This past December, the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released the 2016 National Education Technology Plan (NETP), which includes new commitments to support personalized professional learning for school leaders across the country who are working to improve teaching and student achievement through the effective use of technology.
The 2016 plan outlines a vision that resonates closely with NASSP’s priorities focused on equity, active use, and collaborative leadership.
Specifically, the plan calls for schools and districts to:
Redesign teacher preparation programs to shift from a single technology course to use of technology throughout a teacher’s preparation and to redesign minimum standards for higher education instructors’ tech proficiency
Set an expectation of equitable access to technology and connectivity inside and outside of school, regardless of students’ backgrounds
Adopt high-quality openly licensed educational materials in place of traditional textbooks
Implement universal design principles for accessibility across all educational institutions and include these principles within teacher preparation programs
Improve technology-based assessments to allow for embedded delivery within instruction and making near real-time feedback for educators possible
Establish a robust technology infrastructure that meets current connectivity goals and can be augmented to meet future demand
ED timed the plan’s release with the one-year anniversary of the Future Ready initiative, which announced a series of new commitments including the launch of 17 statewide Future Ready initiatives. Since the 2014 launch of Future Ready—in which NASSP is a partner organization—more than 2,000 school districts across America have signed the pledge. All have committed to foster and lead a culture of digital learning and to share what they have learned with other districts.
Recognizing the need for support, ED also unveiled a set of professional learning resources to help school leaders effectively lead the transition to digital learning. These curated Future Ready resources are provided by the Alliance for Excellent Education, ED, NASSP, and other coalition partner organizations. A free online planning tool called the Future Ready Planning Dashboard helps leadership teams assess readiness, identify gaps, choose research-based strategies, and create a customized digital learning action plan. These implementation resources can be found at www.futureready.org.
The timing of the release of the NETP with the signing of ESSA might prove to be more than a coincidence. The flexibility provided by the new education law opens the door for creative, technology-enhanced solutions for educating students in new ways and, more importantly, for empowering students to lead their own learning. Further, the mandate that calls for multiple measures to gauge student success will prompt states and districts to collect and analyze data on the outcomes that really matter. It will also require that those offices shore up their technology infrastructure to expand and refine their data collection.
As with any plan, the success relies on faithful implementation. And with the passage of ESSA, the promise of technology to transform education has never been closer.
Bob Farrace is the director of public affairs at NASSP.