Shifting Pedagogy in Orange County, CA
Educators from across the Southern California Region of Orange County converged at National University in Costa Mesa on February 28th to discuss changes in teaching and learning and how to “go digital” sustainably. The day began at 8am and the mood in the room was of high attention to discuss real issues, solutions and to hear from peers on successes they’re having.
The opening Keynote came from LeiLani Cauthen, CEO and Publisher at the Learning Counsel. She spoke broadly on the state of the education market and what is being found from district to district when she travels throughout the country. “The education leaders we see city-by-city are, on average, deadly serious about better execution of digital,” she stated. “Conversations are thick with emotion and beyond ‘product’ and into systematic adaptations of the technical environment to suit a vision.
“Let me tell you some of the things we see as the challenges,” she continued, “so that, hopefully, today we can tackle those concerns and discuss working solutions.” She dove deep into the statistics and issues at hand, “First off, the statistics show that even though eighty to ninety percent of schools have network coverage, it’s not enough to support the burgeoning use of digital curriculum. Teachers are telling us that their Wi-Fi is not reliable or fast enough to support what the students need or expect. So, that is a number one concern—but one we’re finding is beginning to be address and considered as ‘emergency’ status.”
Further points LeiLani covered included how there is more loss of students to alternative modes of education than ever before, “you’ve also got more political pressure than ever to perform, more tests and policy change, having to do more, with less budget, and, finally, a situation of so many types of digital curriculum software and apps coming into districts from teachers that you’ve now got a hodge-podge of practices, some areas of teaching still on paper, some on digital, with most assets disjointedly used without fidelity.”
“The great news,” she stated, “is that so many executives are up to the challenge and making moves to transform—and that’s what we’re here to talk about today.”
The room included many teams who attended together to be able to collaborate and ensure all stayed on the same page as they gathered information for sustainable transition. Schools in attendance included: Coachella Valley USD, Lake Elsinore USD, Orange USD, Anaheim Union High School District, Pomona USD, Buena Park School District, Irvine USD, Orange County Dept of Ed, El Sol Science and Arts Academy.
Top of mind and openly discussed during the day was what’s happening in the classrooms and how many leaders in the room are looking more closely at what’s going on with teachers and students and digital curriculum. “It’s been a rough shift getting started so that teachers are using these devices and digital curriculum to differentiate instruction,” stated Michelle Murphy from Coachella Valley USD. “Our teachers have come a long way though, many have gone from the traditional ‘sage on the stage’ to more of a ‘guide by the side’ and facilitating. It’s working. We’re getting buy-in from the kids who are engaging with the options of choice.”
Presenters throughout the day from Orange County area school districts shared their stories, successes, failures and what they’ve learned through these last few years of building up their network infrastructure and retraining teachers to operate technology-centered classrooms. Several executives spoke about the concerns and difficulties their teachers are talking to them about.
A leadership exercise creatively titled, “the zombie apocalypse” challenged attendees to look at what they would do to set up and get teaching and learning going from virtually nothing with a limited budget if they had little of their established structure left. While seemingly funny at first it got real and demanded executives get smart about using the resources they had remaining (still living humans, internet and some vehicles and structures) to get school going again. Many realizations about how to shift thinking resulted.
As with all Digital Curriculum Sustainability Discussions, the day ended with a panel discussion which included Mike Magboo, Chief Technology Officer, Orange USD and Michelle Murphy, Chief Technology Officer of Coachella Valley USD. “Something that many addressed today and which is a key factor in this shift is how we approach teacher PD. Like we talk about personalizing instruction for the kids, we need to personalize PD as well,” stated Mike. “Let’s pull in adult learning theory and shift it. We’ve actually been treating our teachers the exact way we tell them not to treat their students. So, a lot of teachers check out during PD sessions. What we’ve done is create an embedded coaching model by putting TOSAs (Teachers on Special Assignment) into classrooms to work directly with teachers with a 4-week program and then having those teachers we worked with then help other teachers. It’s a scalable model and I’ve seen it work in Orange USD. We’re building good relationships with teachers and it’s working well for us.”
We look forward to seeing everyone in Orange County again next year and hearing about your successes and outcomes as we make our way in this time of change.