The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is asking members of the education community for help in drafting a new National Education Technology Plan as required under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

K-12 and higher-education administrators, educators, parents, and students—as well as business and industry professionals—are encouraged to participate in the online dialogue, which invites comments about how technology best can be used to improve teaching and learning throughout the 21st century, ED said May 27.

Interested stakeholders can give their input by visiting the National Education Technology Plan’s web site and clicking on the “Participate in the Plan” link.

“The plan will center on how to help students as they grow up being exposed to various technologies,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige in a statement. “This effort will set new priorities and actions that all stakeholders can rally behind to ensure technology is being used effectively to prepare students for their future, not our past.”

The latest version of the plan—the third such draft—will incorporate feedback on best practices, research studies, and barriers preventing the effective use of technology, as well as input from leading educational organizations regarding the nation’s top ed-tech priorities.

ED said it will use the comments and suggestions it receives to formulate a national strategy that builds on the strides already taken to wire America’s schools and provide increased computer access for its students. The comments also will bring to light needs that continue unanswered and should serve as a blueprint for what the future holds, officials said.

Other activities slated around the technology plan include online discussions with students, parents, and teachers, as well as forums and stakeholder meetings designed to help spur creative thinking and innovation among school technology planners nationwide.

To ensure that its efforts are not in vain, ED has enlisted the American Institutes for Research, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and the State Educational Technology Director’s Association to provide support for the plan and make suggestions regarding the inclusion of stakeholder feedback.

“We’re very pleased to be in the mix,” said ISTE chief executive Don Knezek. “[ED] wanted us on board to make sure that we were reaching the largest possible group of stakeholders.”

Educators, too, agree it’s nice to have a say.

“I am excited about the prospect and will participate,” said Sandra Becker, technology coordinator for the Governor Mifflin School District in Berks County, Pa. “I am glad to see so many stakeholders involved.”

In Plano, Texas, where administrators tested a similar approach to soliciting comments regarding the district’s local technology plan, Associate Superintendent for Technology Services Jim Hirsch predicted the national plan would help schools cut back on unnecessary technology spending and focus their “limited resources” on proven investments that work.

“Reaching out to students and parents—the primary consumers of educational technology—promises to pay big dividends in terms of identifying the most appropriate technology resources and also in procuring local support for future technology initiatives,” Hirsch said. “By speaking to constituents throughout the country, the plan should contain a marvelous compendium of best practices for all of us to draw on.”

Despite his enthusiasm, Hirsch said the overall effectiveness of the new national technology plan would rely on how well ED interprets and uses the suggestions it receives.

“What’s interesting to me is that very little mention is made of the review process that will be utilized to synthesize all of the input that is being requested,” he said. “Are educators going to be involved in the review? Who is going to help translate many of the suggestions that may mean little to the typical educational technology leader, but [are] terribly significant for student use?”

ED did not provide specific answers to these questions before press time.

Still, the department’s leaders appear confident. “As technology continues to be an important part of children’s lives outside of school, it is shaping their expectations of what school will be like,” Paige said. “The National Education Technology Plan intends to explore this trend and the implications for creating digital-age educational opportunities to match the expectations of digital-age students.”

“Ultimately, this feedback will ensure that policy makers at all levels of government can understand how to use technology effectively and how states can employ technology to help meet the goals of No Child Left Behind,” said John Bailey, ED’s director of educational technology.

ED is accepting comments online through July 1.

Links:

National Education Technology Plan
http://www.NationalEdTechPlan.org

U.S. Department of Education
http://www.ed.gov

American Institutes for Research
http://www.air.org

International Society for Technology in Education
http://www.iste.org

State Educational Technology Director’s Association
http://www.setda.org