How we design technology tools and systems must be firmly grounded in all we know about learning (from both current research and educator experience). I believe that the qualities of effective learning environments must guide IT decisions and design processes.

Here are my initial ideas – what are your thoughts? Things I missed? Does it resonate?

Focus on Student Learning

  • The ultimate focus is always to support student learning and growth.

Learner Centered

  • All learning (i.e. students in a class, teacher pro-d, parents seeking info, etc…) requires similar types of supports (relevant, empowered, social, etc…)
  • We all need to be lifelong learners. Process of continuous improvement is critical.
  • The rate of change in the world is still accelerating and isn’t likely to stop, so we need to be able to continuously learn


  • Connect learning to real world situations. Don’t want learners to have to ask “why am I doing this?” without an answer!
  • Continuous communication of the “why” of everything we do is critical
  • Create meaning within each person’s own context. When I can connect something new to something I already understand, learning is better retained and becomes sustainable.
  • Bring together and respect existing communities. People self-organize by what matters and has value for them.
  • Community and parent inclusion in learning strategies can both support and reinforce the learning that happens in schools.
  • Problem solving within real world contexts helps learning “make sense” to learners
  • Critical thinking is a necessary real world skill (we rarely have only the information we need – so what is relevant vs. what is needed vs. what is superfluous?)
  • Access to up to date information and expertise.


  • Need to respect diversity of needs/abilities/learning styles, etc…
  • Flexibility is critical to success. Provide a variety of options and let people select their own combination of tools/techniques.
  • There is no “one way” or “one size fits all” solution. Asking questions and being curious is critical. We will provide a variety of tools and options that can be assembled as needed.
  • Support differentiated methods of instruction and access, ability for individuals to select their preferred tools


  • Learning is social – we learn together, no one is the absolute expert, need for “co-learning”
  • Relationships are fundamental to all learning. Learning is social.
  • Every project must be approached as an opportunity to build a culture of learning that supports any kind of change (current or future)
  • Everything we do must provide an opportunity to build and support relationships
  • Trust/safety is required for risk taking and learning
  • How we build trust and individual comfort levels will vary

Networked Learning

  • Learning at all levels supports student learning in classrooms.
    • “Expert Learner” Networks (learning from…)
      • Teacher/student, Principal/teachers, District Leadership/Principals (and VPs), Parent/student, Principal/parents (PAC), Teacher/parents, subject area experts/learners, etc…
    • Peer Networks (learning together…)
      • Students, Teachers, Principals, Parents, District Leaders, Support staff, etc…
    • PLN Personal Learning Networks (self reflection, making meaning of my learning…)
  • We must provide tools and environments that can support all of the different types of networked learning, so that they can be used as needed.
  • These networks are fluid and continually shifting, depending on the topic or the expertise in the room. The “expert learner” is not always the “authority figure” – teachers sometimes learn from their students, principals also learn from their staff, etc… The “expert learner” is the one with the experience and expertise on any particular topic.

Involve Parents and Community

  • Learning is continuous and extends beyond the school day, so also includes families and communities
  • Respect that families all have different values and learning outside of school will reflect those values/interests. Work to connect, not replace, learning outside of school to the learning inside classrooms.

Financially Responsible, Sustainable and Effective

  • We operate within an environment of limited resources, so have to balance idealistic beliefs with the reality of available funding.
  • Build tools that leverage work being done across multiple contexts (e.g. the approach we implement for training users during the IT project could be used for training principals regarding leadership standards)
  • Clarity of purpose is required to ultimately keep the focus on supporting student learning
  • Every project, pilot or test must be considered from a point of view of a District wide implementation – is it feasible? Is it sustainable?
  • Think creativity and build in measurements of success and effectiveness (both quantitative and qualitative, re: hard and soft benefits)
  • Assessment tools must support summative and formative assessment (assessment of learning, assessment for learning, assessment as learning.) (e.g. self assessments, peer feedback, survey tools, etc…)