Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Friday, March 12, 2010

NETP: Learning Powered by Technology Part II

This is the conclusion to my observation about the recent plan issued by The Office of Educational Technology called the The National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) 2010. I began the other day with a review of the overview of the plan and the first major area of the plan, Learning. Today, I will conclude with a discussion of the last four major areas of concentration: Assessment, Teaching, Infrastructure, and Productivity.

Assessment
The model of 21st century learning requires new and better ways to measure what matters, diagnose strengths and weaknesses in the course of learning when there is still time to improve student performance, and involve multiple stakeholders in the process of designing, conducting, and using assessment. In all these activities, technology-based assessments can provide data to drive decisions on the basis of what is best for each and every student and that in aggregate will lead to continuous improvement across our entire education system. (page vii)
This is a lofty and admirable way to begin the section on Assessment. What I am hearing in this section is that we need to move beyond existing forms of assessment and to find and use assessment that is more aligned to what our learners are doing and to mirror our pedagogy of differentiation and Universal Design. In other words the current multiple choice, true/false tests aren't enough to do what we need to do in the areas of assessment. Methods of assessment that will emerge will be mean more thrashing during the creating process of the scholars, not just drafts but conferencing during the process. Technology is easy for this, especially in a networked lab. In my lab I can sit at my station and view the scholar working, editing, creating. I am not in close proximity so as to inhibit the scholar. Observing and intervening when necessary makes assessment more reliable and useful. When our scholars make their work public via the Internet they can engage in peer review and share their work with telementors who are near or far, but have access via the Internet to the scholar's work. When we make the scholars' work public assessment is universal and more available to all concerned. Another aspect of using technology, as elicited from this document is the need to archive our scholars' work so we have benchmarks to show growth and for future teachers to have samples of work so the next teacher is more informed about the scholar. What I heard was the need for technology to do more than crunch numbers and collect numbers as forms of data. We need more, we need the work of the scholar to make better assessment. It becomes clear that we need to understand what is to be assessed and how we do it in a new and better way. Conferencing, self assessment, peer review are some ways this may be achieved. Archiving all work becomes the data. What the scholars do has to be more project oriented and less multiple choice and true/false. The curriculum needs to be project oriented, inter disciplinary, collaborative, and it must show learning has occurred. In addition for the need for webpages, I see a need for the old CAI, Computer Assisted/Aided Instruction so instruction can be more differentiated while incorporating the universal design elements. Games can serve a useful purpose in this area. One area of assessment we seem to be neglecting when it comes to using technology more efficiently is telementoring. Telementors can come from schools of education. If every school of education had each of its scholars telementor a scholar not only would our future teachers become more familiar with technology they would be providing further instruction for our scholars. Finally I understand the need for a consistent and universal data collection source so we have access to the work of the scholars as well as some of the numbers from tests. Getting the results of assessment to everyone is crucial in making technology more effective in schools. Something like the WayBack Machine is a good model.

Teaching
Just as leveraging technology can help us improve learning and assessment, the model of 21st century learning calls for using technology to help build the capacity of educators by enabling a shift to a model of connected teaching. In such a teaching model, teams of connected educators replace solo practitioners and classrooms are fully connected to provide educators with 24/7 access to data and analytic tools as well as to resources that help them act on the insights the data provide.(page viii)
Changing the teacher paradigm is the most important aspect of powering learning with technology. We must change how schools operate and to free teachers from isolation. Teachers are the only profession that works in isolation. That will change with this plan. Connected teachers collaborate, professional development becomes professional learning, and schools of education need to be more proactive about teaching future teachers how to use the technology. Of course I love this, since I have been advocating these changes in our profession for years. I have advocated a school where the scholars work at their desks and the teachers working together move from bullpen to bullpen working with the different groups of scholars. Too much time is lost in class changing, start up of class and ending of each class. The principles of the connected teacher remind me of being a Cybrarian. Teachers work in collaborative groups, publish online, and use online resources with more peer review. Teachers will find when working in a technology rich room, more time can be spent conferencing, overseeing what each scholar is doing is simpler, and teaching actually happens. In addition teachers will be able to create their own online digital lessons that are more comprehensive, universal, and differentiated. Connecting to experts will be a greater possibility. One facet of the plan I really applaud is that schools of education have to be more active in the training of future teachers. In addition we need more professional learning. I know in the business world, workers take the whole week off and are trained to use applications during that week. Teachers have professional learning an hour at a time, not sustained time. This is not enough time. I'm happy to read this section about changing the teacher paradigm. The most difficult part of this will to get teachers to actually learn how to work as a team and in collaboration since they have been the only teacher in the room at a time. Sharing the stage, acquiescing, and collaborating in a class will have to be taught.

Infrastructure
An essential component of the 21st century learning model is a comprehensive infrastructure for learning that provides every student, educator, and level of our education system with the resources they need when and where they are needed. The underlying principle is that infrastructure includes people, processes, learning resources, policies, and sustainable models for continuous improvement in addition to broadband connectivity, servers, software, management systems, and administration tools. Building this infrastructure is a far-reaching project that will demand concerted and coordinated effort. (page ix)
Technology hasn't been used well because we have simply replaced traditional information delivery and documenting creating tasks with the computer. We still have classrooms and not "working bullpens." Education is still an industrial model and not digital model as evidenced in the real world of politics, finance, medicine, transportation, and every person's daily life. The tools we use are restricted, in that we ban scholar technology, we block the Internet with filters, and we don't have project based lessons because the test is still the means of assessment. The plan suggests the alterations we will need to see in the cyberinfrastructure will include a more sophisticated use of cloud computing on a more community oriented basis. To bridge the gap between the haves and the have nots, cloud computing will be necessary and the need for digital devices to access and produce the information has to be addressed. The plan is well aware of these facts. It further acknowledges that classrooms need to be altered, computer capacity, and access from home are going to be important and necessary improvements. These will be the ways schools will be able to capture and share resources. Cybraries will be the norm in the new Open Educational Resources (OER) library. These OER's will be both commercial, public domain, and teacher generated. By altering and modifying the cyberinfrastructure, we will be saving money on redundancy of resources. Digits will be replacing the atoms.

Productivity
To achieve our goal of transforming American education, we must rethink basic assumptions and redesign our education system. We must apply technology to implement personalized learning and ensure that students are making appropriate progress through our K-16 system so they graduate. These and other initiatives require investment, but tight economic times and basic fiscal responsibility demand that we get more out of each dollar we spend. We must leverage technology to plan, manage, monitor, and report spending to provide decision-makers with a reliable, accurate, and complete view of the financial performance of our education system at all levels. Such visibility is essential to meeting our goals for educational attainment within the budgets we can afford. (page x)
The key is to be sure our scholars are producers of knowledge, not just consumers. The overarching concern is that schools be more productive at all levels from leadership to teachers to the scholars. The business metaphor emerged, and that could be scary in some respects. The business model has some strong points such as training, the "bullpen," and cloud computing. Some of the other notions are best left alone. Money is not necessarily the answer, but money wisely spent is and we need to incorporate more ways to spend the money wisely is sage advise from the plan. In the end it is about the bottom line and productivity is the bottom line. By making our scholars producers, we will achieve the lofty goals set out in this plan.

The Office of Educational Technology has presented a very comprehensive and thoughtful plan for education in America. Much of what I read I agree with, have written about, and have practiced for nearly 20 years in CyberEnglish. I can only say it is about time and I hope they can pull it off. It is a revolutionary plan and will require total participation by all of us at all levels of education.

I'm jazzed.

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