Tuesday, January 13, 2015

#FutureReady

If you are active on the education Twittersphere, there is a good chance you have seen #FutureReady appear in your feed. Arne Duncan and a whole bunch of 'important' officials are doing their best to make it the next buzz word. Based on people's tweets, I figured it centered on EdTech. Not entirely sure, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. 


A quick Google search lead me to the Office of Educational Technology (who knew there was such a thing) and The Future Ready Pledge. From the office itself, The Future Ready Pledge, "recognizes the importance of building human capacity within schools and districts for effectively using increased connectivity and new devices to transform teaching and learning."

The pledge is a good start and a step in the right direction. It acknowledges the potential for technology to emphasize creation over consumption, promote digital citizenship, and enable collaboration among districts. The Future Ready Pledge calls for improved technology infrastructures not only in schools, but also for increased access for families outside traditional school hours. This, at the very least, acknowledges the need to look critically at digital equity in our schools and communities - a positive indication.

As I said, there is a lot to like with The Future Ready Pledge. I also think there are a few opportunities not addressed with The Pledge.

  • Even more emphasis on the community. From establishing tech plans, to learning about digital citizenship, to providing access and learning opportunities, we need to involve communities, not just superintendents. Schools can and should be focal points for community action. Increasing technology relationships between school and community can help curb digital gaps. 

  • Expanding on the last point, The Future Ready Pledge takes a very top down approach. This is especially disheartening as so many teachers have led the fight to get meaningful technology in the hands of students. I think of all the teachers on Twitter, or educators bringing their own devices into the classroom. Instead of celebrating their work, the sense is that superintendents are the ones who can affect real change. 

  • There needs to be a greater emphasis on pedagogy. We can talk about devices, access, and potential all day long. But if we continue to use 20th century tools like rote memorization, teacher lecture, standardized tests, and busy work all the technology in the world will barely make a difference. 

  • Finally, I always worry about tags like Future Ready. Why? There are mentions to preparing students for college, career, and citizenship. There is a mention to returning the United States to the top of the rankings for college completion. This is certainly important, even crucial. Yet are we falling into the 'next year trap'? I explain the next year trap as a continual focus on the future, while neglecting the present. What about now? Future Ready is really Present Ready. We need to prepare students for the present just as much as the future. The present demands 21st century skills like communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. Technology can certainly help build these skills today. This will undoubtedly help our students for tomorrow as well.  
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My hope is The Future Ready Pledge will strengthen the use of meaningful technology in education. My hats go off to the teachers who do this every day. 

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