I had hoped to write all day today (because I’ll be at the CLMS conference in Monterey this weekend), but there was far too much work to do and one thing continued to lead to another until dinner time. Thankfully, as soon as Eva left for Tennis I started writing, and here is the next section of my KAM… the second of ten for the depth portion, to be followed by my annotated bibliography and the application portion of the KAM.
I find that as I write I seem to be recommending that schools set about becoming professional learning communities in order to increase the likelihood of educational technology change initiatives being successful. As I reflect on this, I realize that this is indeed exactly what I mean to be suggesting. I think this is an important point… just as a computer in a classroom won’t make much difference if the teacher is not working with a constructivist pedagogy, so a major change intiative won’t make a difference in a school if the culture is not explicitly or essentially a professional learning community. This statement sits well with my experience of educational technology and organizational change.
At any rate, here is section two of the depth portion of my KAM. Now on to section three for me…
2. Establish Mission, Vision, Values, and Goals
Establishing a professional learning community (PLC) is important to the success of school change initiatives, and a critical step in establishing a PLC is to generate a shared sense of mission and vision as well as shared values and goals.
In order for any large-scale or long-term change to be successful in an educational institution, the organization must have a sense of mission, or what DuFour and Eaker (1998) also called a shared “sense of purpose” (p. 59). This is not unlike the imperative of moral purpose that Fullan called for (in the breadth portion of this KAM). According to DuFour and Eaker (1998), a school mission statement must answer the question “why do we exist?” (p. 58). Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) described the need for a cultural shift from generic mission statements to specific “statements that clarify what students will learn… how we will know what the students are learning… [and] how the school will respond when students do not learn” (p. 13). Roberts and Pruitt (2003) stated this economically when they explained that “a mission statement is a brief, succinct statement that explains the purpose for which a school exists” (p. 30). Without such a mission statement it would be impossible to know whether or not a change initiative, such as the implementation of video games and simulations as constructivist learning environments would help the school achieve its purpose.
The vision statement, then, answers the question “what do we hope to become? Whereas mission establishes an organization’s purpose, vision instills an organization with a sense of direction” (DuFour and Eaker, 1998, p. 62). Roberts and Pruit (2003) described a shared vision as “a shared image of what you desire your school to look like in the future” (p. 30). DuFour and Eaker suggested that the process of crafting a vision statement include representatives of the school, district, parents, community, and local businesses (p. 67). Roberts and Pruitt (2003) agreed, noting that it is particularly “important that teachers be involved from the inception of the vision building process if they are to share in and commit to putting the vision into practice” (p. 30). DuFour and Eaker (1998) cautioned, though, that “informed decisions require informed groups and individuals” (p. 69) who are “operating from a research base” (p. 70). If a diverse selection of stakeholders are to be responsible for a school vision, school leadership must invest in building the representatives’ capacity for vision building. Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) also described the need for a cultural shift from “average statements (or wish lists) that are dictated (or developed by a few) and that are often ignored to… statements that are research based, credible, focused on essentials, used as a blueprint for improvement, and widely shared through broad collaboration” (p. 14). Huffman and Hipp (2003), inspired by Hord’s model (discussed in the previous section of this KAM) included shared vision in their model of the professional learning community as well. Once the vision is established, it should play “a significant role in all aspects of the daily work life of a principal and its importance should be reflected in the principal’s behavior” (Roberts & Pruit, 2003, p. 36). As Wald and Castleberry (2000) wrote, “to sustain this communal energy and hope, the leader must hold the vision high for all to see, constantly revisit it, expand on it, and continuously help members of the community connect with it and find ways to personalize it and make it their own.” This is especially true for change agents who are helping educators learn to use new technologies, such as video games and simulations, to improve learning in their schools.
Values are even more specific than mission and vision statements. DuFour, and Eaker (1998) explain that “while a mission statement asks the school to consider why it exists, and a vision statement asks what it might become, a statement of core values asks people to clarify how they intent to make their shared vision a reality” (p. 88). Despite the increased specificity, they recommend that schools write value statements that are few in number, brief, linked directly to the vision statement, and focused on behavior (rather than beliefs) – and on the school (rather than others, such as parents or the district) (p. 95-97). Later, Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) described the need for a cultural shift from “from values that are random, excessive in number, articulated as beliefs, an focusing on the self to… values that are linked to vision, few in number, used as a blueprint for improvement, and are articulated as behaviors and commitments” (p. 16). Huffman and Hipp (2003), inspired by Hord’s model (discussed in the previous section) also included shared values in their model of the professional learning community. Wald and Castleberry (2000) identified “the next challenge of leadership… making visible these mutually held values and beliefs” (p. 22), and this is as much a challenge for an educational technologist as it is for a principal.
Finally, goals describe what steps will be taken and when (DuFour and Eaker, 1998, p. 100). DuFour and Eaker noted that it is especially important that “a school improvement plan must be attentive to creating some clear, discernible victories., not just hoping for them” (p. 101). They went on to explain that “effective goals will specify:
- Exactly what is to be accomplished
- The specific steps that will be taken to achieve the goal.
- The individual or group responsible for initiating and/or sustaining each step toward achieving the goal.
- The timeline for each phase of the activity.
- The criteria to be used in evaluating progress toward the goal.” (DuFour and Eaker, 1998, p. 101-102)
Again, Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) described the need for a cultural shift:
“from statements that are random, excessive in number, focused on means rather than ends, impossible to assess or measure, and not monitored, to… statements that are linked to the vision, few in number, focused on desired outcomes, translated into measurable performance standards, monitored continuously, and designed to produce short-term wins and also stretch aspirations” (Eaker, DuFour, &DuFour, 2002, p. 17)
For Wald and Castleberry (2000), it was important that “members of the [professional learning] community are aligned around common goals” (p. 4). Huffman and Hipp (2003) identified “a set of attainable reform goals with long time lines for accomplishing them” (p. 4) as one of the characteristics of reforms with the most promise. Hord (2004), too, called for “clear goals for high-quality learning” (p. 12) as part of her model for professional learning communities.
An educational technologist or change agent responsible for the integration of video games and simulations into the learning culture of a school must also offer this level of specificity and guidance in order for their visions (or more importantly, the school’s shared vision for these technologies) to be realized. Each of these levels, mission, vision, values, and goals, must be addressed for a change initiative to have the best chance of success. Naturally, this will be most likely if the school has already developed the culture of a professional learning community.