In addition to personalized learning for students the most exciting thing about the shift to digital learning is the potential to improve teachers’ conditions and careers. A recent DLN SmartSeries paper illustrated how “blended learning environments can create more and better opportunities for teacher collaboration, enable differentiated staffing and boost meaningful professional development opportunities.”
The paper also outlines three ways that digital learning is improving career options for teachers:
- Extending the reach of excellent teachers to more students and teaching peers;
- Expanding the ability to teach remotely allowing great teachers to reach students anywhere and to have more flexible careers; and
- Creating more opportunities to build tools, content and services for schools.
In the course of writing three dozen Smart Cities posts, I’ve identified 10 strategies that cities are using to make teaching more attractive and to better support teachers and expand their opportunity set.
1. Preparing teacher leaders.The CityBridge-NewSchools Education Innovation Fellowship is a great developmental opportunity for teachers in Washington DC. I visited with them last week and discussed Big Blended Learning Questions.
The Blended Learning Institute is a two-year certificate program created by the NYC iZone in collaboration with Pace University.
2. Exposing new tools. Mesa, Arizona recently hosted a Tech Expo, a two day opportunity for its’ teachers to visit with edtech vendors and entrepreneurs to help teacher Innovation Teams develop strong grant proposals. It’s a great example of a district cultivating and leveraging teacher leadership.
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ Project L.I.F.T., a zone of schools within a large urban school district seeking dramatic improvements in student learning;
- Metro Nashville Public Schools’ Innovation Zone, created in the summer of 2011 to turn around low-performing schools by engaging in strategic redesign; and
- Clark County (Nevada) School District, the nation’s fifth-largest district and home of Las Vegas, working to launch new job roles in fall 2014 through its Project Reach-Extended 10, based on Opportunity Culture designs.
4. Incubating innovation. 4.0 Schools in New Orleans may be the best example of incubating teacher innovation.
5. Building capacity. As noted last week, PREP-KC is a great example of a metrowide college-prep capacity initiative that help teachers create work-experiences for kids and creates new career academy opportunities.
Online professional learning communities (PLC) like Share My Lesson, BetterLesson, and Edmodo are building teacher capacity. Bloomboard works with more than 100 cities to connect individual development plans with online professional development opportunities.
7. Safe, sane, innovative schools. The dozen EAA schools in Detroit are a great example of combining innovation and improvement strategies–and it is attracting teachers from around the country.
8. Recruit top partners. MindTrust in Indianapolis may be the best example of an impact organization reshaping a city and its national reputation. Core to the MindTrust strategy is working with top partners like Teach For America and The New Teacher Project. They also created The Education Entrepreneur Fellowship which (like 4.0 Schools in NOLA) is incubating innovation.
9. Support teacherpreneurs. Baltimore’s Digital Harbor Foundation (@DHFBaltimore) is a great example of teachers taking an alternative pathway to impact. Andrew Coy (@AndrewCoy) a teacher at Digital Harbor High School and Shelly Blake-Plock (@BlakePlock) from Johns Hopkins took over a rec center and created a Tech Center in the middle of Baltimore’s burgeoning tech scene.
New Schools for Chicago and Get Smart Schools in Denver are great examples of local capacities supporting new school development. Every city should run a new school grant program modeled on the The Next Generation Learning Challenge. See the NGLC Profiles of 20 next-gen high schools and this three part series on attributes common to NGLC grantees:
- Next-Gen Models Attack Problems, Leverage Opportunities
- Next-Gen Learning Models Blend Tech & Experiences
- Next-Gen Models Break New Ground, Promote System Redesign
10. Opening alternative routes. Forward leaning cities (and states) open and support alternative routes to the classroom and leadership. DLN Element 6, Quality Instruction, suggests “Educators should be prepared for specific roles – traditional, blended or online – and are then certified based on demonstrated performance.”
Pipeline partnerships, particularly in STEM, are a key talent development strategy. UTeach, part of the National Math and Science Initiative, is a rapid pathway to the STEM classroom.
Cities like Houston work hard at teacher evaluation using all available sources. That’s the right approach, but it is important, while new tools and schools are being developed, to avoid using old measures poorly applied in teacher performance evaluations. We are fond of the competency-based Summit Public Schools teacher development system. We’ve had a couple smart people address this on Getting Smart:
- K-12 Assessments and Teacher Evaluation: Putting Students First, by Dr. Raymond Yeagley, CAO at NWEAhttp://www.gettingsmart.com/2013/05/what-teachers-really-want/
- Education Standardization: Essential or Harmful? by Marie Bjerede
- Potential unintended consequences of the new teacher evaluation approaches byJoe Siedlecki of the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation
Digital Learning Now! is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner. Tom is a director of iNACOL. Bloomboard and Edmodo are portfolio companies of Learn Capital where Tom is a partner.