by Shaun Fagan
On Friday, December 4, 63 educators from 10 different districts gathered at the offices of Santa Ana Unified School District for Lightspeed Learning Academy: Santa Ana, a daylong professional development event focused on creating collaborative learning spaces for today’s students.
In his keynote address, Santa Ana Deputy Superintendent Dr. David Haglund set the tone for the day by encouraging attendees to ask questions and talk amongst themselves, saying, “Every conversation we have together is professional development.”
Dr. Haglund then described how Santa Ana, a district where 91% of students are eligible for free and reduced meals, has strategically deployed technology to “refocus on learning rather than acts of compliance.” Guided by the mantra, “It’s not about the devices, it’s about access,” the district has used digital curriculum, Chromebooks, and classroom technology from Lightspeed to encourage collaborative learning and shift “from a system of large-scale programmatic accountability to personalized learning,” and “from monitoring seat time and school days to a focus on competency.”
Lightspeed Learning Academy: Santa Ana also featured breakout sessions led by Esther Wojcicki, a longtime teacher and author of the book Moonshots in Education; and Alexandra Ito, Santa Ana USD’s Director of Learning Innovation with Technology.
Wojcicki told the story of how she took Palo Alto High School’s media arts program that had 19 students working in a trailer and built it into a department including 600 students and five teachers working on nine different publications in a 25,000 square foot media arts center.
Wojcicki said she “uses media as a way to teach kids to think.” Her student-centered approach to teaching is guided by the acronym TRICK, which stands for “Trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness.”
Wojcicki suggested that every classroom teacher could benefit from an activity that she uses at the beginning of all her classes: having students write personality profiles of their classmates and post them on Blogger. Both the interviewer and the interviewee get personally invested in the profiles, she said. “If you own the learning,” she said, “you want to make it the best you can possibly be.”
Ito’s session “Access for All: A District Strategic Implementation Plan to Build Environments for Learning, Empowerment and Achievement,” shared Santa Ana’s strategies for making the “21st-century shift” to mobile, anytime access to digital curriculum and competency-based learning
The transformation has included bringing Chromebooks into classrooms and encouraging BYOD in the high schools, but the key, according to Ito, was helping teachers shift to an approach where “knowledge and content skills are 60% of mastery and cognitive skills are 40%.” To drive the transition, the district has a curriculum specialist who works with teachers to bring project-based learning to classrooms.
All of the sessions at Lightspeed Learning Academy: Santa Ana ended with lively Q&A sessions, and educators came away armed with best practices to take back to their districts. As one attendee put it, when it comes to educational technology, “The change has already come, and we just have to adjust to it.”
Shaun is a technologist at heart and loves being able to work with customer directly to develop new products that really serve needs of the classroom.
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