Thoughts from the first ED25 community conversations

Four of us Rodel staffers (I'm on the left) attended the Vision Coalition's first community conversation about ED25, the draft plan to better prepare Delaware students.

Four Rodel team members (I’m on the left) attended the Vision Coalition’s first community conversation about ED25, the draft plan to better prepare Delaware students for a lifetime of success. Here we are having a cup of coffee in Georgetown. When will you join the Coalition for coffee?

A small team from the Rodel Foundation attended the first of the Vision Coalition’s community conversations in Sussex County on Wednesday. Since the Coalition isn’t a formal nonprofit organization, we are providing a lot of the staff support for these events–securing the locations, copying the materials, buying the coffee, and taking notes.

But I got so much more out of it than just that. We heard from residents, retired educators, parents, grandparents, and policymakers about what they think will make a great system that will support every Delaware for a lifetime of success. The attendees of these conversations all made the time to join the dialogue and share their ideas, which the Coalition will be incorporating into its work. It was great to see people coming out to help develop a shared vision for the state.

You can read more about it here, and also follow the work of the Coalition and share your ideas at, on, and via Twitter (@VCDelaware).

A New Vision for Education

This is the first post in our blog series for Digital Learning Day on February 6. To read the second blog post written by a Delaware teacher about how she uses education technology to support personalized learning for her students, click here.

In just a few weeks, schools across the nation will be celebrating Digital Learning Day. Digital Learning Day – February 6, 2013 – is a “national campaign that celebrates teachers and shines a spotlight on successful instructional practice and effective use of technology in classrooms across the country.”

In anticipation of this event, we want to help support the dialogue here in Delaware. However, there are so many exciting initiatives going on in The First State that it’s difficult to capture in just one day, so today we are officially launching a blog series around digital learning and personalization that will include information and resources about Digital Learning Day – and more.

At the core of Digital Learning Day is a new vision for education: one in which the learning environment is personalized to meet each student’s unique needs. Many – including our Foundation – are referring to this as “personalized learning,” and over the last several months we’ve featured a few blogs on what’s going on here and elsewhere. We’re going to start sending out info about this topic more regularly, so sign up here to receive news and updates.

Personalization refers to putting the student at the center of the learning environment and tailoring instruction to students’ specific academic needs, personal interests and learning styles. It also enables students to learn at their own pace and often at a different time and place (in the evening at home through online lessons, for example).  In order to do this well, teachers are empowered to concentrate their time and energy on individual student needs. And although the “stuff” (iPads, laptops, etc.) isn’t the most important part of this, personalizing learning also means using technology in new and innovative ways.

We know there are exciting things going on here in Delaware, and we want to help spread the word. Several of our iEducate Delaware 2012 finalists and winners were innovating in these ways. We want to share even more examples of what’s going on classrooms statewide. Share them as a comment on this blog or on our Facebook page (and definitely share them when we open nominations for iEducate Delaware 2013 this spring – be sure to stay tuned!).

Educators: the Delaware Department of Education is also hosting a professional development series the first week of February. And the national Digital Learning Day site has lots of great resources, including toolkits with ideas about how to innovate instruction in almost every subject area. Find more information here on how districts, schools, and individuals can participate in Digital Learning Day events.

In the coming weeks, we’ll feature guest bloggers with different perspectives on this topic and will share more resources and stories. If you want to get updates on an ongoing basis about what we’re learning about personalization, sign up here.

Delaware Supporting Innovative Family Involvement Initiatives

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the Superstars in Education recognition event. It’s an important initiative that seeks out and calls attention to great projects happening in schools around the state – projects that are having a real, demonstrated impact on student success. In addition to the seven Superstars honorees (Congrats to you all!), the Lt. Governor also gave two awards for “Excellence in Parental Involvement” efforts – one to Bayard Middle School and one to Gallaher Elementary School (both in the Christina School District, which got a big shout-out from Secretary Lowery at last night’s event). Everyone recognizes how critical it is for families and communities to be involved and engaged in their children’s education, and I’m proud that schools in Delaware are being recognized for their efforts.

Schools and districts now have another opportunity to share what they are doing related to family and community engagement, and can apply for additional resources from the state to build upon promising programs that will positively impact student performance. The Delaware Department of Education recently released a Request For Applications (RFA) for family and community engagement projects that accelerate a charter school or district’s engagement plans, as outlined in their Race to the Top plans.

Each district or charter school’s application can request up to $50,000, and submissions are due June 1, 2012. We are looking forward to learning about more great family engagement programs – like Indian River’s “Student Success STEMs from Parental Support” educational series and Seaford School District’s Homework Center and Family Resource Center (both funded in a previous round of family and community engagement projects).

Share Your Brilliant Ideas and Win $100!

In March, the Rodel Foundation will launch a campaign to recognize the courage and commitment of the great Delawareans who make great Delaware schools. As a state, Delaware has received a great deal of well-deserved recognition and kudos for initiatives like Vision 2015, Race to the Top, and the Early Learning Challenge. Yet, all too often, the individuals who actually turn these great ideas into reality – in the classroom and in the community – get little recognition for their time, creativity, and dedication. We would like to help tell their stories through this recognition campaign, through which members of the public can nominate champions in education (more details to come in March).

We just have one problem – we don’t have a great name to call A GREAT campaign!

We are hoping for your help in giving our recognition campaign a great title. We are looking for a new (unused elsewhere) name that imparts qualities of a champion, forward-thinker, and leader in the education community (something like “Champion in Education”). The honor might go to a teacher, parent, community member, principal, legislator, school board member, or others, so the name needs to fit a broad group of potential honorees, yet be simple. Submit your idea here.

Submissions will be accepted through February 29 and a name will be chosen in early March. The winner will receive a $100 VISA® or Mastercard® gift card. More details to come about the recognition campaign and nomination process in the coming months. Thank you for your help!

Full “Name the Campaign” contest rules here