Reflection is necessary because it offers us a chance to learn for our successes and our struggles. At two years into the implementation of course websites, I feel it is appropriate to reflect upon where the project stands, what has worked and didn’t, and where this project will likely go. In this reflection I examine these key questions in hopes to improve the implementation of future innovation plans.
As it stands, my innovation plan is in the intermediate stages as it has continued to evolve into a more effective innovative plan. The innovation plan was to digitize the classroom by having courses offered by our school district have a web page where students could access course teachings and materials. To me the idea was simple and provided many benefits: students have access to course content 24/7, students are able to look ahead or review course teachings, students could acquire class handouts and materials if they were absent, parents could access the website to observe and participate with their child’s education, and more. However, through the DLL program and our initial test group, I discovered the plan was not going to impact our district like I thought it would.
Several reasons come to mind as to why the plan was not as effective in the beginning as I would have hoped. First, Kevin Costner had it wrong: if you build it they won’t necessarily come (Field of Dreams, 1989). This was evident in our test groups and was revealed in multiple ways throughout the DLL program, ‘a website is a tool, without proper implementation users will be unable to use it or not use it at all’. Realizing this, in the first year of implementation I began to model daily how to use the website and using think-alouds to explain different uses and to help navigate the website. This had minimal effect. In year two, I increased exposure to the website by spending a week letting students access and explore the website, I explained its features and functions, and created a Google Form test to see if students were able to navigate certain features and understand the functions of the website. In addition, I continued to model the website using think-alouds and also gave students regular opportunities to use the website in class. These methods had a positive impact on our students. In year two our website analytics reported an average between 600-750 website users weekly, enough to cover all of our world geography students.
In addition to reaching students, the implementation plan needed to be adopted by teachers as well if it was going to be effective. To implement this plan, I worked with a team of teachers to construct an easy to use, robust website while meeting the needs of teachers and students. I began by promoting the website’s benefits for the students and the teachers. To get the teachers onboard, I used motivation from Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’ (2013) to stress how the website would be a collaborative collection of each teacher’s strengths, essentially reducing workload and making them more impactful teachers. In the first year, I took on most of the web construction while the teachers provided the course materials and lessons to be uploaded to the site. I discovered teachers were not using the website like I had hoped, but they still supported the idea of it.
Along this time my learning in the DLL program began supporting my implementation plans with teachings on implementing organizational change using the six sources of influence. Through these teachings I shifted my implementation plans to how and when teachers were accessing the website and listened to individual teachers’ concerns of using websites. This helped significantly, and at the end of year two 5 out of 6 teachers regularly use the website in their instruction. In addition, I was able to successfully pass the website responsibilities over to the teachers for them to maintain and put their unique spin on it.
At the end of year two, I feel my innovation plan is in an intermediate stage because it has not been fully adopted across the district. However, at its current state I feel the innovation plan is ready. We have compiled research which supports students prefer to use course websites, students who use the website regularly have increased student achievement, and a majority of students increased their digital literacy. In addition, our test group was able to resolve initial problems that might hinder the plan in a massive adoption plan. At the plan’s current state it will need to continue to adapt in order to adjust to content-specific subjects and teachers’ varying digital skill levels. In addition, this would require support would need to be provided by administration as there would be more groups creating course websites. However, at the end of year two I feel I have made a significant impact on students and teachers and feel the plan has been an overall success.
While I reflect on the struggles, successes, and prepare for the next stages of implementing course websites, I cannot help but think about the significant learning that occurred throughout the process. One of the most significant influences the DLL program had on my innovation plan occurred when I was selecting my ‘Why’. I had created a message targeting the hearts of listeners but did not have a specific reason for implementing course websites, and this puzzled me. To me, I was bringing the classroom in the 21st century focusing on all the benefits of course websites but had no call to action of why schools should implement it. In a discussion with colleagues I was reminded the answer lies in the data. I had examined our schools state report card and identified areas needing improvement. I then thought how can we use course websites to improve upon these target areas, and the light bulb went off. All of the sudden it was no longer about course websites but about targeting specific low performing groups. This transformed my learning experience within the DLL program and opened my eyes to my call to action. Now every digital tool held value and purpose; course websites shifted from online interactive textbooks to significant digital learning environments, all because I now had a focus: how can I impact student achievement and academic readiness of lower performing groups using course websites and digital tools.
So where does this lead? Where am I in my innovation project plan? Overall, the innovation plan has been a success. I was able to impact students, implement an innovation plan to teachers, and learn about digital learning and leading while implementing the plan. Currently, I have reached a point where I am evaluating the need for course websites all together. Course websites have value and purpose, but are they the right tool for the job? Well, that depends on the organizations needs and through this project I discovered new needs to address. This has forced my innovation plan to change in a new direction. While course websites will continue to be used and developed by teachers, I am now hoping to solve issues which are impacting our district: low academic readiness and low student achievement within special populations. This will require new tools and ideas within digital learning. However, given my experience in implementing course websites I now have the confidence and tools to implement disruptive innovations. As I develop the next phase of my innovation plan I will carry the lessons learned and continue to grow as a digital learner and leader.
Sinek, S. (September 29, 2013). Start with why. Found at https://youtu.be/sioZd3AxmnE. Accessed on 7.21.17.
Paoni, D. (October 23, 2017). Building a digital enterprise. Found at https://www.cio.com/article/3234668/digital-transformation/at-the-innovation-tipping-point-outward-forward-thinking-prevails.html.