K-12 Education

Dr. Smith Speaks On His New Book and Personalized Learning Platform

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Recently, Dr. Shawn K. Smith sat down with Magnusson-Skor to talk about The Shape of Change, his upcoming book and how it represents the next steps in his personalized learning platform. Read an excerpt from the interview below.

So, tell us about your new book, The Shape of Change. Why did you write it? And what are you hoping to accomplish?

I wanted to share what we’re learning about school districts in their journey to establish modern learning environments. Today, we have over 100 school districts using the Digital Convergence Framework, and that means we’re now able to see common patterns in their challenges, solutions, and results that we simply couldn’t before. That’s why we call the book, The Shape of Change. Using the Digital Convergence Framework as a tool, we can literally see a shape emerge that indicates if a school district is on the right track toward establishing the modern learning environment, or if some aspect of their work is preventing them from making progress.

An example is leadership. Early on, the work of district leaders must lead the work of other important areas, such as redesigning instructional practices to reflect the modern learning environment, developing modern curriculum, or even building a digital ecosystem that supports comprehensive and dynamic use of technology in the classroom.

I hope districts can use the book as a guide for navigating the framework and diagnosing problems if and when they occur. And when they do, identifying the right solution that enables them to quickly and effectively pick up where they left off.

Interesting. The Shape of Change is set to be released later in 2018, one year after The New Agenda, your most recent book. Are you afraid that The Shape of Change will decrease the impact of The New Agenda?

Not at all. The two books target different audiences with separate needs. The New Agenda speaks to district leaders who have yet to embrace the Digital Convergence Framework as a methodology to personalize learning. Many still take a linear approach and continue looking for the one investment that will solve all their problems, whether that’s a new learning management system this year, and new web-based curriculum the next. The New Agenda teaches them about the systematic, ongoing, and long-term approach of Digital Convergence.

On the other hand, The Shape of Change targets district leaders who already using the Digital Convergence Framework to advance their districts. Many have invested a year or more in the framework and need an effective diagnostic tool to measure their progress, learn what’s working and what’s not, and develop solutions. This book addresses readers who are in Stage 4 and 5 of Digital Convergence.

You have a new book tour planned for 2018. Talk about your book events and why you find them valuable.

The book tours are a great way to connect with audiences on a deeper level. I travel across the country to talk with superintendents and other district leaders about the latest research. What I find most exciting about these events is the chance to start a dialogue with people who can take my advice today, and use it tomorrow to improve the outcome of their organizations. And we are all passionate and committed to the same fundamental cause of improving teaching and learning in the classroom.

You’re the President of Modern Teacher. How has your role contributed to your thought leadership?

My work continues to shape my point of view. In my role at Modern Teacher, I continue to collaborate with prominent minds and districts in K-12, and gain insight into the common challenges impeding their progress. These experiences provide the lessons I hope to share through my writing – lessons that, if successful, enable others to find a more effective path to reaching the ultimate destination of personalized learning. When we share our research and experiences, everyone benefits.

The Shape of Change focuses on Stage 4 and 5 of Digital Convergence. There are 7 stages total. I assume this isn’t the last book in the series.

That’s right. The Shape of Change is actually the second book in a three-part series. I was able to write The Shape of Change because enough districts reached Stage 4 and 5 of Digital Convergence to provide statistically-relevant insights. Currently, no districts have reached Stage 6 or 7, when we truly get to see the impact of the modern learning environment on student outcomes. When we do reach that point, then I plan to write and publish the third book in the series.

You have a conference coming up. Can you tell us about it?

Yes, the National Conference on Digital Convergence February 13. I’m particularly excited about it. We have many thought leaders coming together to talk about the personalized learning platform and Digital Convergence. The National Council on Digital Convergence will host the event annually. It truly will serve as a formative experience. We have a mix of participants. On the one hand, we will have various organizations actively using the Digital Convergence Framework, including school districts, consortiums, education service agencies (ESAs) all in attendance. And we will also have districts and other organizations that have yet to embrace the framework. We also have some of the leading minds in education as speakers. So, it should be enlightening on all fronts.

You can download an excerpt of The Shape of Change here.

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