Sunday, January 25, 2015

Leading Schools of the Future

Portions of this post are adapted from the Future Ready Schools website with permission.

Advances in technology continue to impact society in amazing ways.  The evolution of the Internet allows anyone with access the ability to communicate, collaborate, acquire information, and learn with anyone, at anytime, and from anywhere.  Learners today have embraced this digital world and have begun to explore their passions in ways never imagined.  They thrive in this world and find relevancy and value through a variety of experiences that technology provides.  Growing up in a digital world has expanded their creative boundaries while motivating them to be self-directed learners.  With the changes in technology, virtually every facet of society has adapted in some way, with one major exception – schools.  

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The structure and function of the majority of schools in this country is the exact opposite of the world that our learners are growing up in.  There is an automatic disconnect when students, regardless of their grade level, walk into schools due to the lack of engagement, relevancy, meaning, and authentic learning opportunities.  Our education system has become so efficient in sustaining a century old model because it is easy and safe.  The resulting conformity has resulted in a learning epidemic among our students as they see so little value in the cookie-cutter learning exercises they are forced to go through each day. The bottom line is that they are bored.  It is time that we create schools that work for our students as opposed to ones that have traditionally worked well for the adults.  Schools and districts need digital leadership.

Digital leadership takes into account recent changes such as ubiquitous connectivity, open-source technology, mobile devices, and personalization. It represents a dramatic shift from how schools have been run and structured for over a century, as what started out as a personal use of technology has become systemic to every facet of leadership. Digital leadership can thus be defined as establishing direction, influencing others, and initiating sustainable change through the access to information, and establishing relationships in order to anticipate changes pivotal to school success in the future. It requires a dynamic combination of mindset, behaviors, and skills that are employed to change and/or enhance school culture through the assistance of technology.

Creating schools that work for students requires digital leaders who articulate a bold vision for change that not only tackles the status quo embedded in the industrialized model of education, but also one that sees the inherent value of technology to enhance the teaching and learning process.  We need to realize that many traditional elements associated with education no longer prevail. How we go about doing this will vary from school to school or district to district, but the process begins with the simple notion of putting students first to allow them to follow their passions, create, tinker, invent, play, and collaborate.  Schools that work for students focus less on control and more on trust. 

Future ready schools are those focused on learning in a digital age and prepare students for the world of today and of the future.  The culture of these future ready schools is based on building a leadership team, establishing a coherent vision for change, developing a systematic action plan, modeling for leaders effective and efficient ways to leverage digital tools to increase effectiveness, and modeling for teachers how to harness tools to support students’ learning. Working smarter, not harder, by discovering natural complements to the work already being done enhances outcomes.  

Digital Leadership and Future Ready 

Recently the U.S. Department of Education and the Alliance for Excellent Education announced Future Ready Schools (FRS), which aligns seamlessly with the Pillars of Digital Leadership. FRS is a free, bold new effort to maximize digital learning opportunities and help school districts move quickly toward preparing students for success in college, a career, and citizenship. Future Ready provides districts with resources and support to ensure that local technology and digital learning plans align with instructional best practices, are implemented by highly trained teachers, and lead to personalized learning experiences for all students, particularly those from traditionally under-served communities.   If your district has not taken the pledge yet please do so by clicking HERE.  There will also be a series of free summits for district leadership teams to attend.  Leadership is central to the FRS effort.  As a coalition partner ICLE is uniquely positioned to assist leaders in transforming their districts to be Future Ready.

The Time is Now

This effort comes at a critical time as districts embrace college and career readiness as the goal for all students and recognize the potential of digital tools to help teachers personalize learning for each student. While less than 30 percent of U.S. schools have the bandwidth they need to teach using today’s technology, federal and state efforts are expanding this capacity to ensure that at least 99 percent of the nation’s students have access to high-speed internet in their schools within the next five years. Such connectivity, along with strategic planning by districts to maximize its availability, has the potential to transform the educational experiences of all students, regardless of their background.  Will your district be ready for this transition?”  District leaders must respond to these changes with thoughtful planning to align necessary technologies with instructional goals to support teaching and learning.

For more on Future Ready, visit

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