Random Thoughts

Systematic Change Part 2: Unlearning your community

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(As you can tell from Kim’s recent post. Systematic change at all levels is on our mind at ISB)

How much time to we spend helping our community understand the changing landscape of learning?

If we want to change the system, then we need to be prepared to change the whole system. We need to help our school communities understand that this isn’t the learning they had, and it’s not the school they had either.

The hardest part about changing a school system, is that we are all experts…and I mean all of us. We all went through the system, we all remember what good teaching looked like, we remember the bad teachers as well. We remember those teachers that engaged us, and those you just did the work to get by.

We remember that you took spelling tests on Fridays, went to Library, learned how to use a card catalog, and learning how to take notes out of an encyclopedia.

To change a system that everyone knows, we need to change the thinking of everyone in the community.

Last year Kim helped to start Elementary Parent Technology Coffee events. The first Wednesday of every month parents are invited in to chat about technology and learning….more specifically about learning, but technology is a part of that. This is part of relearning a community.

Our team went to a leadership meeting and for an hour talked with the leadership team about learning, and the changing environment we fine ourselves in. This is part of relearning a community.

Tonight we spend 30 minutes with the school board, talking about the skills our students will need in the future. Helping them to understand why we need to revisit our schools vision statement and rethink what it means to be a learner today. This is part of relearning a community.

Next week Kim, Tara and I will lead the elementary staff around the changing landscape of learning and rethinking what it means to be a learner today. This is part of relearning a community.

Systematic change means changing the whole system. It’s the small steps, the conversations with all the stakeholders. Are we there yet? No way, not even close. Have we started the conversations? Absolutely, and we’ve started them in multiple places, with multiple groups. That is how change starts. Slow and steady and swells.

Never before in the history of education have we been given the task to not only educate the children they send us everyday, but to re-educate a whole community on what it means to learn in today’s world. What it means to collaborate, to read, to write, to communicate, to research. If you can get your community to relearn you can change the system.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Very well said. I was going to write on the same topic in my next post, but your words are exactly what I was thinking.
    To make change happen, the stakeholders need believe we need change. What exactly are you doing to sell the stakeholders that we need change?

  2. Jeff,
    Very well put! Two words stand out to me:


    TIME–specific time is allotted to conversations and learning

    It seems that these two concepts are at the root of attempting to keep up with change.

  3. Jeff this is a very timely post as we are struggling with the same theme this year in our school as I imagine are loads of others. One thing that struck me as interesting is how it’s possible that this “industrial age” model of education has managed to hang around so long while everything else that we knew about that time has been demolished?
    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here and explained exactly why. It’s because “we’re all experts.” Everybody have experienced school and therefore “know it.”
    The most difficult part here will be to forget and let go. That won’t be easy because in a lot of ways, the school is the center of the community it serves even more so maybe that the GM plant that shut down due to automation, or the TV assembly line that closed due to globalization.
    What will it take for us to retool our education factory before we’re blindsided by something like iSchool? Are smart enough to stay ahead of the wave before it breaks on the shore and we are swept to the depths of irrelevance?
    I’d like to think so, but then, institutional history is a powerful thing to change.

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