Strategies for Use of Time: Our Digital Learning Framework
Most schools and districts have been increasingly conscious of their use of instructional time for the past several years. Schools have taken different approaches ranging from establishing relatively rigid schedules for content areas even at the lower elementary levels to adding additional time to the school day. While these are relatively large adjustments, there are some subtle changes that can be made to help districts and schools move toward an effective digital learning environment with respect to using time.
Using Time: Paint your picture
Most of us likely went to schools with structured amounts of time dedicated to each subject—55 minute blocks for example, which on many days seemed so long! As educators, this can seem like a terribly inadequate amount of time to accomplish complex, authentic tasks with students. It can be difficult, however, to picture school any other way. The first step in the process is to gather ideas of how to structure the day differently. It’s important to gather all the ideas, even those that seem impossible, ridiculous, or expensive. Even what seems like an unreasonable idea can promote thinking. Establish a location for keeping the ideas (like a GoogleDoc, discussion board, or Padlet), establish a timeframe for idea gathering, brainstorm some ideas of models to explore and people to interview, assign individuals to complete the agreed upon exploration, record ideas in the established location, and schedule several follow-up sessions to keep track of your progress. Ultimately, your team should use the ideas you gather to select strategies you can apply in your district and school in the future.
Using Time: What do you have to work with?
While we wish it were free, 24/7 learning environments require access to resources both inside and outside the school for educators, students, parents, and even community members. Realistically, a school with one computer lab full of desktop machines is going to have a tough time implementing anytime, anywhere learning. That doesn’t mean the school can’t get a little closer with some creative solutions. Schools have a long history of creative problem-solving when it comes to resources. For example, schools have taken those old desktop machines that no one was using, moved them into publicly accessible locations, and turned them into word processing stations for writing and printing, leaving higher end equipment for higher end purposes. Still others have found shifting schedules has allowed additional flexibility to more efficiently use existing resources. Begin with thinking about how the resources you currently have could be efficiently purposed to provide the tools students need for specific tasks before you move to thinking about how you could leverage new resources to fill in the gaps. Remember to consider all types of resources: people, time, facilities, hardware, software, and paper-based.
Using Time: Ask the teachers
Probably the most important strategy is to engage the teachers early and often. They know the students, the curriculum, and their instructional needs. Give teachers multiple avenues for contributing to the discussion, through needs assessment activities, formal committees, regular updates on progress, and informal conversations. Providing multiple avenues for input will ensure the most technologically savvy or the most outspoken teachers don’t end up being the most powerful voices.
Next week we’re on to defining the next piece of the framework: Technology, networks, and hardware.
Hopefully you’ve had a chance to read about our Digital Learning Framework and have an understanding of other strategies that we’ve highlighted. At Metiri Group, we’re big on frameworks, but understand that true change happens when strategies come to life in the classrooms and schools. Read a bit about our TRAx Digital Learning tools and check out the Future Ready Dashboard for districts, both are great tools to give you an understanding at multiple levels about use of time. Remember our TRAx tools are focused on getting information from multiple stakeholders to inform your work, growth, and practice while the Future Ready Dashboard‘s input come from just district leaders. Need a real-world example of TRAx in action? Check out the latest article talking about our work with digital learning in New Jersey.