As I considered ISTE educator standard 2c which calls for multiple stakeholders to participate in shaping learning through technology, I kept thinking of the popular saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ Like most educators, I have seen wonderful things happen when a community of learning forms around a student. A healthy community of learning includes parents, teachers, administrators, support staff, and outside individuals and groups such as community leaders or business owners. All of these parties have valuable insight and ideas that can help shape our students’ future–especially when we consider the role of technology in that future. However, collecting stakeholder input can seem daunting and for that reason, I wanted to explore the Future Ready Schools initiative in my research this week.
Defining Future Ready
When we discuss the idea that schools and students should be “future ready,” we mean much more than simply placing devices into students’ hands. A future-ready school has a shared vision for technology use, supports teachers and students in their use of technology, plans ahead for future costs, promotes ongoing communication and feedback with stakeholders, and cultivates an environment of innovation (Adams and Domenech, 2016).
The Benefit of Collaborative Leadership
When the Office of Educational Technology visited schools practicing collaborative leadership, they discovered that stakeholders are more likely to buy-in to a plan for educational technology when they have the opportunity to shape the plan as opposed to being told what they will do. As the Coachella Valley superintendent said of his district’s technology implementation, it should be “With you, not to you.” This idea applies to taxpayers being asked to fund technology, business owners considering donating to a school, and teachers adopting new technology in the classroom. (Adams and Domenech, 2016) When we have a voice in the process, we are more likely to see the plan through to the end.
The Future Ready Schools Initiative
Future Ready Schools (FRS) is a framework for implementing educational technology at the district level in order to prepare all students (especially those in under-served and socioeconomically disadvantaged schools) for the future. It is a nationwide initiative funded in part by taxpayers.
Most people agree that students need technology skills to prepare them for the future, but what exactly that looks like can vary greatly from school to school, or even classroom to classroom in the same school. FRS is a framework that can remedy that ambiguity. The framework is a five-step process which includes creating a leadership team, completing a self-analysis, collecting data from stakeholders, implementing an action plan, and measuring the progress made. The process can be repeated as necessary.
In determining a school’s degree of ‘future readiness,’ the program considers 7 key areas, called gears: 1) Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, 2) Use of Space and Time, 3) Robust Infrastructure, 4) Data and Privacy, 5) Community Partnerships, 6) Personalized Professional Learning, and 7) Budget and Resources. Another way to approach these gears is to think of them as standards for future readiness within a school district.
FRS is a comprehensive program for identifying areas of need within each gear and making suggestions based on those results. The district’s needs are determined through multiple surveys given to various stakeholders–principals, upper administration, teachers, librarians, parents, and community members. Everyone has a say in assessing where the district is currently at, and where they’d like to end up.
FRS provides email templates to send to stakeholders as well as links to complete the survey digitally so that data across multiple stakeholders can be aggregated. Responses are anonymous. As you can see from the following survey screenshots, each gear is targeted toward a different stakeholder. The complete survey may be accessed here. Throughout the survey completion process, the leadership team meets to analyze the district’s needs and brainstorm solutions. Once data from all the stakeholders have been collected, the FRS algorithm returns a readiness score for each of the gears as well as an overall score. The following image is taken from a sample report. The entire sample report (60+ pages) may be viewed here.Along with the analysis, suggestions in the form of research-based strategies are included within the report, as pictured below. Additional resources are provided for free within the FRS website library. FRS also supports districts through seminars and trainings.
Based on the data and suggestions, the FRS leadership team then creates a plan to equip the district (and subsequently students) to be more future ready. Depending on the needs, this might involve investing in a more robust infrastructure, hiring technology coaches to facilitate teaching training, developing a uniform standard for student tech knowledge by grade-level, or a myriad of other changes.
By design, FRS is an ongoing framework. Districts should consider gathering new input after the changes have been made. New needs may be identified or policies may reveal gaps and the process repeats.
FRS provides a valuable diagnostic and toolkit for districts looking to expand their use of technology in order to ensure all students are ready for the future. This framework is the closest I’ve come to finding a comprehensive set of standards for technology implementation. By comprehensive, I mean that the framework considers all aspects of educational technology including the lesser discussed issues such as infrastructure and community involvement.
The downside of FRS is that it is designed to be implemented district-wide. An individual teacher or technology coach cannot utilize the program on their own. In fact, signing up for the FRS program (while free) must be completed by the district superintendent.
I believe there is still value for individual teachers or technology coaches by way of the gears when we consider them as standards. As a teacher who served on my prior district’s Future Ready Schools leadership team, the survey questions for the various gears pushed me to consider how I was implementing technology in the classroom. Once I identified my shortcomings, I was able to consider possible solutions. The two gears most relevant to individual classroom teachers are Use of Space and Time and Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment.
Adams, B. and Domenech, D. (2016). Sharing Stories of Collaborative Leadership. [online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/@OfficeofEdTech/sharing-stories-of-collaborative-leadership-5799075fa48 [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018].
Future Ready Schools. (2015). Future Ready Schools – Preparing Students for Success. [online] Available at: https://futureready.org/ [Accessed 17 Apr. 2018].