During January of 2014, in order to get a fresh perspective on how the use of personalized technology resources may enhance our shifting approach to instruction, a district subgroup attended an Executive Briefing hosted by Apple, Inc. in New York City. This event was very much in line with a similar activity we engaged in with IBM prior to writing our first technology plan in 1991. The group participated in discussion with Apple representatives relevant to the status of our instructional program, philosophy, technology initiatives and goals for the future. We looked at different instructional models that would allow us to move towards the reinvention of some of our current processes, explored devices and applications that offered great opportunities for teaching and learning in a personalized setting, compared the adoption rates for different users and how to leverage that dynamic in professional development planning, and agreed to revisit and adopt a more formalized strategic planning process in our activities going forward. This entire briefing was held again one month later at our location for a larger audience, the newly formed “Innovation Committee,” as a precursor for that group’s involvement in strategic instructional planning.
The Innovation Committee met again in March, 2014, to begin the process of transforming the culture for our learning environments. The group articulated a vision for how instruction should look, and then crafted a new mission statement (provided earlier in this document) relevant to the vision upon which to build. Although not unlike the previous mission statement, the emphasis is now placed on instruction rather than on technology.
From the vision and the mission statement came the slogan, “Inspire, Engage, Innovate,” which was to be used as a rally cry in an attempt to create and communicate a “brand” for the district’s new instructional culture, and the slogan now appears on signage, in e-mail signatures, on our school and district websites, as well as on virtually all forms of correspondence used by the district.
The Innovation Committee established a “To Do List,” serving as a draft for revisions made to the Action Plan component of this document. Items listed here fall into several categories within the context of this plan including Instructional Technology Programs and Initiatives; Community Relations; Facilities, Hardware and Infrastructure, Educational Technology Staffing; Staff Development Program; and Technology Resource Acquisition.
Between April, 2014, and the time of this writing, the Innovation Committee held eight (8) additional general meetings where administrators and staff convene to share ideas and learn about the latest practices. The full committee was tasked to discuss, create and plan opportunities to transform instruction, evolve professional development options, enhance communication and collaborative efforts among staff, explore new technologies, and gather information via surveys for future planning purposes. During 2015-16, each building spawned its own school-based Innovation Committee in order to address issues, set goals and pilot smaller initiatives relevant to each individual school. The larger committee was reduced to school representatives that would serve as liaisons for sharing results of the efforts of the smaller groups.
One of the outcomes of our changed instructional culture was the district’s recognition by the NJ Department of Education as an innovative school district. INNOVATE NJ is New Jersey’s initiative to support innovation and practice by fostering sharing and collaboration, cultivating projects and convening practitioners and partners. We feel our active participation in INNOVATE NJ will help facilitate next-generation instructional practices that will promote and heighten the college and career readiness levels of our students.
In the early spring of 2016, the New Jersey Department of Education launched a statewide Digital Learning initiative that was developed in alignment with the U.S. Department of Education’s “Future Readiness” initiative. The NJDOE established the NJTRAx database to gauge the technology readiness of New Jersey schools and districts for online testing as well as provide a digital learning tool.
The NJTRAx technology readiness database is designed to collect and store the datasets that inform readiness ratings. These ratings are published in reports that are customized for each school, district, region, and for the state. NJTRAx has been revised to reflect the single administration for the Spring PARCC Assessments as well as for the possibility of field test units. The districts will continue to keep the data in NJTRAx up to date so that the data reflects the present reality of the district.
To assist districts with developing digital learning environments, new digital learning surveys and reporting capabilities have been added to the NJTRAx interactive technology readiness data and reporting system. Each district school now has the ability to track and strategically plan for digital learning policies and practices. The launch of NJTRAx Digital Learning (DL) is part of the NJDOE Educational Technology’s long-term Digital Learning Initiative (DLI) and Voorhees Township School district has embraced the established framework as we evolve our local Digital Learning Readiness posture.
Each of our schools is now using the NJTRAx Digital Learning tool to document their readiness and implementation ratings for digital learning, and we use the Digital Learning framework to assist each school to be ready for digital learning. Stakeholders may gain insight into the school’s digital learning readiness, its digital learning implementation, and the gaps the school currently has that must be closed if they are to use technology efficiently and effectively, in ways that increase our students’ college and career readiness.
Grounded in a key set of indicators for effective implementation of digital learning, six surveys were used to collect data from six different stakeholder groups. Those six include: students, parents/guardians, teachers, school administrators, information technology coordinator, and educational technology coordinator. The data has been collected and a customized report for each school has been generated with its readiness ratings for digital learning and comparisons of perspectives across the survey respondent groups. Sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Education, this Digital Learning tool is a school version of the District Readiness Assessment (http://dashboard.futurereadyschools.org/) used at the White House Future Ready Summits (http://tech.ed.gov/futureready/). Stakeholder groups in each of our school communities had completed the survey process during the established March-April 2016 window, and although the full content of the district report and each school’s report may be found posted on the district’s website (http://www.voorhees.k12.nj.us/Page/82984). The website also provides comparative data related to Overall Digital Readiness and Overall Digital Implementation.
If our students are to graduate college and career ready in today's high tech, connected society, they must be competent digitally, proficient with technology, the Internet, 21st Century skill, and digital learning. The framework adopted by the NJDOE and us, according to the U.S. Department of Education, is designed to set out a roadmap to achieve that success and to commit districts to move as quickly as possible towards a shared vision of preparing students to thrive today and tomorrow. This can only be accomplished through a systemic approach to change. With student learning at the center, as we revise this "Technology for Digital Learning Plan 2016-19", we must align each of the following eight (8) key categories (gears) in order to implement and sustain successful digital learning:
- Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
- Use of Time
- Technology, Networks, and Hardware
- Data and Privacy
- Community Partnerships
- Professional Learning
- Budget and Resources
- Empowered, Innovative Leadership
Each of these goes hand in hand, with all being equally important, interrelated, and interdependent. These categories now replace the Action Plan Target Areas established in former district technology plans.
Each school’s Innovation Committee has contributed a series of school-based goals, based on their NJTRAx Digital Learning Readiness survey results, to focus on more localized needs. These complement the overall set of district goals and tasks listed in the Action Plan portion of this document. These surveys will be administered again in upcoming years so that we may use the data to measure growth and adjust the focus of our efforts.
2016-2019 marks the 9th revision to the original document written in 1991. The completed Educational Plan 2016-19 was approved by the Voorhees Township Board of Education and the Camden County Office of Education, published on the district’s web site for public access, and listed as “approved” on the NJDOE website.