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PD Friday

4 components of your district’s next PD win


Principals learn how to effectively implement blended and digital learning with the help of focused, differentiated training.

As instructional techniques incorporate more digital technologies and blended models, school principals must create and implement carefully-constructed visions for teaching and learning–and a new professional development (PD) program aims to help them on their way.

Thirty-five school leaders from the Rhode Island Association of School Principals recently completed a year of PD focused around building blended learning in their schools. The Leadership in Blended and Digital Learning (LBDL) PD program was developed by the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University.

LBDL is designed to specifically support school leaders as they move their schools into the blended and digital learning transition. The PD program includes five core sessions combining face-to-face and online components for participating principals and leaders. The sessions include vision and goals, culture shifts, teaching and learning, professional development, and implementation.

The two-phase PD project focuses first on training program trainers, who in turn work with principals and other school leaders to implement blended learning in their schools. In Rhode Island’s case, five school leaders received training from the Friday Institute to facilitate training for state principals, assistant principals and other school leaders.

(Next page: Four important concepts that made PD sessions impactful)

After participants met to share successes, strategies, and ideas for next steps, key leadership themes, spurred by knowledge gleaned from the PD sessions, emerged:

1. Strong emphasis on ongoing adult learning to help principals implement blended and digital learning programs with purpose: “Things would happen without the course, but they wouldn’t happen as strategically or as intentional. The course presents it clearly and it accelerates our timeline; brings it a little deeper,” said Nicole L’Etoile, West Warwick High School assistant principal.

2. Focus on modeling and job-embedded professional learning: LBDL facilitators modeled effective uses of blended learning strategies and digital tools, which participating principals took back to their schools.

3. Foster an open, collaborative and trusting culture: Facilitators help participating principals foster a culture shift in their schools, making it OK for teachers to try something new and fail, because learning from failure is still learning.

“We’re always working at culture, that never goes away, but when you learn a different set of pedagogical strategies and different learning needs for kids based on 21st century skills, your culture has to be redefined,” said Lynne Burke, an LBDL facilitator and technology director of the Coventy School District.

4. Create opportunities to see blended learning in practice: An open culture leads to more collaboration among teachers, with many participating principals reporting that their teachers frequently observe colleagues’ classrooms for ways to improve their own instructional practices.

LBDL facilitators said principals noted a number of successes after implementing program knowledge in their schools. Those successes include the development of a vision and plan, increased engagement at all levels, growing personalized learning, and expanded leadership capacity within schools and across the state.

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Laura Ascione

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