GOODBYE, MR. WILLMANN. WE WILL MISS YOU!
As you can imagine, I was sad when Joe Willmann, our Director of Technology and eLearning Services, told us he was moving on to another position with the Concordia Publishing House in St. Louis. It did help when I learned about the position and that he truly felt called to it. My emotions were mostly selfish. I, like many others, grew to really enjoy and appreciate Mr. Willmann on a personal level, and that always makes it more difficult. However, I was not really worried about the future of LCSS and its technology efforts. We have a lot of great things already in place: a shared vision for the future; a dedicated technology support team; enthusiastic instructional coaches; a recipe for implementing 1:1 for our students; supportive and engaged students and parents; a robust wireless infrastructure; tested security and monitoring; and a strong desire to keep moving forward. So while we will deeply miss Mr. Willmann, we can all thank him for ensuring that he can be replaced – and that we will continue to advance our school system. That is a sign of a great leader. Thank you, Mr. Willmann.
DEVELOPING THE 21st CENTURY LEARNER – IT’S NOT ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY
Prior to hiring Mr. Willmann, several different groups had identified the need to advance the technology at the Lafayette Catholic School System. There was a technology committee that existed for years, and then in 2012 LCSS released its three year strategic plan that included the following goal:
Goal 8.1 – To build and maintain a technology infrastructure and support system to meet all LCSS academic and operational demands, including the following considerations: a one-to-one/classroom computing strategy, use of cloud based infrastructure, security and information privacy, and wired and wireless infrastructure at all schools.
Mr. Willmann was hired in large part to ensure that LCSS meets this goal, and we are. By all accounts we are well on our way to fully realizing this goal far faster than anyone expected. But this goal is really only part of the story – and just the beginning of the journey.
When we hired Mr. Willmann we intentionally did not hire an IT wonk. We were looking for an educator – someone that would not just help us identify the technology tools we were going to use, but help us identify how they would be used to enhance learning and transform our student experience. Technology, after all, will never replace a great teacher; it will never replace that relationship; and it will never be a source of inspiration for learning. However, it is a starting point for helping great teachers evolve classroom strategies to be more focused on the learning.
The technology department’s job is not to just fix our computers. Rather, it is to help our principals and teachers design a system of learning that is “best-in-class” and that builds the skill in our students, which enables them to prepare themselves for an unknown future. It is to serve our teachers at the highest levels and enable them to create experiences for our students that will last a lifetime . . . so that our graduates can quite literally change the world.
MOVING FORWARD – DEVELOPING A NEW KIND OF STUDENT
To help explain our shared vision and our continued progress forward, I would like to share a little background on my own learning process. A few years ago I taught ENTR 480, the entrepreneurship capstone course at Purdue University. Through this experience, I realized that our society was at risk of producing a whole generation of students who were very good “students” and who were very good at consuming information given by the teacher and returning that same information back on tests, but were not necessarily able to learn on their own and transform that knowledge into a meaningful outcome. During the entrepreneurship course, as long as we gave the students tasks that were clearly defined, they could replicate them with incredible precision, but as soon as the project turned into a discovery process with a high risk of failure, many students simply did not possess the confidence or skill to persevere.
Unfortunately, I am afraid that our children cannot expect to simply replicate a process and be employable in our future (or even current) world. No, our children must be able to prepare themselves for a world that does not yet exist and that is
constantly changing. They must be able to learn and acquire skills on their own, and then shortly after – learn and master another one. They must be able to master systems and technology that have not even been imagined yet. There will be no map or rubric to follow. They will need to take their knowledge and their diverse set of experiences and make associations that have not been made before. They will all need to be innovators — AND we need to ready them for the future – today.
WHAT’s NEXT – THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES
Many of today’s great minds have weighed in on what skills our students need to develop to become a “21st Century Learner.” But what is a 21st Century Learner?
Tony Wagner, author of the books, Most Likely to Succeed and Creating Innovators, describes it as follows:
21st Century students need seven essential skills to be college and career ready: 1) Critical thinking and problem solving; 2) Collaboration across networks and leading by influence; 3) Agility and adaptability; 4) Initiative and entrepreneurialism; 5) Effective oral and written communication; 6) Assessing and analyzing information; and 7) Curiosity and imagination.
There are many similar versions of this by many great thinkers, and we have developed inspiration and influence from a number of them. Additionally, at LCSS we also want to make sure that our students are always guided by their faith and inspired by a higher purpose.
While some of these skills do not require technology to develop, technology does facilitate and significantly enhance our capabilities.
To begin this journey toward developing the 21st Century Learner, the first task of the Director of Technology was to build an infrastructure and a team that was up to the task. In the past two years LCSS has: built a robust wireless infrastructure in each school; created coaching and support positions and filled them with qualified personnel; launched a 1:1 learning initiative at Central Catholic; and begun planning what technology looks like in our elementary schools.
In moving to the next phase of our efforts, we are going to add more technology in the elementary schools and will continue to enhance our professional development efforts for both administration and faculty. We also deliberately changed the job title (from “Director of Technology and eLearning Services” to “Director of Learning Design and Technology”) for Mr. Willmann’s future replacement and enhanced the job description to be even more deliberate about placing the emphasis on the learning process.
We made great progress over the last two years under Mr. Willmann’s leadership, and I know God has great plans for him. I will personally enjoy following his path. The good news is that Mr. Willmann’s hard work and diligence also laid the groundwork for us to continue to to grow and improve – and we have a clear vision for our future. I know he will also enjoy watching us thrive and continue our adventure.