Fulton County Schools Innovation Update: “We are ready”…

So much weight is held in those 3 simple words. A statement that school districts across the U.S. hope to say confidently as they map out instructional innovation and personalized learning initiatives. Equally as important as the statement, is the ellipses that follows. What are we ready for? How do we know? Where do we go from here? The task of how to measure and act on readiness becomes a steep hill to climb. In Fulton County, Georgia, a personalized learning readiness rubric was created that allows both schools and central office staff to openly assess the capacity for change that is required as we revolutionize what ‘school’ means for our students.
Learn more about Fulton County Schools’ (@FultonCoSchools) innovation agenda here: Digital Promise: League of Innovative Schools.
Five areas of focus were selected to align with a personalized learning road map developed in partnership with the Gartner Group. The following focus areas will provide a universal and cumulitive view of schools readiness to implement personalized learning with digital tools.

Capacity of Leadership

Principals, as change-leaders, create a positive culture where change and innovation are welcomed and expected.

  • All local administrators support innovative instructional practice and model it in their interactions with staff.
  • As instructional leaders, it is vital that administrators know best practices of transformational teaching and learning.

Leaders also exemplify all aspects of the FCS Leadership Essentials.

  • Embrace Change to Drive Improvement
  • Creating Value for Our Customers
  • Leads by Example
  • Develops our Capability

Educator Readiness

  • Teachers must commit to providing students with personalized, experiential learning opportunities, and should expect the same from those they work collaboratively with.
  • High functioning PLCs are a must, as without collaboration and communication…transformation can not occur.
  • Educators have developed pedagogical skills at a level that demands utilization of technology be seamlessly and transformationally integrated.
  • A truly ‘ready’ teacher is an exemplary instructional leader, which should be demonstrated on their TKES evaluations and through their artifacts of effectiveness.
  • A positive outlook and a service-minded culture within grade level and/or content groups leads teachers…and ultimately, students…to success.

Instructional Spaces

  • All instructional spaces should allow for transformational learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and media.
  • All spaces should provide for flexible configurations and promote maximum engagement.

Transformational Instruction

  • Teachers encourage innovative uses of technology tools to personalize learning and provide students with opportunities to build and demonstrate knowledge in ways that may have been impossible to achieve without technology.
  • The teacher seeks partnerships outside of the traditional setting to allow students access to experts and peers in other locations, and encourages students to extend the use of collaborative technology tools.
  • Teacher provides opportunities and choice for students to create and produce digitally, and to take ownership of their own learning.

Strategic Initiative/Personalized Learning Alignment

There is a clearly defined vision for how mobile devices will be used to transform teaching, learning, and assessment practices.

  • Curriculum area examples of the types of learning activities students will engage in:
  • Align to the 4Cs of Digital Age Learning: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity
  • Describe how access to technology will positively impact student achievement.
  • Outline the process for building students’ digital citizenship skills.

After schools and learning community support staff assess readiness, they will attach supporting documents and draft a school narrative. At that point, principals select a Group. Groups will operate under a cohort model, beginning at specific dates from Spring 2015 through 2017.
While Groups have a ‘launch’ date to begin their work towards transformation and personalization, their pace is self­ guided. Within the Group, 3 phases outline the scope of work that lies in our ‘We Are Ready’ statement: Development, Deployment, and Transformation. An essential part of the work that happens during the Development phase will include drafting and executing a communication and professional development plan that is personalized to the culture and stakeholder skills at individual schools. Not until there is solid footing, and a clear focus on personalization does a school enter their Deployment phase, when mobile devices will enter the learning ecosystem of schools incrementally and thoughtfully. In alignment with our continuous improvement philosophy in Fulton County, the final phase of this initiative is one that is ongoing and adaptive. Schools will enter into their Transformation phase with an understanding of what teaching and learning must be for our students, and will continue to improve, and refine this practice.
To be sure, implementing a personalized learning initiative in a large district can feel a bit overwhelming. But, the ability for schools to draft their own approach, and make decisions that fit best for their school landscape is a great way to prepare for success. Fulton County Schools has an opportunity to craft a new narrative about the work of personalization. Our work is not focused on a ‘device roll­out’, but rather work that is derived from and thrives on innovative practice and personalized opportunities for students to be successful. You can find more information about our work here: FCS’s Personalized Learning Initiative.
For more on personalized learning, see:

stephanee-stevensStephanee Stephens is a Instructional Technology Program Specialist with Fulton County Schools in Georgia. Find Stephanee on Twitter at @stephsteph83.

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