Alignment and Cohesion: Connecting Iowa’s Digital Learning Plan to CRCSD’s Technology Plan

Recently, the Iowa Department of Education (Iowa DOE), along with Iowa Area Education Agencies (Iowa’s AEAs) released the publication “Iowa Digital Learning Plan.”  This plan was developed in collaboration with the Iowa DOE, Iowa AEA, local education agencies, the American Institute for Research (AIR) and many other stakeholders.  Within this 00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20181019102203803_COVERpublication, the two agencies outline a plan that includes five key areas Iowa will be focusing on as it pertains to digital learning. The Office of Digital Literacy for CRCSD took the liberty to summarize the dense document into digestible chunks in order to help build a common understanding of where we, as a district, are going.  You can access Iowa’s Digital Learning Plan here, as well as CRCSD’s technology plan here.  While this summary only scratches the surface of the plan, we need to proud of the work done and excited for the work to come.  This plan is a testament to our steadfast commitment to Every Learner: Future Ready.

First and foremost, we want to draw attention to two definitions on the very first page: equity and accessibility.  The plan defines the two terms as:

Equity in education means increasing all students’ access to educational opportunities with a focus on closing achievement gaps and removing barriers that students face based on their race, ethnicity, or national origin; sexual orientation or gender identity or expression; disability; English language ability; religion; socioeconomic status; or geographical location.

Accessibility refers to the design of apps, devices, materials, and environments that support and enable access to content and education activities for all learners.


Below you will find a three-column table the cross-references the two plans, while the third column answers the question, “what does this mean for me?”  For the third column, we answered this question from the lens of a staff member. While we understand there are many stakeholders interested in this topic throughout the district and community, at this time, we are focusing on bringing cohesion to the collective why with our staff.

Iowa’s Digital Learning Plan CRCSD Technology Plan

What this may mean for me?


Iowa’s Digital Learning Plan is based on National Ed Tech Plan, which is a national vision for instruction supported by technology.  The plan calls for five areas of focus: leadership, teaching, learning, assessment, and infrastructure CRCSD’s Technology plan references the National Ed Tech Plan and it was the research behind the plan.  Our plan has four critical commitments: learner outcomes, professional learning, access to resources, and infrastructure and information systems. This means that our technology plan is in direct alignment with national and state level movement towards a digital rich learning environment for our students.  On top of the four critical commitments, the Office of Digital Literacy will be using six pillars of successful digital literacy implementation: vision, professional learning, communication, logistics, support, and resources.  The team will work with district and building level leadership teams and teachers to ensure a coherent plan is in place.


The plan states the accessibility enables students to use content and participate in activities.  This also applies to students that are English language learners, students with learning disabilities, students in rural or from economically disadvantaged homes.  Technology can assist in learning with text-to-speech, audio or digital text, accessible educational materials, and programs that differentiate instruction, adaptive testing, assistive technology and accommodations. Our plan specifically calls out access to resources.  Thus, we are planning a 1:1 (one computer to one student) roll-out of digital devices over three years, starting with the four high schools.  Additionally, it allowed for reallocation of one administrator position and teacher leader to be housed within digital literacy. An Associate Director of Access and Instruction was hired in the summer of 18, while an Accessibility Coach, which was a current position, was moved to the Office of Digital Literacy.  These two positions, along with the Executive Director of Digital Literacy, are charged with defining and design accessible classroom environments for all students. This means staff will have students with their own devices in the high school level starting in the 2019-2020 school year, middle school the following, and then 1:2 environment for K-5 the subsequent year.  More importantly, staff will see a focus on designing accessible learning environment through the use assistive technology and instructional design. This could look like using assistive technology, such as Read and Write, blended learning techniques, and other digital tools in the classroom.  Intentional professional learning will be provided to staff around common framework(s) that will empower them to reflect on current units of study and how enhance and transform them.


The plan states that technology increases all students’ access to educational opportunities with a focus on close achievement gaps and removing barriers that students face. Our plan specifically focuses on equity of devices and access to resources for students. This means that staff will see a direct collaboration with the Office of Culture and Climate to help ensure we are removing barriers for students.

Digital Use Divide

While the plan references that past way of thinking, it currently discusses a new concept of digital use divide.  This means that the focus is no longer on who has devices or access to internet, but how the students are using the devices and access to transform their learning from consumption to creation.   Our plan takes significant step in closing the old definition.  According to West Des Moines Technology Direct, in 2013, 50% district’s in the state of Iowa were 1:1.  The number has only grown. In full transparency, CRCSD is behind in its implementation.  However, our plan also commitments to using the devices for five competencies or the Profile of a Graduate: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and citizenship, which is in alignment to the most current definition of digital use divide. This means that CRCSD will now be able to say that all students have access to a device for educational purposes.  It also means that staff will start to see a shift towards designing learning experiences that highlight our Profile of a Graduate.  We will do this through intentional professional learning around the SAMR framework.

State Initiatives (MTSS, TLC, Differentiated Accountability, CTE, STEM, and Future Ready

The plan aligns to our current state initiatives.  Some of the initiatives are pretty straightforward, while others need specific connections.  The plan uses anecdotes from model districts to make those connections. While our plan does not specifically call out state initiatives, we can use the case studies to show how our plan can help us succeed in these areas. This means we will use our devices and assistive technology to help close achievement gaps, create a continuous loop of data analysis for teachers, and set goals for our Profile of a Graduate to ensure successful implementation of CTE, Future Ready, and STEM.

Non-Cognitive Competencies

The plan calls our these soft skills and they include a range of skills, habits, and attitudes that facilitate functioning well in school, work, and life. Within our plan, these live in “Critical Commitment 1.”  We have action steps around the Profile of Graduate, clear future ready outcomes, and providing instruction around these skills. This means that staff will begin to look at their units of studies and align them to the Profile of a Graduate.  It also means staff will see an emphasis on future ready skills, CTE, PBL, and STEM work within schools.


The plan calls for leaders to create a culture and conditions for innovation and change.  This is all the way from the legislation to teachers. It calls out future ready leaders, personalized learning for students and STAFF, allocation of funds, and shared leadership. While our plan does not specifically call out leadership, the plan has empowered CRCSD to rethink roles and responsibilities.  For example, the district re-allocated the Assistant Superintendent position to an Executive Director of Digital Literacy, an associate director position, as well as various teacher leadership positions.  All these positions are here to help empower teachers and building leaders to feel confident in successful implementation and to guide the vision for digital literacy. This means that you will see the Office of Digital Literacy working tirelessly to collaborate with various departments and buildings.  You will also notice, especially in the 6-12 arena, the office in buildings and focusing on designing professional learning in collaboration with HRS teams.  You will also notice a teacher leadership role called Digital Learning Trainers at all four high schools (job description is an example from one building).  This teacher stipend role is specifically assigned tasks to help fulfill the mission and vision of our technology plan.


The plan calls for educators to be supported by technology the connects them to people, data, content, resources, expertise, and learning experiences that empower them.  It calls for new roles, connecting teachers with digital resources, connecting teachers, rethinking teacher prep, and ongoing professional learning. Our plan calls our professional learning as its “Critical Commitment 2.”  The plan identifies personalized professional learning, identifying key competencies for teachers, and providing instruction for digitally rich environments, to name a few.   This means you will notice the Office of Digital Literacy collaborating with building leadership teams to develop job-embedded professional learning.  This could look like PLC coaching, whole group professional learning, continuation of the Charter PL courses for re-certification, or site visits to other districts.  


The plan calls for all learner to have engaging and empowering learning experiences that prepare them to be active, creative, knowledgeable, and ethical participants in our globally connected society.  The plan specifically focuses on student-centered and personalize learning environments, bringing equity to learning through technology, and thinking about the physical spaces. Our plan is first and foremost focused on student learning.  The plan calls for our environment to empower us to reach vision of Every Learner: Future Ready and our mission of a personalized learning environment so that all students have a plan, path, and passion for their future.  We will do this by identifying key competencies at various grade-levels focused on the Profile of a Graduate. This means staff will continue to enhance and transform their units of studies for focus on our Profile of a Graduate.  With that said, we understand that change is iterative and will take time.  Thus, this is why we chose the SAMR framework as a way to reflect upon our units alignment to technology.  Ultimately, we want students to be creators, not consumers, of content and technology.


The plan call for all levels to leverage the power of technology to measure what matters and use data to improve learning.  It directly connects to MTSS and authentic performance tasks. It discusses Iowa’s early warning system and how technology can transform assessment.  Finally, it discusses what the future could look like with technology-based assessments. Our plan specifically calls out different measures to study to achievement of technology skills and the non-cognitive skills.  It also calls for a study of our student information system to ensure that our data is real time and reactive to empower the use of feedback to help teachers make informed decisions on student learning.   This means that staff will see a new student information system for the 2019-2020 school, as approved by the school board in November.  This also means our staff will have two data analysts to help assist with real time feedback to make informed decisions.


The plan calls for a robust and comprehensive infrastructure.  It provides guidance for assessing current situation based on connectivity and systems.  It talks about digital devices, digital learning content, and privacy of student information. Our plan specifically calls this out in “Critical Commitment 3” and “Critical Commitment 4.”  It calls for a study of our digital devices, roll-out plan, and student information system. This means staff will see 1:1 (device study is currently underway) and the board approved the new student information system for the 2019-2020 school year.  This also means we will continue on our path towards Open Educational Resources, which our district is on the forefront on this type of resources.  

Below you will find, what we call, quotable quotes from Iowa’s Digital Learning Plan by the Iowa DOE and Iowa’s AEA:

“The focus of digital learning begins and ends with the instructional practices a teacher uses in the classroom.  Digital tools and resources should be a part of the tools available to teacher to support their instructional practice.  As Michael Fullan (2017) eloquently stated, pedagogy is the driver and technology is the accelerator” (4).

“A digital use divide continues to exist between learners who are using technology in active, creative ways to support their learning and those who predominantly use technology for passive content consumption” (9).

“There is a digital divide separating students who are allowed to use technology in ways that transform or deepens their learning from students who use the same technology as a substitute for worksheets, multiple-choice tests, or other analog learning tools” (5).

“Educators can be guides, facilitators, and motivators of learners…educators can help their students examine problems and think deeply about their learning” (26).


“Educators can become catalysts to serve the underserved” (27).

“Educational technology is a powerful tool that can be used to enhance teaching and learning to meet the needs of every learner through a multi-tiered system of supports.  Effective use of educational technology engages students, accommodates individual learning styles, and allows for multiple avenues for knowledge acquisition” (35).

“Iowa districts work to create multiple learning pathways for students where they have more voice and choice over how they learn essential content standards we expect all students to learn, and more importantly to develop the universal constructs” (37).

“Digital learning tools can offer more flexibility and learning supports than traditional formats” (47).

“Blended learning and other models of learning enabled by technology require educators to rethink how they organize physical spaces to facilitate best collaborative learning using digital tools” (49).

“In almost all aspects of our daily lives, data help us personalized and adapt experiences to our individual needs.  However, there is much work remaining to realize the full potential of using assessment data to improve learning in schools” (55).

“Preparing students to be successful for the future requires a robust and flexible learning infrastructure capable of supporting new types of engagement and providing ubiquitous access to the technology tools that allow students to create, design, and explore” (64).

As we stated earlier, this summary only scratches the surface of Iowa’s Digital Learning Plan.  We encourage you to dig deeper into the plan to see even more alignment to our vision and mission as a district.  Please know that the Office of Digital Learning is currently and aggressively working with leadership teams to develop implementation plans to ensure that all staff our successful with this new way of doing business.  To end, we’d like to leave you with this mantra, “We’d rather be a year too early, than a student too late.”


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