The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is asking school officials and education stakeholders to submit comments on the use of technology in schools.

This latest outreach initiative comes as U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is holding a series of roundtable discussions in several cities on technology in education, with educators, business leaders, information technology professionals, and others invited. (The sessions are closed to members of the press.) The goal, according to ED, is to explore specific actions to improve education outcomes through targeted applications of technology and to find a renewed perspective on the role of technology in education reform. The first of these roundtables took place in late March.

ED’s outreach also follows the release in April of a much-anticipated $10 million study on educational technology, in which the department found little or no impact on educational outcomes (see “ED study slams software efficacy”: http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showStory.cfm?ArticleID=7034).

In light of this study, and the decline in federal funding for school technology over the last several years–from nearly $700 million in FY 2004 to $496 million in FY 2005 and then to $273 million last year and this year–advocates of educational technology say it’s important for educators to respond to ED’s solicitation.

“We’ve alerted our members, and it’s important that leaders in ed tech really do step up and provide input to the administration, and really articulate both the good things that are happening today and their vision for where technology could go,” said Keith Krueger, chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking.

“Educators and SETDA members welcome and are encouraged by the department’s outreach on the role of educational technology in schools,” said Mary Ann Wolf, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA). “Solid, scientifically-based research exists documenting the potential of technology to improve student achievement, to individualize instruction, and to engage students in more rigorous and engaging coursework.”

Wolf added: “Collecting information on these programs from districts, schools, and states across the country will demonstrate the breadth and depth of the importance of technology, but [it also will] emphasize that ongoing, sustainable professional development on the use of technology and access to appropriate resources are critical to technology’s role in transforming teaching and learning.”

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Spellings will be listening to feedback on the following questions:

1. In what ways has technology improved the effectiveness of your classroom, school, or district?
2. Based on your role (administrator, parent, teacher, student, entrepreneur, or business leader), how have you used educational data to make better decisions or be more successful?
3. In what ways can technology help us prepare our children for global competition and reach our goals of eliminating achievement gaps and having all students read and do math on grade level by 2014?
4. What should be the federal government’s role in supporting the use of technology in our educational system?

“We know that the world in which our education system was created–the industrial world of the 19th and early 20th centuries–no longer exists,” says ED’s web site. “Today, we live in a technology-driven global marketplace where ideas and innovation outperform muscle and machine. In an age of digital content and global communications, we must build an education system that meets the new demands of our time. Technology can help us create schools where every child has the opportunity to succeed, while we work to close the achievement gap and address the economic and workforce needs of the future.”

One prominent ed-tech advocate who wished to remain nameless pointed out that ED has issued a call for feedback in the past, when developing its third National Ed-Tech Plan, but allocated no additional funding to educational technology after the feedback was received.

The department spent nearly $15 million preparing this plan, but after two years of holding forums and getting input, the plan was released and then buried, according to some industry insiders. So while these insiders say they welcome ED’s latest request for comments, they question whether the input actually will be used this time.

An ED spokesperson said a deadline for the public to submit feedback has not yet been set. The department did not respond to an eSchool News reporter’s request for additional comments before press time.

To submit your feedback on educational technology, visit ED’s web site, or eMail responses to edtech@ed.gov.

Links

Technology in Education Input Form
http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/os/technology/roundtable-form.html

Consortium for School Networking
http://www.cosn.org

State Educational Technology Directors Association
http://www.setda.org