If we are really sincere about our efforts to make students college and career ready, then we have to make sure we have a unified focus on digital learning.

That’s why I am excited to tell School Leader readers about one of NJSBA’s newest initiatives: Future Ready Schools-New Jersey.

The program, a partnership with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) and New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), will provide guidance to schools on best practices in digital learning, and on securing technology. It will be based at NJIT and modeled after another partnership, Sustainable Jersey for Schools, which is more successful than we ever imagined. Today, over 30 percent of the state’s school districts are participating in Sustainable Jersey.

Similar to Sustainable Jersey for Schools, which provides certification for environmentally and financially sustainable practices, Future Ready Schools-New Jersey will recognize practices that are digital-learning friendly.

Why is digital learning important?

Digital learning offers unprecedented advantages to students and teachers. The promise of personalization and customization in teaching, the accessibility of resources, and the student engagement that typically comes with digital learning, are all transformational tools.

School districts in New Jersey have already dedicated considerable time and resources into upgrading their technology and embracing digital learning, and I salute them for doing so.  Future Ready Schools-New Jersey will take school districts to the next level by enabling them to make the smartest and best use of the technology they already have, and helping them plan for their technological futures.

The official debut of Future Ready Schools-New Jersey will be at Workshop 2016. But New Jersey Commissioner of Education David Hespe recently provided a powerful boost to the effort when he announced at an April 14 kickoff meeting at NJSBA headquarters that the New Jersey Department of Education will commit $200,000 in seed money to the program.

We are fortunate to have received such strong support from the NJDOE.

There is another reason for us all to support the effective use of technology in our schools. The National Commission on Mathematics and Science for the Twenty-first Century estimates that more than 60 percent of the jobs that our students will enter this century will require a background in science, technology, engineering and math. Future Ready Schools-New Jersey will fill a critical need by enabling our public schools to prepare our students for success.

NJSBA will keep its members updated on the emerging details of Future Ready Schools-New Jersey. We look forward to celebrating the launch of this program at Workshop 2016 in October.

Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod is NJSBA’s executive director.

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