Monday, January 19, 2015

Transforming Today’s Classrooms

When Dr. Will asked us to guest blog, we were honored to collaborate with such a passionate educator committed to transforming today's classrooms. Like Dr. Will, we are dedicated to guiding school leaders and their teaching staff in implementing changes in teaching and learning through innovative approaches such as facilitated, flipped, blended, online, and personalized learning.

Though not a book about technology, Transforming Ice Age Schools, serves as a catalyst for instructional change. It is a leadership book that informs site and district leaders by introducing practical tools useful in approaching learning needed for this century and beyond. Our premise is that education, as most of us know it, has remained virtually unaltered since the Middle Ages. Instead, new initiatives and approaches have simply been layered on top of conventional programs of study. The structures in classrooms are still traditional and familiar.

We liken this historical layering in our system to an educational glacier. Yet with any glacier, when it reaches a critical depth and width, it begins to reshape itself and move. With global, and digital advances and information exploding, the critical depth and width of reform necessary for schools is compelling... and the necessary shift in educational paradigms of learning is now.

Of course, no one can move a glacier alone, but we can all move ice cubes. Our book prepares leaders to identify those ice cubes that are transformational leverage points. Utilizing our practical tools, school principals and district office leaders can collectively melt the glacier in their schools and unearth transformation in their organizations beneath. 

In Chapter five Indicators for Teacher Instruction, we offer principals classroom instructional observational tools to analyze the indicators of quality instruction in their classrooms. These indicators include behaviors that demonstrate, for example, “the art of questioning” and other approaches that demonstrate teachers are embracing 21st century learning approaches. Particularly for those interested in blended learning, we highlight chapter six on Innovative Student Learning. This chapter identifies key characteristics of today's learners and why we must engage them in new ways. The following excerpt exemplifies the call to action we make to leaders when critically looking at classrooms in their own schools:

Instructional design can also be useful in providing authenticity and higher engagement. For example blended and flipped approaches allow students to maximize modern tools. Individualized digital curriculum provides adaptive software and immediate feedback for students to work at their own pace. Project, inquiry, design, and challenge-based learning models offer real life problems to explore and solve within collaborative groups. Developing world languages enables students to connect at intimate levels with others from around the world.

Of course, technology is a critical tool in many of these approaches, however we remind leaders that true transformation starts with effective instruction. If you would like to experience more blended learning approaches, or other innovative student learning methods in your own schools, we would like to welcome you to our PLN. By collaborating with each other about how to implement these changes, we will transform our ice age schools and melt the educational glacier once and for all!

Meet the Authors:

Lisbeth Johnson, Ed.D. was born in North Carolina and raised in Harlem, New York City . She moved to California in her teens and attended schools in Southern California. She received her doctorate degree in education in 2002 from the University of La Verne and completed her dissertation on the topic of Integrating Instruction with Technology. She has worked in educational settings for forty years  in Pre-Schools, Kindergarten and K-12,  through Post- Secondary institutions. She has been a teacher, reading resource support instructor, a Principal, Director and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and a Superintendent.

With a passion for on-going learning, Lisbeth is inspired to coach schools that are attempting to instruct students in the digital and twenty-first century environment. She recently received a Leading Edge Certification  for Online Learning and Teaching, adding new learning and expertise to her repertoire on the value of using Web 2.0 tools for student learning. In her retirement Lisbeth continues to teach at a University, and enjoys in her off-time the support of travel to far-away places with a loving family.

Born and raised in New England, Leighangela Brady received both her B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Connecticut. Now living in San Diego, she earned her Ed.D. in educational leadership from San Diego State University. Dr. Brady has taught in various teaching assignments from kindergarten through fifth grade. Later she served as an academic literacy coach for teachers. This position ignited an already sparked passion for curriculum and instruction and helped to further develop her strength as a curriculum leader. 

Dr. Brady is a former principal of a K-6 elementary school. As a site administrator, educational consultant, and instructional leader, Dr. Brady is passionate about quality education and effective leadership. She is a current Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services working to transform the schools in her own district. She is an author of Test Less, Assess More: A K-8 Guide to Formative Assessmentand presents annually at national and international conferences. Leighangela is a wife and mother, and plans to retire one day at her home in the Fiji Islands.

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