In a new effort aimed at strengthening American students’ ability to compete in an increasingly global society, the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) has established Vision for K-20 Education. The project will underscore evidence that educational technology can help students excel.

The initiative arose from what SIIA leaders and other industry experts see as a lack of progress in innovation and technology in the U.S. They are concerned that the nation has fallen behind in effectively educating students to compete and thrive when compared with students from countries such as China and India.

SIIA members want to provide “leadership and support for technology use in education,” said Karen Billings, vice president of SIIA’s education division. An SIIA representative added that, even though many American students have adopted technology into their lives and homes, “America’s K-20 schools can do more to fully leverage these technologies to improve learning,”

SIIA will launch an official Vision web site in the coming months. Currently, the Vision goals and framework are spelled out in a 24-page PDF brochure that education stakeholders can download from the internet. Single copies of the printed brochure can be obtained by sending eMail to karen.billings@siia.net. Interested educators should provide their names and school mailing addresses.

Revitalizing the nation’s education resources, practices, and schools is a key to regaining a global edge, the initiative’s brochure says. “Until now, the investment in technology has led to the discovery and development of ‘best practices,’ but these success stories have not yet led to large-scale systemic change.”

SIIA representatives pointed to strong evidence that technology is a powerful tool and can give the nation’s students opportunities for global lessons that will prepare them for the professional world beyond the classroom. Vision K-20’s guidelines say that educational software, digital content, eLearning, and related technologies can help schools enhance the experiences of all students, help them learn from any place at any time, and encourage creativity and self-expression.

SIIA has laid out goals, both for itself and the larger educational community, to reach within three to five years.

The association’s brochure asserts: “By the end of the decade, we see a K-20 system that effectively–and as a matter of common, second-nature practice–widely utilizes 21st-century tools for teaching and learning, gives all members of the education community anytime/anywhere educational access, offers differentiated learning options and resources to close achievement gaps, employs technology-based assessment tools, and uses technology to enable the enterprise.”

The brochure points to such practices as delivering educational content more flexibly through multiple formats and media, using security tools to protect student privacy and safety, and giving students high-speed broadband access to enable collaborative learning, distance learning, and other multimedia-rich interactions. Educators and students can access anytime/anywhere learning through virtual schools and online courses, online professional development resources, ubiquitous mobile devices and access points, and education portals that offer a variety of applications, resources, and collaboration tools.

According to SIIA, technology allows educators and students to teach and learn in ways that were not possible before, enables people to be more efficient in teaching and learning, and is essential for life-long learning.

By the end of the decade, SIIA believes every K-20 institution should have an instructional and institutional framework that embraces technology and eLearning. The goals would be to increase student engagement and achievement, provide equity and access to new learning opportunities, document and track student performance, empower collaborative-learning communities, maximize teaching and administrative effectiveness, and build student proficiencies in 21st-century skills.

“We developed this framework to show how technology facilitates 21st-century educational goals and the school’s instructional and administrative processes,” Billings explained. “To help implement the Vision, we are working with education leaders to provide additional information, such as a web site with evidence that technology works, and measurements to show their progress” toward the SIIA’s Vision K-20.

SIIA wants “a coalition of stakeholders–including educators, business executives, policy makers, and academic leaders–to recognize this mandate and to work together to realize this opportunity.” By combining proven, well-implemented, and well-supported technologies with solid educational approaches, the association says, individuals and institutions can sharpen their “innovative edge … and increase the opportunity for each person to fulfill their promise through education.”

Links:

SIIA Vision K-20 Education
http://www.siia.net/education/foreducators/visionk20.asp

SIIA Vision K-20 Education PDF document
http://www.siia.net/education/pubs/VisionBooklet_2007.pdf