Mar 19 2013

Inside CoSN’s Teaming for Transformation Network

Ed-tech leaders collaborated over nine months to synchronize their work toward a digital conversion. These pointers can help others on a similar path.

Twenty-five K–12 school districts around the country recently participated in a blended professional-learning experience focused on making progress toward a digital conversion. The goal of the Consortium for School Networking’s Teaming for Transformation initiative was to provide a learning environment for today’s student that is both engaging and results-oriented.

From June 2012 through CoSN’s 18th annual conference in March 2013, this network of educators collaborated through a hybrid professional-learning opportunity that included a face-to-face meeting, as well as an exclusive online Community of Practice (CoP) hosted by epic-ed.

Comprising more than 150 district and school leaders, including superintendents, school principals and curriculum, technology, finance and instructional technology leaders, the district teams focused on these points:

  • Developing leadership for a digital conversion for student learning in their districts
  • Building and transforming a culture of instruction with digital resources and tools
  • Creating and supporting a digital learning environment that reaches every student and every teacher

“Education has reached a point when now, more than ever, school systems need to leverage experiences and expertise from other leading school districts to advance student-centered learning in a digitally rich environment,” explains Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “Teaming for Transformation participants, all of whom represent a diverse pool of districts, reflect their leadership and commitment to cultivating a culture of instruction for today’s learners and improving access to rich digital resources where students have continuous access to technological tools.”

In its first six months, the network collaborated in a private online CoP to share successes and challenges, pose questions, make suggestions to one another and access related resources.

In October 2012, the group met face to face at Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina to collaborate with Superintendent Dr. Mark Edwards’ leadership team and to see firsthand a digital conversion for students in grades 3 through 12. The members of the group collaborated with their peers in meetings and discussions and then met with their own leadership teams to determine the next steps. In addition, the group identified topics most important to focus on to ensure that a digital conversion would support an engaging and results-oriented learning environment for today’s learners.

In managing their own digital conversion efforts, district leaders would do well to consider the following practices, which guided CoSN’s Teaming for Transformation participants.

Foster District- and School-Level Collaboration

Early in the process, districts must develop and execute a digital conversion communications plan and convey it to each stakeholder, including students, teachers, parents and school board members. Consider holding collaborative meetings that include representatives from each stakeholder group to allow for discussions about how students will learn in the future. In addition, continue to communicate with stakeholders.

Facilitating a digital conversion means every district and school leader has a role. It’s critical that school-level leaders understand and continue to synchronize their work in support of change in the culture of teaching and learning. Leaders must regularly demonstrate support for their teachers and students during the change process.

Also, plan ahead to ensure that curriculum and technology leaders at both the district and the school sites collaborate regularly. A digital conversion is about changing the way teachers teach and students learn, not about the device. Plan for ongoing communication between curriculum and technology leaders, focused on developing an engaging and results-oriented learning environment for today’s learners.

Ensure Effective Professional Learning

Giving students digital tools will transition control of the classroom away from the teacher, enabling students to decide how they will best demonstrate mastery of the standard. This transition requires careful planning to increase teachers’ comfort levels over time.

As professional learning progresses, plan to regularly monitor the success of the digital transition, as needed, to support teachers’ work with students. Celebrating success and regularly communicating how you plan to improve professional development will help keep the momentum toward your digital conversion moving forward.

Monitor the Progress of a Digital Conversion

Metrics help stakeholders to regularly take the temperature of a digital conversion’s progress. Agreeing on a set of expectations for a digital conversion during the planning phase allows district and school leaders to identify opportunities, communicate results and make adjustments. The regular use of educational data to inform teachers, administrators and parents of academic progress is critical.

Examples of metrics to monitor the progress of a digital conversion include the following:

  • Formative assessments
  • Regular reports summarizing the results of surveys targeted specifically to students, teachers and parents
  • Review of student behavioral incidents over time
  • Walk-throughs to gauge the use of technology tools within the teaching and learning processes

Some districts are also considering the use of logic models and quality implementation tools to determine outcomes and identify correlating measures.

Leverage Effective Pedagogy Models with Engaging Digital Tools

District and school leaders understand the value of using evidence-based instructional practices that reflect a positive change in student success. In a digital conversion, there are multiple opportunities to connect the dots between pedagogical practices and technology solutions being used by both teachers and students. Direct instruction is a practice that has been used historically in classrooms.

Components of direct instruction include the following:

  • Identifying learning intentions and success criteria
  • Building commitment
  • Providing guided practice
  • Providing closure and independent practice

District leaders know the value of the formative-assessment process and the role of feedback to regularly inform both the teacher and the student of academic progress and gaps in learning. Classroom practice is formative to the extent that evidence about student achievement is elicited, interpreted and used by teachers, learners and their peers. Formative assessment allows both teachers and students to make decisions about the next steps in instruction that are likely to be more reliable.

Examples of technology tools that leverage the power of formative assessment and the role of feedback include opportunities for blended learning, adaptive learning systems and teacher and student access to digital data dashboards.

Through a collective commitment toward a digital conversion, Teaming for Transformation members helped to build a common language for each stakeholder, in support of an engaging and results-oriented learning environment.

The next iteration of this effort will commence in June, when Teaming for Transformation II participants begin their virtual and face-to-face collaborations, which will include a site visit to Katy (Texas) Independent School District in early October. Examples of topics to be explored in Teaming for Transformation II’s virtual and face-to-face collaborations include reallocating/aligning financial resources, building relationships with the community, fostering professional development for transforming the culture of teaching and learning, and preparing for and supporting the infrastructure.

CoSN is accepting applications for Teaming for Transformation II through May 30. To apply, visit