Only 10 weeks remain in the current academic year. Although I’m not saying goodbye to this academic year just yet, it’s time for me to start thinking about the next academic year. The rest of the technology team agrees with me that changed need to and will be made next year. I already know that I’m ready to consider alternative methods of meeting my teachers’ professional learning needs, but I’m contemplating a few options as to the best way forward:

  • Rings. This concept is inspired by the way Microsoft runs its Windows Insider program. Opting into Insider allows you to receive Windows updates and new features at a faster pace than general customers. In exchange for early access to the latest and greatest, you agree to provide Microsoft with feedback on these features and must be more willing to tolerate bugs and problems. You can select the pace of updates and how far on the cutting edge you are willing to go–these are the rings. On the laptop I’m writing this on, I’m in the Fast Ring (most risk, most reward). My gaming laptop is not in the Insider program at all, so it gets updates and new features later, but is more stable.My thought towards applying this concept to my instructional technology program at school also dovetails nicely with the district’s expectation that each school cultivate a group of “lead innovators,” who are the vanguard of new technologies and teaching ideas at each school. I’m considering putting the top 25% of teachers in this group and calling it the gold ring. The middle 50% of the school would be the silver ring, and the bottom 25% would be the bronze ring. Gold ring teachers would receive professional learning earlier, faster, and with more features than would the bronze ring, and gold teachers would be responsible for a small degree of teaching those in the other rings.

    While I’m favoring this plan at this time, it’s not without some concerns. As with any potential plan, administrative support will be crucial. Without backup, I might as well not even try. There is also the issue of making sure teachers evaluate themselves honestly (and that they understand and believe that their status won’t be held against them) as well as avoiding the stigma associated with being in the lowest group.

  • Gamified Learning. I’ve spent the last year chatting with people who do this in their classrooms or in professional learning. And, as someone who loves games himself, the appeal is obvious to me. That said, I’m not sure if all of my teachers would be interested in this, plus the backend management and setup requirements would be much great on me. Also, if I’m concerned my administrators wouldn’t support even a moderately different plan like the rings above, I’m doubly worried about gathering support for this.As of right now, my plan for gamified learning for next year is really more of a second-tier, extra-credit type of setup, in which the gamified learning supplements the more traditional stuff and allows me to extend my reach with the teachers. Developing resources along this line might be more of a summer activity.

I’ll be spending a good portion of March looking more into these methods (and any other good ones that come my way) so that I can start developing them in April and May.