Severance said federal officials in charge of the ed-tech agency would have to make a concerted effort to include K-12 and college educators, who “work like dogs from September to June” with little or no free time to apply for federal funding for special projects.
“There is a massive disconnect between education experts and people who actually educate,” he said. “If you look at a lot of the emerging educational technology trends conferences, all the speakers and leadership are non-teachers.”
Severance continued: “I would hope that this new agency would realize these problems and do something about them. But it is not likely.”
Higher-education technology experts said any educational technology program run by ED should draw scrutiny from potential grant applicants and innovators.
Melora Sundt, associate dean at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, who tracks trends in distance education, said that in her days of applying for federal grants, she was surprised the government required proposals in WordPerfect format, by then a long-outdated standard.
“The federal government is usually the last place one finds tech advances in the day-to-day organization,” she said.
Sundt said an ED agency focusing on educational technology could get more educators involved in creating online learning material, because startup costs for program development can be steep.
“These kinds of innovations can be expensive in the early stages, and those costs can cut out participation by schools,” she said. “Some of the innovation will happen with or without government support, but the research about how well these things work won’t happen without the support, nor will wider adoption.”
Despite his reservations about a new ED agency, Severance said Obama’s budget proposal would have played an important role in the early-to-mid 2000s, when online learning was gaining traction.
“At some level … this agency is a tremendous development and way overdue,” he said.