Saturday, April 16, 2011

An "Imagineering" Team Approach

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As we wrap up our first year of a five-year plan to implement 1:1 technology across our secondary and into our elementary grades, we find ourselves assessing the impact and looking to the future. As superintendent and originator of the 1:1 vision for our district, I'm excited about the future and what's in store for our kids.

Heading into this initiative, we revamped our tech support structure, merging the media staff to expand the scope and provide a broader range of technology integration support.  Primarily consisting of five staff, including the director, augmented with media assistants in each of the school buildings, the number one mission of our tech-media team is evolving into a Disney-style imagineering approach to expanding our 1:1 and use of technology tools for learning.

While each individual has a dedicated role, my intent for the team is to collaboratively use their respective and collective skill sets to stay out front of evolving technology. Simply put, I don't want a team that follows the latest fads, but one that leads in identifying new ways to creatively use tech tools to improve student achievement and ready them for college and career.  Put another way, I want a team that when they read the latest Horizon Report, they feel like they're reading a history of what they've already helped our district accomplish.

For any team like this within a school district to be successful, there must be support and leadership from the top. The superintendent must provide the team with the vision, resources, and freedom to strike out on their own and maximize their creativity. They must feel safe to take risks and have the public backing of the superintendent that enables them to support school administrators and teachers in adapting to new technology changes. The team cannot get bogged down in layers of management or administrative hierarchy that only serve to create paralysis. They must enjoy a close relationship with the superintendent and feel as if they are if not the most, one of the most important support structures in the district. And in the end, every member of the team must understand that they are expected to produce measurable results.

The horizontal, collaborative structure of the team requires that they hold each other accountable for contributing their fair share to the team's success. And it's important that each realizes that while he or she has a specific area of responsibility, such as network administration or instructional tech integration, by working together across the entire technology and media spectrum, the synergy they create will move the district further ahead than if each only paid attention to their respective areas. This is a "Google approach" to an un-departmentalized work team that places far greater emphasis on the ability of the group and its members to imagine the possible and employ creative solutions.

Insisting and allowing the district media-tech team to operate in this Disney-Google approach can potentially lead to similar structures within academic departments and grade-level teams, employing similar creative styles to analyzing results and imagining new solutions. In reality, this could be seen as the "early-childhood" method of exploration and learning - feeling the freedom to ask "why" and using that inquisitive nature to open new doors to discovery. Teachers, administrators, and even students using Disney-style imagineering and Google-style creative collaboration has the potential for removing schools completely beyond the bonds of the industrial model, and clearing a path to a true 21st century learning system.