State boards of education weigh in on ed-tech policy

According to the report, states must take a broad, purposeful approach to ed-tech integration.

In a new set of recommendations aimed at advising state leaders on ed-tech integration, the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) discusses how states are integral in meeting the needs of today’s students.

The report, titled “Born in Another Time: Ensuring Educational Technology Meets the Needs of Students Today—and Tomorrow,” details the findings of an NASBE study group on the role of technology in schools and communities.

The study group examined how the current digital age has affected the learning needs of today’s students, and how state boards of education can ensure that their schools are fully prepared to address the impact of “rapid technological change on the fundamental processes of teaching and learning.”

The study group also analyzed how educational technology intersects with other school reforms, including the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and other college- and career-ready standards, the emergence of robust data systems, the upcoming next-generation CCSS assessments, the growing number of virtual courses and schools, and efforts to address cyber bullying.

“It’s the wild, wild West out there in terms of technology,” says the report. “From virtual schools and online courses to the growing use of personal digital devices in schools and open-source instructional materials, much about technology is still in flux.”

This is why, says the report, state education systems are the “only entities able to offer a sustainable platform for aligning these promising—but still fragmented and rapidly changing—forces.”

According to the report, without a broad, purposeful approach, state education systems are likely to pursue a fragmented course that merely addresses individual policy issues as they happen to arise—and states “will miss a critical opportunity to comprehensively move teaching and learning forward in support of … the next generation of students.”


In addressing the needs of today’s students, NASBE’s study group recommends:

  1. Address digital citizenship and digital literacy. State boards should urge their districts and schools to define and discuss these critical topics and make sure their state education department is prepared to offer resources and guidance for these discussions.
  2. Design instruction to take advantage of how each student learns now. Policies at the state and local levels should be responsive to student’s lifestyles and behaviors at home and in the classroom.
  3. Create policies that allocate resources based on data, student needs, and student, parent, and stakeholder voices. Giving parents and students access to student performance data can help them serve as informed partners in ensuring that student study habits, methods, and schedules are most conducive to learning outside of school hours.

In ensuring that educators use technology to meet the needs of today’s students effectively, NASBE recommends that state boards:

  1. In collaboration with the state education agency, state technology officers, and relevant stakeholders, create a statement, definition, or visionary document defining what a connected and networked educator looks like within the state.
  2. Examine what opportunities, incentives, and barriers are in place that inhibit and enhance the ability for districts to partner with each other, or across state lines, to share resources.
  3. Examine the policies in place that allow or inhibit the ability for online, virtual, and blended learning opportunities for students and teachers.
  4. Reexamine the weekly and yearly school calendar to give districts and schools the autonomy to create a schedule that provides additional flexibility and time for students to learn through alternative means and for educators to connect.
  5. In collaboration with licensing boards and program accreditation committees, ensure that teaching candidates have fundamental skills and content knowledge to teach students in a 21st-century environment and are able to use student data to personalize instruction.
  6. Ensure that teaching candidates have robust clinical experiences where technology and online learning are incorporated into the program.
  7. Urge states, districts, and schools to expand professional learning experiences to include online and virtual learning.
  8. In collaboration with districts and the state education agency, ensure that teachers are provided with high-quality professional development and mentorship opportunities embedded throughout the school day with the help of technology.

Recommendations for ed-tech infrastructure include:

  1. Ensuring that every student has adequate access to a computing device and the internet at school and home, with sufficient human capital in schools to support their effective use.
  2. States should have an up-to-date technology plan and policy that is reviewed on a pre-determined timeline.
  3. States and districts should address the interoperability of devices, software, and data.

More detailed recommendations, as well as in-depth analysis and key takeaways, are provided in the report here (PDF download).

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