I've just read the latest National Education Technology Plan entitled "Toward a New Golden Age in American Education -- How the Internet, the Law and Today's Students Are Revolutionizing Expectations". The first 40 pages are noise. Then the report lists seven recommendations.
- Strengthen leadership
- Consider innovative budgeting
- Improve teacher training
- Support e-learning and virtual schools
- Encourage broadband access
- Move toward digital content
- Integrate data systems
Surely this can't be real.
Strengthen leadership? The Dept of Ed seems to think that having technically savvy school administrators is a key element. I don't disagree but they recommend that school districts spend their already tight budget money on training their administrators to embrace the new world. They suggest that the key is creating partnerships between business and higher education. If I were to paraphrase this, I'd say "You administration types need to get on board with this and we aren't going to help you. Perhaps you can band together with some other players to get what you need."
Consider innovative budgeting? Paraphrased, "If you weren't wasting all the cash we're giving you, you'd have the money you need to take care of this." Or perhaps, "you could pay for it, if you were a little cleverer with pinching pennies."
Improve teacher training? Right. Isn't this the same administration that killed the PT3 program? I'm not saying this would not be a good thing, but suggesting that it can be accomplished by "measurement, accountability, and technology resources" is a lot like saying "If I had some ham, I could make a ham sandwich, if I had some bread." The people in charge of teacher education in the majority of places in the country do not know enough about the technological landscape to be able use it themselves, let alone train teachers to take advantage of it. I don't care how much you measure the wrong thing, or how much you hold people accountable to inadequate standards, or provide them with inappropriate technology, you cannot improve their performance!
Support e-learning and virtual schools? Perhaps they're hoping that we can close down the brick-and-mortar and save all that money in utility bills. In this recommendation they do NOT recommend any kind of VALID distance educational experience, only that it be supported. This is so much like the movement to wire the schools. As we've learned, just having the wire, doesn't solve anything. Oh, and states and districts have to find a way to fund this themselves.
Encourage broadband access? Really? This is a good thing, but from the perspective of a school district, it makes no sense at all. I can't even figure out how their detail recommendations make any sense. It amounts to the government suggesting that school districts should be running broadband to the student's homes. In the meantime, we have lawsuits in Philadelphia and Lafayette, Louisiana, brought by the cable companies PREVENTING municipalities from doing exactly that. And, again, we have "the wire is the answer" without any kind of rationale for how it should be used. The "Field of Dreams" rationale, I suppose.
Move toward digital content? Why? So we can have more lawsuits for copyright infringement? So we can fatten the pockets of the DRM fanatics and DMCA proponents? Most TEACHERS still think that Fair Use means they can use whatever they like whenever they want it. What about kids? I bet most faculty think that the TEACH Act solved
copyright problems. This is not a bad thing, but the legal implications of it are tacitly expressed in, "Ensure that teachers and students are adequately trained in the use of online content." Hm. I wonder what THAT means?
Integrate data systems? This is just -- in technical terms -- crap. From an educational standpoint, it's a meaningless point. It has everything to do with administering school systems efficiently (cheaply) and nothing to do with educating students. Again, I can understand where an efficient data system can help control cost. But to suggest that systems integrating school costs with student assessment data is a valid use of technology to improve learning outcomes seems a pretty big stretch to me. I love the recommendation that suggests that correlations between student achievement and resource allocations should be a key qualifier. Personally, I think that's a good idea. If the students aren't performing, then the unit needs MORE resources. Unfortunately, I suspect that the opposite response would be more in keeping with the current administration's perspective on Education -- that being "the beatings will continue until morale improves." One recommendation in this has some merit. "Use assessment results to inform and differentiate instruction of every child." Hm? They SEEM to be suggesting that students should be assessed to learn what they know in order to teach them what they need to know.
What an innovative idea.
Until next time.