Q&A with Scott Bohlender and Jessica Godwin, "All things PD" for Redland USD
Meet two of Alludo’s newest super users from Redlands Unified School District – Scott Bohlender and Jessica Godwin. Scott is Redland USD’s Director of Accountability, Staff Development, and School Improvement, and Jessica is Scott’s partner in all things professional development and Redland’s Secretary III Educational Services. We sat down with them recently to find out why they are passionate about education, what led them to Alludo, and how Alludo is transforming professional learning across their district.
AT A GLANCE
Redlands Unified School District
In March Redlands USD personalized a PD program built on Alludo, Redlands Real-time Actionable Individualized Learning (RAIL)
- Redlands USD is made up of 20,000 students and teachers
- Redlands needed to deliver on a requirement of offering every certificated staff with the opportunity for six hours of professional development on their own time outside of the workday
- Redland Chose Alludo because it was…
- Visually pleasing
- Simple to use / Novices can easily figure it out
- Learning offerings are more broad and current than other tools
- Content has good, sound instructional practices
- Monitoring and supporting learner engagement and achievement is easy
- Easy to launch in a short period of time
- Redlands USD and Alludo partnered to roll out choice-based, on-demand professional learning to 1,300 teachers
- Alludo was very responsive; quick with options, plan, and turnaround on making that plan happen
- Redlands Real-time Actionable Individualized Learning (RAIL) was the personalized PD program built on Alludo
- Redlands RAIL was designed, developed, and rolled out in two weeks!
- To 1,300 teacher learners across its 26 sites
- 1,100+ teachers engaged
- This is over 90% engagement!
- Prior to Alludo they were getting 15% PD engagement
- 1,100+ teachers engaged
- These teachers completed more than 8,000 hours of PD in just over a month!
- 90% of teacher learners surpassed the goal Redlands USD set!
- Feedback was extensive and positive and highlighted...
- Teacher learners now have the choice to learn what they want to learn
- Gamification is proving to be very engaging to many Redlands teachers
- The bite-size, micro-learning activities were the perfect length
Here is our conversation in detail!
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your background in education and what led you to your current role at Redlands USD?
A: (Scott) I was an elementary school teacher, and then I first became a principal in 1994. I've done different administrative jobs since then. It's been a great career. Education is a wonderful profession.
A: (Jessica) I started with the district as a paraprofessional. I worked with special ed kiddos and ended up getting an office job and landed in human resources. Then I was able to move up and be Scott's secretary for professional development.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: (Scott) I love working with teachers and principals and that tends to be my audience now versus the children when I was a principal. I love when teachers get excited about learning and learning something new to enhance their craft. And the same with principals. We're always learning and growing. And so our job in our little department is to make that happen for over 20,000 students and teachers.
A: (Jessica) Scott and I have a huge responsibility to put a big professional development training on. When it's such a success and when the teachers really enjoy it and we get that feedback, it makes it all worthwhile. So that's what I love. Sometimes when you're in the process of doing this, you think it’s too much. But then when you see the outcome, you're like, “That's what it was about.” So I'm ready for the next one!
Q: What's the most challenging thing about being responsible for all things professional development for Redlands USD?
A: (Scott) I think in professional development life, the most challenging thing is the unexpected. A speaker that's coming has a flat tire or their plane is delayed or the Wi-Fi is not working. What do you do? We have to be on our feet, patient and positive, and make sure that everything flows smoothly. And what's the Plan B in case something does happen? So we try to be prepared for those things.
A: (Jessica) I think it's all the different personalities. We work with such a huge group. You're not going to please everybody, but we try. So, the most difficult thing is getting feedback that they didn't care for it (professional development). You’ve really got to juggle and adapt to every personality because everybody's different.
Q: What did you do for PD prior to Alludo?
A: (Scott) Historically, we mainly did in-person professional development. Typically teachers receive substitutes and you would bring (teachers) down for a training. Or it might be something after school that did not require substitutes or even vacation time training. Those were in person as well. Covid really changed everything in that we instantly had to go online, and that was the only avenue for PD. We could not bring anyone in. This past year, there's been a substitute teacher shortage. That also changed how we deliver professional learning. Now that we have access to some substitutes again, we are offering a blend of in-person as well as online training, whether it's virtual live or something recorded. It really has changed the format and offerings that we do.
Q: Was there anything else that led you to want to change the way you're doing PD?
A: (Scott) It was just really eye-opening. How can you make online live training very personable and very engaging? I don't know that all of us thought that online training could be perhaps as engaging as something live. And I don't know that teachers necessarily thought that either. But the reality caused everyone to think about learner engagement and how you're presenting when you're online. And it just changed the ball game. It (online professional development) really is an avenue now for training that can be effective and engaging for the learner.
Q: How do you find Alludo?
A: (Scott) Our district negotiated with our teachers association on a novel staff development opportunity, and I was charged with finding something that would meet the requirements of the negotiated agreement. I needed to have every certificated person have the opportunity to take six hours of professional development on their own time outside of the work day. So there are different companies that have online training, and a colleague had seen Alludo at a meeting that she went to. It (Alludo) really was the most engaging and was the best suited for our needs. Alludo had the most up-to-date videos and also had a good way to monitor individually who had accomplished any training in time. And the platform itself was much more engaging than some of the other products out there.
Q: What about Alludo was more engaging than some of the other PD solutions that you researched?
A: (Scott) Well, definitely, visually (Alludo) was very pleasing, and it's easy to navigate. If you're having over 1,000 people do training on their own, you want a tool that they can easily learn how to manipulate without calling either one of us. And so Alludo really had that ease of use when we looked at the different products. The actual tool itself was easy to navigate. Novices could quickly figure it out. And interestingly enough, there is a game aspect to the tool. I'm not a game person per se, but many people are. And that itself was very engaging for many of our teachers. But honestly, in addition to the user ease, the look of the tool, it was you folks, Alludo. You were very responsive, very quick. You had options of how we could make something work. In two weeks for 1,300 people. So we had a very quick turnaround. And you guys had a plan, were able to walk me through how that would work and how you would make it happen. And you did.
Q: Now that you have it in place, what aspects of Alludo are helping you the most?
A: (Scott) I liked that the learner could get on easily and they could make choices in what they wanted to learn, and the offerings that you had for the learner to utilize or much more broad than many of the tools out there. They were up to date with research as well as good sound instructional practices. You just had a good menu of things that teachers or administrators could learn about and that would engage people with very different interests. That was a plus from my viewpoint as the director overseeing PD.
A: (Jessica) When (teachers) would call, How many hours? How do I see where I'm stuck on this? It was very user-friendly for me as an admin to get in there, look at their profile, look at the games that they've been playing to help them. I loved the different reports; that's what I needed to use when somebody wanted to know How many people are done? Where are we at? I would send reminders for people doing so many hours. That for me was really great– being able to go in and help people when they called. It was easy to navigate and figure it out.
We had to clock how many hours the user did, so it's really critical that the data be accurate. For each user – when they logged on, how much time they put in – we can pull that (data) out quickly. Any time we wanted, we could see how our participants were using the tool and how much time they had accrued while playing the game.
Q: Now that your teams have been using Alludo, what have been the outcomes so far?
A: (Scott) We've had a lot of positive feedback. The teachers have written emails. I've been stopped when I do my school visits. People have reached out. They liked the independent aspect of Alludo. They like that they could go in and learn about something that interested them in relation to teaching and learning. In other words, it wasn't Scott, the PD director, saying, you will do six hours on these items and learn about this and write a report. It (Alludo) really has so many broad topics within education and teaching and learning that administrators and teachers could find something of interest and of value to enhance their practice. And it was very, very motivating to teachers. We asked that everyone do six hours during a six-week period.
"We've had a lot of positive feedback. The teachers have written emails. I've been stopped when I do my school visits."
We've had people do over 40 hours, even though they only had to do six because they found the topics engaging or they just were supercharged about learning and they liked the aspect of being at the top of the learning time. We've just had so much positive feedback on that. Would the product be available after this time frame where they were receiving this opportunity to grow? And we are. We subscribe to the product for another school year so that teachers would be able to go in on their own at will and continue learning.
Q: Can you tell me about Redlands USD's PD before and after Alludo?
A: (Scott) I think the first thing that comes to my mind is access. When we would offer voluntary staff development opportunities, like during vacation time, spring break, summer break, winter break, we might get about 200 people that would want to come to a vacation opportunity and get paid for that. But it is their vacation time. This (Alludo) out of 1,300 certificated employees, we had over 1,100 participate. So the amount of participation was huge. People like the aspect of I didn't have to go to a training from 8:30 to 4:30 on a Tuesday versus I can make my schedule work with the training and conduct the training for myself while I'm off when I want to. Maybe I'm a night owl and I want to do this at night after the kids go to bed. Or maybe I'm a lark and I get up early and I want to do it before the kids get up. The availability of the training at will just increased participation so much. I cannot say strongly enough how many positive comments we've had from people about the topics and the freedom to choose within those topics. So the learner choice was key.
I just appreciated the leadership of the team in saying that they could promise something and they kept that promise and made it happen in a very short time frame. We literally began a discussion with Alludo, and two weeks later, we were fully implemented and started and hit the ground running. And I never felt that I was alone. We could reach out to Alludo. What does this mean? Or How does this work? Or I can't find this employee. Do you have them in the system? Everyone was so helpful, and you made us look good, so I appreciate that. When you're in charge of PD, you want an activity to roll out smoothly and be successful with minimal problems or minimal setbacks. We really didn't have any problems or setbacks, and that is often rare when you're working with so many users and with a tool. Everyone has been pleased with the product, from the administration down to teachers, and I can't thank you enough for being so responsive, so forthright, and on the ball.
"I cannot say strongly enough how many positive comments we've had from people about the topics and the freedom to choose within those topics. So the learner choice was was key."
To sum it up
Learner-centered PD works! Professional development doesn’t have to be arduous or take teachers’ precious time away from the classroom. Professional learning that matters should be relevant to each learner and inspire teachers’ desire to learn more of what they want and need to know. Professional development should be easy to use and engaging, and time and time again, Alludo’s gamification platform ignites a culture of learning throughout districts. For administrators, managing professional development programs should also be easy and measurable! At any given time, you should have visibility into which learners need your support and be able to easily connect with them and give them the help they need. This combination of choice, ease, and measurability results in engagement levels that will surprise you.
Alludo does all of this, and we can help you design, develop, and roll out a professional learning program personalized for your district in days or weeks – not months.
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