The 2017-2018 school year has officially begun and we are embarking on a new frontier. We will continue to integrate technology, but we have a new tool: Innovation Tech Cohorts
Last October, several teachers heard George Couros speak at the ITEC convention. Fired up and ready to be innovative, we wanted to share our ideas and enthusiasm with others in the district. So, we did!
Step #1: Our district purchased Couros' The Innovator's Mindset for any teacher who wanted to read the book. Multiple opportunities to discuss the book were scheduled. Before school. After school. Local coffee shop discussions. Virtual discussion boards. All meetings were optional. No minutes were required. No agenda was created. The talk among teachers was authentic and honest. Connecting and collecting ideas had started.
But we didn't want to stop with the discussion phase. What else could we do to push this momentum forward? Teachers wanted to make changes and improvements in their classrooms to help students. It wasn't a discussion on technology as a stand alone. But as Couros discusses in his book, their beliefs were grounded in how to move thinking, collaboration, creating and connecting forward. Risk taking. Change maker. Collaborator. Key phrases that surfaced again and again. And always the question: Would you want to be a learner in your own classroom?
Step #2: With district support, we decided the next step would be to bring any interested teacher together at the end of the school year to form Innovation Tech Teams. Each school’s teams met for three hours to give teachers real time to delve into the concepts that most personally resonated with them. What were they interested in talking about? I told teachers to 'speed date' around the room. Find others that are curious about the same ideas. See who shares your specific passion area. Incredible conversations were initiated by teachers on how to impact student lives. They moved around the room, brainstorming, charting ideas, suggesting what they wanted to do, and explaining why it would matter in their building. Five buildings at different times had these conversations. The dialogue was passionate and enthusiastic and innovative. Keep in mind, the school year was over. These teachers could have been on summer vacation, but chose to come together and plan for the next year. Very naturally, groups came together and agreed on an overarching idea of work. Examples included: global collaboration, authentic and effective feedback, voice and choice in the classroom, creating a kinder community of learners, and collaborating across grade levels.
We now have thirteen Innovation Tech Cohorts in the Pleasant Valley School district at the start of the 2017-2018 school year. Not a district mandate. Not a requirement. Not a set of prescribed rules. A genuine desire by dedicated educators to make a difference in the lives of their students.
Teachers are now into week #2 of the school year. We have new professional development models, new curriculum and new staff. Yet, all 81 teachers that started the process at the end of the year are committed to being part of a building Innovation Tech Team.
Their journeys are going to be unique and different. Their paths will vary greatly, but we are in this together. Whether we go by bus, car, bike, plane or train, we're moving forward. The journey has started and we hope you'll follow us along the way and #sharethedrive. Who knows where these Innovation Tech Cohorts will wind up and what opportunities they'll create for their students? They are dreaming big and it is truly one of the most exciting opportunities for teacher empowerment I have ever seen in my teaching career. Stay tuned!
is an instructional technology coach for the Pleasant Valley School District. As a dreamer, teacher, librarian and reader, she looks for ways to help students find their voice and connect with others. @hopewelllibrary