New site offers help with shift to digital education

Epic-ed will help guide school leaders through digital transitions.

A new online community that launched Aug. 22 aims to help schools and districts as they move toward digital education and implement corresponding policy changes.

The U.S. Department of Education, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University, and the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) partnered to create the online community of practice.

Epic-ed aims to empower digital transitions at all stages of development, including school leaders who are thinking about moving to ubiquitous computing environments, those who wish to implement ed-tech pilot projects, and those who are ready for full-scale implementation.

“Epic-ed will provide K-12 educators, district leaders, and other community participants with a unique channel to get connected and develop strategies for navigating the digital transition,” said CoSN CEO Keith Krueger. “With increased peer-to-peer interaction and greater connectivity, epic-ed members will have an opportunity to learn from each other, share ideas, and ultimately implement effective plans to help ease the transition and maximize the benefits of technology-enabled learning environments.”

Though one-to-one computing has long been a goal of many districts, ed-tech leaders find they are now faced with a “one-to-many” situation, because many students today own and use more than one wireless mobile device.

“Bring your own device” initiatives—where students use their own devices on a school’s network, and the school often provides a “classroom set” of tools for students who don’t have their own device—also are growing in popularity. These initiatives cut down on tech support and take advantage of the large numbers of students who own high-tech devices and who already are using those devices, such as tablets, laptops, and smart phones, for educational purposes.

Epic-ed will focus on all stakeholders involved in ed-tech programs: school administrators, teachers, chief technology officers, instructional coaches, parents, students, and more.

On the community’s website, users will see a depiction of the digital transition cycle, a framework that epic-ed uses to help stakeholders begin or evaluate their progress toward digital education. That cycle consists of four phases:

  • Vision: Helps leaders define goals, guiding principles, and reasons for the transition. This cycle features a Readiness Assessment and guiding questions that focus on identifying stakeholders and outlining goals and strategies.
  • Plan: Guides stakeholders as they explore resources and helps leadership teams use data-driven decision-making. Users will find a Master Plan and Mapping Document to help them find resources and create detailed guidelines.
  • Implement: Leadership teams have a chance to update their goals and progress as they move through implementation. The Implementation Plan helps leaders as they move toward deployment.
  • Assess: In this phase, digital transition teams evaluate which policies, assessments, and technologies are right for their particular initiative. A Technology Integration Tool and a School Technology Needs Assessment offer guidance.

Each section is accompanied by a video and numerous web resources to support each phase of the digital transition cycle.

Epic discussions” in the community feature leaders from across the nation as they initiative and monitor discussions about digital transitions. Questions focus on topics such as what are the most essential elements of the redesigned education system, using one-to-one in math classrooms, and the importance of digital citizenship.

The site includes a blog, “Teacher Feature Fridays,” that will focus on student-centered instructional practice with technology in the K-12 classroom.

The National Association for Secondary School Principals’ School Administrator Series will feature a principal or assistant principal on a regular basis, who will blog about their school’s digital transition story for the epic-ed community.

The school/district profile locator tool gives school and district leaders the chance to provide additional information about their particular transition to digital education. The tool will use graphical mapping to give users the opportunity to see what schools or districts have had a similar experience and can help connect users to other schools and districts. Epic-ed leaders said they hope the tool will give users a sense of what is happening on a national scale.

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Laura Ascione

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