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When the Fuse RI Project was conceived last spring, one of its main goals was to connect motivated educators from around the state who were early adopters of blended learning practices. Through the Fellowship they would receive the training and experience they needed to start leading this work in a more formal way. The hope was that “lone wolf” educators who embraced blended learning in their classrooms would not only lead by example but amplify their impact by coaching other educators, weighing in on policy decisions, and helping to craft their school or district’s vision for the classrooms of tomorrow.

One (incredibly busy) year later, we are excited to report that this vision is taking root. Nine (out of 25) Fellows will be assuming some form of a new role in the 2015-16 school year. Many of them are moving into positions that will entail direct support of the advancement of blended learning in their districts.

For example, a high school math teacher will now be splitting his time between classroom duties and supporting the school as Technology Integration Fellow.  His school is rolling out a 1:1 Chromebook initiative this fall, and his position will allow him to support teachers to integrate the devices in their classrooms and push the use of blended best practices throughout the building.

Another fellow, a former middle Social Studies teacher, is transitioning to a full-time Technology Coach, embedded in two middle schools in her district. In this role she will be meeting with grade level and department teams to introduce new tools, help them develop familiarity with devices, and guide pilots of blended models. She will also serve as an advisor to administrators as they plan for technology and software purchases and professional development for teachers.

And a former Assistant Principal in one Fuse district is taking on a principalship in another Fuse district. He will undoubtedly leverage both the insight he’s gained working as a Fellow in his partner district as well as the work he’s led as an administrator in his home district in this new position. His aim is to create learning opportunities where students have immediate access to devices and content within a flexible, differentiated environment.

To be clear, we don’t believe that taking on a new role is the only way Fellows can grow in this work. Many of our Fellows are keeping the same position but are expanding their technology focus of their informal work with colleagues. What we do believe is that it is through this maximization of talent within districts and cross-pollination among districts that blended learning really can be scaled in the state.

Some district leaders have been instrumental in facilitating this blooming of human capital by recognizing the needs of their schools and creating new positions like tech coaches. We believe this is a role that will eventually be as ubiquitous in school districts as curriculum directors and reading coaches. We applaud those districts who have had the foresight and moxie to rework budgets, write new job descriptions, and begin the work of figuring out what this role should look like.

Others have contributed by wisely investing in teacher leaders through formal and informal professional development opportunities. For example, approximately 15 districts sent teams to Highlander’s Blended Learning Conference last March where they learned about new tools and models and discussed the best ways to bring them back to their districts. Fifteen districts also sponsored their educators to attend ISTE, the premier edtech professional learning event of the year, this past June. There has also been enormous support for events like Coventry’s Google Summit and URI Media Lab’s Summer Institute in Digital Literacy. And more and more districts are hosting tech-focused unconferences, showcases, and smackdowns.

While the Fuse RI project is still in its early stages, we are encouraged by the ever-widening influence of our first cohort. In addition, we are thrilled to be bringing on thirteen new Fellows this summer. They represent a variety of roles, LEAs, and years of experience–from a district Tech Director to a lauded veteran educator to a third year teacher. We value the diversity that comes from their varied perspectives and couldn’t be more excited to see where these Fellows will go.

Fuse Fellows Tracey Nangle and Simona Simpson collaborate during the July Bootcamp.

Written By: Laura Jackson