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Center of Innovation

Faculty and staff wanting to develop or implement new concepts or approaches that enhance teaching and learning now have a go-to resource at “the Center” of their instructional goals.

The Center for the Art and Science of Teaching, Learning and Entrepreneurship isn’t a physical place, yet it abounds with tools and possibilities. It is a collective of skilled personnel committed to one of Providence Day’s core tenets — inspiring and supporting others. 

More specifically, the group is tasked with empowering their fellow faculty and staff to “take action to close the gap between who we are and who we aspire to be” — the Center’s mantra.

The Center’s support is administered in three specific phases of innovating — opportunity development, solution development and impact development. These are influenced by the principles and practices of human-centered design, a design and management framework that develops solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process.

“Opportunity development actively encourages our faculty and staff to seek to better understand any opportunities for growth,” said Matt Scully, Digital Integration and Innovation director. “Solution development is a process-driven phase where we seek to design, prototype, re-iterate and implement solutions.”

Impact development may be the most important phase, noted Scully.

“Here we strive to collect data, stories, artifacts and more that helps us determine the impact of the implemented solution,” he said. “It is our hope that impact development will lead to the opportunity to share our lessons learned with others.”

Centrifugal Motion

The Center’s origins started with the idea that the Technology team needed to re-purpose and re-focus on something “beyond just the tech tools,” said Scully, if they were to continue assisting PDS in becoming a world-class educational institution.

“We were rapidly growing to where we needed to focus on the intentional and deliberate use of tech tools to create the learning spaces necessary to support our students,” he said. “This led to multiple conversations over the last four to five years about the needs of our community and how to best serve them.”

Conversations ensued with school leaders, Board of Trustee members and outside organizations that primarily focused on the question that became the essence of the Center’s mantra: “How do we mind the gap between who we are and who we aspire to be?”

A shift was needed, said Scully, “to become more innovative by focusing on the instructional strategies. We must be intentional, deliberate and disciplined in how we pursue our aspirations.”

The Center, then, is the attempt to re-purpose existing resources and personnel to create mechanisms that can support faculty and staff in designing, implementing and assessing innovative new approaches that narrow the gap.

Hence Scully’s title change from Director of Technology to Digital Integration and Innovation. In his redefined role, Scully focuses on coordinating the Center and developing innovative opportunities and partnerships with organizations that can help PDS and its partners reach desired goals.

PDS’s Instructional Technology Specialists Shannon Welton and Susan Stiefel are now Instructional Strategists who will focus on supporting faculty in achieving their instructional goals.

“The changes in titles mirror the changes to job responsibilities that free these roles to support our faculty in any element of crafting new instructional opportunities — from iPads to crayons,” said Scully.

Joining them in the Center are P.E. teacher Emily Carrara as Community Strategist, who will be focused on human-centered design; and English teacher Ryan Welsh as Design Strategist, who will be focused on design thinking — design-specific cognitive activities applied during the process of designing.

Additionally, all faculty and staff are part of the Center, said Scully. When an opportunity for growth and innovation arises, a group of faculty and staff will be convened to help develop solutions and assist with the implementation.

“It will be different groups for different opportunities,” said Scully.

Thus far the Center has supported several projects, including last year’s 6th grade capstone experience, which resulted in 6th-graders participating in a collaborative, problem-solving event instead of exams to end their first year in Middle School.

“Through such projects, the Center has helped the Providence Day School community embrace opportunities for innovation, partnerships and collaborative thought,” said Carrara.

“We anticipate the Center will be partnering with each division to engage in yearlong projects to support each division’s instructional goals and needs,” said Scully.   

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