Helpful Resources for EdTech Implementation Using SSAE Grant Funds

Monday, June 19, 2017
Helpful Resources for EdTech Implementation Using SSAE Grant Funds

This blog is part 2 of a 2-part series on the Student Support & Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grant. Read part 1 here: SSAE Grant and EdTech: How Funding Changes Under ESSA Give Districts More Flexibility.

As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), authorized in December 2015 by President Obama, districts will see increased flexibility in allocating funds for education technology initiatives thanks to the transition to the block Student Support & Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant.


While the SSAE grant aims to help districts provide greater opportunities for digital learning by allowing for personalized decision-making in use of funds, it may be difficult to identify the greatest priorities within each unique district. Here are a few tools and guidance documents to review when determining areas of needs and strategies for implementation.

 

Guidance documents for key decision-makers

The Office of Educational Technology released a non-regulatory guidance document that contains useful information regarding the SSAE grant. It highlights application requirements, answers key questions about processes and use of funds, provides an overview of allowable activities under the grant, and gives suggestions for innovatively using funds to drive student achievement.


Other valuable resources from the office include the 2016 National Education Technology Plan, considered the "flagship educational technology policy document for the United States," in addition to tools located on its website that provide guidance on infrastructure and connectivity initiatives, as well as further options for funding digital literacy.

 

Tools for making schools future-ready 

To better prepare students for life after graduation, national educational initiatives such as President Obama’s ConnectEd Initiative have focused on ensuring students develop the skills and knowledge necessary for the jobs of tomorrow, a.k.a. making students "future-ready." Superintendents across the nation have signed a Future Ready Pledge dating back to 2014, but many voiced a need for evidence-based resources and best practices to model.

In response, the Office of Educational Technology published a research synthesis on the Characteristics of Future Ready Leadership that includes 27 policies and practices under four focus areas for superintendents and other school leaders to implement digital learning. A few examples are listed below:
 

Collaborative Leadership

Personalized Student Learning

Robust
Infrastructure

Personalized Professional Learning

Strong Leadership Aptitude

Rigorous and Relevant Learning Outcomes

Connectivity and Capacity

Collaboration and Community

Culture of Trust and Innovation

Integrated Assessment

Digital Devices

Shared Leadership and Ownership

Transparent Communications

Powerful Learning Designs

Software and Systems for Teaching and Learning

Focus on Evidence

Modeling of Technology Use

Rich Learning Resources

Administrative Data Systems

Systemic Support

 

Future Ready Leaders project

As part of the effort to support superintendents, the Office of Educational Technology also created a database and series of tools designed specifically to help key decision-makers promote digital literacy, known as the Future Ready Leaders project.


The project guides committed leaders through steps to identify barriers to success and provides a means to learn implementation strategies from model peers. This valuable resource is a good place to start when faced with the daunting task of fostering an environment that values digital learning, as it provides personalized materials geared toward school and district leadership.

 

Highlights of the project include:

  • Self-assessment to identify areas of weakness and strength

  • Personalized professional learning resources

  • A video library with a personalized playlist based on assessment results

 

Self-assessment and personalized playlist

The self-assessment takes a close look at the four major characteristics noted in the research synthesis: Collaborative Leadership, Personalized Student Learning, Robust Infrastructure, and Personalized Professional Learning. By answering a series of questions, decision-makers can rate items associated with each of the characteristics, marking them as:

  • Not evident

  • Emerging

  • Established

  • Exemplary  

Taking the self-assessment simplifies the task of determining which areas require additional focus, and the professional learning experience is further personalized when completion of the assessment leads to a playlist of recommended videos from the project’s database. Participation can be anonymous, allowing the user to receive a personalized playlist access code without having to provide personal or employment information. There is also an option to send the results and receive the playlist via email.

 

The SSAE grant structure seems promising for the future of education technology, as it enables districts to channel funds towards much-needed infrastructure and professional learning opportunities. Using the tools mentioned above, leaders can narrow down and begin targeting priorities to make the most out of SSAE grant funds.

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