Creating the new schooling paradigm: Educational technology policy priorities, Part 1 [due date: Jan. 20]

ISTE’s Top Ten in ‘10 list of educational technology priorities for this year is a worthwhile read (hat tip to THE Journal). Some of its items are more vague than others. For example:

2. Leverage education technology as a gateway for college and career readiness. Last year, President Obama established a national goal of producing the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by the year 2020. To achieve this goal in the next 10 years, we must embrace new instructional approaches that both increase the college-going rates and the high school graduation rates. By effectively engaging learning through technology, teachers can demonstrate the relevance of 21st century education, keeping more children in the pipeline as they pursue a rigorous, interesting and pertinent PK-12 public education.

6. Leverage technology to scale improvement. Through federal initiatives such as i3 grants, school districts across the nation are being asked to scale up current school improvement efforts to maximize reach and impact. School districts that have successfully led school turnaround and improvement efforts recognize that education technology is one of the best ways to accelerate reform, providing the immediate tools to ensure that all teachers and students have access to the latest innovative instructional pathways. If we are serious about school improvement, we must be serious about education technology.

10. Promote global digital citizenship. In recent years, we have seen the walls that divide nations and economies come down and, of necessity, we’ve become focused on an increasingly competitive and flat world. Education technology is the great equalizer in this environment, breaking down artificial barriers to effective teaching and learning, and providing new reasons and opportunities for collaboration. Our children are held to greater scrutiny when it comes to learning and achievement compared to their fellow students overseas. We in turn must ensure that all students have access to the best learning technologies.

Those all sound great to me, but I confess that I need to think further about what these would look like in terms of specific legislation or policy initiatives that would be implemented. In other words, for what would we ask legislators and policymakers in order to make these happen?

Ask your legislator

Here in Iowa we’ve been having our own conversations about legislative and policy initiatives for which educators, school board members, business leaders, and others should be advocating. We may not know what the future of schooling is going to look like, but I think we can already identify at least some of what the key building blocks and policy levers are going to be. Here’s a quick list, in no particular order, of some things that we’ve been discussing:

  1. Get every kid/home connected (universal broadband access, preferably wireless) [this also is an economic development priority, not just a schooling priority]
  2. A computing device (probably a laptop) for every teacher
  3. A computing device (probably a laptop) for every student (maybe start at the secondary level?)
  4. Statewide curricula that emphasize critical policy needs (e.g., STEM, global awareness) and higher-order thinking skills (e.g., critical thinking; problem solving; synthesis and analysis of complex data to make meaning; creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship; reading, writing, and multimedia creation in digital, online, hyperconnected information spaces) rather than factual recall and low-level procedural knowledge [the Iowa Core initiative is intended to do this for our state]
  5. Additional and/or different professional development initiatives that help educators (teachers AND administrators) implement the curricula described in Item 4
  6. More online coursework options for students (e.g., a statewide virtual high school; the ability of districts to provide courses for others’ students) [Iowa students’ options in this area are anemic right now]
  7. Different statewide assessments that better assess higher-order thinking skills rather than fact regurgitation
  8. The creation of and/or permission to use low-cost or no-cost electronic textbooks and other online learning materials instead of paper texts
  9. Greater flexibility for schools to repurpose existing funding streams (e.g., the ability to use textbook monies for computing equipment and learning software; removal of Iowa’s $500 minimum for equipment purchases)
  10. Repeal or revise Dillon’s Rule here in Iowa, which is getting in the way of school district innovation (by essentially saying that if you don’t have express authority to do it, you can’t)
  11. Ramp up the understanding of educators and citizens about needs and issues pertaining to 21st century teaching and learning, workforce development, and a globalized economy (e.g., a statewide publicity / visibility initiative aimed at educators, school board members, citizens and community members, business leaders, the press, and so on)
  12. Utilize professional development, funding, accreditation, and/or promotion and tenure policies to make preservice educator preparation (teachers AND administrators) more relevant to new curricular and instructional paradigms

Okay, your turn

You’ve seen our list and ISTE’s. What would you add / change / delete? Contribute your ideas by January 20 and I’ll make a new list that we can collectively rank order in Part 2 of this series. Thanks for participating!

11 Responses to “Creating the new schooling paradigm: Educational technology policy priorities, Part 1 [due date: Jan. 20]”

  1. Just a quick off the top observation:
    We need to also be sure schools are connected and that the filters are not so tight that teachers hands are tied.
    Curriculum,& teachers teaching needs should be given more weight in decisions about filtering they need to have a strong voice into IT’s opinion.

  2. I know the 1:1 student laptop initiative is taking off in Iowa. But I agree that it must be expanded to our teachers. They need to have their hands in the technology, working with blogs, and connecting to the greater education network.

  3. I would add some small changes to number 7 regarding assessment. In my impression, our statewide assessments need to look more formative than summative. In Wisconsin, the current slate of assessments have such a long turnaround time that any hope of changing instruction with the specific group of kids that need the changes just isn’t realistic.

    If technology could be leveraged from immediate feedback for teacher and student, I think we would be better off.

    The overall message (and this is my opinion) needs to be more about teaching/learning change than technology change. Specific example in item 6… we need more options for students (and while that likely means more virtual school options, the issue is not really about online education versus tradition in my mind, it is about finding any means necessary to make sure we match learning opportunities to students and their needs). It is only subtle wording difference and maybe not much to fuss over, but any way we can keep this discussion about learning versus focusing on technology would be beneficial in my opinion.

    Perhaps at some point, it needs to be about technology though as it is the only logical conclusion to some problems, but if we don’t address some of the underlying changes needed in teaching/learning, technology ends up not doing much.

    • I totally agree that there needs to be some serious oversight on the actual “teaching” and “learning” that is going on, but I have to say this:
      Because distance ed utilizes highly complex computer technology, any part of changing teaching or learning expectations will inevitably involve utilizing technology in at least a few ways. In order for the teaching to be effective, and the learning actually dynamic and meaningful, technology must be designed and implemented to facilitate those educational aspects.

  4. Keep it really simple. Just do 1, 2, & 3; I think it will be better to ‘start’ (it’s already process, we just haven’t awakened to reality)at the elementary level. That will actually simplify lots of things down the road.

  5. Wow…good question. One thing that is over-rated is getting the money for laptops. School infra-structure funds like SILO (state-wide one cent) and PERL can be used for equipment. Apple will deal with low or no interest 3-4 year loans that you can pay off MONTHLY, so you don’t need the huge initial cash outlay. Bottom line if you want to do it, you can, even if you’ve committed your SILO money to other infrastructure problems. That could be something the state throws out there to get it started.

    #2 and #3 need to be done before anything else can be accomplished anyway, so I’m leaving them out as obvious first steps.


    I’m not an expert, but whatever it is that is preventing us from addressing the structure of schools “Dillon’s Rule” or whatever needs to be addressed. Obviously this is something I need to study

    I will rank according to your list (the numbers):
    1, 10, 9, 4, 12, 5, 11 (some of this will be taken care of if the numbers before it are being done), 6, 8, 7

  6. Interesting addition with Dillon’s Rule. I am going to have to check that out. How did that come up? Did a school really feel they had their hands tied re: technology because of that? If so, wouldn’t the “indispensable action” part of Dillon’s Rule get them out of it given the national priority that this effort has become?

    Great List. Can’t wait to add them to the CASTLE Legislative Priorities Page.

  7. Instructional paradigms are changing and educators need the funding and incentives to promote research and study. In recent decades, so much has been learned about the way humans process, store, and retrieve information. Research into the development of the brain continues and educators need to be informed of this research and aware of proper and improper assumptions about how to apply this research.

    I recently started a class on learning theories and have already learned so much that will influence how I create future courses. I plan to employ more of the dual learning model where verbal and visual information is combined to promote storage in long term memory. I plan to employ more tactics to make the subject matter relevant to the student to enhance retrieval from long term memory. I believe educators should be encouraged to learn about learning to keep abreast of current research.

  8. Since ISTE loves imposing top-down standards that infringe upon teachers and students, I’ve asked them in-print and in-public countless times to issue a single national standard describing the user experience for a teacher or student when they sit down at a school computer.

    In other words, how should the computer and Internet behave when a student or adult professional uses a school computer.

  9. Primary goal should be to put technology tools in hands of every student and to insure the creative use of those tools by every teacher.

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