Future Ready Assessment: A head start towards personalized learning

Posted by Gabe Soumakian on July 19, 2016

The 7 gears of Future Ready Schools
The 7 gears of Future Ready schools

Often, we hear administrators tout their success with technology innovation by pointing to the number of 1-to-1 devices deployed in their schools.  At the same time, we hear it is “not about the technology” but rather it is changes in the teaching and learning process that transform our students as 21st century learners. Although there is a major shift toward digital transformation and innovation in our schools, administrators need to understand how to connect the dots and develop a comprehensive implementation plan that impacts student learning.

A good place to begin the process—or to validate that the district is headed in the right direction—is to have the leadership team collectively take the Future Ready (FR) assessment tool. The report from this tool will identify critical gaps as well as help guide you in the development of an effective implementation plan to fill those gaps.

This collaborative process of taking the FR assessment provides a professional learning opportunity to build the leadership capacity within your team. Your leadership team will benefit from this process and understand the major implementation shifts and design elements for appropriate technology solutions.  Through the assessment dashboard, your team will discover where your district is on the continuum for digital conversion, identify gaps, access strategies, and review your progress toward the development of a robust technical and human infrastructure.

What innovative leaders will learn from this process is the need to move beyond 21st century learning skills toward a personalized learning environment that prepares students for college, career, and life readiness.  Linking learning in the classroom to a real world setting makes the learning relevant and brings life to the curriculum so that students are engaged and feel connected to their future career paths.

Begin the process at www.FutureReady.org!  First, the district superintendent must take the Future Ready pledge.  Then, take the FR assessment.  Review the report as a team, then move your efforts to the next level by taking advantage of the resources available at the Future Ready Hub, especially the regional workshops.  Using this model will bring administrators in your region together to examine the data and connect your district with other leadership teams who can collectively move forward on the personalized learning continuum.


Future Ready Learning: The new national ed tech plan

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on June 24, 2016

Cover of Future Ready Learning planThe first National Education Technology Plan, Getting American Students Ready for the 21st Century: Meeting the Technology Literacy Challenge, was published in 1996. This is noteworthy because prior to the release of this plan, there was little incentive for schools or other education-related institutions to invest much in the way of time or resources into developing instructional technology plans. The first national plan was built on four goals:

  1. Professional development for teachers
  2. Teacher and student classroom access to up-to-date hardware
  3. Internet connectivity for every classroom
  4. Access to digital learning materials

This early document became a catalyst for the American public to change its thinking regarding the impact technology might have on instruction. The next three plans—published in 2000, 2004, and 2010—incorporated these goals and introduced additional topics including assessment, leadership, integrated data systems, productivity, and funding. However, the 1996 plan is held up as having had the greatest impact on K-12 education—probably because federal funding for education technology was made available in conjunction with the plan’s release. Now, twenty year later, the US Department of Education has released the fifth National Educational Technology Plan.

Entitled Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education, this latest plan incorporates five focus areas. They are:

  1. Learning—Engaging and Empowering Learning through Technology
  2. Teaching—Teaching With Technology
  3. Leadership—Creating a Culture and Conditions for Innovation and Change
  4. Assessment—Measuring for Learning
  5. Infrastructure—Enabling Access and Effective Use

These five areas support expansion of topics included in previous plans, but also allow for conversations not included in earlier documents. For example, the first focus area (Learning) features a discussion about something called the digital use divide. This is an access gap that’s created when some students’ use of technology is limited to consuming existing content while others are encouraged to use technology to support their own learning by creating content. The digital use divide has been recognized for quite some time, but not referred to specifically in prior plans.

A new twist on digital divide issues is broached in the fifth focus area (Infrastructure). In this case, it’s the need for students to have access to high-speed Internet at school and at home. Educators know that schools often struggle to provide reliable high-speed connectivity, but it’s important to remember that more than one-half of low-income students under the age of 10 don’t have any Internet access at home and even more have inadequate access. We’ve told ourselves that these students can use smartphones or get online at a friend’s home or the local library, but it’s just not the same as high-speed connectivity in every home.

And finally, the importance of leadership is heavily emphasized in this plan. This emphasis is tied directly to a related national initiative called Future Ready Schools, which promotes transformation of teaching and learning through access to—and effective use of—technology. In order to provide these kinds of teaching and learning environments, district (and site) leaders must be fully engaged in their planning and implementation. The TICAL project is a regional partner of Future Ready Schools, providing assistance to education leaders in and outside of California.

Based on the fact that previous plans have impacted design and implementation of instructional technology programs throughout the U.S. and it’s likely that this new plan will also influence future developments in education technology.  I urge you to read and use the ideas presented in the plan to broaden and update the discussion about the role of technology in education, specifically within your school or district. You may also want to watch TICAL’s Quick Take on the 2016 National Education Technology Plan.


Speak Up Survey Findings for Principals

Posted by Sandra Miller on November 30, 2015

Door to principal's officeSince the late 19th century, the name on the door has said principal. In the 21st century, it does still. However, the principal’s multi-faceted role has continued to evolve.

Today more than ever, principals must keep up to date on the culture surrounding their schools, even as they focus on student learning. Everyone has an opinion, especially about technology. Where is your school in relation to some of these key findings from a recent Speak Up Survey?  Should you move in one of these directions? Would your parents and teachers agree?

More than 9 out of 10 administrators say that the effective use of technology within instruction is important for achieving their school or district’s core mission of education and preparation of students.

Over three-quarters of parents (78%) say that the best way for their child to develop college career and citizen ready skills they will need for future success, is to use technology on a regular basis within his or her daily classes at school.

52% of teachers in blended classrooms say their students are developing collaborative skills as a result of using technology within learning.

Three-quarters of principals attribute increased student engagement in learning to the effective use of digital content in their blending learning classrooms.

There are more key findings from students and others on the Project Tomorrow Speak-Up website, including ready-to-show graphics to help principals present this information.

Register your school or district to be part of the Speak Up Survey and receive your school data free. It is an easy way for all your stakeholders to participate in local decisions about technology.  Deadline to Sign Up: December 18, 2015

Kate Rousmaniere has written, “Yet by the nature of their background and role as educators, principals have always been concerned with student learning, and principals across time have played a pivotal role in shaping the educational culture of schools.”

How might you use these findings to shape your school?


Leading Change for the First Year Superintendent

Posted by Charles Young on July 27, 2015

People meeting around table.My mother was fond of sayings. This was most likely her way of having a ready response to the countless interactions and sometimes chaotic doings in a house of six kids, five of them boys, and a myriad array of pets, most of which were poorly behaved, but loving dogs. Being the youngest child, I had a front row seat to the exciting events produced by my mischievous brothers and eye-rolling sister.

The two sayings I remember Mother using the most were (and at first glance they appear entirely contradictory):

“Don’t worry, it may never happen.”

“There is nothing as constant as change.”

As I move through the early days of my new role as a superintendent of the Benicia Unified School District, my mother’s sayings come back to me as I contemplate, most specifically, the first 100 days.

The research on change is long and deep. The names that come to mind include Kurt Lewin (often referred to as the father of organizational change theory), Peter Senge, Michael Fullan and Wayne Dyer. While it would be presumptuous of me to assume that I can add much of anything that is new,  I can point out a few ideas that are jumping out at me as I process what I have read over the years in terms of my new role and context, and how I might apply what I’ve learned— complemented, of course, by a bit of my mother’s wisdom!

Balance Being with Doing

While change is inevitable, and the desire to enact change as a superintendent is a strong force, the importance of being fully present—being—and truly learning about the organization’s norms and culturedoing—are critical to long term success. Time must be spent learning deeply about the new system, its successes, goals, challenges and opportunities for growth. Being centers on building relationships and cultivating the trust that will enable the doing of new things and the fulfillment of new goals.

Go Slow to Go Fast

Change efforts, small or large, can be complicated and necessitate careful consideration. While we worry about variables that may or may not happen, allowing ourselves to slow down, build capacity, establish clarity and develop a clearly articulated action plan will ensure greater levels of success. The go-slow part of this effort can include an important element for a new superintendent, and that is gaining early wins, even if small ones. These early wins can build enthusiasm, energy and confidence in your ability to lead in general, and specifically, in relation to change efforts.

Transitional vs. Transformational Change

Knowing the difference between these two major change categories helps shape the inevitability of change and assuage our sense of fear of the unknown. Transitional change includes modifying important parts of the system that need  improvement but won’t disrupt the organizaiton or move it in dramatically different directions. These change efforts are usually small in scale but important to growth and improvement and might include a change in meeting times and structures or defining and implementing different types of decision-making structures.

Transformational change efforts are larger in scale and influence greater numbers of people. Exaples might include the full implementation of professional learning communities, restructuring the student day, redesigning learning environments, or utilizing technology to truly differentiate the learning experience and challenge students to experience 21st Century skills on a deeper level.

While just twelve days into the job, my mother’s flashing light insights return to me. She reminds me that while change is inevitable, grounding myself in sound theory will help me navigate successful change efforts and manage the natural inclination to worry about elements that may seem outside our control.


From Digital Immigrant to Digital Colonist

Posted by Geoff Belleau on June 17, 2015

School’s out for summer and the digital natives are beyond happy about it.  So are the teachers and administrators! We’re all ready for a break. It gives us an opportunity to slow down and think about things.

Old auto with people coming from Dust Bowl to California
Photo by Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress collection

One of the things I’m thinking about is the whole idea of digital natives. That’s what we call kids today; but if they are digital natives, what are we? Many people have gone with the term digital immigrants. However when I think of immigrants, I think Grapes of Wrath. I picture the hopelessness, despair and tribulations of people fleeing the Dust Bowl to make their way to California. They have hope. They seek opportunities and things that are new.   Yet still, I picture a guy in dusty overalls—maybe John Malkovich’s Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Such images are not a ringing endorsement for encouraging others to try something new.

Several years ago though, I read an article in which the writer coined a new term, digital colonist.1  Digital colonists are the ones who not only move but move in. They build a home in their new place. They make a living. They thrive. For a late Gen X like me this idea struck home and really made me think about how I try to grow my “digital colony” with others.

This spring, for the first time, TICAL held a regional workshop in the Capital City area.  To attract participants, we were getting the word out via the usual digital colonist ways—emailing flyers, tweeting, posting information on LinkedIn. As I was doing my part to publicize the event, it dawned on me, “I don’t think the people I want to be there use these tools!” Only a small number of school administrators use Twitter professionally. Many have set up a LinkedIn page but their effort ends there. How do we reach those dusty digital immigrants and help them set up shop in our new digital colony?

Here are my ideas.

Go old school. Create and print a flyer with the workshop information, then actually take the flyer to those you are targeting. Get it into their hands. You’ll be able to get the flyer to some people yourself, but for others you’ll need help. Tweet a link to the flyer and say, “Friends help friends tweet. Print this and share it with someone you know,” or “Help your principal! Print this and give it to them.” Another approach I took was to post the flyer on my Pinterest Board with a note for teacher to invite their principals. There are some teachers who ignore all other media, but if they follow your board, you have their attention!

Lead with them. Invite someone to go to trainings with you. It’s always more fun to do things with someone else. If you just know a little more than the next guy, you are the expert! It helps those around you know that you are “in.” The personal touch goes a long way for all of us. When we get a personal invitation to go, be honest, it makes one feel special and one of a kind. Who doesn’t want that? It is our job as leaders to build up those around us, and doing it with them, no matter what “it” is, will make them want to come and take notice.

Be an advocate. For as little as you may feel you know, you are still better equipped than anyone else to make a digital change. A teacher may go off to a training and get excited with creative ways to teach and lead these digital natives, but then policies at school, district and state levels prohibit them. Some policies need to be updated, but some can’t be. As leaders at district, county and state level, we are positioned to bring about policy change if needed, and also must be the best communicators and advocates for our students, teachers, and parents. If George Washington popped out of TARDIS today, one of the only things he would recognize is the classroom. We must be as courageous as George to bring about the policy changes needed to accommodate and support digital learning.

The bottom line? We are preparing students for their future with the digital tools of today, not the analog tools of our past. We’ll do a better job when we have friends around us in our digital colony.

What do you think? What other ideas do you have for bringing the immigrants into the digital fold? Leave your comment below!


1Stern, Ben. “Troubleshooting Advice from a ‘Digital Colonist’ (EdSurge News).” EdSurge. N.p., 24 Dec. 2012. Web. 17 June 2015. <https://www.edsurge.com/news/2012-12-24-troubleshooting-advice-from-a-digital-colonist>