What is… Community Mindset in a Blended Learning Environment

Our guest blogger for this week is Kim Halley, Chief Academic Officer for Hilliard City Schools.

I have a sign in my office that says, “Enjoy the Journey”. The message resonates with me because I need the reminder to enjoy rather than stress about the journey of change. I like to have the details ‘right’ but change is not like that…it is messy! Forward progress and improvement of any type requires us to take a chance, try new things, and become comfortable with an uncertain outcome. Most of the time, our brave attempts are mostly successful. Even if our attempts have a few bumps along the road, we can learn. If we reflect, we can improve the next try.

As a district, we have committed to embedding a Blended Learning environment across our system. The vision has been cast and 7 Characteristics have been developed. Now, the real work begins…for all of us!

During Convocation 2014, Dr. Marschhausen challenged each of us to choose one or two areas of the Blended Learning vision to work upon. The key is to select one or two—not all seven. Real change in any endeavor requires focus, support and feedback. As you implement blended learning into your professional practice, I would encourage you to:

 1. Focus on a few specific changes

Start small, write down your goals, remind yourself of your pursuit often, and record your progress!

2. Seek support

Engage others that you trust to help you. Find people who are a little ahead of you on the learning path and learn from them. Be open and ask questions. I bet there is an ‘expert’ in your building down the hall. Most of us love to help someone else learn new things. We are teachers, you know! Another option to our educational growth is Twitter. It is a great professional learning tool that allows us to learn at 11pm or 5am in your PJs if that suits us.

3. Gather feedback

Ask others how you are doing; the students might be a good place to begin.

The first characteristic of the district’s Blended Learning vision is “Community Mindset”. To me, this is a culture. It is felt rather than seen. It is a belief system of the teachers and administrators that can be built with the students. Community Mindset is a shift from a traditional teacher-student relationship. It is a partnership and a shared experience in which the teacher learns from the students, too. A good litmus test for me to assess implementation of “Community Mindset”: Who ‘owns’ the learning in the classroom? Who is doing the work? Who controls the learning pathway? Are all students demonstrating their learning in the same way?

It is an exciting time to be an educator in Hilliard City Schools! We have the freedom to try new approaches and truly use our creativity to change lives everyday. We can be difference makers!