Future Ready Learning NETP16

by Jean Tower


Today the US Department of Education released the 2016 National Education Technology Plan, Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education.

The plan can be found at tech.ed.gov/netp and you can download the complete plan as a pdf or access by section on the web site. As the image above illustrates, the main components of the plan are learning, teaching, leadership, assessment, and infrastructure.

Each section lays out a vision supported by research and exemplars from the field, and ends with a set of recommendations.


In this chapter some of the main points that I agree with are that technology can enable personalized learning and that it has the “potential to accelerate, amplify, and expand” learning. (Also, note to authors – love the oxford comma!) The plan asserts that “equitable technology access can help close the digital divide.” I think this is a very important point that states and districts need to pay attention to. We must collaborate to ensure equity – equitable access to broadband, devices, and quality teaching. Another facet of equity is in closing the digital use divide, in closing the divide between simple, passive use of technology (consuming content) and using technology to create and collaborate.

Biggest takeaway in the recommendation list? “Align all learning technology resources to intended educational outcomes.”


The vision set forth in this area includes teachers using technology for professional development, accessing and analyzing data, providing engaging content, and extending learning experiences. The plan supports the idea that teachers need job-embedded support and professional development and that teachers focus not just on what they teach, but also on how students best learn. I believe that this is well supported by brain-based learning research.

Biggest takeaway in the recommendation list? “Develop a common set of technology competency expectations” for teachers, including skills in “online and blended” teaching and learning.


Leadership is critical in creating a culture for innovation and change. The plan explains that it is very important to create a shared vision, communicate that vision well, and provide policies and resources that support innovative teaching. CoSN gets a great mention for their leadership on erate and the annual survey. “Implementation is key” – I consider this to mean that leaders must have an inclination to action; vision is necessary but not sufficient. We cannot lead change by  vision alone.

Biggest takeaway in the recommendation list? “Develop clear communities of practice for education leaders…for setting vision, understanding research, and sharing practices.”


The vision of the plan is that assessment and the data we assemble are used to improve teaching and learning. Assessment is envisioned as embedded in learning, universally designed, adaptive, real time, and enhanced by the tools that technology can provide.

Biggest takeaway in the recommendation list? Enable “a model of assessment that includes ongoing gathering and sharing of data for continuous improvement of learning and teaching.”


The diagram at the start of this post hints at the place of infrastructure – it encircles and enables everything else. None of the visions in any of the sections can become reality without a robust and reliable infrastructure – ubiquitous wireless, high speed internet, modern devices capable of running current software and apps, and access to high-quality digital resources. The illustration on page 66 of the plan show in more detail, the aspects of infrastructure encircling the entire plan, with learning at the center.

Equity emerges in this section again, as an imperative that we must address. As the plan points out in the section on bring your own device, relying solely on student-owned devices is not an adequate solution because it does not ensure equity. Districts that want to encourage students to bring devices are urged not to “use BYOD as their primary method for ensuring students have devices.”

The recommendations speak to equity, devices for every student, funding, quality educational digital resources, and mapping what is place across the country.

Biggest takeaway in the recommendation list? “Draft sustainability plans for infrastructure concerns that include upgrades…device refresh plans and sustainable funding sources.”

One suggestion I have that goes beyond the recommendations in the plan is that district leaders become active in their professional associations and partner with their peers to get better faster.

As I have written in an earlier post:

Working alone, we can each advance our knowledge and skills, but working together, we can do this faster – we get better faster, together, as a community of like-minded professionals, taking from and contributing to the group.

So, the plan contains great recommendations that we can all use in our districts to drive improvement and to support our own local plans. However, it is not a plan in the way that a district plans – at the local level, we include action steps and timelines and smart goals – instead, Future Ready Learning provides a strong vision, backs that vision with research and exemplars, and points to many additional resources and organizations. Furthermore, by outlining recommendations in every section, the report can help states and districts to move from the vision to the concrete, from the overview to the details. We can take the recommendations use them to create our own plans, plans that will help students learn, become responsible digital citizens, and be ready for the future.



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