We believe that in today’s digital age, educational technology can play a positive role in preparing students for college, careers, and global citizenship, and we are committed to creating the authentic learning environments that prepare students for a future whose opportunities are still evolving.
However, achieving this goal is not simple. Creating the learning environments that mirror how technology is used outside the classroom is not a matter of simply giving teachers and students the latest hardware and software. Rather, creating the learning environments our students need and deserve requires that school systems undertake a fundamental cultural shift.
There are several essential steps which can help facilitate the cultural shift we believe needs to take place to create modern classrooms that reflect the 21st century world.
The first step is a clear articulation of the vision for the district’s learning initiatives and the steps needed to achieve them.
This vision should be communicated to all stakeholders – teachers, students, parents, administrators, and community members – so they can understand the goals and objectives of the initiatives. Clear articulation will help solidify goals and objectives and create a sense of unity around a common purpose.
Next, school systems must devise a thoughtful, robust plan to provide educators the professional development they need to change classroom practice and integrate new digital resources. Customized, in-depth professional development empowers educators to effectively incorporate new technologies into instruction, which creates learning environments in which technology allows educators to differentiate instruction and students to take a larger role in their own learning.
With a strong professional development plan in place, it is time to consider the content students will use. For a successful transition from static textbooks, it is essential that educators and students have access to high-quality, standards-based digital content that is user-friendly from any platform.
Only now — with the vision, professional development, and content plans in place — is a school system prepared to make decisions about how to deliver content. The answers to questions such as “How should we improve our infrastructure?” and “What type of devices should be bought for students?” should be dictated by the educational goals of the learning initiative.
Finally, school leaders must institute a process for measuring success and addressing deficiencies, as areas for improvement will inevitably arise. School leaders need to create a continuous feedback loop that allows them to assess progress and make adjustments if necessary.
Transforming teaching and learning with educational technologies and digital content through the steps we recommend is by no means easy. However, across the country, leaders in a diverse cross-section of school systems have embraced these steps as a roadmap for creating the lasting cultural change needed to create authentic digital learning environments.
We encourage our colleagues in the education community to adopt these steps as their own as they create strategic plans for their districts’ learning initiatives. To achieve change that advances student achievement, districts must role up their sleeves and engage stakeholders with their vision, empower educators with effective professional development, thoughtfully introduce new technologies, and evaluate results in order to continuously improve.
The time to act is now.