U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley released a new educational technology plan for the nation Dec. 15, just one month before the new Bush administration was to assume control of the executive branch and days before Congress was expected to finish the 2001 education budget.

“I invite Congress and the new administration to continue to support state and local education leaders in harnessing the best of the information age for education,” Riley said in a statement. “This is an opportunity for our children that the country cannot afford to miss.”

Riley set the nation’s first educational technology goals in 1996, called “Getting America’s Students Ready for the 21st Century: Meeting the Technology Literacy Challenge,” in response to significant technological innovations in the early 1990s.

Since the first educational technology goals were set, the nation has made tremendous progress toward achieving those goals through federal, state, local, and private investments—and the latest research finds these investments are producing positive results for teachers and students, Riley said.

“We’ve made remarkable progress,” he said. “Due, in large part, to federal programs such as the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund and the eRate, many of the nation’s teachers and students are beginning to reap the benefits of increased access to computers and the internet.”

Since 1999, hundreds of stakeholders in education technology—including educators, administrators, policy makers, and members of the private sector—worked to rethink and revise the current national strategy for the effective use of technology in K-12 education.

The group developed five new ed-tech goals, outlined in the report “eLearning: Putting a World-Class Education at the Fingertips of All Children,” a roadmap for educators and policy makers across the country.

To achieve these five goals will require all three levels of government, educators, nonprofit organizations and associations, the private sector, citizens, and family members to undertake a number of strategies, the eLearning report said.

Goal One

All students and teachers will have access to information technology in their classrooms, schools, communities, and homes.

“Universal access to the internet will help end the isolation of teachers; exponentially expand the resources for teaching and learning in schools and classrooms; provide more challenging, authentic, and higher-order learning experiences for students; and make schools and teachers more accountable to parents and communities,” the report said.

Broadband access will be the new standard, because slow and unreliable connections that cannot support rich multimedia content will no longer be sufficient, the report said. Schools and communities will have to build and support networks—whether they are wireless or not—that allow for multiple internet connection at the same time.

To accomplish this goal, the report said technology funding will have to be sustained and predictable; technology plans must be revised regularly; educational technology will have to become more affordable, reliable, and easy to use; school buildings will have to be modern; and the “digital divide” will have to be closed.

Goal Two

All teachers will use technology effectively to help students achieve high academic standards.

“Most teachers have been prepared for a model of teaching dramatically out of step with what is needed to prepare the nation’s students for the challenges they will face in the future,” the plan said. Teachers need more than just access to technology; they need more training and support in how to use technology for effective teaching and learning.

Many recent reports identify ways in which technology enhances teacher quality and preparation, the plan states—including reports from the CEO Forum on Education and Technology, the Milken Exchange on Education Technology, and the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century.

Goal Three

All students will have technology and information literacy skills.

“The call for this new ’21st-century literacy’ in no way supplants current efforts by states and districts to set and even raise academic standards for students,” the report said. “It simply reflects the fact that the bar for an educated citizenry and workforce continues to rise to reflect changes in society.”

Students will need problem-solving skills that will allow them to define tasks, identify information-seeking strategies, locate and access information, determine information’s relevance, organize and communicate the results, and evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the solution, the report said.

Educators should ensure that students have the opportunity to use technology to attain these skills, because these skills will be valuable even for those who do not pursue technology careers.

State and local standards should include standards for what students should know and be able to do with technology. Also, the nation’s schools should ensure that students use technology appropriately and responsibly, develop new student assessment tools, and strengthen partnerships with industry to help meet the workforce needs of the future.

Goal Four

Research and evaluation will improve the next generation of technology applications for teaching and learning.

“While we have learned a tremendous amount about the implementation and use of technologies for teaching and learning in the past few years, the need for an expanded, ongoing national research and evaluation program to improve the next generation of technology applications for teaching and learning is profound,” the report said.

Many organizations have recognized the need for more educational research, including the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council, private charitable foundations, independent research institutes, and academics.

To implement such a program will require a sustained, multi-disciplinary collaboration of learning scientists, technologists, and subject-matter experts, the report said.

Goal Five

Digital content and networked applications will transform teaching and learning.

For this transformation to occur, digital content and networked applications first must prove to be of high quality, well-documented, available for all grades and subject areas, and have the power to inspire or motivate students, the report said. In addition, these resources must be easy to find and access, easy for students and teachers to use, and accessible to people with disabilities.

“Digital content and networked applications offer direct opportunities to enhance learning by helping students to comprehend difficult-to-understand concepts; helping students to engage in learning; providing students with access to information and resources; and better meeting students’ individual needs,” the report said. These resources also can increase parental involvement and improve the accountability and efficiency of school administration, it added.

To attain this last goal, the report says we should:

  • Ensure that administrators and policy makers are technologically literate;
  • Support efforts to increase our understanding of how to improve teaching and learning through partnerships within and across sectors;
  • Identify ways technology can better accomplish educational goals;
  • Continue and expand efforts to digitize rich educational materials consistent with copyright laws;
  • Encourage the aggregation of demand for resources and services to attract better and more effective technology-based services for teaching and learning;
  • Support educators and technologists in defining what digital content and networked applications should be available to support teaching and learning;
  • Remove barriers to purchasing digital content and networked applications;
  • Recognize developers of high-quality digital content and networked applications and exemplary adoption of educational technologies; and
  • Support the integration of digital content and networked applications into state and local standards and curricular frameworks.

“Working together to achieve these goals constitutes a major leadership imperative facing those seeking widespread improvements in teaching and learning. As a nation, we should pledge to meet these new goals,” the eLearning report said.

“This plan looks pretty solid at what it’s recommending,” said John Vaille, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education. “The most solid components are not about technology, but teaching and learning.”

The continuing role of the federal Department of Education is to establish goals every so often, he said.

“I would advise the new administration to take a look at the hard work of a lot of folks instead of recreating this plan,” Vaille said. “Even if they did their own study, they would come up with the same thing.”


U.S. Department of Education’s e-Learning Report

International Society for Technology in Education