In an effort to enrich learning and strengthen American students’ ability to compete in an increasingly global society, the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) today launched a bold new education initiative.

Called "Vision for K-20 Education," the program aims to help educators and administrators make effective daily use of technology in their classrooms and decision-making activities. Education software companies that are SIIA members worked together on the program, which SIIA hopes will serve as a guide to implementing technology across campuses and school districts.

"To remain relevant in today’s economy, Americans must rebuild our competitive edge and revitalize our education system. This initiative will help stakeholders make progress toward creating a truly 21st-century learning environment," said Ken Wasch, SIIA president.

SIIA members say the initiative goes beyond simply acknowledging that the nation needs to support its students with 21st-century learning opportunities; it also identifies goals that will help pave the way for widespread, systemic change.

In fact, the initiative outlines seven goals for using educational technology–help schools meet the needs of all students, support accountability and inform instruction, deepen learning and motivate students, facilitate communication and collaboration, manage education effectively and economically, enable students to learn from any place at any time, and nurture creativity and self-expression. The program also provides five benchmarks schools and colleges can use to measure their yearly progress toward meeting these goals.

"These are the goals that we think technology uniquely addresses [for] education’s needs," said Karen Billings, SIIA’s vice president of education. "Our measures of progress are the technology tools that need to be in place so that educational goals can be met."

Billings added: "We believe that a lot of our goals and measures of progress are already happening in some schools, and there are best practices, but what we want to accomplish by this Vision initiative is to make those more commonplace, and we think that in three to five years, we can go a long way in achieving that."

SIIA has partnered with several organizations to promote its Vision program and encourage school and campus leaders nationwide to review and incorporate these goals into their mission.

"With help from our partners, we will give every education institution in the United States an opportunity to take a short, online survey to evaluate their current technology use," Billings said. Schools will be able to use the program’s benchmarks to monitor their progress and can complete the survey periodically as they work toward this vision for K-20 education. SIIA will release the aggregated survey results and their implications annually, beginning in 2008.

The survey launched on March 12, along with the initiative, and should be open for approximately six weeks. Billings said SIIA hopes that institutions taking what will be roughly the same test each year will begin to see progress on the survey.

SIIA also is calling on its partners to submit success stories, research, and other best practices for what Billings termed a database of "evidence" supporting technology’s use in schools and colleges. Once compiled, these success stories will be correlated to SIIA’s Vision goals and will be entered into a searchable database.

Billings said a key SIIA goal is to have schools using technology in the most effective way possible, and to do that "schools certainly need the right technology, and enough of it."

"We’re hoping the project, with these very explicit goals for technology use, can be used … to support additional purchases or additional professional development in the areas where [schools are] a bit weaker than they’d like to be," she said.

"We don’t think there’s been a clear or articulated goal, nationally, for technology use [in schools] in the last few years," Billings said. "There was an education technology plan released by [the U.S. Department of Education in 2005], and it has some very worthwhile material, but [Vision for K-20 Education] is coming from the industry, it’s from developers of technology and instructional materials who know there can be really positive results for technology use, whether a gain in achievement scores or more effective administration."

Education organizations committed to supporting SIIA in the implementation of its vision include the American Association of School Administrators, Consortium for School Networking, International Society for Technology in Education, Project Tomorrow, and Schools Interoperability Framework Association.

Links:

SIIA’s Vision for K-20 Education

Take SIIA’s Survey

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the “Creating the 21st Century Classroom”resource center. Preparing today’s youth to succeed in the digital economy requires a new kind of teaching and learning. Skills such as global literacy, computer literacy, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and innovation have become critical in today’s increasingly interconnected workforce and society–and technology is the catalyst for bringing these changes into the classroom. Go to Creating-the-21st-century-classroom