Powering Future Ready Innovative Strategies

By Gail Pletnick (@GPletnickDysart), superintendent, Dysart Unified School District and AASA president-elect

As a committed member of the Future Ready and ConnectEd initiatives, the Dysart Unified School District has worked to create a teaching and learning environment powered by innovative learning strategies. That environment must support the development of relevant work, life skills and dispositions embedded in a strong foundation of core instruction. The district is focused on building a 21st century learning environment that includes innovative approaches, the use of technology to transform teaching and learning, and efforts to personalize education. Dysart is working on competency measures to demonstrate student success and mastery. In this competency based environment, students apply lessons and skills by engaging in real-world, authentic problems and learning strategies to become independent and innovative thinkers. These strategies are the keys in an ever-changing world focused not only on a strong knowledge base, but also on the ability to work creatively to find solutions in the workplace and in society.

In Dysart, students use technology to transform the learning environment beyond the walls of a typical classroom and beyond a traditionally defined school day schedule. The use of blended learning, online options, and innovative classroom instruction support student learning. Critical skills that students need to be future ready, such as creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking, are integrated into the curriculum. Relevant hands on strategies, such as the use of makerspaces and project based learning, provide authentic learning experiences. Dysart continues to expand pathways, signature programs and academies as options to provide workforce experiences and skills. Skills for the workplace that meet the demands today and into the future include leadership, team building, goal setting, planning, decision making, ethical judgment, and higher-order thinking through critical thinking and problem-solving.

 Dysart Innovations Lab
Students working with 3-D technology as part of their curriculum in the Innovation Academy.

In 2016, Dysart launched another option for students who are looking for a technology rich personalized learning pathway. The Dysart Innovation Academy provides a personalized learning environment for students in grades 6-8. Utilizing digital learning tools and relevant, project based Instructional approaches, this academy personalizes education for students by addressing the distinct learning needs, interests, and aspirations of individual students. Personalized learning allows instruction to be paced to student needs, modified to address learning preferences, and tailored to the interests of each learner. Student voice is an important component with children engaged in decisions about the what, when and how of learning. Teachers facilitate and mentor students who are engaged in integrated, real life learning experiences. Technology allows students the opportunity to take ownership for their learning. Providing students with the necessary support and the freedom to make choices regarding the place, pace, path, and time of their learning meets the needs of every learner. Because this environment provides for individualized educational plans, the Innovation Academy is able to meet the needs of special education students, students identified as gifted learners, and every child who chooses to enroll in this transformative educational environment. This incubator of innovation will help identify additional strategies for personalizing learning throughout the Dysart Unified School District.