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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
Reimagining the future
More than education technology — building better than before
By Thomas Tan | March | April 2023
It was March 13, 2020 when the president declared a National State of Emergency due to coronavirus. Mandatory masking. Social distancing. Hand sanitizer. Ventilation systems. Electrostatic disinfectant spraying. Temperature checks.
With COVID infection and deaths data counts falling from their highs, we hope that the darkest days of the global pandemic are behind us.
The unrivaled disruption of our K-12 education system has a flip side — we are provided with the opportunity to reimagine our education system. Where can we go and grow from here? Lessons learned include organizing to support distance learning and teaching online, along with the near total adoption of laptops for every student. Like the mythical phoenix, we have the opportunity to rise from the ashes of COVID and rise, re imaging and building a better education system.
Mental blocks and preferences for the known vs. the unknown drive a desire to return to the old “normal,” the education system that existed before the pandemic. The backward-looking bias and desire for the comfortable good old days before COVID saps the energy, desire and curiosity required for innovation, stopping progress cold. Overcoming this resistance to change are imperatives that take priority. An example of this is a forward-looking district strategic plan. These shine lights into the future and guide district efforts. As stated by Ruben Puentedra, creator of the SAMR technology usage model, “Attempts to return to variants of the ‘old normal’ are not just futile — they are also likely to be actively harmful” (CoSN, 2022). Returning to the obsolete “normal” is not possible. We are left with the opportunity to create something new, to start re imaging and creating a better education system. There is hope, and with it opportunity, as we put distance between ourselves and the most difficult years of COVID.
Lessons learned from COVID: The technology slingshot
A technology slingshot forward occurred, made possible by generous federal and state COVID funding. We were able to provide laptop access for every student, deployment of cloud-based learning systems such as Canvas and pervasive video conferencing via Zoom (or Google Meets, etc). Considerable commitments of federal funding continue to support distance learning, student access and infrastructure such as wireless network hotspots. We can surrender the imperfect past while designing a more effective teaching and learning future using our new technology tools.
More than technology alone for successful change
But change is not simply technology hardware and services. Stanford University researchers identified that the elements of technological change include: 1) the technology itself, 2) changes in human skills and capacity, 3) process level changes and 4) overall organizational change to take full advantage of the technological change. Neglecting any one of these areas results in a suboptimal and perhaps even flawed implementation and use. The following is the story of the next steps and ongoing implementation to reap the benefits of better teaching, learning and collaboration through technology.
Technology environmental scan: The right focus, not every shiny object
“What are other industries doing … that are using innovations better than we are?” — Dr. Cynthia Guerrero, Assistant Superintendent, Education Services Classroom of the Future discussion (June 2022)
Rebuilding the past is not an option. A careful evaluation and inventory of education technology and systems is required. It may be the case that a district has accumulated over time a wild array of costly and disjointed programs that no longer fit the future vision. And in this case, it is OK to carefully and deliberately say “no” and terminate such barnacles on your ship. Because like barnacles, these distractions to learning slow down progress, sapping time, energy and funding from the focus of the strategic plan and district initiatives.
To quote Pablo Picasso (or Steve Jobs), “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” It’s practical to borrow great ideas from other schools or districts. But beware of foolishly just duplicating a program and expecting success. There is a price to be paid to earn the knowledge about why a technology or program is effective to get the most value. Copying from other schools and districts is not a strategy. Much like copycat products, a copycat program is often of inferior quality, because it was built lacking the knowledge that was required to make the original successful. It’s the same advice we give students: don’t copy your homework from your friends; you won’t learn anything and you cheat yourself.
The district strategic plan: Alignment, focus and student success
The 2022-2027 Strategic Plan for the Huntington Beach City School District was the culmination of more than a year’s work by the HBCSD Board of Trustees, staff, parents and community partners. The guiding ideas of the refreshed mission and vision, new learner profile and strategic plan will help launch the district into a hopeful future — a future in which our HBCSD community of students, staff and families thrive. This plan will guide the work of the district over the next five years by establishing focus areas for the district, identifying specific priority goals based on data and developing a framework to measure progress. This could not have been accomplished without the engagement and contributions of the entire school community. The partnership of our entire HBCSD community is collectively focused to ignite young minds to reach for a bright future.
Literacy coaches: How humans learn best
“It’s super hard to learn to read…there’s no reading gene passed down generation to generation. Every single brain has to be taught to read.” — Dr. Doug Fisher, www.literacyjunkie.com
“Coaching is a form of professional development that brings out the best in people, uncovers strengths and skills, builds effective teams, cultivates compassion, and builds emotionally resilient educators. Coaching at its essence is the way that human beings and individuals have always learned best.”
— Elena Aguilar, “The Art of Coaching Effective Strategies for School Transformation”
The district strategic plan developed during COVID identified the priority goals of increasing proficiency scores in English Language Arts. With this identified student need, Literacy Coaches were created. Selected from district teachers, the four members of the Literacy Coach team together have more than 80 years of teacher-classroom experience. Literacy Coaches have received ongoing Coaching for Excellence professional development from the Orange County Department of Education and Literacy & Language Network with OCDE Education Services: Curriculum, Instruction & Academic Enrichment Unit. OCDE provided four days of professional development on instructional coaching with the objective of how to be an effective, transformative and impactful instructional coach. This helps to refine coaching skills and develops a structure for the day-to-day work of a coach as well as coaching strategies.
Eight ways to collaborate with a Literacy Coach are:
1. Questions planning with your literacy coach. 2. Teaching together/co-teaching; watching as your coach teaches. 3. Letting your coach watch as you teach. 4. Having regular conversations. 5. Analyzing data together. 6. Participating in professional development opportunities. 7. Joining a study group and celebrating. 8. Reflecting on successes and obstacles.
Everyone needs a coach. Coaches can help the best become better. Olympic athletes have coaches. The US Navy “Top Gun” program coaches fighter pilots to be better. To quote basketball legend Michael Jordan, “A coach is someone who sees beyond your limits and guides you to greatness.” Coaching, as defined by J. Knight, is a partnership approach to improving performance (Knight, 2007). Coaches work alongside educators as collaborators, helping them incorporate research-based practices into their classroom instruction. But coaching is more than the one-on-one partnership described above. Coaches are real-time professional development.
Education research-based strategy: The art and science of teaching
“The Marzano ‘New Art and Science of Teaching’ provided us a common language to talk about instruction … teachers are incredibly creative … with research-based strategy combined with the art of what works for my kids … very powerful … improving learning outcomes for every kid.” — Dr. Leisa Winston, Superintendent, Huntington Beach City School District (Nov 8, 2022 at PTA/PTSA Presidents meeting)
The HBCSD Strategic Plan Focus Area 5 on Leadership Development called for increased use of data and educational research to drive decision-making. A look at district data indicated a need for an instructional framework, or shared understanding, of best first instruction. In July 2022, a contract was approved with Robert Marzano for professional development. The district provided professional development with Marzano on the “New Art and Science of Teaching” with a focus on reading. This allows the district share a common language about instructional practices and provides a guide, or roadmap, to assist school sites in identifying when to use specific strategies to increase engagement and learning throughout the lesson/unit plans.
Coupled with the coaching training, it helps instructional staff support students and allows staff to understand and speak the same language about instructional practices.
The large number of Marzano strategies can appear overwhelming. However, as stated by HBCSD Director of Education Services Dr. Danielle Ramierez, “You don’t have to use all the Marzano strategies at once. Start with a couple. Doing so will help you become braver and try other strategies.” Below are the initial Marzano strategies we will focus on for 2022-2023.
Marzano Classroom Strategies & Behaviors:
#2: Tracking Student Progress #4: Using Informal Whole-Class Assessment #42: Asking In-Depth Questions of Reluctant Learners
The guiding ideas of the refreshed mission and vision, new learner profile, and strategic plan will help launch the district into a hopeful future — a future in which our HBCSD community of students, staff and families thrive.
Technology Committee: Reimagined, evolved and reborn
The deep freeze of the years of COVID presented the opportunity to reimagine the district Technology Committee. The sole district Technology TOSA accepted a promotion to middle school administration. To align with the district strategic plan and academic achievement goals, the decision was made to not fill the vacant Technology TOSA position. Instead, a broad base of capacity would be built through Technology Committee site representatives from each school site. Teachers were sought who were willing to share their practices using Clever, Canvas, the interactive classroom technology and our other technology software used with our students and in classrooms. Paid a stipend of $1,000 per year, the site Technology Committee representatives will bring their best practices to the district’s Technology Committee to share what their learnings with school site staff. In a change from past practice, the teachers and committee would not be tasked with issues of technology repair and maintenance. The committee will focus on:
  • Provide curricular consultation, resources, model lessons and technical assistance for the integration of technology into all classrooms.
  • Assist site staff in implementation of SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition) Model, 4Cs, innovation, 21st century skills & strategies, Marzano’s Art and Science of Teaching with Technology to build personal capacity and staff capacity.
  • Coordinate, develop, and deliver technology training programs for the school community and new staff in the area of:
– Curriculum integration of technology, – Technology awareness and advancements, – Educational application of appropriate computer programs or resources, – Canvas Learning Management System, and – Best practices in technology integration and 21st century skills.
Onward: HBCSD thrives
COVID helped bring many technologies to school districts. A slingshot forward with distance learning, laptop access for every student, online systems such as the Canvas Learning Management System, Zoom/Google Meets web conferencing and interactive classroom technology. However, as the Leavitt’s Diamond model illustrates, success in the use of technology also requires careful attention to organization, process and people (Leavitt, 1972).
For HBCSD, these have taken the form of a new district Strategic plan, Literacy Coaches and professional development based on education research from Marzano. The future is based on what we do today. Looking forward, our district theme for this year captures it all: “HBCSD Thrives.”
Consortium of School Networking (CoSN), “Driving K-12 Innovation: 2022 Hurdles and Accelerators,” 2022. https://www.cosn.org/edtech-topics/driving-k-12-innovation/hurdles-accelerators/
Huntington Beach City School District, Mission, Vision, and Strategic Plan. https://www.hbcsd.us (2022)
Huntington Beach City School District, Literacy Coaches (Website). https://www.literacycoachhb.com/
Huntington Beach City School District, Literacy Coaches (Instagram). https://www.instagram.com/literacy_coaches_hb
Knight, Jim, “Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction.” Corwin Press, 2007.
Leavitt, Harold J., “Managerial Psychology.” Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972.
Marzano, Robert J., “The New Art and Science of Teaching (More Than Fifty New Instructional Strategies for Academic Success)” (The New Art and Science of Teaching Book Series), 2017.
Marzano, Robert J. and Sonny Magana, “Enhancing the Art & Science of Teaching with Technology” (Classroom Strategies), 2013.
Orange County Department of Education (OCDE): “Learning Supports Unit, Coaching for Excellence.” https://ocde.us/EducationalServices/LearningSupports/Pages/default.aspx
Thomas Tan is the Executive Director of Technology Services with the Huntington Beach City School District.
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