Modeling Continuous Innovation

As an education leader, how are you modeling continuous innovation to your staff and community? 

Hello! My name is Jamie Haines and I am an educational leader at Gowan Science Academy in Yuma, Arizona. Gowan Science Academy is a kinder through 8th grade school with over 750 students. Creating models for continuous innovation is at the forefront of our work every single day. Innovation is easy to do one time, however, it takes commitment and perseverance to continue to model innovation day after day, week after week and year after year. To ensure we are doing this on our campus, we are lean on each other and learn from each other. Staff participate in school-wide learning walks every quarter to learn from one another. It also gives a time for teachers to observe technology skills students learn and master in each grade level.


Our district recently went through curriculum adoptions in both math and ELA. During the time teachers were learning new curriculum student creation and application utilizing technology were put on the back burner. Ensuring creation is modeled during professional development is essential to keeping the innovation flame lit. We also utilize our Apple Professional Development Specialist along with the Apple Learning Community to ensure teachers have the skills and knowledge to integrate innovative learning experiences within our district adopted curriculums. As an instructional leader, how are you modeling continuous innovation on your campus?

Other Posts in the Leadership Conversations Series — Continuous Innovation

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Posted on February 26, 2024

Love this Jamie! Thanks for sharing.

I'm Susan Maynor, Learning Experience Designer at EPiC Elementary, an Apple Distinguished School. Continuous innovation is a topic of discussion we have almost daily, as the world post pandemic has evolved in such a way that we need to be even more intentional about continuous innovation. Since inception, we have built and fostered a culture of risk, revision, research, and refinement, creating a dynamic ecosystem of continuous innovation. The pandemic slowed our momentum. This year, as a staff, we took some time to revisit our vision as a learning environment. Our principal, Jamie Ackart, asked us "Let's dream big this year. Who are we now and where do we want to go?" Our biggest takeaway was the importance of being intentional with using our lens for modeling continuous innovation: Empowering Creativity, Engaging Communities, Equipping Students.

Empowering Creativity: We are currently working through a vertical alignment for our real world learning. This includes content, but also...what future-focused project skills are we teaching throughout learning experiences such as how to be an animator or practice the video production process.

Engaging Communities: We are deepening our understanding of service learning and redesigning some our project-based learning experiences to include more compassion for those in need or ways to use our creativity to improve communities.

Equipping Students: As we reflected what our students have navigated the last few years, we identified the importance of even more individualized learning for students. Studio K launched playlists for learning to build confidence and autonomy. Other studios are following suit. We are excited to see what is ahead.

With Artificial Intelligence here and now, we are exploring what that might look like in an elementary school AND how we can use it to elevate the learning experience for all.

Posted on March 01, 2024

I love that you dedicate time for teachers to see other teachers. That strategy is a win-win for everyone! Teachers visiting get great new ideas and hosting teachers get affirmation and celebration of their innovative ideas! I also love the call out of modeling the tools during PD. Not teaching the tools but truly showing how they can be used in the context of learning. Some of the best PD sessions I have hosted were ones that weren't about the technology at all, just using the tech as the vehicle for learning. Thanks for sharing!

Posted on April 09, 2024

My Story

For high school students who need to recover credit for classes in math, science, social studies, English language arts, or languages other than English, we offer summer school during the month of June. Our format does not lend itself to a wonderfully pleasant experience for these students, though: For about seven hours a day, four days a week, students come to one of our secondary campuses and use an online platform, accessed through their district-issued iPads, to learn and assess their way to course completion. For now, changing this format is not within my control.

The current reality of this summer program does not paint a positive picture: The high school students who have been labeled as “failures” either by others or themselves because they were not successful in one or more classes are told they have to come to school in the summer, use an online platform to march through the content, spending all day, every day working to regain credit for a class they didn’t “get” the first time.

I’ve never felt great about the experience we were providing for our students, but wasn’t in a position that could make significant changes… until now.

The moment I knew I needed to do something was when I stumbled upon some notes taken by one of our credit recovery teachers that resembled a laundry list of wrongdoings by students in the class - who was absent, who was tardy, who talked when they weren’t supposed to, who fell asleep in class, who didn’t return after lunch, … this was the focus of the teacher, rather than positive support, encouragement, teaching content, how the students were responding their actions, etc. 

My Plan

Explicitly teach and provide opportunity for students to learn and practice Executive Functioning Skills, using their iPad as a tool.

  • Planning & Prioritizing: Use Notes to set a goal and create an action plan to get there. By what date will you complete the first module? How many minutes of work will you complete each day? ...
  • Attention: Use Focus to minimize distractions. Allow students to listen to calming Music.
  • Task Initiation: Chunk tasks into manageable pieces with Timers on Clock: 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of break, repeat.

Implement Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to improve social emotional competence, academic success, and summer school climate. Teachers will support students’ behavioral, academic, social, emotional, and mental health with intentional, positive actions.

  • Settings: Open the blinds and let the sun shine in, use a sound machine to dampen outside noise, create a class playlist to use during breaks, provide device charging stations
  • Routines: This is all about predictability and communicating expectations. Model these routines and ask the students to practice them. Clear is Kind, as Brene Brown says. Even though the students are only there for a month, create routines for how to enter the classroom, what to do if their iPad needs to be charged, what to do if they have a question, need to take a break, or have a snack, …
  • Expectations: These should be what TO DO not what NOT to do. This is how you share what you expect from the students and what they can expect from you. If they don’t do these things, provide instructional consequences. If they do the things that are expected, regularly acknowledge them (this needs to happen a lot more!).
  • Supervision: Meet the students at the door. Refer to them by name. Ask them if you are pronouncing their name correctly and learn to do so. Interact positively with the students. Smile. Show a genuine interest in them as individuals. Move around the classroom and stay aware of what the students are doing.
  • Opportunity: Provide lots of ways the students can work on their executive functioning skills and positively contribute to the culture of the classroom.
  • Acknowledgement: Be specific here and learn how your students individually want to be acknowledged. Some may prefer a quiet thumbs up while others may appreciate verbal praise.
  • Prompts/Pre-Corrections: Before the students need to engage in a routine, remind them of what is expected in a positive way.


Do you have any other ideas that I should consider to innovate our summer school credit recovery? I’d LOVE to hear them!



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