Developing a Connected Learning Community by Kim Cofino

Developing a Connected Learning Community by Kim Cofino

Cross-posted on Always Learning

These last few weeks have been pretty exciting here at YIS. Last week, we had an amazing extended weekend of professional development including a regional workshop focused on 1:1 and several thought-provoking sessions with Alan November here in Yokohama. And this past Wednesday, things got even more exciting (in my opinion): the Board of Directors approved our proposal to implement 1:1 in the secondary school (grades 6 - 12) next school year. It will be called the YIS Connected Learning Community (or CLC for short). Woohoo!

Considering Stephen (our fantastic technology director, who I was fortunate to work with at ISB as well) and I just arrived this year, and that we have a new Headmaster (though he is not new to YIS), this is even extra exciting. We have been working very hard these last few months to put all of the pieces in place and it feels fantastic to know that we have the support of the wider school community behind us as we move in the right direction.

Since this will actually be the first time I've had the fabulous opportunity to both develop and plan a 1:1 learning initiative and stay on to see through the implementation, I'm already working my way into full-on planning mode. So, I thought I would share what we've already done, as well as our current plans for the future and hope that you, more wise and knowledgeable than me in the ways of 1:1, can provide some helpful advice for us!

Setting the Stage: First Steps Toward 1:1 The first few months in a new school are always extra hectic, and this semester has been even more crazy than usual, because we have been working on several different facets of technology and learning here at YIS, in preparation for 1:1 next year. Here's what we've done so far:

Initiate an Open Learning Environment: Building on the fantastic set-up developed by Colin Campbell and Brian Lockwood last year (and possibly several others, though I'm not sure), one of my first priorities was to help teachers take advantage of our blogging portal: The Learning Hub (using Edublogs Campus - thanks to the amazing Sue Waters and the rest of the Edublogs Campus team for fabulous tech support). Over the last few months, many of our elementary, middle and high school teachers have begun to create dynamic classroom blogs, as well as support our student use of The Learning Hub as an e-portfolio. My hope is that this will be the first step for teachers to embrace globally collaborative learning experiences with their students. The best part of the process is that it's been totally a grassroots movement - only teachers that are interested are using the blogs, which has really helped bring lots of teachers on board - rather than mandating its use. As part of this process, we've also surveyed students, parents and staff about their desired school-home communication methods and structures.

Rethink the Physical Learning Environment: As part of our upcoming redesign of two floors in our Main Building, we have worked with a team of teachers to envision the "classroom of the future." Through a staff survey, some extended research, and productive discussion, we're starting to think about how we can rethink our physical space to best support a potentially different type of learning environment (within the physical confines of the building). Most likely we have more work to do with this group, but at least we've gotten the ball rolling.

Develop a Teacher Focus Group: We have invited teachers from each division of the school, in several departments, to meet regularly as a 1:1 Focus Group to discuss the possible implications of transitioning to a 1:1 environment, as well as to plan how to implement our program successfully, focusing specifically on teacher development, parent communication and student engagement. Connect with Students: Ideally, we would like most of the policies for our 1:1 program to be written by/with students, as well as to involve them in the transition and implementation process. We haven't moved too far on this front, but I've spoken to our HS Student Council and they are keen to participate.

Develop a Parent Focus Group: Stephen and Bob (our amazing Head of School Operations) have started meeting with small groups of parents to get their feedback on our progress, as well as develop a deeper understanding of the parent community concerns and expectations.

Tap Into Global Expertise: Last week we held an informal meeting (here at YIS) of schools that have already implemented 1:1 or are currently in the process of planning in order to share ideas, advice and successful practices. Having the opportunity for our entire admin and tech team to hear from other schools, together, here on campus, was really valuable. Plus, everyone at the meeting did a great job of keeping notes on Google Docs, so we have a record of pretty much everything that was discussed. And, on top of that, we had a great backchannel chat going with lots of very experienced 1:1 educators sharing their best advice that has also been recorded.

Cultivate Questions: During our Bridging the Gap (BTG) conference last week (for teachers and parents), the 1:1 Focus Group ran two breakout sessions to gather as much input as possible from our local community. We were able to develop a list of thoughtful questions about 1:1, gauge community response, as well as address growing concerns in an open and casual format. A Visit to the Future: A team of 7 YIS teachers spent three days in Hong Kong visiting four 1:1 schools (thank you John D'Arcy at CDNIS, Justin Hardman at HKIS, Peter Lassock at Discovery College, Noah Katz at Renaissance College, and, of course, Yoshi Sakagami and Gilbert Ho at Apple). We sent them off the list of questions from BTG, and a mission to document as much as they could. Although we haven't had a chance to debrief yet (they just got back yesterday), I've already received several thank you notes (and seen all the great details from their notes on the Google Doc of questions).

Engage in Community Learning: Based on my successful experiences at ISB facilitating Parent Technology Coffee Mornings with Tara and Jeff, our wonderful librarian here at YIS, Brian Farrell, and I will begin these casual discussion sessions with parents this week, repeating monthly on the first Wednesday of the month. Though these sessions are not focused on the 1:1 implementation, we hope that they will begin to engage parents in dialogue about the way technology is shaping society and impacting education. And, since we have a number of parent-focused learning opportunities at school run by different teachers and administrators, we'll be documenting all of the sessions on one collaborative blog, YIS Community Learning (based on this great example developed by Will Kirkwood at NIST).

Next Steps: Current Plans for Implementation Based on our 1:1 Strategizing Meeting here at YIS last week, and general research we've done, here are the things we plan to do over the next 12 months.

  • Create a Steering Committee with parents, students and teachers
  • Regular Parent Technology Coffee Mornings
  • Regular Focus Group sessions with parents, students and teachers
  • Open discussion sessions at school for those teachers interested
  • Further develop the student tech team to help support with the implementation
  • Develop policies with students, parents and teachers
  • Develop a detailed section of the website about our Connected Learning Community including FAQs and CLC in Action (once the program starts)
  • Dedicate PD time as departments to help teachers evaluate current practices and prepare for the new learning environment
  • Overview and orientation sessions with parents and students (combined) towards the end of this school year
  • Begin YIS Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy cohort for teachers (I hope!)

Help! Your Advice Needed! So, what have we missed? I know we haven't thought of everything - even though the ASB Unplugged Conference last year was amazingly comprehensive (and thankfully I have a handy record of everything that really jumped out at me). I'm sure there are important steps that we haven't planned for at the moment. What would you recommend? CC Images: