Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Future Without a Vision

It was at an eye doctor’s appointment this week that I gave serious thought to this week’s blog. 
There was a unique poster in the examining room over the doctor’s ophthalmic chair which said:
 “Without vision, you will not know where you are going.”

How true that statement is for school learning organizations. Yet, many districts ramble on 
without a focus or vision to direct and govern overarching programs for school improvement.  

Recently, I reviewed a research study from the Journal of Research on Technology in Education 
and could not help but notice an interesting article on a district designed project to implement a 
technology initiative across the organization.

“The Southern Alberta School District in which this study takes place is both successful and proactive with respect to student achievement and satisfaction levels (students, parents, teachers, and administrators). In 2007 the district started a shared visioning process to restate the district vision for the implementation of technology and to integrate teaching strategies (ie. differentiated instruction and assessment for learning) over a 5-7 year span of time.
The purpose of the study was to implement and measure the impact of a district-led initiative regarding 21st century teaching methods, strategies, and pedagogies. Rather than engage in sporadic professional development, a thoughtful and systematic model was deployed over a 3 year period. Technological upgrading, intensive professional development, and strong leadership were central pathways for teachers to meaningfully adopt the necessary components of 21st century learning instruction.” (Gunn & Hollingsworth, 2013).
This district developed vision for implementing a 21st Century technology model for the organization was based on a plan involving planning and management, instructional support, and emerging and evolving technologies. The constituents of the district all had a part in designing the shared vision addressing those areas, which eventually lead to the onward progress of becoming a 21st century school district. It reflects that understanding that Kouzes and Posner have in describing the role of vision development in organizations, namely that constituents want visions of the future that reflect their own aspirations. They want to hear how their dreams will come true and their hopes will be fulfilled. (Kouzes & Posner, 2007).
The true leader of this type of organization needs to remember the key points for creating this drive for vision;
  • View your role as as chief salesperson of the overall vision.
  • Be visible and never be too busy with the project to sell the vision.
  • Break the project into multiple sequential phases.
  • Limit detailed planning to the current phase.
  • Establish review committees and hold frequent meetings.
  • Remember consensus rules. (Fitzgerald, 2013)

As for the Southern Alberta School District, and what they found in their efforts to work with that type of vision:
“By way of strong leadership and administrative support for 21st Century professional development, teachers within a single district were able to embrace the knowledge, skills, and strategies required for future student success in the 21st Century.” (Gunn & Hollingsworth, 2013).

Fitzgerald, D. (2003). Shared vision: A key to project success. TechRepublic, Retrieved March 25, 2013 from http://www.techrepublic.com/article/shared-vision-a-key-to-project-success/5034758

Gunn, T. M. & Hollingsworth, M. (2013). The implementation and assessment of a shared 21st century learning vision: A district approach. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 45(3), 201-208. Retrieved from iste.org/jrte

Kouzes, J. M. & Posner, B. Z. (2009). To lead, create a shared vision. Harvard Business Review, Retrieved from March 24, 2013 http://hbr.org/2009/01/to-lead-create-a-shared-vision/ar/1