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3 ways the Education Leader Standards develop empowered leaders

By Sophia Mendoza
December 19, 2018
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In 2015, the Los Angeles Unified School District embarked on a mission to re-imagine instructional practice in the digital age. As part of that effort, the district created the Instructional Technology Initiative (ITI) with the aim of ensuring that schools use technology to differentiate and personalize instruction, increase academic rigor and build student ownership of learning using a variety of student-centered school models.

Crucial to this shift was ensuring that professional learning would bridge the gap between content and application, and connect theory to practice. Serving as the foundation for that professional learning were the ISTE Standards.

The ITI team has been inspired by the ISTE Standards for Education Leaders to cultivate empowered leaders across the district. In addition, the ITI team has leveraged change-management strategies and adult learning theories to inform its work. If you’re embarking on a school or district technology initiative, the ITI staff recommends three ways to begin creating systemwide change founded on the ISTE Standards for Education Leaders.

We recommend three ways to get started on creating authentic, personalized professional learning content:

1) Get to know your audience by establishing collaborative interdepartmental partnerships.

2) Be intentional about tending to your own learning by reading research, attending conferences and reviewing key resources.

3) Deliberately carve out time for brainstorming and planning as a team. ITI collaborates with six local districts and various instructional departments and offices within our district to offer professional development that leads with instruction.

Embedded in the ITI professional development design is the Adaptive Schools’ strategy of triple tracking, where the emphasis is educator learning, how it applies to other adult learners and how it applies in the classroom.

Content is the primary focus and the digital tools are secondary to the learning.

However, this would not be possible had we not been intentional about cultivating our own knowledge by attending conferences, such as the ISTE Conference & Expo, or keeping a pulse on the latest research about learning and theory. More importantly, we make every effort to dedicate time to our own calibration as a team to ensure our focus remains on instruction and how technology can enhance quality teaching.

All educators are on a continuum as learners, so it’s imperative that you leverage the ISTE Standards strategically. Make sure you offer multiple entry points for a learner whether they’re individuals, teams or school community learning opportunities. To do this, we create professional learning sessions that range from simply creating awareness about a topic to advanced sessions that further develop and/or reinforce key skill sets.

Individual learning opportunities

We invite all PK-12 educators from across the district to attend PD sessions that highlight specific instructional strategies that address the ISTE Student Standards. Our individual learning opportunities include:

ISTE Standards Suite: These seven professional learning sessions offer a deep dive into each of the ISTE Student Standards. Some sessions span multiple days because they require more time to explore and process.

Teacher Leader Network: This professional learning option was designed with emphasis on the ISTE Computational Thinker standard and the K-12 Computer Science Framework.

Team and school community learning opportunities

The focus of this PD is on transforming educator behaviors through visioning, planning, coaching and implementation. At the core of this work are the ISTE Standards for Education Leaders that highlight the skills and dispositions we are aiming for. On an ongoing basis, we provide a three-day cohort training for school leadership teams to learn about our key initiatives and develop their instructional technology plans, which they adapt for their school context.
The Practitioner School Program, now in its third year, trains leading-edge school instructional leadership teams to embed the ISTE Standards into their instructional practice.

In the first year, schools piloted a learning management system to demonstrate the Empowered Learner standard. During the second year, they learned about the Computational Thinker standard and its implications for interdisciplinary instruction. This year, the emphasis is on using the Innovative Designer standard to facilitate the work around innovative practices in solving schools’ most pressing problems of practice.

Practitioner Schools are assigned an instructional technology facilitator (ITF), or coach, who guides them in implementing the school’s goals. The ITFs receive weekly professional learning support by the main ITI staff to ensure they are up to date on instructional practices, research and resources. Our ITFs provide coaching and PD facilitation support informed and guided by the ISTE Student, Educator and Education Leader Standards.

Lastly, your district will need to connect professional learning with concrete tangible next steps through a plan of action.

In all models of professional development, the ITI team ensures that participants are engaged in experiential learning connected to their roles and personalized to their school context.

For individual learning opportunities, such as the ISTE Suite, ITI uses a 2+1 approach that involves two consecutive days of content and lesson planning, after which participants go back to their classrooms and have a week to try out the lesson they planned. During the third session, participants reconvene to reflect on the lesson and engage in a Critical Friends Protocol, where each participant gives and receives feedback to refine their lessons.

Team learning opportunities, such as the Instructional Technology Planning Cohort, support participants in developing their school’s instructional technology plan. This plan is based on ITI’s PD content that includes instructional technology vision, personalized learning, digital citizenship and change management, among others.

What makes this learning session unique is that schools now align their specific instructional goals and priorities by focusing on the action steps to achieve them. Our schools are required by the state to have a Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA), where school leaders outline how they will meet English language arts, mathematics and other content standards. The ITI helps school leaders create their SPSA with an ISTE Standards lens. School leaders can then articulate how digital tools and resources aligned with ISTE Standards practices can help meet their instructional goals.

This plan also helps schools complete the responsible use policy, parent acknowledgement and social media policies for both educators and students, and the Common Sense Education digital citizenship certification for educators and the school.

For the Practitioner Schools Program, school Innovative Designer (ID) teams create a plan for addressing a problem of practice (POP). The POP is then translated as the design challenge for the school to solve throughout the year using a design process. Some examples of design challenges that have surfaced from our schools include:

  • How might we leverage digital tools and resources coupled with strong first instruction so that we don’t have afterschool intervention? 
  • How might we reimagine our PD to incorporate everyone’s talents, skills and abilities and to create a community of shared learning?
  •  How might we incorporate the district’s free enterprise apps and tools in lesson design to promote access and inclusion of students with disabilities in standards-based, rigorous instruction?

Based on these “How might we” statements, ITI supports the ID teams by mapping out action steps for the year in collaboration with the ITF. All Practitioner Schools collaborate on design challenges to foster a collaborative and communal approach to solving common educational challenges by leveraging digital tools and resources.

Exemplars Model

To share promising practices, ITI launched the Exemplars Model, a dynamic curation of instructional examples from across the district featuring school leaders engaging in personalized learning. In this model, educators explore instructional practices that demonstrate key frameworks, such as the ISTE Standards, the SAMR model and the ITI Leading with Instruction Progress Report.

The key takeaways of the ITI experience is to lead with instruction through ISTE Standards-based professional development. With the ISTE Education Leader Standards, you, too, can leverage digital tools and resources to not only accelerate student learning, but also cultivate innovative practices among school and district leadership so they are empowered to effect consistent systemwide change.

For more information on ITI’s approach to designing personalized professional learning experiences, please see our latest progress report, Leading with Instruction. Follow us on Twitter@ ITI_LAUSD.

Sophia Mendoza is the director of LAUSD’s Instructional Technology Initiative (ITI). Allison Jonas is the readiness and integration coordinator for the ITI. Dominic Caguioa is the readiness and integration specialist for the ITI.