Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thoughts on the US Dept of Ed. National Education Tech Plan

I just finished reading the United States' Department of Education's National Education Technology Plan which would put the United States at the top of the list for college completion by the year 2020 and help close the achievement gap so that all students graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and careers.

In this article, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is quoted as saying, "We have an unprecedented opportunity to reform our schools. With this technology plan, we have laid out a comprehensive vision for how teachers working with technology can transform student learning in classrooms across America. We must dramatically improve teaching and learning, personalize instruction and ensure that the educational environments we offer to all students keep pace with the 21st century." I agree wholeheartedly with Duncan. We have GOT to do something different if we expect to achieve a different outcome in education than we do now. As the saying goes, "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten." Something HAS to change.

Here are the five main focus areas of the plan:
  • Learning: Change the learning process so it's more engaging and tailored to students' needs and interests.
  • Assessment: Measure student progress on the full range of college and career ready standards and use real time data for continuous improvement.
  • Teaching: Connect teachers to the tools, resources, experts and peers they need to be highly effective and supported.
  • Infrastructure: Provide broadband connectivity for all students, everywhere—in schools, throughout communities and in students' homes.
  • Productivity: Use technology to help schools become more productive and accelerate student achievement while managing costs.
I think they have hit the nail squarely on the head. The aim is to reach each of these five goals by the year 2015. Here again I say, "Bravo!" But let's be realistic. As with every plan, it looks great on paper (but then again, so did the No Child Left Behind Act). The truth of the matter is this though - If the government can't provide the funding for schools to do this, it just plain won't happen. You're never going to get teachers to jump on this bandwagon if they don't have the money to buy the technology it's going to take to reach these goals.

It is easy for me to get excited about working toward reaching these goals. I teach technology classes, so this plan fits right into what I'm passionate about. I've also been provided with have a classroom of 24" iMacs on which to daily teach my students. Unfortunately, my colleagues aren't so lucky. Until the government provides the money that is necessary to provide schools with adequate technology, teachers won't be able to provide the technology opportunities that are necessary for students to come into the 21st century with the skills necessary to compete with students around the world.

If the government can step in and bail out companies that have made poor business choices, why couldn't they put that money to better use and "bail out" the children who are the future of our country? The best laid plans are only as good as the action behind it. We cannot expect schools to teach 21st century skills with the equipment they used in the 19th century anymore than our government officials expect to do today's governing with yesterday's pay. If government officials want schools to bring students up to speed, then they have to step up and provide the resources to do so. Like everything else, it's a matter of politics.

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