used Hangout to video chat twice. In April, the administration team from Cardston will visit SCHS and we will travel to see their school in May. We communicate on Google+, follow each other on Twitter and email.
The most profound way to contribute to the larger societal context is through the use of Twitter. My mission is to be a part of a larger digital community of my choosing to be influenced by other ideas and to be influential in shifting thinking in others. Follow me at @lesliecollings. Further, I co-moderate Principal by Design whereby leaders from Canada, United States, Central and South America join a “Hangout” once a month. I also host a website called “Principal By Design” that augments this group. Click here to view the website. The password is Academy. Our big idea is as follows:
We want to create and implement an international online learning network for principals, focused on UBD and technology integration so that we can share best practices and create an effective 21st century learning environment in our schools.
(Chinese symbol of “journey” taken from Google images)