“When combined with learning systems, technology-based assessments can be used formatively to diagnose and modify the conditions of learning and instructional practices, while at the same time determining what students have learned for grading and accountability purposes. … Furthermore, systems can be designed to capture students’ inputs and collect evidence of their knowledge and problem-solving abilities as they work. Over time, the system ‘learns’ more about students’ abilities and can provide increasingly appropriate support.”

One of the plan’s goals around assessment is to build the capacity of educators to use assessments for both formative and summative purposes. Another is to explore the use of games and simulations to assess complex skills embedded within content standards.

Teaching

The plan recommends a shift to what it calls a “model of connected teaching,” in which “teams of connected educators replace solo practitioners, and classrooms are fully connected to provide educators with 24-7 access to data and analytic tools, as well as to resources that help them act on the insights the data provide.”

In such a teaching model, the plan explains, “connection replaces isolation. Classroom educators are fully connected to learning data and tools for using the data; to content, resources, and systems that empower them to create, manage, and assess engaging and relevant learning experiences; and directly to their students in support of learning both inside and outside school. The same connections give them access to resources and expertise that improve their own instructional practices and guide them in becoming facilitators and collaborators in their students’ increasingly self-directed learning.”

The plan calls for teaching to be a “team activity,” in which individual educators “build online learning communities consisting of their students and their students’ peers; fellow educators in their schools, libraries, and after-school programs; professional experts in various disciplines around the world; members of community organizations that serve students in the hours they are not in school; and parents who desire greater participation in their children’s education.”

The plan urges education leaders to rethink professional development to make it more effective for teachers, and it recommends developing a teaching force that is skilled in online instruction.

Under the plan’s vision, “episodic and ineffective professional development is replaced by professional learning that is collaborative, coherent, and continuous.” This professional learning should blend in-person courses and workshops with the “immediacy and convenience enabled by online environments” and the opportunities for collaboration they provide.

Infrastructure

The plan urges schools to provide an infrastructure for learning that is “always on, available to students, educators, and administrators regardless of their location or the time of day.” Such an infrastructure should support “not just access to information, but access to people and participation in online learning communities,” and it should offer a platform on which “developers can build and tailor applications.”

To meet this goal, the plan calls for every student and educator to have “adequate broadband access to the internet and adequate wireless connectivity both inside and outside school,” as well as “at least one internet access device and software … for research, communication, multimedia content creation, and collaboration for use in and out of school.”

The plan also recommends that policy makers leverage open educational resources and build state and local capacity for online learning.

Productivity

“To achieve our goal of transforming American education, we must rethink basic assumptions and redesign our education system,” the plan states–beginning with the current practice of organizing learning around seat time instead of a demonstration of competency.

To leverage technology’s full potential for teaching and learning, school leaders also must rethink how they organize students into age-determined grade levels, deliver the same content at the same pace, and keep the same groups together for a whole school year, the plan says.

“The last decade has seen the emergence of some radically redesigned schools, demonstrating the range of possibilities for structuring education,” it says. “These include schools that organize around competence rather than seat time and others that enable more flexible scheduling that fits students’ individual needs, rather than traditional academic periods and lockstep curriculum pacing. In addition, schools are beginning to incorporate online learning, which gives us the opportunity to extend the learning day, week, or year.”

Links:

National Education Technology Plan

Project Tomorrow

Software and Information Industry Association