Through the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) initiative, we work with schools that are committed to transforming learning environments with always-available access to technology and powerful, personalized learning. We’ve even created a blueprint for schools to help them successfully navigate this journey. Undertaking this transformation is a challenge, and requires buy-in and commitment from district leadership, school administrators, and teachers in order to be successful.
Over the past two years, we’ve witnessed how building a strong school community and culture of support is critical to success. It’s important for schools to focus on creating a true sense of family and connecting with other schools around the country.
If you’ve ever visited Hawaii, you have probably heard the Hawaiian word ‘ohana. ‘Ohana means family, and describes not only the literal family unit, but also the strong community bonds that form among groups. We have two VILS schools located on the island of Maui — Kalama and Lokelani Intermediate Schools. Despite being on the same island, each school is strikingly different and has its own distinct culture. One is situated in the rural upcountry, and the other is located just up the road from the beach. Due to their geographic isolation from the rest of the VILS schools on the mainland, it’s even more critical for Kalama and Lokelani to build community among their teachers, and to connect virtually with other VILS sites.
— Jacinto Noriega III (@haseentoe) May 16, 2016
To help the Maui schools focus on these goals, we held an all-day workshop that focused on building ‘ohana among Kalama and Lokelani’s teachers, and creating connections to help them strengthen their digital ‘ohana with other VILS schools. We brought in educators from two VILS sites in Vista, Calif., to help lead sessions on powerful use of technology and to show teachers how they can collaborate digitally beyond of the classroom walls. The Vista team represented two schools (Rancho Minerva Middle School and Vista Innovation & Design Academy) who are wrapping up their second full year in the VILS initiative. Throughout the day, we focused on creating a safe, non-threatening environment for Maui teachers to share their victories, needs, concerns, and lessons learned from their first year navigating the digital transformation journey.
— Jacinto Noriega III (@haseentoe) May 14, 2016
Creating an open school culture that encourages these candid conversations is essential to success. Each school’s ‘ohana should strive to foster this environment. We like to think of our community of VILS sites as one big happy ‘ohana, and it’s our goal to encourage teachers across the project to collaborate with one another and be open to sharing virtually. Every school is unique and faces its own challenges along the way, but each has made a huge commitment to provide learners with access to technology and foster powerful learning environments.