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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The National Educational Technology Plan 2010

The Office of Educational Technology has just released a draft of The National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) 2010. The document promotes learning powered by technology by addressing five major areas of concentration: Learning, Assessment, Teaching, Infrastructure, and Productivity. The plan begins with a 12 page Executive Summary followed by a more comprehensive 87 pages, concluding with an 8 page Appendix.

The panel acknowledges that transforming American education using technology will be revolutionary and not evolutionary. It further acknowledges that education must catch up to the rest of the world as far as the use of technology is concerned. I couldn't agree more. Making this leap to a more technology driven educational system will be no small feat and will require careful and thoughtful planning. Finally they proclaim often that the scholars are more tech savvy than their teachers and use technology more outside school than inside school.

The report begins by stressing how important it is that schools be more of a part of the American Life and that it help power our economic stability in the world. Education is not matched with the workplace and it needs to be. This is a very strong indictment of the current way schools run and is very forceful and dogmatic in its words about how our schools must change to reflect society and other parts of society:
To accomplish this, schools must be more than information factories; they must be incubators of exploration and invention. Educators must be more than information experts; they must be collaborators in learning, seeking new knowledge and constantly acquiring new skills alongside their scholars. Scholars must be fully engaged in school – intellectually, socially, and emotionally. This level of engagement requires the chance to work on interesting and relevant projects, the use of technology environments and resources, and access to an extended social network of adults and peers who are supportive and safe. (page 1)
This revolutionary indeed, coming from the US Government, especially since they are the ones who have perpetuated and been most responsible for the schools we now have with their tests and other nonsense. Those of us involved with trying to transform American Education by using technology have known this for years. The last big technology push in education came under the Clinton administration. Since then we have gone in a completely different direction, supported by Diane Ravitch, who worked for the first Bush and supported the second, has now decided after all of her years of supporting one initiative that she was mistaken, at what cost to our children, is now disavowing that connection and support. I hope she apologizes to those children, teachers, and schools before she can even consider joining those of us who have spoken out against those tests for years, without some form of apology and attrition. I really hope she isn't recanting to sell books, because that would be deplorable. I need to read this book, but for now she is on hold. The major focus must be technology. Her voice is one of the reasons we are in the mess we now find ourselves.

I am confused about how STEM and "Race to the Top" will work together to achieve these goals. On one hand STEM logically supports technology use, whereas "Race to the Top" does not. "Race to the Top" seems to be supporting using the tests to assess teachers and scholars and this is the opposite of what is being said in the NETP: "We also must apply the advanced technology available in our daily lives to scholar learning and to our entire education system in innovative ways that improve designs, accelerate adoption, and measure outcomes." (page 3) Finally we see statements of the disparity between the use of technology in schools and out of schools and an admission that schools should be more capable of doing this.

I like that the realization to the fact that technology is so lacking in education as compared to the rest of our lives has been said forcefully and many times in this draft. Technology is the panacea and now we need to examine the five points the panel has finally made as recommendations to improve Education in America using technology. Yippee.

"Transforming U.S. education is no small task, and accomplishing it will take leadership at all levels of our education system – states, districts, schools, and the federal government – as well as partnerships with higher education institutions, private enterprises, and not-for-profit entities." (page 6) Yes, the goals are lofty, revolutionary as they should be. Now we can see if we can get educators at all levels to change the way they teach, because that is the bottom line. Schools of Education must use technology more aggressively, schools must spend more time doing professional learning to support the teachers, and teachers must now embrace technology. I'm jazzed. Let's get to the particulars now, Learning, Assessment, Teaching, Infrastructure, and Productivity.

Learning

The model of 21st century learning described in this plan calls for engaging and empowering learning experiences for all learners. The model asks that we focus what and how we teach to match what people need to know, how they learn, where and when they will learn, and who needs to learn. It brings state-of-the art technology into learning to enable, motivate, and inspire all students, regardless of background, languages, or disabilities, to achieve. It leverages the power of technology to provide personalized learning instead of a one-size fits-all curriculum, pace of teaching, and instructional practices. (page vi)
This opening salvo on Learning in the Executive Summary provides great fodder for what will come in the plan starting on page 9. I am constantly amazed at how comprehensive this report is reporting that our scholars are so tech and how we aren't. The challenge is to find ways to engage our scholars in ways we haven't already. Schools aren't working the way we operate them is failing our scholars and our country. Technology is a powerful and valuable tool that is being used in far better ways than it is being used in schools and it is about time we caught up. In the 80's we called it CAI, Computer Assisted/Aided Instruction. That software was powerful and mostly DOS based which meant we could interact with the software and incorporate our own lessons. Very powerful software that I still use today. Now with the Internet and all the web tools, CAI has taken on a new face. Perhaps the notions of anytime anywhere learning we espoused twenty years ago is finally getting its day at the federal level. The old ways of teaching, in schools, with one teacher per class, and little or no technology will change according to this plan. It is about time. Learning isn't one size fits all we are told and we knew this, so why the tests? Technology helps, assists, aids us in learning. If we don't know, we go on line. This plan acknowledges the power of being able to learn when we need to, to problem solve, to collaborate when we need to and technology is the way to do it. We are moving away from the content delivered lessons that must be memorized for some test to an era where we learn how to solve a problem, learn what we need to now for this problem and not necessarily be repositories of knowledge that may never be needed. In this new era, we will be using what I call the Velcro Theory. The Velcro Theory states that we learn and remember when the information is relevant and has a sticking point in our brain for that knowledge so we can recall it when we need it. Finally the brain sciences are going to be adapted to education in a meaningful and useful way. This plan will revolutionize education as we know it. I've mentioned the kind of school I'd like to see. The young scholars would go to their desks and use the technology to gather assignments and previous work and begin their day. Instead of them working on one subject at a time, the different disciplines would be integrated and the scholars would be working in groups in their "bullpen" areas. They don't change classes , the teachers do as they walk from "bullpen" to "bullpen" to conference, assess, and inspire. It would be like an office. They have their work area, and they leave for lunch, gym, science labs and conferencing in larger rooms. The bulk of their day is in their "bullpen" working on line as they are interacting with their peers, their teachers, and the outside world working on projects that are interdisciplinary and differentiated. This is how technology change education. We need to turn the current way we operate upside down in order to make this revolution happen.

I'm exhausted . I'm jazzed. I will discuss the other four points on Friday.

Viva la revolution!

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