Future Ready Schools: Realizing the Vision Now

By Cathy Cavanaugh, Ph.D.

This month, the Department of Education published the new U.S. National Education Technology Plan (NETP), guiding schools toward "everywhere, all-the-time learning" and providing examples of transformation, research, and new innovations. At the heart of the NETP is the goal of equity and accessibility. Microsoft's mission aligns fully with the NETP: we work to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, and empowerment begins with inclusion. Our commitment is exemplified in the accessibility built into Windows and Office, and in the recently-announced Microsoft Philanthropies that advances digital inclusion through programs like the Affordable Access Initiative.

The NETP guides educators and schools in areas of learning, teaching, leadership, assessment, and infrastructure, emphasizing non-cognitive skills and personalized learning. School leaders can find further information on these areas and more in the expert-authored resources of the Microsoft Education Transformation Framework and the 21st Century Learning Design professional learning program and rubrics. The active global Microsoft Educator community connects educators to proven practices and opportunities to personalize learning such as OneNote, including the Tools for Learning, as well as to powerful professional learning experiences with the option to earn badges.

The NETP encourages educators to use games, augmented reality, coding, interaction with experts, and other active uses of technology rather than consuming media. Minecraft, HoloLens, the Imagine program, and Skype Field Trips and Expeditions are among the tools students have for active learning across the curriculum.

School leaders are encouraged by the NETP to collaborate on the goals, plans, and culture they build in schools. The Microsoft Showcase Schools program offers a community of innovative and effective school leaders with whom to share and learn. And the comprehensive redesigned School Transformation Toolkit provides resources for moving from vision to impact. The NETP advocates for embedded assessment driven by analytics. Office Mix is a free tool that enables formative assessment and student analytics in the classroom, while enterprise technology including PowerBI and Cortana Analytics Suite, support complex system level analytics. The NETP profiles Baltimore County Schools, whose story of digital transformation is a model.

Leaders are advised in the NETP to "beware of BYOD and BYOT," because these approaches do not address equity, privacy, security, and instructional efficiency. Guides to choosing and deploying Microsoft devices for a range of academic contexts address all of these issues, including Microsoft's leadership in the Student Data Privacy Pledge.

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