Building Community
Building Community

When educators design and create new schools, and live next gen learning themselves, they take the lead in growing next gen learning across the nation. Other educators don’t simply follow and adopt; next gen learning depends on personal and community agency—the will to own the change, fueled by the desire to learn from and with others. Networks and policy play important roles in enabling grassroots approaches to change.

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Practitioner's Guide to Next Gen Learning

The opportunity to connect with a network around shared problems of next gen learning practice offers fresh and different perspectives that rejuvenate your sense of purpose.

We are all learners. This includes the NGLC Regional Funds partners, those entities that are supporting next gen schools in collaborative learning networks at the regional level. Their networks are intentional. They leverage the social, identity, and agency aspects of being a creative force for change; and, they’re building a culture of learning and reflection. It’s a tall order. Each of the partners works with a set of grantee schools (directly or by hiring a variety of support services providers) to enable them to design and implement their own version of next gen personalized learning.

You can learn a lot about this work through Sarah Luchs’ summer blog series and the podcast series from the Dell Foundation. One thing you’ll discover is how these organizations continuously challenge themselves to walk their talk especially when it comes to designing for learning. They are called to do this despite the fact that aspects of the work are new to them too, just like classroom teachers are called to apply next gen learning as they are learning it. So, how do they apply knowledge and skills while also learning them?

  • Honestly.
  • Iteratively and through reflective practice.
  • And, as often as they can, the partners would add, joyfully.

Depending on the context and content which always is changing: we are all learners.

NESSC Mark Kostin

A Learning Community Connects with Purpose

Because we are all learners, NGLC convened the regional partners in Chicago for a day and a half of collaborative learning last month. In 3 Personalized Learning Schools in Chicago, I wrote about what we all saw and what we learned when visiting three of Chicago’s Breakthrough School grantee sites as part of that trip. Each school has a story and valuable, key takeaways. If you haven’t read the blog by New Orleans teacher Lucy Colville or the blog by Oakland teacher Linda Rogers, you’ll want to! They get to the heart of what we all learned about personalized learning from the schools we visited.

If you weren’t there, why should you care? Some takeaways...

Our partners tell us the best thing about these convenings is the time they spend together learning, networking, and adding tools to their toolbox. One of their lessons learned (and mine) is how important, vital even, it is to intentionally create time to connect with purpose. This could be working on a shared problem or a set of problems. For example, each partner brought to Chicago a unique challenge to share with their colleagues in hopes of eliciting fresh and different perspectives on how to address it. They engaged in a facilitated approach, using the Consultancy Protocol. This process develops participants’ capacity to see and describe the dilemmas that are essential to their work, and helps each person understand and tackle the dilemma.

CCE Ramona Trevino

Now, for the fun part. Take a look at this list of dilemmas raised by the Regional Funds partners.

  • How might we personalize adult professional learning to better match the learning intended for students?
  • What key instructional clues are evidence of personalized learning in schools?
  • How do we prioritize the set of available supports to ensure our desired outcomes?
  • How might we help organize and connect our diverse network of partners in support of personalized learning?
  • How can my organization foster and support the development of a community of learners?
  • What are the key systemic supports necessary to grow personalized learning and learner autonomy?

Are any of these challenges ones you face in your school or network? I saw lots of parallels between regional partners working with a network of schools and how next gen schools work with their community of teachers. Maybe not surprisingly, I also saw parallels with the challenges NGLC has faced supporting the network of regional partners and the national network of breakthrough school model grantees. In fact, the NGLC team was reminded of just how powerful the wisdom in the room is when purposefully tapped. We are all learners.

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t underestimate the knowledge of your learners or your colleagues.
  • Shared problems lend themselves well to shared answers. It’s increasingly evident to us that we’re all facing similar challenges. Recognizing that may be an important step in the journey.
  • The NGLC network of breakthrough school innovators is a rich source of wisdom, creativity, and problem solving (as other networks surely are, as well)—and with a renewed appreciation for the power a learning community has when leveraged.
  • If you’re a network convener, find facilitative tools, like the consultancy protocol and other protocols, time, and related conditions that enable this kind of sharing.
Stef Blouin headshot

Stefanie Blouin (she/her/hers)

Former Senior Program Officer, NGLC

As the former senior program officer for NGLC, Stefanie Blouin was responsible for developing and implementing internal and external strategies to ensure smooth operations and maximize team effectiveness and contributions to the next gen learning space.