In late August, I had the delightful opportunity to present to educators at Lake Superior State University during an inservice day planned by our friends at the Eastern Upper Peninsula (EUP) ISD in Michigan. After the session, a couple of new acquaintances suggested I enjoy the beautiful afternoon and explore the Soo Locks. Not being from Michigan, I was intrigued and set out to explore.
The Soo Locks is just one of the many reasons tourists flock to the quaint town of Sault Ste. Marie each year. The clean air, friendly people and beautiful scenery draw people from all over the country. Perhaps most mysterious to me is the draw of the Locks. After exploring the carefully manicured park and Visitor Center, I gathered with over a hundred people in the concrete stands beside the Locks, patiently waiting for the entrance of the next large freighter. I pondered, “How does something so simple keep everyone’s attention so long? Do we really just sit here and wait?” Quite magically, the ships enter one by one from Lake Huron, ropes are tied off and without a sound, rise mysteriously to their new water level 21 feet higher, ready to enter St. Mary’s River, Lake Superior and beyond. With a loud honk, they are ready to move on and seamlessly they are on their way.
As I was flying home over Michigan’s beautiful forests and lakes, I pondered again on the Soo Locks and their mysterious draw. Perhaps the Locks cause us to pause and contemplate on life and its many transitions, some gentle like the one I witnessed – well planned for, carefully executed, with boundaries and ropes to keep us safe – and some not quite so stable and serene.
In this tumultuous time in education, with rapid change and transitions becoming a way of life, perhaps there is a lesson we can learn from the Soo Locks. How can we, like the architects in the mid-1800’s, design a system to help everyone safely rise up to new levels, providing a path forward to learning at new heights? As every learner, teacher, classroom, school and district across the country move away from the old, transitioning and preparing for new waters, how can we, like the Lock engineers, provide a safe environment, with structure and clear boundaries that will help everyone advance and successfully reach their destination…. without the risk of capsizing.
Here are a few things we are learning from our work with courageous districts that are successfully making the transition to higher waters.
As you create your own district plan, we’d like to offer a possible framework to help guide your work. Consider each of the elements in our Digital Transformation Framework. Conduct a self-evaluation to determine your areas of strength and challenge? Where do you need to shore up and add resources? Are there areas where you excel and could shed a light for others as they navigate through rough waters? We encourage you to join our discussion forums in Know New Ideas to share your new ideas on making the print to digital transformation.