Better Together Book Summary By Lydia Dobyns and Tom Vander Ark

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Better Together (2018) explores the way schools, districts and networks are revolutionizing student education to make sure that every individual is college and career ready.

It sheds light on how these networks offer new teaching structures, promote ongoing professional growth and personalize learning opportunities, so that students have access to the best possible educational paths.

The book dives deep into what it takes for networks to build partnerships between district leaders, school administrators and teachers - providing a roadmap of how successful networking models can help students reach their full potential.

Better Together gives readers an intriguing insight into modern schooling systems, as well as highlighting the changes needed to ensure all children have the same access to quality education.

Better Together Book

Book Name: Better Together (How to Leverage School Networks for Smarter Personalized and Project Based Learning)

Author(s): Lydia Dobyns and Tom Vander Ark

Rating: 4.5/5

Reading Time: 24 Minutes

Categories: Education

Author Bio

Lydia Dobyns is the president and CEO of the New Tech Network, making her a highly acclaimed expert in both education policy and technology.

Her experience with these two crucial fields has led to the creation of innovative educational environments all across the US.

Her insight on how to effectively use policy and technology in schools shines through her Better Together book.

With her knowledge, she paints a picture of how these two subjects can work together in order to create a thriving school environment - something that's desperately needed right now.

By understanding her perspective, readers are able to find solutions for their own unique problems and situations.

Discover The Unexpected Secret To Successful Learning: How Learning Networks Can Transform Stress Into Engagement

Successful Learning

Teachers have long known the importance of cultivating learning experiences that move beyond a focus on exams and instead lay the groundwork for what students will need in life after school.

And with Better Together: Building Networks to Support Student Success, educators can not only learn how to do just that, but also gain a much-needed source of support for their efforts.

In this book, readers can expect to uncover the mystery behind successful online learning, explore why classrooms aren’t the only environment for teaching and learning and find out why a spirit of generosity is essential for any educator.

What’s more, it provides an introduction to learning networks––varied resources designed to tackle whatever needs your school may have–– and offers guidance as to how they should be utilized.

Ultimately, Better Together gives teachers strategies and frameworks on how they can create enriched learning experiences that develop meaningful skills and help prepare students for whatever life has in store.

The Benefits Of Joining A School Network For Educators: Access To Resources, Stability, And Improved Learning Outcomes

Connecting educators through school networks has been found to be an effective way of improving student learning outcomes.

Evidence from Stanford University suggests that schools which are part of these networks outperform those that aren’t.

This is due to the fact that by joining a network, teachers benefit from increased stability in terms of their teaching practices and curricula in addition to having a shared vision for learning with their peers in other schools.

Furthermore, networks provide teachers with access to a wider range of ideas, tools and experiences that can help improve classroom performance.

Through the idea-exchange hub each member school has access to all the resources developed by their colleagues, allowing them to customize their own teaching accordingly.

These long-term advantages allow teachers to provide students with improved education due to better quality teaching practices and more engagement when it comes to lessons.

Ultimately this results in better learning outcomes for students as they benefit from consistent pedagogy, up-to-date resources and improved co-operation amongst educators.

Online Learning Has Great Potential, But We Mustn’T Overlook The Human Aspect Of Education

It’s true that online learning holds great potential for students of all ages.

It allows them to study at their own pace, access a variety of educational material, and learn from professionals who could be across the world.

However, this doesn’t make it an effective way to teach school students.

The biggest problem with online learning is that it follows traditional educational models, ones that focus more on proficiency rather than growth.

This might work in some cases, but it’s not ideal for teaching children who may be behind in a certain subject due to life circumstances or other struggles they are facing.

These students need the support and motivation of being part of a community which is best offered in an in-person classroom setting.

Online learning platforms can help here as well by providing teachers with additional insight into how a student is progressing with each lesson plan .

However, these platforms come with significant costs associated with development and implementation–something many smaller schools don’t have access to.

How Personalized, Project-Based Learning Transformed A Low-Performing Elementary School Into A High Achieving One

Project-Based Learning

When Aaron Brengard became the principal at Katherine Smith Elementary, he knew that its teaching model needed an overhaul in order to increase student engagement.

He soon learned about the New Tech Network’s re-structured education model which focuses on personalized learning and project-based work.

The benefits of incorporating this approach in their classrooms have been proven time and time again—it increases students’ connection to materials they are working with as well as teaches them certain soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and empathy.

In addition to providing a relevant curriculum designed for today’s modern workplace, this new style of teaching also shifts the culture around assessment; rather than focusing solely on test scores, it puts emphasis on measuring qualities like critical thinking and personal agency.

As a result of implementing these changes throughout their school system, Katherine Smith Elementary saw their student’s performance levels rise dramatically – 92 percent of students graduate and 70 percent go to college.

Evidently, personalizing and project-based learning create more engaging classrooms which ultimately deliver long lasting results that are beneficial for both students and teachers alike.

Design Thinking Empowers Students And Educators Alike With A Flexible Mindset For Problem-Solving

The goal of education is for students to learn how to think critically and be prepared for whatever challenges life has in store for them.

To do this, teaching must focus on the learning experiences, not the results.

Our educational system must encourage students to explore without fear of failure and foster an environment where students are empowered to pursue innovative solutions.

This is a key message that is illustrated by the success story of Jared from One Stone school in Idaho.

At One Stone, a nontraditional school, Jared had access to a makerspace where he was free to work on projects like programming in different languages and creating his own computer networks.

Because One Stone employs design thinking as its teaching framework, failure isn’t seen as a negative thing.

It’s encouraged, allowing students such as Jared to take risks in pursuit of innovative solutions with resilience and determination – qualities which serve them well long after they leave school grounds.

In much the same way, Design39 Campus – a school within Poway Unified School District – starts each day by discussing how best to approach teaching using design thinking: listening carefully to students and approaching challenges from their perspectives for more meaningful results.

This type of collaborative working environment offers unique growth opportunities for both teachers and students alike and is an essential part of fostering an innovative generation ready for all life has waiting.

Real-World Experiences Give Meaning To Education

Connecting education to the realities of the world is a powerful way to engage students in meaningful learning.

The Teton Science Schools network uses Field Education programs that allow students to gain real-world experience through place-based education, enabling them to connect their local landscape with their studies.

Inquiry-based learning helps them create projects based on examples in their own community, fostering a sense of belonging.

High Tech High founder Larry Rosenstock takes an integrated approach by merging art with biology and having his students work with local blood banks or explore fauna and flora nearby.

The Summit School model also facilitates student exploration outside the classroom through trips under the oversight of personnel from the network’s central office, while Samueli Academy encourages its juniors and seniors to take summer internships in collaboration with Academy business partners.

Ultimately, when classroom lessons are tied to something tangible and applicable outside of the four walls, they become more engaging and can truly benefit both individuals and society as a whole.

The Key To Improved Student Learning: Generous Teacher Networks That Work Together

Student Learning

In Better Together, the key message is that the student learning experience can be drastically improved when teachers take collective responsibility for it.

A great example of this is found in classrooms that follow the NTN (New Tech Network) model.

In these schools, two educators join forces to teach a single course – combining different subject areas into one larger class.

Not only does this result in an environment that integrates information and encourages students to synthesize knowledge, but it also helps to create lasting and meaningful relationships between teachers and their students.

With two people in the room, there’s a better chance of managing potential behavioral issues and role modeling collaborative behavior and teamwork.

Furthermore, working in teams also improves course development through ongoing feedback and evaluation; creates sustainable teaching mechanisms with in-room support; and provides tailored instruction based on individual student needs.

It’s even possible for teachers from different schools to connect via Teacher2Teacher – a social network designed to create subcommittees where resources can be shared freely.

When Choosing A Learning Network: Have A Clear Vision Of Your Education Goals

When it comes to choosing the right learning network for your school, it’s important to have a clear idea of what kind of school you’d like to create and how strictly you’re willing to adhere to what each network offers.

With this in mind, it becomes easier to distinguish which network will be the most suitable match.

Having a vision also helps when deciding between different types of networks.

For example, Managed Networks consistently deliver quality outcomes, but they may stifle innovations as schools are required to follow their specific learning model and assessment rubrics.

Similarly, with Principle and Design networks educators share a common vision but these tend not to be as rigorous as managed ones.

By having a clear vision of what kind of educational system you want for your school from the get-go, selecting a compatible learning network becomes much simpler.

To Transform Students’ Learning Experience, Schools Must Change Their Culture Through Vulnerability, Reassurance And Involvement

When it comes to improving a child’s learning experience, an effective way is by implementing changes to the school’s culture.

This shift in focus goes beyond test scores and into planning lessons that cater to each child’s individual learning needs.

To achieve successful educational transformation, educators must have a leader who advocates for an overhaul of traditional teaching methods and creates trust among her team in order for them to foster the courage to be vulnerable.

This same level of assurance must also apply to parents who may be anxious about the change due to their lack of understanding of new teaching systems.

Educators are able leaverage on the time that comes with roll-out of the new model and use it as an opportunity to educate and help parents ease their worries.

Finally, setting up subcommittees dedicated to tackling one aspect of the project can help spread ownership of its positive outcomes across teams and gain involvement from your learning community.

The resulting improvements will align itself with Principal Brengard’s vision; giving students life-changing social and academic confidence.

Wrap Up

The Better Together book is all about embracing nontraditional learning models as a way to prepare students for the modern world.

Instead of just focusing on test scores and memorization, students need to learn creative problem-solving, taking initiative, and loving to learn.

To achieve that, schools should embrace learning networks which can help educators around the world get inspired and share their best ideas with each other.

One of the key pieces of advice in this book is to start blogging your education ideas.

It doesn’t matter if you specialize in one subject; it’s still helpful to share your ideas with people who teach other subjects.

Blogging serves as a great platform for inspiration and collaboration between educators across different fields around the globe.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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