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Feds review progress on National Ed-Tech Plan

Developing communities of practice can help the National Ed-Tech plan become a reality.

The second day of the International Society for Technology in Education’s annual conference featured an hour-long presentation and Q&A session with Karen Cator, director of educational technology for the federal Education Department (ED).

Cator reviewed the nation’s progress toward implementing ed-tech projects and highlighted some of the plan’s top priorities.

“It really is a national education technology plan,” Cator said June 27. “How do people learn in the 21st century?”

The plan focuses on:

•    Learning: Personalized learning and true engagement can make for a powerful learning environment, the plan says.
•    Teaching: Technology has the opportunity to really augment teaching capacity in every single classroom, it says.
•    Assessment: For feedback and better understanding, educators must understand how people learn, and they should be able to take that feedback and improve teaching and learning.

The plan includes “the vision to transform American education and power up learning with the best tech tools of today,” Cator said.

But to execute the plan, several essential components must be in place, she said—such as broadband internet access, devices in all places where learning can occur (including school, homes, and libraries), and the human infrastructure necessary to support such a system.

“How do we make sure that every person who is learning is doing … what is the most productive for the student at any given time?” Cator asked.

Leveraging mobile technologies plays a large part in the ed-tech plan’s potential for success, as do focusing on social interactions to spur learning, using technology to improve digital content such as virtual online environments and games, and using data to inform and improve instruction.

Cator stressed the role that digital content can play in learning, and she noted that educators should focus on this potential as classrooms move from a predominantly print-based environment to a digital environment.

Equity of access is another key area of concern, she said. Many students are underserved and have no access to computers, the internet, and other engaging technologies once they leave the classroom. Other populations, including adult populations, are able to access such technologies, but they do not know how or why to connect.

Connecting basic research with the education marketplace and establishing clearinghouses of concepts and projects that researchers are developing and designing could help to spur innovation. Such online “communities of practice” can go a long way in helping theories become reality, Cator said.

Ed-tech stakeholders can follow a few steps to take action and ensure that the principles of the National Ed-Tech Plan become reality, she said:

•    Solve for equity.
•    Develop a smart demand for ed tech and information.
•    Develop personal learning networks.
•    Nominate favorite communities of practice on
•    Fully participate in technology use and conversations.
•    Share stories, strategies, and results.

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