Taking ‘Future Ready’ Beyond the Pledge

It was two years ago that AASA collaborated with the Department of Education to invite 118 Superintendents to the White House to meet with President Obama for the launch of Future Ready. At the event, the Superintendents in attendance along with more than 1,000 more around the country took the Future Ready Pledge. Since then, AASA has been working with superintendents and school systems in every state to promote the transformation of education as we know it through personalized learning.

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Educators have dreamt about individualizing education for every child since the 1960s. In spite of valiant efforts on the part of teachers and administrators, it was impossible for a teacher with twenty-some students in a class to provide personalized instruction on a day to day basis throughout the entire school year. Recent advances in technology, however, have made it possible for personalized learning to take place. AASA has been in the forefront of advocating for personalized learning as the goal of the digital leap. Technology for the sake of technology is a costly mistake and we continue to caution our superintendents to undertake the necessary planning and training before rushing to buy a laptop for every child.

The President’s ConnectEd proposal promises that 99 percent of American students will have access to next-generation broadband by 2018. Two years ago a major step was taken to accomplish that goal when the Federal Communications Commission increased the E-rate spending cap to $3.9 billion. The E-rate has become one of the major sources of federal funding for schools and libraries and superintendents are taking advantage of this funding by bringing wireless internet service into their classrooms. This enables teachers to deliver individualized content to digital devices used by the students. A parent walking into such a classroom will experience a very different view of education than the rows of student desks facing the front of the room and the lecturing teacher that was their norm. Instead they see students scattered around the classroom, some sitting at desks others on the floor, some working alone, others in small groups. All of them engaged. The teacher is not lecturing the whole class but wonders around the room providing help and support as needed.

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Today AASA’s Digital and Personalized Learning Consortia include hundreds of school systems throughout the country. The superintendents leading those districts meet on a regular basis and communicate with each other frequently to exchange ideas and solutions. Taking advantage of social media channels like Twitter, the superintendents conduct regular chats on #suptchat and use Apps like Voxer to stay in touch. It’s not just the kids that are taking advantage of the technology and social platforms.

We are seeing significant changes and growth taking place in our districts and hopefully the beginning of a transformation of education as we have known it. All for the better. The future is here.