This week we were visited by the Stanford Research Institute and they are doing a case study on Byron High School. As you may, or may not know, Byron High school won the 2011 Intel School of Distinction award for their innovative math program. The experience was amazing and the opportunity – exciting. (See my capture of the moment we won – BEWARE turn down your speakers)
This could be viewed as a breakthrough moment for our district as it was highly publicized and our math department opened their doors to other schools wanting to learn from them. The school innovation flywheel began to spiral. Since the award in 2011, we have had many “break throughs” in education innovation including Hybrid Learning, ePortfolios for all students grades 7-12, Our first annual Innovation Fair, 1:1 iPad Pilots in Grade 7 as well a few 1:1 carts (K, 2, and FACS) and the addition of the Digital Learning Coach this year a “flipped PD” edtech coaching model.
I was asked – What was it that led your district to this exciting journey? Hmmm. I really couldnt pinpoint it. We have always had moments here in Byron that have been considered innovative. We went completely wireless in the district and gave every teacher a laptop in 2002. In 2005 we created a 3 year tech plan that included SMART boards in every classroom. We built a new High School in 2006. Data Coaches came in 2007 and in 2008 we began our PLC journey as well as our Online Learning committee. In 2009 we migrated to Infinite Campus and in 2010 we adopted Google Apps for Education (my personal favorite prior to winning Intel SODA).
We have had many schools come and visit us in the last year. When they do, we often hear comments like - I wish we could “bottle this up” (our culture) and bring it back to our districts. And then we hear about the roadblocks and challenges face. Our administrators are not on board. Our Tech director is a Network Nazi. Our Teacher contracts/climate would never support these ideas. I believe that in the problems other describe – lies the answer to the culture of innovation in our district.
BPS did not magically arrive to this wonderful place overnight. I believe the partnership between our board/administrators, tech, teachers, and community is what has helped our success in edtech innovation. Its ok to have new ideas and challenge the status quo. Our leaders remove barriers that stifle innovation (THIS IS BIG). Most of the most innovative ideas we have had – have not been a top down initiative. Teachers are allowed to take risks and lets face it – with risk comes failures. And its ok to fail – as long as you learn from it. Sometimes great ideas don’t work perfectly the first time around…. As a tech director I find that taking time to listen, reflect, and help resolve the issues… will improve outcomes for my teachers.
It is also important to listen to ideas around you. (I use Twitter for my outside of Byron idea catcher) Good ideas deserve your attention. Whether they are online, in a school district down the road, or ESPECIALLY in a classroom down the hall – sometime an idea just needs to be shared or encouraged to make it happen. Teachers that know they have their tech director and administration in their corner – are going to feel much more confident and empowered. And these empowered teachers have an amazing effect on students and their learning.
I am not sure if this is the perfect recipe for school innovation. But it certainly has helped move our district forward.