An Inside Look at the Future Ready Movement

futureready-schools

It was an honor to receive an invitation to attend the Future Ready Summit in Rhode Island and represent Burlington Public Schools as a local area expert. I had the opportunity to share the success of Burlington’s student run Help Desk and talk with school leaders about how they can develop a similar program to support their own 1:1 initiative. I also had the privilege to learn from several exceptional education thought leaders; including Michael Horn, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Clayton Christensen Institute and author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools.

Michael Horn shares the plan for implementing blended learning & disruptive innovation

Michael Horn shares the plan for implementing blended learning & disruptive innovation

I’ve read a lot about the Future Ready movement, but to participate in the event and gain a clearer understanding of the organization’s mission was eye opening. Now that I’ve returned, and have had some time to reflect, I can emphatically state that being a Future Ready school is not about technology. At the Summit, I didn’t hear the words “app smash” once. There was no smackdown at the end of the day. There were no “60 ways to use Google Classroom” sessions (although I did learn about Answer Garden). The words I heard spoken the most; by the attendees, the moderators, and session facilitators, were students and learning. Other areas of focus throughout the Summit included parent and community engagement, strategic planning, funding strategies, and personalized professional learning. If you can’t attend a Summit in your area, you should at least take the time to educate yourself about what Future Ready really stands for. Any district can take the Future Ready Pledge and gain access to the free Interactive Planning Dashboard and the Future Ready Framework.

Sharing Future Ready Success

The best and most exciting part of the summit in my opinion was district sharing time. The set-up reminded me of Burlington’s New England Student Showcase. During these two break out sessions, leadership teams showcased their Future Ready success stories. This included examples of teachers using technology in the classroom, district policies promoting digital learning, school leadership that is positively changing school culture, districtwide BYOD or 1:1 initiatives, and innovative professional learning opportunities. On day two of district sharing time, I caught up with Holly Doe, Technology Integrator from the Pelham School District in New Hampshire. I initially met Holly this fall at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference. She attended my session on student tech teams and met several of my students. At the Summit, Holly shared with me that Pelham will be launching a student tech team of their own this coming fall. It was exciting to hear about the quick progress her district has made in terms of involving students to support their technology initiatives. I also talked student tech teams with with Jason Lilly, Assistant High School Principal at Southern Lehigh School District in Pennsylvania. I shared my Help Desk resources with him and look forward to hearing about his district’s progress as they explore this idea further.

Leading with Learning

A second major highlight of the Summit was meeting several superintendents working towards getting their schools Future Ready including:

Randell Squier, Coxsackie-Athens Central School District (NY)
Mary Ellen Ormond, Inter-Lakes School District (NH)
Roy Seitsinger, Westerly Public Schools (RI)
Russell Holden, Sunapee School District (NH)
Leah Christman, Souther Lehigh School District (PA)

Their stories were incredibly inspiring, especially how Superintendent Christman was able to cut 27% of her budget while at the same time move towards 1:1 in grades K-12. Randell and his Embedded Technology Specialist Carly Mead shared the way their district has moved towards daily, embedded professional learning time for their teachers, with Mondays being their “tech days.” Roy shared his district’s philosophy of 1 to World versus 1:1 and how their BYOD initiative is impacting student learning in meaningful ways.

On day two of the Summit I attended a break out session on Professional Learning facilitated by Barbara Tracey. During this hour and a half session, we had three goals:

1. Identify the essential characteristics of effective professional learning
2. Recognize the challenges to effective professional learning in Future Ready schools
3. Evaluate the needs for professional learning in our own transition to digital learning

Answer Garden generated by Future Ready attendees

Answer Garden generated by Future Ready attendees

Not surprisingly, Edcamps, PLC’s, and the use of social media emerged as top choices for Future Ready professional learning models. The themes throughout the session included finding ways to empower teachers to develop and lead their own professional learning experiences and the concept of “unlearning;” or helping educators identify what they need to stop doing as they adopt digital teaching strategies and change their practice.

The last part of the Summit, which took me by complete surprise, was a brief conversation I had with Joe Rotz, Executive Director of Curriculum, Cranston Public Schools (RI). On my way out, I was walking towards Joe and instantly recognized him from his profile picture on Twitter (the perks of being a connected educator). He recognized me as well. Joe thanked me for the resources I share on my blog and made specific reference to my Google Hangout On Air training video. Joe shared that he had shown a staff of 25 people at his school my tutorial and that his team was going to start using Hangouts to communicate when they physically couldn’t be together. Considering how long that tutorial took me to make (there were a lot of logistics involved in that one!) it meant the world to me that Joe found that resource helpful. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my time at the Summit. That’s really what the Summit was all about…sharing and learning from others.

No school district can say it is 100% Future Ready, however many are doing exceptional work regarding curriculum, infrastructure, sustainability plans, community outreach, professional learning, and digital pedagogy. The Future Ready Summits provide a platform for districts to share their great work, learn from others, and overcome the unique challenges facing their districts. I’m glad I had the opportunity to get an up close and inside look at Future Ready, share the success of Burlington Public Schools, and walk away with several new ideas. Thanks to Tom Murray, Nancy Magnum, Jeff Mao, and everyone else involved with Future Ready for two great days of learning!

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