11 Insights to Shifting School Culture

School Culture. It’s one of those things that everyone seems to be talking about, but struggle to define let alone demonstrate.

George Couros, principal, author, and recognized speaker, has been a leading voice on the topic, so when we came across his article on 11 Ideas for Fostering an Innovative Culture, we had to share. (We’ve abbreviated a bit, but feel free to explore the complete article.)

  1. Embrace an Open Culture
    “…Heard of Gangnam Style“?  Me too.  In the world that we live in, ideas can spread rapidly through networks, but they have to first be visible. Using software such as “SharePoint” does not necessarily help this notion (or I haven’t yet seen examples of a viral idea being shared through “SharePoint”), but if we go to networks that are open and participatory such as YouTube and Twitter, great ideas have the opportunity to spread.  If these great ideas spread, we are more likely to create a positive culture in schools than if we kept them to ourselves…”
  2. Ensure Learning is the Focus
    “Too often when we have “edtech” positions, many educators believe that it is time to put away their math lesson and focus on using technology. This is not going to push learning ahead.  As a school division, we explicitly focus on creating positions that focus on learning first, so that innovation can come from all classes, not simply technology courses.  The focus on learning for many educators helps them to see the relevant use of technology in their classrooms and how it can transform the classroom experience.”

    Related resource: Planning with Purpose: A Look at Effective PD
  3. Encourage Digital Leadership
    “Students live in a tough time, and sometimes I believe that they are held to a much higher standard than we were as kids.  When they screw up, it is more public than ever…Instead of looking simply at how quickly things can go negative with kids and social media, could we not think they can move in a positive direction just as fast?  We have to start pushing kids to use technology to not only be, but to make a difference.”

    Related resource: Getting Social Media R.I.G.H.T.
  4. Narrow the Focus
    “Technology tools and software are inundating schools, and far too often, we focus on using EVERYTHING as opposed to using a few tools in a powerful and transformative way…”
  5. Develop Leaders
    “In any initiative, creating systems is more important than one charismatic leader.  For those structures to take place, leadership needs to be developed in different areas…Too many times, we place too much emphasis on the knowledge of one, which causes issues of time for one person to carry out an entire initiative, or even worse, the initiative falls apart when that individual leaves.  It is essential that we develop leadership in all areas of school…”
  6. Find a Balance
    “Too many times an initiative can fail because there is not the support that is needed to ensure that the community is successful.  If you want something to work, you have to be willing to put the resources into the initiative.  On the other hand, if there is ample support, yet no pressure to move ahead, many will consider the learning unimportant.  There has to be a balance, while also understanding that people are at different points…”
  7. Lead with Learning (Not Tech)
    “Information Technology services are so essential to the creation and fostering of an innovative culture, but to be honest, they should not be leading the way.  Educators should be leading the way; I.T. should be creating the conditions to ensure that they are successful…”
  8. Disrupt Routine
    “Frank Barrett tells a great story of how airline executives are stumped on how to create a more comfortable airline experience on their planes until a top ranking official decides to replace the beds in their hotel rooms with airline seats.  After that experience, they quickly come up with some great ideas. If you think of all the talk of how the classroom needs to change, why are we not restructuring we meet together as a staff or administrative team?...Start looking at the way we meet with one another as a way to model the learning that can be happening in schools…”

    Related resource: Overcoming Resistance to Change
  9. Partner with Parents
    “Parents are a huge untapped resource and with the way technology is used now, it is much easier to connect parents to the learning in the classroom… Imagine the difference in conversations that can be had at home.  Instead of a parent asking their child, “What did you learn today?”, with the child responding with the standard, “Nothing.”, the correspondence can change significantly.  A parent should now be able to say, “I read in your classroom blog that you learned about ________, can you tell me more about what that looked like?”  Totally different conversation that will more likely lead to a totally different answer…”

    Related resource: Improving Parent-Teacher Communications
  10. Focus on Strengths
    “Too often, we identify with what is wrong with our schools, as opposed to focusing on what is right.  With probably every initiative that is happening in your school, there are probably some experts that are there on site, yet we bring in the outside facilitators far too often.  We need to tap into these people and help them teach others, while also recognizing the strengths of others in different areas, and give them the opportunities to accelerate our learning as well…”
  11. Make it happen
    “…Do not simply allow a “rule” or “policy” to be the end of a great idea.  Figure out how to work within your system to foster innovation and creativity.  I am not saying to be subversive, but ask hard questions and lead people to continuously ask the question, “What is best for kids?” If you can continue to focus on that last statement, and you really want to make it happen, you will find a way.”

Schools today are facing high dropout rates coupled with low levels of student engagement – and a shift in school culture might just be the turning point.

Angela Maiers, creator of the “You Matter” movement that has helped learners re-engage in the learning experience, is another leading voice on transforming school culture. Along with Atomic Learning, Maiers has developed online courses that follow the R.I.G.H.T. framework, an acronym with emphasis on doing thing the correct way—getting it right—as the video below describes.

For more information on accessing Angela Maiers’ courses on Getting Technology R.I.G.H.T. and Getting Social Media R.I.G.H.T., as well as others focused on digital literacy, the You Matter message, and more, visit www.AtomicLearning.com/angela-maiers.

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