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By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks
How many of you remember the Carol Burnett show, either reruns or originals? I realize I am dating myself here! Growing up, watching these comedic partnerships was one of the highlights of my family’s week. What we really watched for was Tim Conway trying to break up Harvey Korman in every sketch, and Tim was always successful. In one of the most famous sketches, Conway plays a dentist and Korman the patient. It is one of the funniest TV sketches in history, making the Korman-Conway partnership one of the most successful.
Tim Conway’s passing last week made me think about why this partnership was so successful. Good and successful partnerships involve a common vision and values and a willingness to do more and stretch to make the partnership work. Think about Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. They had a common belief that personal computing was the future, and both brought a different set of skills. Jobs was a master marketer, and Wozniak was a software genius.
Successful partnerships have something called synergy — the collective is greater than the equal sum of parts alone. Even animals understand this — just look at pack behavior in wolves. In his poem, The Law for the Wolves, Rudyard Kipling wrote “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
We are only as strong as our partnerships. When we think about the advancement of civilization, we realize nothing happens in a vacuum. People have to work together because survival depends on it. We form partnerships, though, for many reasons. For example, partnerships can be romantic, for business or recreational. Some are permanent and some only last for a project or a short time. Some are on purpose and some accidental, like the famous chocolate/peanut butter combination!
In education in Ohio, we believe so strongly in the power of partnerships, it is one of three core principles for success in Each Child, Our Future, Ohio’s strategic plan for education:
PARTNERSHIPS: Everyone, not just those in schools, shares the responsibility of preparing children for successful futures. The most important partners are parents and caregivers, who have the greatest impact on a child’s development. Other critical partners include educators, institutions of higher education, business, philanthropy, employers, libraries, social service organizations, community members, health care providers, behavioral health experts and many more. Put simply, partnerships transform the education experience.
What does this look like in practical terms? I couldn’t do my work around transformation in schools to support environments for digital learning without my extensive educational partners. I often collaborate with educational service centers and educational technology agencies to plan events. In a recent discussion with educational service center partners to plan for the Future Ready in Action conference sponsored by the Ohio Educational Service Center Association, we discussed partnerships and their impacts.
Amy Harker, the career readiness coordinator for the Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio said partnerships are “important to support work, provide more opportunities for students (business and school partnerships) and create broader idea generation.”
I also worked with the curriculum director of Butler County Educational Service Center, Georgine Bowman, who said, “The power of partnerships is to provoke thinking, give multiple perspectives, and enhance learning experiences.” This is the kind of thinking that builds strategic partnerships.
Another conference I recently planned, the Schools Reimagined Reboot, was a leadership conference in partnership with the Ohio Department of Education, the Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center and WOSU Classroom. This conference was a day to be inspired, reimagine teaching and learning and look creatively and openly at finding more opportunities for students beyond traditional instructional practices.
The Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center curriculum director, Amanda Mahon, was central to planning the School Reimagined Reboot. Regarding the power of partnerships, she said, “Our organizations each bring a unique perspective, skill set and priorities to a project. In working together, we are able to capitalize on each other’s strength and bring a high-quality, holistic approach to professional learning.”
Amy Palermo, executive director for content at WOSU Classroom shares a similar belief. She said, “Partnerships build on capacity and strengthen the work and content that is delivered. They are vital for continued quality work. Ours works because of the experience and expertise we each uniquely bring to the table to build on professional learning that is impactful and meaningful to others.”
If you want to find ways to work with your community more and build partnerships, look for inspiration in the Future Ready Ohio Framework. The framework helps align perspectives of district work around a goal for personalized learning. One of the gears is specifically about Community Partnerships:
Community partnerships include the formal and informal local and global community connections, collaborative projects and relationships that advance the school’s learning goals. Digital communications, online communities, social media and digital learning environments often serve as connectors for these partnerships.
Future Ready offers targeted support for building partnerships if you are a district leader, principal, technology leader, instructional coach or librarian. However, everyone in the school can be part of making connections and developing partnerships. Here are some tips:
- Establish and foster relationships to support school culture and vision;
- Collaborate and engage all community members, including parents, local businesses, local organizations and taxpayers without children in schools;
- Develop, model and amplify the district brand through existing and new communication channels;
- Expand learning beyond the school day;
- Engage the community in developing and implementing a vision for personalized learning;
- Leverage student and community talents and resources to support desired learning outcomes;
- Provide community and parent learning events to support partnerships and increase learning and engagement opportunities for students.
The overarching idea is to reach out however you can. Use the Future Ready Framework to help you plan. Use Each Child, Our Future as your guide. As an educator, as a leader, as a community member...for each adult, our common goal remains a steadfast and unwavering belief in success for all. This achievement does indeed take a village, a village of dedicated folks who want all students to have success, because our shared futures depend on it.
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By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks
A strong school library program has a powerful effect on literacy and learning for all students. In a March 2018 Phi Delta Kappan article called Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us, Keith Curry Lance and Debra E. Kachel cite research that supports this:
Since 1992, a growing body of research known as the school library impact studies has consistently shown positive correlations between high-quality library programs and student achievement (Gretes, 2013; Scholastic, 2016). Data from more than 34 statewide studies (including Ohio) suggest that students tend to earn better standardized test scores in schools that have strong library programs.
The work and impact of school libraries directly align to support Ohio’s strategic plan for education, Each Child, Our Future. School librarians especially support the four learning domains because school libraries serve as a connector among all four domains.
In the domain of Foundational Knowledge and Skills, school libraries clearly have a strong focus on literacy and technology. From teaching students about media and digital literacy to a lifelong love of learning, literacy in all forms is the key to a strong school library program.
In a conversation I had with Deb Logan, the president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA), she talked about why school libraries matter and how they promote student achievement. She commented that school libraries provide choices and support students as they find their voices. They help students consider using a source or not. School librarians teach critical thinking skills for evaluating media sources. A school librarian changes a school library from a repository of information to a place to create new information sources and students from consumers of information to creators of resources.
I am a former school librarian, and I keep my license current. I am proud to serve as the Department liaison to OELMA. OELMA just had its annual conference and, across the board, the sessions supported all four areas of Each Child, Our Future. For example, the session called Lending Hope in Times of Trauma supported social-emotional learning. The program described the session like this: School librarians have unique opportunities to lend hope and foster resiliency and wellness and create an environment of safe refuge for students in their school libraries.
Sessions focused on everything from literacy and technology to design thinking. They covered makerspaces and STEM — the librarians in Ohio are truly Future Ready and able to serve as reliable instructional partners and resources for students and staff in your schools.
In addition to the professional learning at the conference, OELMA honored some superhero Ohio school librarians who received recognition with an Ohio Educational Library Media Association Notable Award grant or scholarship. The awardees included:
- Kristine Konik, Westerville City Schools - Leadership in Action Award;
- Shelley Bertsch, Rossford Schools - Floyd Dickman Programming Grant;
- Amy Price, Princeton City Schools - Intellectual Freedom Award;
- Brandi Young, South-Western City Schools and Angela Wojtecki, Nordonia Hills Schools - Information Technology Innovation Awards;
- Betsy Gugle, Columbus School for Girls - Outstanding Administrator Award;
- Dr. Christina Dorr, Hilliard City Schools - OELMA Outstanding School Librarian Award;
- Meagan Fowler, St. Joseph Academy - Library Leadership Ohio Scholarship.
OELMA provides up to two scholarships for licensed school librarians who are OELMA members to participate in Library Leadership Ohio. Library Leadership Ohio, a collaboration between the State Library of Ohio and OhioNET, is an institute designed to develop future leaders for Ohio libraries.
In addition to honoring educators, OELMA honors four K-12 students who value reading for pleasure and share their joy of reading with others with the Read on, Ohio! award.
Congratulations to the following:
- Isaac Simkanin - Rootstown Elementary School;
- Hannah Sadler - Hilliard Weaver Middle School;
- Caitlin Klein - Maplewood High School;
- Emoni Harmon - Rossford High School.
You can find more about all of OELMA’s awards, grants and scholarships on its website.
In addition to the conference, another source of inspiration for school librarians is Future Ready. The Ohio school library community embraces the #FutureReadyOH movement. See their commitment to be part of this here. High-quality school libraries are so important that Future Ready librarians across the nation designed a specific framework to help them align their work. The learner-centered focus on literacy drives the seven gears and the momentum for librarians to lead from the library. For districts, supporting a strong library program allows you to create an intersection where all four learning domains can unite…school libraries truly are the heart of it all!
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By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks
Who remembers the original Star Trek television series from the 1960s, set in the 23rd century, when Scotty would talk to the computer? We all thought that was a long way off, but a few days ago I dashed out my front door and yelled, “Alexa, turn off the dining room lights!” Granted, Alexa is not setting a vector for warp speed travel, but that's still my voice activating a cyber response to a physical object. I can ask Alexa to order something from Amazon, tell me the weather in Myrtle Beach or to settle a debate with my husband about a Civil War fact. (He was right.)
Using an interface like Alexa is part of the cyber connection to our physical world often referred to as the Internet of Things. The concept is not new; however, it is now embedded in our everyday life rather than being a nebulous concept from Star Trek. If we think about it in terms of the Industrial Revolution, we are in the fourth iteration of the Industrial Revolution. This is where the cyber and the physical are more connected and work together.
We talk about preparing kids for an unknown future but isn't that what we've always done in schools? The difference is we now have a greater understanding about the future of jobs and growth industries. How do we get students ready, no matter what the future brings?
One way is to establish personalized learning environments and maximize learning for all students. It's not a defined, exact science so much as it is a collection of elements that define the learning environment. It is a child-centered approach using technology as an accelerator for learning. In schools doing this, you will see the following priorities and related actions displayed in this infographic:
The Alliance for Excellent Education developed the Future Ready Framework for Personalized Learning. The Framework provides districts with a free resource to plan and support personalized learning environments. Going through the district assessment process allows for rich conversations about all the areas needed to personalize learning for students, not just about what device a district will purchase. If we believe that personalized learning can truly maximize learning for each child, our next step should be making this a reality. For more information, you can start here.
Let me leave you with this: If students can find answers by just asking Alexa, then how do we change the questions we want students to answer? Do we teach them what to think or how to think? Watch this video for more on the difference between knowledge and thinking.
For tips on using Alexa in the classroom, click here!
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By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks
Any “This Is Us” fans out there? In a recent episode of the television drama series, Randall, one of the siblings, was talking about getting his first pair of glasses as a child. He shared his experience with the “better here machine.” Have you ever had a vision screening? They put a device over your head so that it aligns with your eyes to find the proper lens strength to help you see more clearly. As each new lens is tried, you're supposed to look through and decide if you see better with the current lens or former lens. The technician or doctor will ask, “Here or better here?” as he or she switches quickly between lens strengths (which can be sort of amusing when they do it fast).
The character Randall used the “better here machine” as a way to explain his perspective looking back on his childhood with his siblings. I thought that was a powerful metaphor for the way we bring our own unique perspectives to a common experience, including education. In a personalized learning environment, all staff and students have different perspectives. The key to successful transformation to personalized learning is aligning various perspectives and taking advantage of the best aspects of each unique lens.
In my last blog, I talked about using a team approach and the Future Ready Framework to help districts prepare for creating true personalized learning environments for students. An essential component to becoming Future Ready is making a systemic digital learning plan before purchasing the next round of technology. This process includes creating a leadership team and using the district self-assessment tool to determine how prepared the district is to support digital learning environments. Districts get feedback that shows both areas of readiness and areas for growth. Looking at the alignment of all the elements for success can assure districts that their planning will be effective.
If a district uses the Future Ready Framework to help make strategic decisions regarding moving to environments that support personalized learning, the next step is implementation. Future Ready encourages specific roles, such as librarians and instructional coaches, to view the framework, strategies and connections through their specific lenses. Once a district team uses the districtwide lens to look at, reflect and assess its readiness in each element critical to success, the individuals on the team can see the specific ways they can implement the plan via their own unique lenses based on their roles in the district.
Each role’s customized framework helps implement personalized learning for the district based on the specific ways their work will support each gear. Let’s look at two role-specific examples through the lenses of principals and technology leaders that define the ways they can support personalized learning environments for students:
Future Ready Principals believe in:
- Modeling the type of professional learning by empowering staff to lead, learn, fail, and repeat.
- Making anytime, anywhere learning a reality.
- Developing a plan to ensure ubiquitous connectivity in and out of school.
- Advocating for the use of multiple strategies to meet the needs of diverse learners.
- Working to build partnerships to communicate and agree upon a shared vision for student learning in their community.
Future Ready Technology Leaders believe in:
- Making anytime, anywhere, anyhow learning a reality.
- Supporting an open, flexible, robust digital learning environment.
- Insuring data safety and privacy while promoting best practices in digital citizenship.
- Planning for future innovation and technology that supports learning.
- Creating a transparent environment that communicates to all stakeholders.
To see more information about the leadership roles within Future Ready, click here. As you can see, each role plays a unique part in helping the district as a whole move forward with transformation. By using the framework as its own “better here machine,” a district can create a clear vision and path forward by looking through the lens of the powerful gears and the educator-specific roles. For more information or questions regarding this framework, please contact Stephanie Meeks or follow #FutureReadyOH on Twitter. Future Ready also will be the topic of six sessions at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference Feb. 13-15.
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By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks
While thinking about celebrating Thanksgiving, it occurred to me that turkey day is a total team sport, filled with pre-game planning in all areas. Besides all the obvious metaphors of cooking and football, I also thought about the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Specifically, I thought about the teamwork it takes to manage the hallmark of the parade...the balloons!
Those balloons are managed by teams of handlers, with the average balloon requiring 90 people and a pilot who walks backward the whole way. There also is a balloon captain who signals to the handlers when they need to change hand positions on the ropes. It is a totally coordinated effort for these balloons to fly straight and not escape into the crowd...or other hazards. Planning and training go on all year — no one just shows up and grabs a rope!
How does this metaphor relate to personalized learning? In my last blog, A Year on Pause, I shared my reflections on personalized learning with regard to my recovery from a serious auto accident. One of my major takeaways from my year was how amazing and essential the team approach was to my progress. If the team approach works so well, why don’t we use it more often in education?
To systematically transform schools into true personalized learning environments, a vision and a plan that includes all areas to support education would be a good place to start. One resource to help districts is the Future Ready Framework. Using the Future Ready Framework for visioning and planning is a great way to look at all the different elements that support education in your district. Ohio is supporting this free resource for districts looking for a way to plan and implement personalized learning. This national initiative was designed to have state support and, most importantly, local impact.
When high-quality teaching is infused with the dynamic use of technology, personalized student learning becomes possible. The Future Ready Framework is a road map that districts can use to successfully implement personalized, digital learning. The framework assists districts in planning how to prepare students for success in college, careers and citizenship. Following this road map requires systemic changes. With personalized student learning at its core, the framework helps districts align each of the seven key categories, called Gears, to ensure a successful conversion to digital learning.
The seven Gears are:
- Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment;
- Use of Space and Time;
- Robust Infrastructure;
- Data and Privacy;
- Community Partnerships;
- Personalized Professional Learning; and
- Budget and Resources.
The outside ring of the framework emphasizes the need for collaborative leadership. It also displays a continuous cycle of district visioning, planning, implementation and assessment. Once a district is prepared in each gear, district leaders can be confident they are ready for a highly successful implementation phase that leads to innovation empowered by digital learning.
Using this resource starts with a district leadership team doing an assessment to find out where the district stands in each gear. After this initial district assessment, leaders can determine the district’s digital readiness in each gear. Then, they can dive deeper into a gear they may want to develop. Ohio will be kicking off its official training for using the framework at the annual Ohio Educational Technology Conference. There will be sessions for district leaders, individual programs and specific school personnel roles. In addition to the district framework, there are frameworks based on roles to help support the work, including frameworks for district leaders, principals, technology leaders, coaches and librarians. You can find more information here.
If you are ready to use this framework or would like more information, you can start on the Department’s Future Ready site.
In future blogs, I will discuss the individual gears and programs. If you already are using this resource for planning, let me know. I will share your achievements to help other Ohio districts build their success. Use #FutureReadyOH to stay up to date with the Future Ready work around Ohio.
I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving — no matter how you choose to personalize and celebrate it. Since all my family cannot be together on the official day, we have created our own unique celebration the weekend before in a feast we call Molto Grazie. It does take serious planning and a team effort, but it is always worth it.
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By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks
Hello, everyone! You last heard from me more than a year ago, as I was in a car accident last summer. It was of the lucky-to-be-alive magnitude kind of car accident, and I am so grateful to be back at work now. This year on pause gave me time for some deep reflection during my recovery process.
In particular, I was struck by the parallels between personalized learning and my recovery. At the hospital, the trauma team used a set of protocols for unconscious victims to establish and triage my injuries. Based on this thorough assessment, the team determined I had broken both legs, among other damages. The assessment was extensive, and the trauma surgeons began treating the breaks immediately, using typical treatments for typical fractures. My right leg, however, was not a standard break, so alternative methods were used for my situation. If the team had done what it usually does for a fracture, I would not be walking today.
Lying in bed healing for two months and then recovering for another eight, I had a lot of time to think. The idea of my personalized treatment had me thinking about personalized learning and what it really means. I could overlay my situation to exactly how personalized learning can help students succeed. Some students respond to the typical and usual methods of instruction and succeed. Some students do not and need other strategies to achieve success. Most students have areas of strength and areas of challenge in learning. For example, standard teaching methods may work with them in social studies but not in science. I think too many times we look for a single-point solution in education…one tool or resource that will work for everyone…and that just is not the case.
Digital tools can assist, but they are not the only solution. Multiple solutions can be used to support multiple needs. In addition, a small set of tools can be applied differently to personalize learning for students. Perhaps you utilize online resources; do all students use them the same way? If you think of your resources as currencies, how will you spend them? This could include time and space—something as simple as a different room arrangement or a different structure for in-class time can help personalize learning for students. What are resources you have that can be used differently? How can standard assessment protocols be used to personalize a learning plan?
I did not recover alone. I had a team of support, from the initial trauma team to the physical therapy team, as well as an alternative therapies team. They were so willing to look for solutions for me to walk again; they never gave up looking for solutions, even ones they had not tried in the past. In education, we have many kinds of teams. How do we best utilize our support systems to personalize learning for all? What are the first steps that you can take to help personalize learning for students?
With the start of a new school year, we have the opportunity for a new beginning, new thinking and new planning. NONE of us can predict the future—but with the right tools and planning, we can be ready when it comes. HAPPY NEW YEAR—make it awesome!
Next up in the series…using a framework with a team approach to personalize learning.
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Last Modified: 5/17/2019 3:20:37 PM