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Strategic planning, professional learning are keys to ed tech readiness

By Yolanda Ramos
October 1, 2016
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Thanks to my formal education background and the early stages of my educational career in the United States and Puerto Rico, I was fortunate to work with school leaders, inservice and preservice teachers, and teacher training faculty responsible for educating students from multiple ethnic, cultural, linguistic, socio-economic and academic backgrounds.

Strategic planning was imperative in the efforts to address the diversity of needs and challenges districts, schools and community stakeholders faced every day in those learning environments. 

Needs assessments on native and English language proficiency levels and the available information on a student’s academic background were some of the data sets necessary to start drawing the picture of the right learning pathway for a recent-arrival student trying to learn in a new language, with new academic content and a new skill set.

In 1998, I focused my work on learning technologies and their role in learning and teaching. For 12 years, I had the opportunity to work with educators across the Caribbean, the West Indies, Bermuda and Central and South America. In some cases, I had the amazing opportunity to visit countries when they were launching their national ed tech initiatives. Since 2011 in my work with ISTE, I’ve visited and worked with educators in Brazil, Chile, China, India, Panamá, Uruguay and, most recently, Malaysia.

In the U.S. and across the world, I continue to notice that key stakeholders are facing challenges similar to those experienced by my former English language learners from 30 years ago. Today’s ed tech challenges are due to many variables, but the most common challenges when designing and implementing ed tech initiatives are due to the lack of strategic planning and a shared vision that is student centered and prioritizes professional learning. 

ISTE is currently collaborating with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, the Malaysia Ministry of Education and its Institut Aminuddin Baki to train 90 coaches to support principals across the country. In the U.S., we are collaborating with the Verizon Foundation to train approximately 3,000 educators through the Verizon Mobile Learning Academy.

In both initiatives, we apply ISTE’s digital age professional learning pathway, emphasizing a coaching and team approach through the lens of the ISTE Standards. Our goal is to move participants from what they know about the promise of technology to what they need to do to help their target audiences achieve their learning goals.

These programs provide:

•    A pathway to develop visionary ed tech leadership and opportunities for leaders to learn how to effectively engage and collaborate with key stakeholders.
•    Team capacity-building skills where all stakeholders become active learners and collaborators.
•    Coaching and mentorship support from ISTE faculty and ed tech subject-matter experts.
•    Job-embedded ed tech integration skills that promote changes in instruction that are associated with greater student engagement, learning gains and technology proficiency.
•    An online professional learning network that recognizes the power of learning together and promotes regional sharing.
•    Opportunities for leadership to learn how to engage and collaborate with key internal and external stakeholders to support their ed tech initiatives.

We know that even with the recent advances in technology, technology alone cannot create the shift needed to support new and effective digital age learning and teaching trends inside and outside the classroom. That shift requires thought leadership, strategic planning and personalization of learning.

I’m excited about the road map ahead of us using the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students to help educators worldwide discover ways to leverage technology to transform learning.

Yolanda Ramos, Ph.D., is ISTE's senior director of Professional Services.