Thursday, May 1, 2014

Building a District Innovation Team

This quote is something I work to aspire to as a classroom teacher with my students, as an instructional leader sharing and presenting with other educators, and most recently as a curriculum coordinator.

A few weeks ago the topics for #satchatwc were Creativity and Innovation.  As usual the discussion inspired me to think about how I can facilitate creativity and innovation in my school district.  This year has been a transition year for me from the classroom to a coordinator position.  As I have worked to define and figure out my new role, connections to my life as a classroom teacher have started to help in my transition.  As a classroom teacher I worked to empower my students to take control of their learning.  Now instead of directly impacting students, I need to empower the administration, teachers, and anyone else directly linked to students and instruction to do the same.  Just like in a classroom, I do not get to hand pick the adults who work in our schools and district.  In the classroom I worked hard to empower all students whatever their background or experience and now I need to do the same with the adult learners I work with by meeting them where they are to begin movement however fast or slow.

One of my projects for next year will be to leverage the instructional experts that already exist in our schools.  The following is a "rough draft" of an idea to foster creativity and innovation in my school district.

My goal is to create a district "Innovation Team" to empower teachers to become leaders, share their expertise, their learning process and inspire them to lead and support their colleagues.  Next year we will be expanding our use of Google Apps for Education (GAFE) into our K-5 elementary schools.  So our Innovation Team will be focused on GAFE and other instructional technology tools.  Keeping the quote from Lao Tsu in mind I want to use a model that I am familiar and comfortable with.  I want to build a Professional Learning Network based on the National Writing Project summer institute model.

  • Begin by sharing a best practice or sample lesson (model the instruction)
  • Discuss/debrief the lesson see how it can fit into each teachers practice
  • Take it to your classroom and try it out and document the results to share with the team
  • Read, watch videos, reflect, collaborate, struggle, invent, design, and question as a team
  • Encourage members to choose a #20% or #geniushour topic within our team to become an expert
The goal is to build capacity and confidence within the team so we can leverage their expertise and use it to provide models of professional development within the district.  At the beginning I may need to facilitate with ideas, documents, resources for discussion, but the true strength is that the team will take over and guide the direction.  I will sit back, ask questions and provide needed materials and they will do it themselves. This will enable a variety of practices to be established such as:
  • #edcamp staff meetings or staff development days
  • Professional development planned and lead by Innovation Team members
  • Instructional rounds where teachers go and observe each other and discuss
  • Administrator/leadership team participates in this process as coaches rather than evaluators
Again, these are the beginning thoughts and draft ideas.  We are starting from scratch with Google Apps for Education and I want to start small with a team that is willing and able to explore and learn and then share with their colleagues in a supportive way.

I'll take any suggestions, ideas and input you have to share.

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