“When the expertise and wisdom of the teacher is given equal weight in the blended learning equation, that is bold school” (Kieschnick, p.21).
Recently, I had the honor of meeting and talking with Weston Kieschnick, senior fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education, at the 2017 Model Schools Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. To be honest, I was not familiar with Weston’s work, nor was I familiar with his book, Bold School. However, after listening to his passion about teaching and the practical applications of his framework in classrooms, Kieschnick’s book Bold School has become one of my top books of 2017.
Bold School is a mindset, taking what we know works best in schools and classrooms and blends it with the latest technology. This isn’t just any educational book about integrating technology. Kieschnick clearly recognizes that education is not broken, but rather we need to think about how we are using the technologies available to us and how we train teachers in using them. Today, we have clear research on what the high impact instructional strategies are within the classroom to boost student achievement. We also know that new technologies have proliferated our schools. The balance is how we blend these components together, thus being “bold school”.
“We know the truth: we have to layer technologies onto our instruction. But here’s another truth: we must do so with strategy, pedagogy, and purpose. That comes from educators, not from the technologies themselves” (p. 8).
Kieschnick begins his book exploring why being “bold school” matters. He tears down some common myths of education today, such as that education is broken, the old way of teaching no longer works, that kids are digital natives, and that technology must drive all decisions. Instead, he offers truths about education, focused on what does work in classrooms. He strengthens the notion that blended learning does work when instructional practices, pedagogy, and academic outcomes drive technology decisions. He also ensures throughout the book that teachers are the most important driver of these instructional decisions, sharing that the relationships teachers form with students can never be replaced by technology, and that these relationships have an impact on a student’s growth.
“Bold school is an attitude. It’s a mindset. It’s a way of thinking and behaving. Bold school is a space we all must inhabit so that all of our thinking, decisions, and instruction come from a place of purpose” (p. 27). After uncovering myths and discovering truths within our schools, Kieschnick then breaks down the premise of being bold school, where purpose drives what we do.
Very simply and with practical examples, he explains the goal, strategy, tool paradigm. He takes the time to ensure the reader understands how important it is to begin with the goal, or result you want to achieve, first. Then, strategy is used to plan for how you will achieve that goal. Finally, tools are applied to the plan in order to fully utilize what will be used to achieve the goal.
The Bold School Framework for Strategic Blended Learning looks like this:
- Identify Desired Academic Outcome(s)
- Select a Goal-Aligned Instructional Strategy That Works
- Choose Digital Tool(s)
- Plan Blended Instruction
- Self-Assess Your Plans and Progress with a Framework (p. 36).
Kieschnick reinforces the importance that we do not start with technology, using technology for technology’s sake. We must begin with the learning outcome for our students, strategically applying high impact instructional strategies to the learning, then using digital tools to blend instruction. Even more than that, he continues the process through the self-assessment component, aligning the work we do in the classroom with Daggett’s Rigor and Relevance Framework. This ensures rigor and relevance are evident in the instructional process and it is not just about using technology in the classroom.
The majority of the book is designed around high-impact strategies. Kieschnick pulls from his coaching background, highlighting classroom stories to unveil common mistakes and turns them into awesome blended opportunities. He pulls from Hattie’s work in Visible Learning (2015), using research, rigor, and relevance to blend instruction. Not only are the narratives of these classroom scenarios real and conversational, but Kieschnick provides a step-by-step analysis of what the instructional strategy looks like to be of greatest impact. At the end of each of these strategies, he pulls together his Bold School Framework, walking through the lesson development from the academic outcome to the self-assessment of the plan in the end.
Kieschnick highlights 11 common and high impact strategies, using the Bold School Framework to tell the story: interactive video method, questioning/Socratic method, vocabulary programs, direct instruction, peer tutoring, concept mapping, worked examples, self-assessment, reciprocal teaching, problem solving teaching, and spaced vs. mass practice. Each instructional strategy is fully explained, then blended with fidelity. Every teacher can read about these strategies and use this wisdom immediately within his/her classroom.
I highly recommend this book to all educators, from principals, central office administration, and to all teachers. Every educator will enjoy Kieschnick’s real approach to what works, giving credit to all the greatness that has been happening in education and how we can take it to the next level to make it even better than before. He uses great movie and TV references throughout the book, as well as the stories he tells from the classrooms he has visited, giving references to up-to-date research on what works in our classrooms. More than that, while he uncovers each instructional strategy highlighted in the book, he walks teachers through the process of using that strategy, blending it with technologies available today.
Old school wisdom. New technology. “No matter how awesome a technology can be, its ability to advance student learning depends entirely on the human being who decides to use it. Technologies are by no means magic bullets. But when used strategically, they can help teachers be so much more efficient and effective in their roles and allow students to learn and obtain skills in ways that are exciting and pertinent to 21st century competencies” (p. 62). Weston Kieschnick’s book, Bold School, definitely delivers boldness to our classrooms.
For a taste of Kieschnick’s style, here’s a recent video of Weston on LeadUp Teach.