Technology has transformed our lives. This is particularly true in the classroom, where technology has changed how educators teach, how students learn, how we share information, and how we conduct research. Collaboration is possible on a scale previously unimaginable, and learning can be personalized to each student’s individual needs.

This time last year, I wrote about a new initiative, Future Ready Schools – NJ, a partnership among NJSBA, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). Future Ready Schools-NJ is a voluntary certification program that helps schools plan and implement effective digital learning strategies so all students can achieve their full potential. The New Jersey program is an offshoot of a national effort, Future Ready Schools, which is run by the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Officially launched at Workshop 2016, Future Ready Schools – NJ is modeled after the successful Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification program, the founding partners of which are the Sustainability Institute at The College of New Jersey and NJSBA. That program now includes over 44 percent of the state’s operating school districts.

The new initiative, Future Ready Schools – NJ, is supported by $200,000 in seed money from NJDOE, announced by then-Commissioner of Education David Hespe on April 14, 2016. Kimberley Harrington, our state’s acting commissioner of education, has continued to champion the program. We are grateful to both of these leaders, and to the NJDOE, for the support.

Enthusiasm for the program among school district officials and educators is impressive. In February, more than 225 educators, local school leaders and other stakeholders from 120 districts and organizations throughout New Jersey gathered for the initial meetings of task forces that are developing Future Ready Schools – NJ certification criteria. Their work will help define what “Future Ready” will mean for New Jersey’s schools in the following areas: Education and Classroom Practice; Technology Support and Services; and Leadership.

The certification process will not only recognize schools for their success in preparing students for college and careers in a digital age, but it will also achieve the Future Ready Schools – NJ mission to provide schools with the direction, guidance, support and resources they need to do so.

Future Ready Schools – New Jersey has also hosted several training events, including several “Are You Future Ready?” working sessions at NJSBA headquarters. These programs help connect educators with resources that can help them achieve certification.

We anticipate that, later this spring, the certification criteria will be available for schools to review and act upon, so they can receive points toward Future Ready certification. The first schools to achieve certification will be honored at Workshop 2017.

This is exciting news for New Jersey’s public schools and our students as we use technology to advance teaching and learning. I urge our state’s school leaders to join Future Ready Schools – NJ.