By Dennis Pierce
On Dec. 10, the Education Department released a new National Education Technology Plan that defines the nation’s edtech priorities for the next five years. Here are five key goals outlined in the plan.
1. Redesign teacher preparation programs to shift from a single technology course to thoughtful use of technology throughout a teacher’s preparation—and minimum standards for higher ed instructors’ tech proficiency.
“No new teacher exiting a preparation program should require remediation by his or her hiring school or district,” the plan says. “Instead, every new teacher should be prepared to model how to select and use the most appropriate apps and tools to support learning and evaluate these tools against basic privacy and security standards. It is inaccurate to assume that because pre-service teachers are tech savvy in their personal lives, they will understand how to use technology effectively to support learning without specific training and practice.”
The plan points to teacher preparation programs from the University of Michigan, Saint Leo University, Illinois State, and the University of Rhode Island as models for other programs to follow.
2. Provide equitable access to technology and connectivity both inside and outside of school, regardless of students’ backgrounds.
“Learning does not stop at the end of the school day, and access to digital learning resources should not either,” the plan says. “According to a report from the Council of Economic Advisers, approximately 55 percent of low-income children under the age of 10 in the United States lack Internet access at home. … Connectivity at home for students is an essential component of a 21st-century education—(and) not something merely nice to have—if we are to avoid exacerbating pre-existing inequities in unconnected homes.”
3. Implement Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles for accessibility across all schools and programs.
UDL calls for multiple means of representation so that students can approach information in more than one way, such as digital books and screen readers that include features like text-to-speech, changeable color contrast and text size, or selection of different reading levels; multiple means of expression so that all students can demonstrate and express what they know; and multiple means of engagement to stimulate interest in and motivation for learning.
To help teachers choose appropriate, universally-designed products and tools, the National Center on Universal Design for Learning has developed a resource linking to information about digital supports that can help put UDL into practice.
4. Adopt more high-quality, openly licensed educational materials in place of traditional textbooks.
“The United States currently spends approximately $8 billion each year purchasing commercial learning resources,” the plan says. “Replacing just one textbook for one subject can free up tens of thousands of dollars for other purposes.”
The advantages to using openly licensed digital materials go beyond just cost savings, it says: These materials can be more accurate than traditional textbooks because they can be updated continually as content changes, and they allow teachers to exercise their own creativity in tailoring learning materials to meet the needs of their students. Platforms and organizations such as the K-12 OER Collaborative, Illinois Shared Learning Environment, and Net Texts can help teachers find open content and adapt it for their students.
5. Improve technology-based assessments to allow for embedded delivery within instruction, making real-time feedback possible for educators.
“Technology can help us imagine and redefine assessment in a variety of ways,” the plan says. “These tools can provide unobtrusive measurements for learners who are designing and building products, conducting experiments using mobile devices, and manipulating parameters in simulations. Problems can be situated in real-world environments, where students perform tasks. ... Teachers can access information on student progress and learning throughout the school day, which allows them to adapt instruction to personalize learning or intervene to address particular learning shortfalls.”
These five goals are just some of the many recommendations outlined in the plan. What do you think of these strategies? What goals or elements from the plan stood out to you? Share your feedback in the comments section below.