Four Ways You Can Put the National Ed Tech Plan to Work

Early evidence from across the country suggests the 2016 National Education Technology Plan (NETP16) is supporting states, districts, and schools in taking important, thoughtful action around the use of technology to support learning and teaching. Jennie Magiera, a member of the Technical Working Group that gave feedback throughout the writing of NETP16 and Chief Technology Officer at Des Plaines Schools in Illinois, said,

“The 2016 NETP speaks not only to policymakers and district leaders but classroom teachers and community members. This makes it a unifying document to help us all envision a more connected and empowered future for our students.”

When developing the NETP16 we made it a priority to create a document that was as useful as it was accessible. Here are four ways you can put the National Education Technology Plan to work:

Book Clubs

District and School leaders such as Magiera and Jeremy Macdonald, Director of Technology & Innovation at Redmond Schools in Oregon, are organizing NETP16 book clubs in their districts to help the educators and administrators they work with think more deeply about how technology can help them move toward their goals for learning and teaching.

“We have used the 2016 NETP as a guide to reimagine our Digital Transformation Plan and provide a common language for our staff and the community. We began by doing a study group for the document within our digital learning team. Then we did close readings of specific passages and chapters with all principals and administrators,” Magiera says. “Finally, our teacher leaders and community members got a chance to dig into the resource. This grounded our collective vision in national goals and research driven concepts. As we rewrote the Des Plaines Digital Transformation Plan, we pulled language directly from the document to develop overarching goals, subgoals and objectives.”

Of teachers’ conversations about the Digital Use Divide, Magiera says, “The discussions around this concept have begun to accelerate the mindshift from tech as a learning accessory to tech as a foundational change agent.”

Virtual Chats

While face-to-face conversations can be helpful in sussing out ideas, educators across the nation are also using technology tools to examine the roles those tools can play in helping our students learn. Together with Future Ready partners The Alliance for Excellence in Education and EdTechTeam, the Office of Educational Technology hosted a 5-week twitter chat studying the plan one chapter at a time. Across time zones and state lines, educators joined conversations on Learning, Teaching, Leadership, Assessment, and Infrastructure. For those interested in hosting similar chats or conversations in their own learning spaces, the questions used for each chapter can be found on the graphics page of the NETP16 site.

Districts like Lufkin ISD in Texas are also designing their own virtual studies of NETP16 using their online learning management platform so that teachers and administrators in the district to participate synchronously and asynchronously as schedules permit.

Lufkin Superintendent Dr. LaTonya Goffney will lead the virtual study and use the conversations it generates as an opportunity to help Lufkin educators think about how they can better use technology within the district to provide equitable access to transformative learning experiences for all students.

Collaborative Documents

Recently, education district instructional technology and school library media leaders from across Maryland met to discuss and explore NETP16. Not content with merely studying the plan, these educators decided to literally make the plan their own. Led by Maryland’s Director of Instructional Technology Val Emrich, these leaders jointly-edited a text version of NETP16 so that they could begin “customizing it as a plan for Maryland.” Educational leaders from across the state sat together at tables and began by reading shared collaborative documents of each section of NETP16 and making notes and edits as a first phase in making a Maryland-specific edition of the plan.

Leveraging the fact that NETP16 is published in the public domain, making it freely available for anyone to remix and reuse, several states are taking actions similar to Maryland. In New Mexico, state education officials leveraged components of NETP16 as well as the U.S. Department of Education and the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Future Ready Initiative in building their state education technology plan. In Vermont, state education officials incorporated NETP16 language describing the digital use divide and set closing it as a statewide priority of equity. Especially in areas with limited budgets for educational technology planning, the fact that the content of the NETP16 is freely available to use and adapt without restriction can represent a significant savings in both time and money.

Presentations and PD

Beyond the policy content and recommendations of NETP16, educators are taking advantage of the public domain content of the document when working with local audiences and at state and national conferences. Graphics like the one above explaining the Digital Use Divide or videos like those featured from the Department’s Future Ready Leaders project can serve as catalysts for conversation and help audiences better conceptualize what it can look like when technology is effectively deployed in service of learning.

These conversations, like the one Dr. Robert Dillon of Education Plus recently led at the Midwest Educational Technology Conference, are necessarily localized and focused on specific needs of the region. As Dillon said, “Unpacking a long detailed plan can be a challenge as a presenter, but the infographics throughout the NETP allowed for greater accessibility for all educators.” From there, states and districts can begin to personalize the plan to better reflect local needs, priorities, and resources.

In developing NETP16, we were attempting to build a document that set a national vision for technology in service of learning and teaching. The hope is that educators from all backgrounds might find a piece of the document helpful in refining their practice. The examples above are only a few examples of how the document might be helpful to your work. What other ways are you and your colleagues finding NETP16 helpful in pushing your thinking?


Zac Chase is a ConnectED Fellow in the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education.