National ed-tech plan coming next week

Cator said comments and links to resources from stakeholders will help the DOE finalize the plan.
Cator said comments and links to resources from stakeholders will help ED finalize the plan.

The latest national blueprint for how schools can leverage technology’s power to transform teaching and learning is coming next week, said Karen Cator, director of the Office of Education Technology for the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

Cator made the announcement at the Consortium for School Networking’s annual conference March 2. During a morning spotlight session, titled “Latest News on the New National Education Technology Plan,” she gave attendees a preview of the plan.

Highlights included a focus on teacher professional development in education technology, supporting ed-tech infrastructure in schools, using real-time data and delivering personalized assessments, and harnessing the power of online learning and social networks to provide 24-7 access to tools and resources for teachers and students.

“The time is now,” opened Cator. “And to take advantage of many of the opportunities now available to education, we’ve drafted an ed-tech plan we hope will help bring about President Obama’s 2020 goal to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. In order to do that, we’d have to have a college graduation rate of about 60 percent; currently we’re at about half that number.”

Thanks to trends such as the development of digital content, social networks for learning, and mobile technologies that give users round-the-clock access, the time is ripe to take advantage of technology for learning, Cator said.

The details

According to Cator, ED began the process of designing a new national ed-tech plan last April. The agency sought advice from many organizations and examined current initiatives from other agencies.

For example, Cator cited the National Science Foundation’s report, “Fostering Learning in the Networked World: The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge”; the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Plan, also due out this month; the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s focus on Health, Energy, and Education; and the Department of Defense’s focus on technology interoperability, research, and development.

Cator said the new national ed-tech plan focuses on five main goals:

  1. Learning. This means unprecedented access to learning for students, as well as finding new ways of understanding what types of learning experiences work best.
  2. Teaching. Teaching needs to be highly connected with data, experts, and resources to provide a personalized learning experience for every student. Online learning also needs to be harnessed as an in-classroom and outside-of-classroom tool to reach every student possible.
  3. Assessment. Assessments need to measure what matter most; provide real-time feedback for students, teachers, and parents; be embedded in classroom instruction; manage a persistent learning record; and provide continuous improvements at all levels.
  4. Infrastructure. This means providing 24-7 access to tools and resources for teachers and students; including broadband access, cyber safety measures, best implementation practices, and leveraging economies of scale.
  5. Productivity. To get students over a higher bar, said Cator, schools need to increase their efficiency in terms of time, money, and staff.

The plan will describe these goals in greater depth, she said, and it will include recommendations for districts, states, and the federal government.

“The plan will also articulate what we consider to be ‘grand challenges’ for schools when considering this new plan,” explained Cator. “These challenges include the need for an integrated learning system that is tuned to adapt to individual learners, providing cost-effective assessments that measure 21st-century expertise across disciplines, the ability to share data and best practices, and how best to incorporate online learning.”

The plan appears to have evolved since Cator previewed it in December at the Ed-Tech Business Forum, a program presented by the Education Division of the Software and Information Industry Association. In her December presentation, Cator referred to four areas of focus that did not include infrastructure.

Cator said the new ed-tech plan will be posted to ED’s web site within the next week, and all education stakeholders are encouraged to provide links to student videos and best practices, as well as leave advice and comments on each section of the plan.

“This is a vision document at this stage, just a draft,” she explained. “Therefore, we haven’t included much [information] about actual implementation yet, such as what we will do and when.”


U.S. Department of Education

National Education Technology Plan

Consortium for School Networking

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