Technology Tools
Technology Tools

Educators often take advantage of educational technologies as they make the shifts in instruction, teacher roles, and learning experiences that next gen learning requires. Technology should not lead the design of learning, but when educators use it to personalize and enrich learning, it has the potential to accelerate mastery of critical content and skills by all students.

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NGLC has embarked upon a new publication series, Next Gen Tools. Today, we share with you the first brief in the series, Next Gen Tools: Activate Instruction. 

NGLC has embarked upon a new publication series, Next Gen Tools. Today, we share with you the first brief in the series, Next Gen Tools: Activate Instruction. Summit Public Schools teamed up with Illuminate Education and the Girard Education Foundation to create this free, open, and web-based platform for curricula that integrates performance assessment.

Designing a breakthrough model—whether a new school model or a new model for a postsecondary degree program—means changing up the typical academic and business models in education. And when those new models are put into practice, sometimes the usual tools and strategies that schools and colleges use to make education function—learning management systems, recruiting and admissions processes, transcripts—are no longer effective. At the same time, NGLC’s breakthrough model grant recipients are finding that while the technology is available today to personalize learning through blended and competency-based learning, the industry of tech providers hasn’t yet caught up to serve these new models on the forefront of innovation.

Ben Rayer of Touchstone Education captured this challenge when he said,

If all we had to do was to invent the new model of learning, that would be achievable. But along with that, we’re finding that we need to invent the rest of it as well.

That’s why NGLC has started to take note of—and share around—not only the “big” innovations designed by NGLC grant recipients, which are described in their profiles (see the postsecondary set and the K-12 set), but also those smaller innovations that make their models work. Make no mistake—those smaller innovations are only small relative to the breakthrough model itself. The small innovations can be time-consuming but they help grantees overcome large obstacles standing in the way of their models working effectively. They are vital.

And that’s why the Next Gen Tools series—developed with the research and writing assistance of Jodi Lewis of the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy out of Sacramento State University—documents the strategies and innovations that grant recipients are using to implement their new models.

To see how or if you might be able to use a tool or strategy, you can glance through the easy-to-consume 2-page format of Next Gen Tools, which is designed around the following seven questions:

  • Why was this tool developed?
  • How is it different?
  • What is the advantage for students?
  • How does it improve learning?
  • What is the advantage for instructors and administrators?
  • What are the challenges?
  • What’s next?

Next Gen Tools also includes an artifact of the actual tool or strategy—so you can see what it looks like. And there are links for more information, about the tool itself and the model it is used in—so you can dig deeper when you are ready for more detail.

Let’s take a look at Activate Instruction. It is an open-source platform of curriculum to support Summit Public School’s model of personalization through student self-direction and self-paced learning—leading toward the ultimate goal of preparing students to complete college. Students select resources from individualized playlists that teachers create based on individual students’ competency and goals. The playlists are built from the open-source curriculum curated in Activate Instruction. The curriculum integrates with assessments—available through Illuminate Education and ShowEvidence—so that students can advance through the content at their own pace. Paid contracts with Illuminate Education or ShowEvidence are required in order to integrate their assessment tools with the curriculum in Activate Instruction. But anyone can access, customize, and add to the curriculum in Activate Instruction at no cost.

In Next Gen Tools: Activate Instruction, you will find answers to the seven questions above, along with screenshots of a sample playlist (with direct links to the playlist online). To learn more about Summit Public Schools’ breakthrough model, visit:

Over the next weeks and months, NGLC will continue to share mini-innovations coming out of the NGLC breakthrough models portfolio. The next one in the series looks at the learning management system supporting the direct-assessment competency-based model of Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America.

Kristen Vogt (she/her/hers)

Knowledge Officer, NGLC

Kristen Vogt, knowledge management officer for NGLC, focuses on identifying lessons, strategies and outcomes from the NGLC community and making them available to a wider audience.