Making the Beautiful Work a Little Easier

Big Picture Learning is very excited about two new digital platforms that have been in recent development. We launched ImBlaze, our internship management system, and Learning Big Picture, our online Professional Development system last year in a small pilot, and we are now ready for prime time, as both platforms find themselves bringing on batches of new users every day!

During the ideation phase of both of these projects, we did a great deal of outreach to Big Picture schools, principals and coaches. We wanted these platforms to incorporate the best of our work, to extend the reach and impact of Big Picture Learning and improve the quality of internships and student-centered learning across the country. We built these platforms with the understanding that:

  • Practitioners need “just in time” tools and professional development, built to offer what they need when they need it;
  • Teachers and leaders are incredibly busy, so tools need to provide quality resources that are easy to locate and use;
  • Our tools and training should align with Big Picture Learning’s core values, but represent the powerful diversity of our network schools; and
  • We needed to find a way to translate the magic of Big Picture Learning to a digital environment!

We think we’re hitting the mark with these goals. I’ve had some time to reflect on distance learning, both through the context of this work, and also as a distance learner to this year’s Big Bang--Big Picture Learning’s International Conference on Student Centered Learning.

I wasn’t able to be with the Big Picture network family for Big Bang in St. Louis this year, but I felt incredibly present and connected through my colleagues’ use of digital communication and tools.

I was able to follow along with conference highlights through Twitter, especially via the conference hashtag #thebang2017. Each morning I was able to watch fantastic daily video summaries, created in collaboration with a production crew from Advertise for America.  I was able to access workshop materials through Guidebook, and send video messages back and forth with friends and colleagues via the Marco Polo app. If you sang karaoke at the conference, it’s possible I was watching from my couch! I watched my friend and colleagues Jeff Petty’s leadership advisory Wild Principal work light up Twitter. I accessed slidedecks from workshops, fielded new user requests on Learning Big Picture, and got to see the Friday morning musical performance, snippets of the keynote speaker, Wendell Pierce, and got text messages intermittently to share special moments or ask for my ideas.

We want our  digital platforms to feel like this -- a way to connect with each other, to witness the fantastic work that’s happening in our schools in real time, to create experiences and launch projects with colleagues thousands of miles away.

ImBlaze offers schools a way to organize and track internships so much more easily than anything we’ve been able to manage before. It puts students at the center of their own real world learning, and gives schools powerful new ways of looking at student progress and learning.

Learning Big Picture provides online professional development tools, lessons, videos, and a social component, where advisors and leaders can share ideas, challenges, and resources. We’ve brought the best practices from our network schools to light on this platform, and we share training, ideas and tools, guiding users to apply their learning to their own school context. We hold monthly digital convenings, to bring together practitioners to connect in “virtual water cooler” meetings.

Simply put: we want to make the very hard, very beautiful work of our schools just a little bit easier, and a lot more visible.