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Not My First Rodeo

After about a decade of being an instructional technology advocate from central office/state dept/university levels, I'm a year-and-a-half into my new career twist: school-based leadership.

One thing I bring to the new job focus is the old job skillset. So, when it was time for our school to write our new school improvement plan...what better way then to leverage some of the tools I've learned along the way?

We started with a wiki to gather the brainstorms of the various teams, departments, individuals, etc in the school. Though most on staff had never used one before, I would say the majority chimed in.

I started the process by not typing the names of everyone on the leadership team. Instead, I invited team members to type their own. This small step marked the beginning of the culture shift of empowerment on this project. From there, each leadership team member took the wiki, process, and ease-of-use messages to their respective teams. The result was broad brush participation and input truly representative of the many, not the elect.

A neat feature of the wiki is the history. For instance, the goal about Globally Competitive Students had 59 iterations. The evolution is documented by these arbitrary selections from the history:

 

We refined some of our brainstormed data through polls and surveys. I used PollDaddy, housed on my wordpress blog to narrow our...

 

The neat thing with the polls and surveys was the quick turnaround. We were able to publish the results immediately. This lent credibility to the process.

Now we are in the process of transferring much of the raw information from the wiki, polls, and surveys into the template. We are finding that the hard work is done. And we will be to the point of wordsmithing just after the holidays.

The result of using these tools was significant. What we put in the plan truly represents the whole school, not just the leadership or leadership team. This creates ownership.

In other turns in my career, I have been a voice (just one of many in the wilderness) to advocate such tools and models of work from the perspective of central administration. And I have used the tools and processes before in the development of district and state-level plans. But the participation was always marginal and often felt contrived.

Using blogs, wikis, and poll/survey apps for an authentic purpose within the context of a school is an entirely different feel. The tools, used correctly, definitely reflect a WE environment.

WE are Newport Elementary School and this will become OUR school improvement plan.

Joe Poletti

[cross-posted at the old LeaderTalk blog (including comments)]

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