Magazine article District Administration

Team Effort Paves Way for Personalized Learning: New Jersey District Built Excitement for Change by Getting Teachers Involved Early and Intensively

Magazine article District Administration

Team Effort Paves Way for Personalized Learning: New Jersey District Built Excitement for Change by Getting Teachers Involved Early and Intensively

Article excerpt

As a leader in a school system today, it can be difficult to make the choice to move forward with a districtwide change, knowing that the team around you may not fully endorse your decision. For us, the implementation of personalized learning across Freehold Township Schools in New Jersey was a move we knew would require all hands on-deck. It was the best decision for our students, and our teachers were going to be the ones making major changes to their lessons. Because of this, we made sure to include many teachers in the process from the start--building excitement and early buy-in for the work. This is how we made change happen--and how you can, too.

Make it fun

As we embarked on our journey, the first activity we performed as a team was the Marshmallow Challenge--to show the power of iteration and that it is OK to fail forward. For those unfamiliar with it, the Marshmallow Challenge is a team-building activity where you are given 18 minutes to build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string and one marshmallow. When the time runs out, the structure must be standing with the marshmallow on top. Our message upon completion was, "If we wait for it to be perfect, it's too late." We also showed the documentary Most Likely to Succeed (http://www.mltsfilm.org/) and read A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Lmagination for a World of Constant Change (http://DAmag. me/dtjb) by Doug Thomas and John Seely Brown, to reinforce the need for change. And we used Twitter feeds, slides, Google Q&A, collaborative apps and more to collect and amplify teachers' opinions so that we could grow and build together.

Make it a team effort

Because we want our teachers to be the leaders of their own learning, we invited them to design programs, lead professional development, write blogs, arrange book groups, and be an ongoing part of vetting digital content. …

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