After 10-months, the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District’s Strategic Technology Plan has been presented to the school committee and is now complete. Our technology plan is a strong, one that will provide a guide for the district through the 2021-2022 school year. The following conclusion is a way I thought best to summarize the plan’s intent to rethink the purposes of schooling in the 21st century.
Nurturing innovative classrooms requires several major shifts. School communities need to agree on their vision for students. They need to develop assessments that measure progress toward desired learning goals, such as enhanced problem-solving and collaboration. Teachers need to co-construct new pedagogies and identify new instructional language to discuss preparing students for these goals and evaluating their progress.
The progression from developing our District vision and identifying learning goals to realizing systemic and innovative change is fraught with uncertainty and obstacles. We must encourage experimentation (and their potential failures) so that educators in the community can work through problems and gain an understanding of how technology can enhance classroom instruction. When teachers uncover innovative ways that technology engages students and nurtures their essential skills, they start to transform their instructional practices to suit our evolving technologically rich environment. The Educational Technology Department will provide the necessary support.
One way that we can nurture a culture of innovation is to create formal or informal “skunkworks.” Skunkworks, coined by aeronautics leader Lockheed Martin during World War II, are groups within an organization that are given special resources and protections, so they can innovate and reshape the future of the organization. These groups may informally congregate to discuss best practices and strategies for using technology in the classroom, or they can be formally sanctioned to develop and recommend strategies or tools to be shared with the faculty, administration and the Educational technology Department.
An institutional cycle of experimentation and reflection can reduce some of the individual or community anxieties about technology, while building institutional capacity and growth. Effective leaders in educational technology expect and anticipate failure, analyze instructional shortcomings, and use that information to better instructional practices. They work to build a consensus around learning priorities and emphasize how effective technology integration supports the institution’s primary learning goals. They encourage faculty to collaborate and share their experiences. They alert others to shortfalls and ineffective uses, and support faculty as they think more constructively and effectively about technology integration.
Ultimately, the real issue behind this strategic plan is not the technology we incorporate, but rather about our methodology, vision, and objectives as educators. This plan provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon the type of learning experiences we want to provide the students in our district and how the goal will be realized. Technology alone will not necessarily impact our thinking about teaching and learning, but mindful technology integration is a powerful way to engage our students and ourselves in answering important questions. We are hopeful that we will take full advantage of this opportunity to rethink the purposes of schooling in the 21st century.
(Photo is the G-D Tech Team working with incoming teachers prior to the first day of school.)