You are here

GEAR 1 - Instruction, Learning and Assessment

Gear 1 - Introduction

The 2016 Wisconsin Digital Learning Plan is about teaching and learning in the digital environment in which citizens now live and work.  It is not about devices, software, apps, or the latest tools.  It is about the thoughtful planning, preparation, and analysis of student outcomes, professional learning, culture, and leadership.  Most importantly, it is about meeting our vision of equitable, personalized, applied, and engaged digital learning for all students. Equity of access to the digital resources in order to drive learning is paramount to the success of our students in a digital environment.  The Plan addresses students for whom:

  • Information is instantly available
  • Multimedia, interactive experiences are the norm
  • Communication and collaboration are constant
  • Powerful creativity tools are readily available
  • One’s online presence is part of one’s identity
  • Learning is student-centered and personalized
  • Equity of devices, curriculum resources, online access, and properly trained educators are assumed

Gear 1 is comprised of the following Future Ready elements elements:

instruction learning & assessment

  • 21st Century Skills/Deeper Learning
  • Personalized Learning
  • Collaborative, Relevant, and Applied Learning
  • Leveraging Technology
  • Assessment—Analytics Inform Instruction

The Institute for Personalized Learning; a division off CESA 1, defines personalized learning as an approach to learning and instruction that is designed around individual learner readiness, strengths, needs, and interests. Learners are active participants in setting goals, planning learning paths, tracking progress, and determining how learning will be demonstrated. At any point in time, learning objectives, content, method, and pacing are likely to vary from learner to learner as they pursue proficiency aligned to established standards.  A fully personalized environment moves beyond both differentiation and individualization in meeting the needs of all students.  While it is certainly not only about technology, the availability and use of digital tools and media to personalize learning for students has been a key component.

Wisconsin has a long history of excellence in the classroom.  All educational initiatives are guided and impacted by principles for teaching and learning.  Wisconsin Academic Standards specify what students should know and be able to do and serve as goals for teaching and learning. The Wisconsin Strategic Assessment System emphasizes:

  • The purposeful alignment of assessments and their use to the data inquiry process;
  • The critical and primary role that formative practices play in driving the teaching and learning process; and
  • The importance of identifying high quality assessments to produce effective and efficient information about students' readiness for college and career.

Blended learning options continue to transform the look and feel of traditional classrooms as school districts seek out ways to provide both face-to-face and online experiences for students. DPI has created the updated Online and Blended Guide for districts to help assist in understanding the policy, research, practices and funding options for districts.  

With the work and support of the Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative (WDLC), teachers are planning for and implementing new and innovative digital learning strategies and creating non-traditional pathways for students. This WDLC infographic outlines three pathways to consider when planning, implementing, and administering digital learning programs.  In June 2016, the WDLC released A Review of Programs and Partners, a summary of the wide variety of resources, services, and benefits the districts need to offer online and blended learning options to students.  

The 2016 Student Standards released by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) redefine learning in a technology-driven world.  These standards address the empowered learner, the digital citizen, the knowledge constructor, the computational thinker, the creative communicator, and the global collaborator.  They emphasize student agency and a learner-driven approach and are an important tool for curriculum planning.  

In Wisconsin, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programming is an important component to any digital learning program.  A goal of the STEM program is to assist educators in implementing effective approaches for improving STEM teaching and learning; facilitating the dissemination and adoption of effective STEM instructional practices nationwide; and promoting STEM education experiences that prioritize hands-on learning to increase student engagement and achievement. In addition, Wisconsin Computer Science standards will be adopted to help create a scope and sequence vision of coding and computer science for all students. 

School librarians continue to serve important leadership, teaching, and support roles.  As districts adopt Future Ready initiatives, the Future Ready Librarian Framework serves as an important resource.  This Framework is based on a core belief that, in a Future Ready school, all students have equitable access to qualified librarians, digital tools, resources, and books.  This case study follows one school’s journey to a 21st Century learning space and inspired student learning.

This Plan also addresses the needs of educators.  All educators should have digital access to online, blended and face-to-face, and standards-driven curricula personalized to meet the academic needs of all students.


Gear 1 - Guiding Questions for Planning

  • Do all students have access to engaging learning opportunities in a digital environment?
  • What are the barriers students face in accessing digital learning outside of the classroom?  Do those barriers impact students’ abilities to succeed academically?
  • Are student-driven learning environments providing the learner with voice, choice, and pacing options to demonstrate mastery of a given set of content and performance standards?
  • Are school districts adopting high-quality openly licensed educational materials in place of traditional textbooks?
  • Are the universal design principles for accessibility applied across all educational offerings, and are those principles included in teacher preparation programs?
  • Do technology-based assessments provide real-time feedback for students and educators?
  • Do students have the option to view their own assessment/learning data to make decisions?
  • Does educational technology support closing the achievement gap in Wisconsin districts or widen it?
  • What is the purpose of homework?  Are technologies used that reduce or widen equity gaps across student subgroups?
  • Are educators receiving ongoing training to keep up with the latest developments in digital teaching and learning strategies as well as assessment strategies?  
  • Do their classroom activities routinely focus on the 4C’s of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity?  
  • Are educators receiving regular coaching and feedback on their practices to integrate technology?

Gear 1 -  Instruction, Learning and Assessment Priorities

The Wisconsin Digital Learning Plan Goals, Recommendations, and Priority Activities within each section of the plan represent issues that speak to our engagement with federal, state, and local education agencies. Activities are targeted for completion by state education agency (SEA) and local education agency (LEA). In many cases, there will be a collaboration between and among agencies to meet the goals.

GOAL 1.1

Educators will base curriculum, instruction, and assessment on the clear expectation that all students graduate prepared for college and the workplace. Educators will actively use data to guide choices related to curriculum, content, and instructional strategies.


Support students’ learning in academic standards and college and career readiness by leveraging tools available to help students meet learning goals and outcomes.


  • Continue the development of all components of the WISE suite to inform education research and data analysis through dashboard and reporting tools in order to better understand and improve educational outcomes for Wisconsin students.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)
  • Provide state and regional support for districts as they strategically choose high-quality assessment and data analysis tools that will directly impact student achievement.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)
  • Refresh the Wisconsin Information Technology and Literacy standards through adoption of some combination of the ISTE NETS 2016 Student Standards and AASL Student Learning standards.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)
  • Implement the Academic and Career Plans (ACPs) to ensure personalized support and development of pathways for all students grades 6-12.  (LEA Target for districts)

GOAL 1.2

Districts will provide universal access to high-quality digital tools, learning objects, and curriculum.


Across state agencies, districts and partners work together to provide a continuum of high-quality learning opportunities that are easily identified, personalized and accessed.  


  • Provide regional and statewide support for districts to understand the principles of Universal Design for Learning and how those principles support equitable access to connectivity, digital devices, information, resources, programming, and services that support teaching and learning.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Continue to curate and add to the existing resources within the WISELearn content repository, and promote its use across the state.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Continue training and communications to districts about Wisconsin’s Online Library,  Badgerlink, to ensure 24/7 access for all students and educators.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)

GOAL 1.3

Districts are able to leverage technology and diverse learning resources to personalize the learning experience for each student.


Prepare and communicate planning tools and processes for implementing personalized learning opportunities at all levels.


  • Assist school districts in preparing personalized learning plans that include organizational tools, professional development, examples of practice aimed at multiple levels and content areas, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the digital tools and resources used.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Assist in creating instructional support structures aligned to the goals of ESSA to ensure all students are college and career ready.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)

GOAL 1.4

Educators will create learning spaces that foster innovation and will communicate to students and parents about the adaptability and flexibility of these spaces.  Students and parents rate highly the value of these changes to the learning environment.


Encourage learners to purposefully collaborate, design, and create content with opportunities to demonstrate and apply their learning in innovative ways.


  • Provide regional and statewide training opportunities for districts to maximize the planning tools and resources in the Future Ready Framework around the Instruction gear.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Provide state and regional training for school library media specialists, classroom teachers, and principals to assist them as they create and implement innovative learning spaces and tools for students.   (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Create a cadre of innovative schools or districts that are willing to share successes and challenges with others via video, blogs, or other appropriate media.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)

GOAL 1.5 

Districts will seek opportunities and technology platforms that extend course offerings.  Districts will provide opportunities for educators to learn in blended and/or online learning environments that will enable them to bring digital lessons and assignments, which engage learners to strive for success.


Prepare students to be successful in both physical and virtual classrooms by giving options in voice, choice, space, and place in their learning.


  • Provide regional and statewide training opportunities for district staff to understand the leadership, behaviors, and strategies needed to move traditional classroom experiences to a blended environment using tools and resources consistent with today’s needs and expectations.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)
  • Create or promote a seamless operational environment that ensures access to virtual courses.  This would include issues such as a common statewide course catalog for online courses, integration with course selection, registration, master scheduling, grading, and transcripts.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Develop a policy for district waiver requests related to digital learning, including e-learning assurances and implementation frameworks.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)
  • Develop a refreshed Online and Blended Learning guide that includes the framework of research, policy, practice, infrastructure and budget planning.  This guide will include integrated material covering virtual charter, open enrollment, homeschooled programs to help schools proactively plan programming to meet the needs of all students.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)

GOAL 1.6

Expand state investments in statewide digital content and learning resources, taking advantage of economy of scale pricing and efficiency of implementation through interoperability standards.


Support the development and use of openly licensed educational materials as well as support the use of a common format for learning management systems (LMS), allowing courses from any provider—as well as content developed in-house—to be mixed and matched.


  • Continue the work of the Open Educational Resources (OER) team to ensure high-quality learning experiences and resources for our schools.  Communicate the potential cost savings to Wisconsin school districts inherent in the use of openly licensed resources.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)
  • Investigate state contracts to purchase digital content that is not available through OER.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)
  • Create a working group of Wisconsin school districts and CESAs to advise the CESA Purchasing Consortium on digital learning purchasing guidance to assist in the procurement process to ensure all districts have equitable access to high-quality digital content, hardware and classroom resources.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Implement statewide interoperability standards aligning with the statewide professional learning platform, statewide content repository, digital content adoption, and the Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative (WDLC) resources.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)

GOAL 1.7

All students have access to qualified school library media specialists who have the capacity to partner with classroom teachers to design and implement evidence-based curricula and assessments that integrate elements of deeper learning, critical thinking, information literacy, digital citizenship, creativity, innovation, and the active use of technology.  


Support the building of instructional partnerships as teachers and library media specialists design engaging curriculum and use collaborative spaces augmented with digital tools and resources.


  • Investigate the opportunities to modify licensing requirements to ensure school districts have access to qualified library media specialists.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)
  • Identify models of school calendars and schedules that create opportunities to promote collaboration time between teachers and library media specialists.  (SEA and LEA Targets for Wisconsin DPI and districts)
  • Identify, publish, and promote best practices around the innovative use of spaces promoting student engagement in a digitally-infused curriculum.  (SEA Target for Wisconsin DPI)