Essential Conditions

Planning on becoming a school of the future?

Something very exciting happened when our leadership team met for a leadership retreat to work on our vision for Graded. For the longest time we have been focusing on our 1:1 initiative in the middle school and amazingly enough, during the entire retreat, technology never entered the conversation. We even framed our learning around five of ISTE’s Essential Conditions to Effectively Leverage Technology for Learning. The five that we chose were Skilled Personnel,  Curriculum Framework and Student Centered Learning, Ongoing Professional Development, and Assessment and Evaluation.

I think that we owe the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and their “A Guide to Becoming a School of the Future” for this accomplishment. I highly recommend it as required reading for any school that is planning for the future. I think that we spent so much time focusing on the core of a our school in the future, that it was just assumed that technology would play a major role in the teaching and learning process.

What does the guide have to offer?

The first section is entitled, “Making the Case for Schools of the Future”. Even if you don’t need convincing, I suggest that you read it and share it with those who need to be convinced.

“We can choose to adapt, accepting that we do not know this world as well as our children and look to them to help us learn. Or, we can be infexible immigrants, focusing on how good things used to be. If we are to reach our children and help them learn, we must adapt, we must face the fact that our students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.”

The second section is, “Essential Capacities for the 21st Century”. We linked this to a curriculum framework where the main categories are Analytical and  Creative Thinking  and Problem-solving; Complex Communication —Oral and Written; Leadership and Teamwork; Digital and Quantitative Literacy; Global Perspective; Adaptability, Initiative,  and Risk-Taking; Integrity and Ethical  Decision-Making. There are many frameworks out there that describe what students should know and be able to do. This is just one that provides food for thought.

I love the third section and think that it is the core of the guide because it provides schools with a variety of models and resources for change. It’s great that they start the chapter off by saying:

“The intention is not to provide a formulaic approach to the challenges of teaching and learning in our times but rather to encourage exploration, innovation, and transformation within each school in a manner that is consistent with the school’s mission and the needs of its students.”

One can spend hours in this section exploring the ideas and the links to resources from a wide variety of school and teachers. The Stories of Excellence guide has examples of classroom units where technology is used (unfortunately, It looks like they have blocked it to non-members).  This is one resource that is teaching and learning with technology focused.

The authors identified the following unifying themes:

  • The schools are academically demanding
  • Project-based learning, as an integral part of the school’s program, is woven throughout all grade levels and disciplines
  • Classrooms extend beyond the school walls, actively engaging students in the world around them
  • Digital technologies and a global perspective infuse all aspects of the curriculum
  • Vibrant arts programs help promote creativity, self-expression, self-discipline, and fexibility
  • The adults are actively engaged with one another and with the students in a process of continuous learning
  • A culture of engagement and support invites participation, innovation, and a “growth mindset” on the part of teachers and students
  • Transformational leadership challenges the status quo, draws out the issues, navigates through confict, and mobilizes people and resources to do the adaptive work necessary to create and sustain effective change.

Finally, the appendix has additional resources to use in your planning.

If you haven’t studied this guide, you’re missing out. It’s a must in my book.

ISTE’s Essential Conditions: Maybe the Guide that You Need

ISTE’s – National Educational Technology Standards for Administrators packet includes Essential Conditions: Necessary conditions to effectively leverage technology for learning. This type of document can serve as a guide for school leaders who want to move their school(s) forward.

  • Shared Vision
  • Empowered Leaders
  • Implementation Planning
  • Consistent and Adequate Funding
  • Equitable Access
  • Skilled Personnel
  • Ongoing Professional Learning
  • Technical Support
  • Curriculum Framework
  • Student-Centered Learning
  • Assessment and Evaluation
  • Engaged Communities
  • Support Policies
  • Supportive External Context

Have your team break down each item and define what it means. Then look at where your school currently stands, where you need to go and how you’re going to get there.

Why not use this to develop your school’s action plan and/or technology plan. We’re always looking for simplifying the complex.