The world is changing, driven largely by the rapid advances in technology over the past decades. While the impact of this change can be felt through all aspects of society, the challenges it creates are perhaps felt most acutely in education, where leaders and educators are tasked with preparing our future workers, employers, leaders and citizens. Faced with such rapid change (and rapidly emerging technologies), these leaders are wrestling with thorny questions such as:
- How can students be prepared for an uncertain future, workforce, and workplace that will be defined by technology that does not yet exist?
- How can existing and emerging technologies be leveraged responsibly and appropriately to improve learning outcomes for students through increased personalization?
- How can current skills gaps and digital citizenship needs of students be addressed, particularly for those leaving schools to join the workforce, continue their education, and become contributing members of society?
Future Ready Schools® (FRS) was launched to help educators, leaders, and community members answer these important questions. To date, more than 3,100 school district superintendents across the country have taken the Future Ready District Pledge, committing to transforming their education systems to meet the demands of an ever-changing, increasingly digital world. This is a great start, but in a nation of 15,000 districts, it is not enough. This is why the Alliance for Excellent Education (the Alliance) developed the FRS state program.
Teaching and learning is ultimately a local enterprise. However, local educators and leaders work within a broader system that is largely shaped by state policy, funding, systems, practice, and guidance. Consequently, states can influence and support every public school educator and leader within their jurisdiction. Most importantly, given this unique ability to work across districts, states are best situated to tackling challenges of digital equity, ensuring that every student, regardless of district or zip code, has access to a learning environment that effectively integrates technology to prepare them for the future. Since launching the FRS state program, nearly thirty states have committed to becoming FRS states. But for the United States to become a future-ready nation, every state needs to take the important step of becoming an FRS state.
So why should state leaders take the additional step to become an FRS state? Listed below are several ways that FRS can enhance a state’s existing efforts to support digital learning:
- States can leverage the power of a common, research-based framework and resources.
Language can be a major challenge when you are supporting large numbers of educators across multiple communities. Therefore, organizations create frameworks that facilitate communication and the ability to share resources and best practices easily. The Alliance brought together experts—educators and leaders who successfully integrated technology into their instructional models—to develop a comprehensive, integrated model for digital transformation at the district and school levels, also known as the FRS framework. The Alliance worked with its national and regional partners to develop and curate high-quality resources and content aligned with the framework and FRS district planning process. The Alliance continues to work with educators, leaders, and partners to improve its framework and resources.
“Future Ready is a commitment to ensuring our students are ready to partake in post secondary options such as college, career, or the military in the rapidly changing 21st century economy. The economy of the future will demand different skills and knowledge of the global workforce. This necessitates integration of new techniques into the classroom to prepare our students appropriately. Our classrooms will need to use digital tools to teach a new tech literacy, increase personalized and competency-based learning opportunities, and foster innovative instruction and learning.”
-Jillian Balow, Wyoming Department of Education, Superintendent
Becoming an FRS state and aligning with the framework gives state leaders the opportunity to (1) use a common language when communicating with all stakeholder groups, and (2) access FRS resources. In the process, time and money can be saved while creating greater cohesion and consistency.
- States becomes part of a larger learning network of states, regional organizations, content and media partners, funders, and leaders.
Becoming an FRS state enables state leaders to connect with like-minded leaders and organizations regionally and nationally who are similarly committed to supporting future readiness in schools and students. FRS state leaders will become part of a professional learning network through which they share developed resources and strategies to promote FRS efforts in general in their state or with regard to specific initiatives such as the Every Student Succeeds Act or Go Open. FRS partners with interested state leaders to create customized programming and provides assistance in finding regional funders, if needed, to meet the state’s goals. For more information about these opportunities, contact Sara Hall at [email protected]
- Committing to FRS empowers states to elevate and integrate education technology across state departments and initiatives.
Historically, both education technology personnel and work at both the state and local levels have been somewhat isolated, having little connection to what was considered “core work.” While this might have been unfortunate in the past, it is tragic for education technology to exist on an island today when technology is playing such an integral role in reshaping society.
The FRS framework is an integrated and comprehensive model. As such, it is not about technology, it is about good teaching and learning in the digital age. By adopting the FRS framework, a state can elevate the role of education technology while also more easily aligning it with the work of other offices and staff. During the process, this cohesive approach at the state level models effective behavior for districts and schools.
- FRS states are provided access to FRS state resources.
In addition to resources developed to support the FRS framework, the Alliance developed resources specifically for state leaders. From state-level reports that provide a lens into district adoption of technology to survey tools that help state teams reflect on their efforts and develop plans, the Alliance provides states with materials needed to craft and monitor digital learning plans. In addition, the Alliance provides states with consultative support in developing strategies and communicating with districts around their efforts.
- FRS works collaboratively with states to achieve their goals.
And not just the state’s technology goals. When used appropriately, technology can personalize instruction and learning, provide just-in-time support and content, and broaden concepts of “instructional time,” all of which ultimately supports learners. As such, FRS should be a central part of every state’s plans to reach its academic-, college-, and workforce-readiness goals.
If your state is not already an FRS state, please contact Sara Hall at [email protected] to learn more about the FRS state program.
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The new Future Ready Schools® (FRS) podcast series, Leading Through Unprecedented Times, looks at how teaching and learning have shifted online overnight due to mandated school closures across the nation. FRS leaders are simultaneously addressing and amplifying equity issues among marginalized groups as schools become the community hub for food distribution and human connection. Listen to powerful stories from school and district leaders who are overcoming adversity and offering their communities hope as they lead through unprecedented times!
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NOTE: This is part two of a three-part blog series in which Matthew Friedman, EdD, shares his findings about the trends, strengths, and weaknesses of the Future Ready Schools® network across the four regions of the United States and looks at the exciting possibilities for personalized learning in schools in the post–COVID-19 world. When we…