Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Clarifying the Vision of the Waukesha One Theory of Action

Waukesha One is wrapping up its fourth year in our Wave One schools (the first iPads were introduced in these schools in Fall 2013).  Notable changes in teaching, learning and technology use are visible across our district since the devices were first introduced.

The Waukesha One SAIL Team has re-convened this year to explore the vision of Waukesha One moving forward, and to engage in the same long-term strategic planning work that was done before the iPads first arrived in our district. The Waukesha One Theory of Action has recently been published. This guide/post is intended to provide leaders and staff members with a rationale for the decisions made by the Waukesha One SAIL Team in developing the Theory of Action.

Exploring the Theory of Action

IF SDW staff are committed to transforming teaching and learning through the use of technology THEN learners will be exposed to engaging and meaningful learning opportunities that positively impact their achievement, teach them to utilize technology in productive and creative ways, and prepare them for college, career, and life.

There is a strong research base that describes how technology strengthens student engagement. We know that engagement is one of the key factors connected to student achievement.  If staff can utilize technology to transform teaching and learning to increasingly engage students, an opportunity exists where students may learn more and learn more meaningfully. 

Additionally, there is no shortage of ways to prove that technology is having a considerable impact on every aspect of our lives, from school, to work, to our interactions with family, friends, and strangers. Yet, we know from observation, from experience, and from working with students that using technology to be productive, collaborative, and creative is not something students know how to do inherently. It has to be taught and practiced, and educators can teach this to students (and give students opportunities to practice) when they make technology use a central part of their instructional plans.

IF we proactively communicate both why and how technology use will benefit students THEN all stakeholders can clearly understand the purpose and value of technology in teaching and learning.

The decision to integrate technology within our educational system is not a decision that is made without serious consideration of the purpose and value that technology can add to instruction. When stakeholders (parents, students, educators, leaders, and community members) understand the rationale, purpose, and how technology can be utilized to allow all learners to demonstrate what they know, there can be a more genuine acknowledgement of the goals. This will often lead to more genuine adoption of the tools and more meaningful use of the tools for the benefit of our students. This is best accomplished through clear and consistent communication with all stakeholders focused on these topics. That clear, concise, and consistent communication will increasingly shift the disposition of all stakeholders to better understand, support, and utilize technology for teaching and learning purposes.

IF we provide high quality, focused, and flexible professional development aligned to the site's high leverage practices THEN all staff can develop a clear understanding for how they will utilize, plan, and implement technology to transform teaching and learning.

A significant shift across our district is our collective disposition toward the integration of technology in teaching and learning. Leaders, teachers, students, and families are increasingly seeing that technology is a tool that makes incredible opportunities possible for students. This awareness and acceptance of technology stems from our personal experiences with technology, but it also is promoted when we learn from others who have had positive experiences using technology. The disconnect we sometimes experience, though, is when the technology is viewed as "another thing" teachers and students need to do. Within our SAIL planning processes across the district, we must marry the highest leverage strategies that are to be used in each building with the technology that can support, benefit, or improve these strategies.  We then need to provide high quality, focused, and flexible professional learning opportunities so staff can learn from others, sense their genuine sentiment about the benefit the technology has provided, and then determine how they will personally transfer their learning about the tools to their classroom practice utilizing the tools.

We hope this overview helps to provide some depth of understanding around the decision-making and conversations that took place as the Waukesha One Theory of Action was developed by the Waukesha One SAIL Committee.