Leadership teams from 31 districts gathered here Monday and Tuesday to plan new ways they can use ed tech to advance changes to teaching and learning in their schools.
This gathering—the ninth of 13 regional summits being held across the U.S. since February—involves presentations, panel discussions, work sessions, networking, some games and #FutureReady social media moments.
Teams share the successes and challenges they’ve already experienced with implementing digital learning, as they prepare for whatever the next phase holds in their districts. The activities are designed to encourage the teams to prepare plans that can be taken back to their schools, ready for implementation.
“The work you’re doing here is building ladders of opportunity for students,” said Roberto Rodriguez, who is President Barack Obama’s deputy assistant for education, to the more than 150 attendees.
Judging from the conversations around tables, it’s hard work. Affording “future ready” is one recurring theme. Another is how to make the new technology serve the purpose of finding new ways for educators to teach, rather than using it to replicate existing paper-and-pencil practices.
“If education is good for one thing, it’s good for making excuses not to move forward,” said Eric Sheninger, a senior fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education. A self-described evangelist about how the right use of technology can transform learning, Sheninger told the story of how he went from trying to control students’ use of technology to creating “a free-range learning environment” at New Milford High School in New Jersey.
“We have to give up control,” said Sheninger, “start trusting kids, stop thinking about what’s impossible, and focus on what’s possible.”
Nearly 2,000 Superintendents Take ‘Future Ready Pledge’
About 500 district teams will have participated in the summits by the time the last one is held in Southern California in August, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the Alliance for Excellent Education, a policy-advocacy organization based in Washington.
The two have collaborated to lead the “Future Ready” initiative, in which superintendents from 1,926 districts have signed the “Future Ready” pledge, promising to foster and lead a culture of digital learning within their schools, among other things.
Superintendents are generally required to attend the summit with a designated leadership team.
Then, they collaborated to create plans for how to make progress toward their vision of the future. Their planning gets translated into a “digital dashboard” based on the framework (depicted on the left) that places student learning at the center.
This interactive planning dashboard is a free online tool designed to help school districts assess their needs and make data-informed decisions about how to effectively use technology to engage students, empower teachers, and improve learning outcomes.
The last four summits will be held in Chicago, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Orange County, Calif.
Maps: From the Future Ready Schools Summit; framework graphic from the Alliance for Excellent Education