We are pleased to provide this update to the initial statewide digital learning plan which was unveiled roughly four years ago. Change is constant, and with technology that change can be at hyper-speed. The initial plan was created by a broad collaboration of persons from across the state, and the update followed in the same fashion. The most notable reflection as we share the update can be found in all that has been accomplished. Here are a few things - all connected to the specific action items laid out in the first plan - we can collectively call our “successes.”
Accomplished: Funded by the state, the new WISEdata system began rolling out across Wisconsin school districts earlier in 2016. Promising to save time for school staff, WISEdata replaces the older file upload/download method of data collection with an automated API (application programming interface).
Future Plans: Relying on student information system and other software vendors, WISEdata is a partnership model promising to eliminate redundant data tasks, improving the overall quality of data and increasing the ability to use data in a real-time way for making local instructional and operational decisions. A strategic approach is planned for adding additional data elements and features in the coming years.
WISEdash and WISExplore
Accomplished: Another state supported effort, WISEdash, has grown to include more data metrics each year since its inception, continuing to add to its value for local school district decision makers. Data included in WISEdash are those school districts have requested to be added to meet their needs. Our focus has also been on improving the use of data-based decision making through a series of professional learning efforts called “WISExplore.” These are collaborations among school districts, CESAs, and professional groups, such as the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA), the Association for Wisconsin School Administrators (AWSA) and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB). We all realize that tools are just that - tools. Without investing in the people who use them, the value of the tools is minimal. WISExplore creates value through the rigorous discussions it creates around practices.
Future Plans: Through collaboration with partners and using the feedback from users across the state, DPI will continue to build out the features and uses for WISEdash. The prospect of creating a uniform approach for using data in districts, schools, and classrooms shall benefit from additional federal grants and state support. A key area for growth of the tool set is in support of classroom teachers.
Accomplished: Additional state support has gone into delivering a platform, known as WISELearn, that can be used to share digital instructional content. CESAs are working with professional groups to identify high quality content for WISELearn that can be easily searched by any educator or parent in Wisconsin. Thousands of open educational resources (OER) have been placed into WISELearn to date. This number is expected to grow over time through collaboration with other states with have the same goal of shared content. DPI is also collaborating with partners like the Institute for Personalized Learning ; a division of CESA 1, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Field Day team, and the Wisconsin Media Lab to ensure access through WISELearn to engaging, Wisconsin-centric content. WISELearn saves people time by helping find quality resources matching what is wanted with when it is needed, compared with inefficient, random searches in standard web browsers. WISELearn can be used to connect people around common shared topics regardless of where in Wisconsin they teach or live. This platform holds the potential for being the online place for professional learning opportunities by providing a learning management system.
Future Plans: DPI continues to explore opportunities for systematic sharing of open education resources across other state education agencies. By addressing key interoperability standards to facilitate digital content flow. DPI must also work collaboratively with school district to define these technical standards to enable WISE tools to be part of the “plug and play” digital ecosystem each school district implements. In addition, DPI continues to support the awareness and utilization of the WISElearn tools through partnerships and communications.
Accomplished: A new suite of online assessments has been implemented during the past two years to make the state testing process much easier. Work continues in order to streamline the data flows between testing platforms and WISEdash, allowing the data to be used much more quickly than ever before.
Future Plans: Overall, an emphasis on assessment is shifting strategically by focusing the discussion on classroom formative assessment and creating tools which work easier and are more seamlessly integrate into the local school district’s platforms-of-choice. The WISExplore data inquiry approach is facilitating this shift through its work. In addition, a new federal data systems grant is supporting this shift, combining a coordinated effort across DPI program areas with an emphasis on sound local implementation practices.
Accomplished: The most recent state budget provided direct financial support for the Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative (WDLC), a partnership between the Wisconsin Virtual School, the Wisconsin e-School Network, and DPI. The WDLC fulfills the statutory requirement of providing a Wisconsin web academy. More importantly, the funding lowers costs for districts electing to use the WDLC services for online and blended learning, which is especially critical to small and rural school districts that continue to face curricular equity gaps for their students. With nearly 25,000 course enrollments, WDLC continues to grow because of its variety of high-quality courses and the many ways in which local school districts can elect to participate.
Future Plans: The WDLC plans to leverage its resources to continue to build out its combined course catalog. WDLC will also continue to participate in statewide efforts to create dual credit and career pathway opportunities for every school district. Because WDLC also leverages a learning management system predicated on the use of competency-based tracking, it shall participate in all discussions coordinated by the DPI on such matters.
Accomplished: The legislature funded the establishment and implementation of an Academic and Career Plan (ACP) software tool and process. The platform rollout began last year with a pilot and will roll out to increasingly more districts between now and 2017-18 when it is required for all students in grades 6-12.
Future Plans: The ACP includes an e-portfolio component. In addition, DPI is using funds from the latest federal data systems grant to explore an optional learner planning tool for students in grades K-5. DPI is working to integrate specific student data elements into the ACP software application through WISEdata application protocol interface (API) to eliminate the redundant tasks school district staff now incur. This integration will save educators time so they can then refocus more time toward students.
Accomplished: A focus going forward is to create additional technology-related platforms and resources to address the increasingly complex technology issues all school districts face. For example, all districts must address data privacy concerns. Reliable resources remain available from private sector partners to help address these issues. Finding funds that enable school district technology staff to access these resources is key. This may happen through CESAs or other professional groups. DPI stands ready to address these complex issues on a statewide basis. One example, currently being explored, is secure, single user sign-on solutions which is a goal for every district across the state.
Broadband and Access
Accomplished: DPI continues to partner with the Department of Administration to work toward a newer and more cost-effective solution for providing broadband access to schools and libraries. The BadgerNet contract signed in 2016 is significantly beneficial to schools. Goals for the contract are set at national benchmark levels recognizing the need for initiatives like one computer for every one student. At the same time, federal E-Rate program reforms have led to a significant increase in available funding for school districts as they roll out high-speed Wi-Fi networks.
Future Plans: DPI is working to make sure all school districts are knowledgeable about the benefits of the 2016 BadgerNet contract and the funding associated with the E-Rate program changes and are taking full advantage of both. Partnering with groups, such as Education Superhighway, DPI places marketplace tools in the hands of school district decision-makers searching for the best for broadband services deals. DPI will continue to provide technical assistance to districts for the E-Rate modernization funding programs. The partnerships continue through collaboration with private sector Internet providers trying to address the homework gaps that create equity issues across the state, especially in rural areas.
As you can see, much has been accomplished during the past four years and much more is planned. Key to maintaining focus for the next few years is the adoption of the new framework for organizing the work known as Future Ready. This private-public partnership creates a comprehensive, feasible plan, implement, and sustain local decisions and investments in digital readiness. The DPI continues to support efforts like these through online tools to make the planning and budgeting process easier. While focused on strategic thinking locally, the planning tools also create value by eliminating duplicate efforts needed when applying for various state and federal funds.
The key to the success of any initiative exists in collaborative support. Partnerships, established around the Plan and action items, continues to bear fruit. The Future Ready framework as it is applied to local school district digital learning plans is poised to leverage even more partnerships with CESAs, professional organizations, and private sector partners. A bright future shines ahead by thoughtfully and intentionally working to arrive at innovative, meaningful solutions for students we serve. Thank you to all who have contributed to this work!
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Libraries and Technology