Prior to my role as the Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools®, I spent 14 years in a public school in Pennsylvania as an elementary and middle school teacher, middle school and elementary principal, and district level technology director. During my time as a public school employee, I’d occasionally hear about educational organizations that were working to support schools in some capacity. When I got connected on social media, my lens grew and I became aware of more organizations, as well as some of their supporting tools and resources. Quite honestly, I was aware of many organizations because of their yearly national conference, a particular set of standards, or one or two dynamic resources that they had released, but in retrospect knew little of what they could provide. Upon moving to my role in Washington, DC, and working on a national level, I was quickly in awe at the sheer number of organizations that were working to support schools, K-12, and the many dynamic resources that they offered free to schools, many of which I had no idea were available when I needed them most.
This post is the first of a short series meant to highlight the great work of many nonprofit organizations that are working diligently to support students’ learning on a daily basis. Many of the organizations listed have free tools, research, case studies, and resources that can seamlessly be utilized and implemented at the district and school levels. The organizations referenced in this post are also leaders in the field of educational technology. To give further context, I’ve sorted them alphabetically, into four categories; (1) those organizations that are instructionally-focused; (2) those that provide supports for technology leadership; (3) those that focus on connectivity and access; and (4) those that focus on data privacy and security. However, it’s important to note that the work of many of these organizations is spread between a variety of the categories listed below, although only referenced once for brevity.
(Note: There are many other organizations doing great work in these areas that could easily be included in the list below. Many of these organizations will be highlighted for other aspects of work they are doing in subsequent posts in the series.)
Organization: Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation
The Education Program at the Christensen Institute examines K–12 and higher education issues through the lens of disruptive innovation. The organization’s research “aims to transform monolithic, factory-model systems into student-centered designs that educate every student successfully and enable each to realize his or her fullest potential.” Creators of Blended Learning Universe (www.blendedlearning.org), the organization provides a directory of innovative schools and a myriad of models and case studies to support district transformation.
Created in 2013, Code.org® is an educational non-profit with a mission to expand access to computer science, and increase participation by women and underrepresented students of color. The organization’s vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. Code.org® believes computer science should be part of core curriculum, alongside other courses such as biology, chemistry, or algebra. Known well for its “Hour of Code” program each year, Code.org® is working to support computer science K-12.
Organization: Common Sense Education
Common Sense Education provides digital literacy and citizenship programs to educators and school communities with a goal of empowering students to harness technology for learning and life. Free resources include ratings and reviews of apps, games, and websites, designed to help teachers find and use the best digital tools for their classrooms.
Organization: Girls Who Code
Founded with a single mission of closing the gender gap in technology, the organization is working to create a dynamic pipeline of future female engineers. From after school clubs to summer immersion programs, the organization is providing girls with access and opportunity to learn coding and access technology jobs.
Organization: International Association of K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL)
The International Association for K-12 Online Learning, known as iNACOL, works to “catalyze the transformation of K-12 education policy and practice to advance powerful, personalized, learner-centered experiences through competency-based, blended and online learning.” iNACOL provides a myriad of resources, white papers, and tools to implement a more personalized approach to technology infused learning and holds a Blended and Online Learning Symposium each year.
Organization: Maker Ed
Maker Ed is a nonprofit that supports and empowers educators and communities, particularly, those in underserved areas, in an effort to facilitate meaningful making and learning experiences with youth. The organization’s mission is to create more opportunities for youth to develop confidence, creativity, and interest in science, technology, engineering, math, the arts, and learning as a whole through making.
Organization: Project Tomorrow
Project Tomorrow is a nonprofit organization, driven by an altruistic mission and vision for changing the lives of children through science, math and technology education. The vision of Project Tomorrow is to “ensure that today’s students are well prepared to be tomorrow’s innovators, leaders and engaged citizens of the world.” Project Tomorrow works to support the innovative uses of science, math and technology resources in K-12 schools and communities, so that students will develop the critical thinking, problem solving and creativity skills needed to compete and thrive in the 21st century. The organization also organizes the Speak Up survey each year.
Organization: Consortium for School Network (CoSN)
CoSN is a professional association and advocacy group for district technology leaders with a goal of “empowering educational leaders to leverage technology to create engaging learning environments and provide the tools essential for their success”. Formed in 1992, CoSN works to provide its members with the management, community building, and advocacy tools to be technology leaders in today’s schools. The organization represents over 10 million students in school districts nationwide and provides various toolkits on topics such as digital equity, infrastructure, and privacy. CoSN also holds a national conference each year.
Organization: Digital Promise
Digital Promise is a nonprofit authorized by Congress in 2008 as the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies through Section 802 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act. Formally launched by President Obama in 2011, Digital Promise is a national leader in procurement, micro-credentials, innovation clusters, and is home to the League of Innovative Schools.
Organization: Future Ready Schools® (Part of the Alliance for Excellent Education)
URL: www.futureready.org; www.all4ed.org
Future Ready Schools® helps district leaders plan and implement personalized, research-based digital learning strategies so all students can achieve their full potential. From free events, to an interactive planning Dashboard build upon the research-based Future Ready Framework, to ongoing professional learning opportunities for school leaders, Future Ready Schools® is moving the needle nationwide in preparing today’s school leaders to systemically action plan and implement high quality teaching and learning, accelerated by technology.
Organization: Successful Practices Network, Partner of International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE)
URL: spnetwork.org; www.leadered.com
The work of SPN and ICLE’s Digital Leadership & Learning solutions target the specific needs of leaders and teachers to grow awareness, develop expertise, and establish sustainable change for moving the needle on student learning. ICLE’s services are driven by education experts who have walked-the-walk with technology initiatives, who have seen firsthand what digital learning success looks like, and who are prepared to apply their expertise to improve leadership, teaching, and learning in your school or district. Award winning principal, and now Senior Fellow Eric Sheninger, helps to lead much of the digital work. ICLE also holds the Model Schools Conference each June which is attended by over 5,000 school leaders each June.
Infrastructure and Connectivity
Organization: Education SuperHighway
“Upgrade the Internet access in every public school classroom in America so that every student has the opportunity to take advantage of the promise of digital learning,” is the mission of Education Superhighway. This leading nonprofit believes in the promise of digital learning opportunities and advocates for all students to have equal access to educational opportunity. Such opportunity requires high-speed broadband in every school and Education SuperHighway is working to make that opportunity a reality. The organization helps to lead federal and state action on K-12 broadband initiatives, and getting fiber to schools in need, and as a nonprofit, all tools and services are offered free of charge.
EveryoneOn is a nonprofit with a mission of “eliminating the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet service and computers, and free digital literacy courses accessible to all unconnected Americans.” The organization is working to provide opportunity to all Americans – regardless of age, race, geography, income, or education level through access to a high-quality Internet connection. EveryoneOn enables those in need to search for free or low-cost Internet services, hardware, and digital literacy training by zip code, on their website. School districts can leverage this resource in their region to help support at-home student access.
Data and Privacy and Security
ConnectSafely.org is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy and security. The organization highlights research-based safety tips, parents’ guidebooks, advice, news and commentary on all aspects of tech use and policy. ConnectSafely helps users get the most from their technology while managing the risks and help decision makers craft sensible policies that encourage both innovation and responsible use. Host of Safer Internet Day (www.saferinternetday.org), and creators of the One Good Thing campaign (onegoodthing.org), ConnectSafely provides a variety of robust tools, resources, and guidance for district leaders.
Organization: Data Quality Campaign (DQC)
DQC works to bring education stakeholders together to “empower educators, parents, and policymakers with quality information to make decisions that ensure students excel.” The organization advocates to increase public understanding of the value of education data, ensure that stakeholders have timely access to the right information, and improve the capacity of and conditions for teachers and school leaders to use data. DQC has published a myriad of tools and resources for both educators and parents and tracks both federal and state legislation around student data and privacy.
Organization: Future of Privacy Forum (FPF)
FPF seeks to advance responsible data practices. The Forum is led by Internet privacy experts and includes an advisory board comprised of leading figures from industry, academia, law and advocacy groups. Tackling issues of sensitive data, de-identification, big data, and ethics in use, this nonprofit is a thought leader in the student data privacy space. The Forum’s Student Privacy Resources Center, known as FERPA|SHERPA (www.ferpasherpa.org), aims to provide parents, school leaders, policy makers, and service providers with guidance to help ensure the responsible use of student data.
I encourage you to check out the work of these dynamic organizations, share them with those who could benefit, and leverage the free tools and resources they provide to support high quality teaching and learning, accelerated by technology. Our kids need and deserve high octane, authentic learning opportunities and these organizations are working to support educators in making it possible.
All for the kids we serve,