The estimated reading time for this post is 2 minutes
I have an embarrassing and somewhat painful experience to share. It happened recently at the annual SAUSD Leadership Symposium when we chose “challenge” groups related to topics or challenges that our student panel had reported to us as areas needing our attention. The point of the challenge group was to develop a short term, medium term and long term shift to make improvements in that area. I chose the “using technology for personalized learning” group and, as I listened to the group discuss for the opening twenty to thirty minutes, it hit me that no one was talking about personalized learning. It seemed that we were off topic or stuck on issues like “some teachers are afraid of technology.” I raised my hand and asked why we weren’t talking about personalized learning or some of the elements of personalized learning. I actually felt a little angry about the amount of time we had spent on how teacher attitudes and mindset prevent tech integration and I said something like, “When I chose this group, I wanted to be a part of a group that was talking about personalized learning. I’m willing to leave and go to a group that is talking about what their challenge area is. I think in the restorative practices group, they are actually talking about concrete and precise elements of restorative practices.” Not my finest moment, to be sure, but in hindsight I still value being authentic and being okay sharing and showing how I feel in my workplace. Later, the executive director of secondary education took me aside and said, “Tell me more about how you’re feeling, because I never saw you get heated like that before.” I was very abashed as he continued to share that my thoughts and words had made others in the group concerned or confused. Not my goal at all. What I was seeking was clarity, not confusion.
It’s ten days later and I have a new resolution to support the development of a common language. So, picking up work that I had started in the Learning Innovation with Technology department when I first came to Santa Ana on the elements of personalized learning (individual mastery, social engagement, personalized learning plans, learner profiles, and flexible environments), I am reintroducing a commitment to develop a common language for the work we are doing, starting with the elements of personalized learning. Starting with my team. Starting with me. Starting now. Here’s the original “elements of personalized learning” document I produced for SAUSD. It’s two and a half years old and there are parts I don’t agree with or see as being too vague; it’s time to revise and make it current.
In my department, we are dedicating thirty minutes each morning to developing our common vocabulary. This is so critical as we move forward as a team (internal communication), but also as we tell the story of 21st Century Learning (external communication). Today, we discussed individual mastery (which is related to competency-based learning and initiatives in the district like Advanced Learning Academy) and social engagement (which we saw as related to real world learning, deeper learning, and PBL or project-based learning).