Education leaders seeking to advance digital age learning and transform their schools need but one thing to be successful. Connectivity. But not the kind of connectivity you’re imagining.
It’s connectivity to people that will allow education leaders to change learning and teaching, according to S. Dallas Dance, superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) in Towson, Maryland, and a member of the ISTE Board of Directors.
“In education, we want to continue to move the work forward. It can get done by connecting to each other,” he said.
A leading education change agent, Dance knows what it takes to transform schools. At BCPS, he’s leading a multiyear transformation to prepare 110,000 students to graduate globally competitive. Soon after he became superintendent in 2012, he brought the community together to develop a five-year strategic plan focused on improving academics, safety, communication and organizational effectiveness. And he’s leading the charge to shift learning and teaching by emphasizing personalized learning and implementing a 1:1 digital learning initiative.
Schools need to ask why
He said evolving toward a high performing, connected learning and teaching environment all starts with another single word: why?
“Schools need to figure out their own internal diagnostic answer to why. Why do we believe this is the route to take? You have to answer the ‘why’ to get buy-in from the community,” Dance explained.
When BCPS began its transformation, it started with 18 months of discussions about what school personnel were trying to do. Those discussions took place internally among staff at all levels and by studying research into 1:1 environments and BYOD, and externally with community members. “Unless you build a case for awareness of how technology allows us to personalize learning, people automatically go to money concerns,” Dance explained.
After connecting and identifying their response to why, education leaders must establish a growth mindset. Everyone must believe that regardless of their role, they have room to grow. A culture of risk taking and innovation has to be the norm.
“Everyone has to understand their role for the system to work. We update the entire organization quarterly about what we are doing,” Dance said. Key performance indicators for every department keep the work moving forward.