Monday, March 2, 2009

A look ahead for this week

Sandwiched around my evaluator 2 approval training, I have quite a bit of activity this week. Tuesday, the area superintendents will have their March meeting, and I will be presenting on RSS. Thursday, the Iowa online council meets, and we'll start earnest planning for our statewide online communities (hoping to roll those out for ITEC in October). And, Friday our area's curriculum network meets, and I will lead them in a discussion about long-distance networking for students, with a demonstration of Skype.

Both the superintendents and the curriculum network have been looking at 21st century tools with a discussion about 1) how these change teaching and learning, and 2) how these change professional development (specifically looking at the concept of a PLN). However, in February, we paused to take a look at the bigger picture with Scott McLeod from Iowa State. With thanks to Gordon Dahlby from West Des Moines CSD, here is the video from that meeting:

2009 Heartland AEA 11 Superintendents from UCEA CASTLE on Vimeo.

The video is lengthy, but I'd consider it a must see for Iowa's superintendents, as it not only gives specific reference to how schools are changing intersects with our schools' work on the Iowa Core Curriculum, but also has an excellent Q&A session. Here are some of the highlights:

  • A look at the shifting work force towards the "creative" sector, from Richard Florida's work (about 4:00 in).
  • Lever #1 to transition into the 21st century is to use the 21st Century Skill component to be the lens for the whole Iowa Core, as opposed to "sprinkling some Iowa Core fairy dust on top of what we are already doing" (16:50).
  • Lever #2 is a more robust online/virtual school in Iowa, especially given our rural needs (20:15).
  • Lever #3 is to greatly enhance the technology availability in our schools (20:57).
  • Lever #4 is to train and work with our leadership, because without them, change will not happen (21:54). As Scott mentions, the challenge is that in many cases, our leaders are often our least knowledgeable in technology infused education.
  • A question and answer about higher education's role in this change (27:10). As one superintendent mentioned, high schools might not be in total control of "our destiny" as we'd like to be.
  • Q&A about the mismatch of factual-recall types of standardized tests and the 21st century's demand for higher-order thinking (32:54)
  • Discussion about the first 3 concrete steps for Iowa schools, those being A) develop leadership to implement change, B) invest in 1:1 technology, and C) start having conversations about what does 21st century learning look like, building off the teachers in our district who are already there (48:10).
  • An observation from one superintendent that we "have to get over ourselves" in our fear that students will know more about technology than we are (54:12).
I can add that we have made great strides toward beefing up our online offerings for K-12 students, as the Iowa online council has been capacity-building this year. In collaboration with the DE, Iowa Learning Online, and all the AEAs, we have put forward a set of standards for teaching online and will have several professional development opportunities available this summer for teachers on how to teach online. We've also started collaboration with the Iowa Association of Alternative Education to help our alternative schools pilot some local courses. We're a ways from a virtual school, but we have built the groundwork.

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