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Brian Flones | The start of a transformative journey

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There is a shift happening in education that shows promise in truly meeting the needs of all students. That shift is about personalization around instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and provides pathways to the specific interests of different learners.

New opportunities will provide flexible, anytime/everywhere learning beyond the traditional school day, school year or building, thanks to online or blended learning, hands-on opportunities in the community and instruction provided by a range of teachers, mentors, experts and technologies.

In Wenatchee we have realized that tweaking the current industrial age model of education will not deliver the desired results for all students. We also knew that it would be impossible to initiate any type of transformative change without the support and backing of our whole community. So last year, with the help of our community leaders and input from over 4,000 people who live, work or study in Wenatchee, we launched Wenatchee Learns — an initiative aimed at developing a common vision for the future of local learning. We found that our community is aligned in their beliefs, values, and expectations for what they want local learning to look like. The major theme from our visioning process is that we need to make education and learning more personal.

Wenatchee Learns data clearly said:

We need to provide a more personal approach to the learning experience of our students.

We need to expand ‘Teacher” to include not only school-based educators, but also parents, volunteers, and other partners in the community who can mentor and support learning.

We need to use technology as a bridge to connect all of the components of a personalized learning model.

Now the journey starts to transform the manner in which we deliver education to our students. We have identified three strategic focuses:

1. Designing the personalized learning system of the future to include flexible learning schedules, authentic learning opportunities through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and project based learning, and expanding career awareness opportunities to all students.

2. Tapping the power of our whole community by creating a Partnership Center that will expand opportunities for business partnerships, volunteering in schools, citizen mentoring, student internships/job shadows, parent engagement, and student volunteer and service projects.

3. Utilizing technology to create a digital platform that will enhance personalization through 1:1 devices for students, online and blended learning models, and moving towards digital and open source curriculum materials.

Transformative change does not happen from the top down; it occurs when individuals, teams, groups, and community make the future of learning their own business. Learning happens best when it is both personal and personalized. This is what we discovered from the thousands of citizens, parents, teachers and students who contributed to the Wenatchee Learns project.

In this column, we’ll share personal learning stories from Wenatchee School District. We look forward to sharing the Wenatchee Learns journey with you.

Brian Flones is Superintendent of the Wenatchee School District. He can be reached at flones.b@mail.wsd.wednet.edu.

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