Irrelevant: not connected or relevant to something. This is how students described the education they were receiving at Vista Unified School District. For the Superintendent, Devin Vodicka, this was unacceptable and set him on a journey to discover a way to engage students which he shared at the ITSE EdTech Conference this week.
“I conducted 64 student seminars over six months,” Vodicka said. “What we found was that one of the most common words students used was ‘irrelevant.”
Along with many other schools, Vista was struggling to bring their educational offerings into the digital age, and Vodicka knew it needed to change. “There are entire industries that are going through transformational change, and it’s not going to slow down,” Vodicka said. It was time to move from “mass production to mass personalization” and get students actively engaged in their learning.
For Vista, the first step to successful digital transformation was to understand the environment in which the school currently existed. After a little digging, Vodicka found that digital transformation and personalized learning meant very different things to staff, parents, and educators. Despite the differences in opinion, Vodicka was able to persuade stakeholders using educational data on the benefits of personalized learning and digital transformation.
Vodicka also considered the students that these changes would directly impact. “We often neglect to get input from the most impacted,” said Vodicka. “If you are really serious about meaningful transformation, there is no better way to ensure your efforts are learner-centered than to engage learners, amplify their voices and give them agency to be a part of the improvement process.”
Thanks to Vodicka’s hard work, the school secured a $10 million innovation grant through XQ Superschool. For other superintendents and educators looking to dive into digital transformation, Vodicka offers this advice: “It is critical that you are exceptionally clear and aligned on your vision, mission, values, and goals,” he said. “As a superintendent, you won’t be available to answer every question. People need a North Star to guide them through the process.”
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