Envisioning educational technology in schools

ishot-314a.jpgI’m an advocate for encouraging school districts to plan for effective instructional use of technology. This may seem rather obvious to many, but in the course of my work as an educator, I’ve seen very few institutions do this well. Specifically, I’d like to see communities hold thoughtful conversations around how schools and families can support students’ development towards becoming effective and participatory digital citizens. Schools must take a longitudinal and developmental approach to deliberately planning for the skills, literacies and habits of mind that they value in their graduates.

One tool that might serve as a springboard for these conversations is the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report: 2010 K-12 Edition. For the past two years, I’ve served on the advisory board for this publication produced by a Texas-based think tank. As board members, we have made recommendations and shared examples of what we consider best practices in educational technology. The New Media Consortium, in turn, took our recommendations and elaborated on core technologies that schools should be investigating and adopting in three time-to-adoption horizons: one year or less, two to three years, and four to five years. In the report, the New Media Consortium also discussed at length underlying key trends and critical challenges.

I’d love for readers of this blog (and my fellow Edu 2.0 bloggers) to look over this document and share your initial thoughts and ideas in the comments here or in the Horizon Report’s comments section. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed horizons? Do any examples, trends or challenges surprise you? Do you have any thoughts on helping schools plan strategically?

This Thursday, May 6, at 7:30 PM EST, I’ll be participating in a conversation with my friends from Seedlings at Bit by Bit on EdTechTalk , a webcasting community that has served as a tremendous professional development vehicle to many educators. Join us online and participate in a backchannel chat to discuss the future of educational technology in K12 settings!

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  • Maureen Brunner

    From what I have read so far, I can appreciate this and other published documents by this group being helpful for school librarians (like me) and other forward thinking tech educators, who are attempting to work within traditional public school districts to integrate authentic information literacy standards (see: http://bit.ly/9RkbIG) within professional development and then into classroom practice within all disciplines.
    Specifically, I was drawn to the “Critical Challenges” section with regards to digital literacy (top of pdf page 7).
    Please accept these comments as an insider who teaches in a large urban high school. One of the main roadblocks for information literacy integration in secondary education is a misguided internet phobia (especially 2.0) on the part of decision makers of what harmful content may potentially be accessed during the school day. What occurs then is excessive filtering put in place by network administrators who are not educators, and/or, for whom it is much easier to block web-based tools using prefab software settings than trust the professionals (school librarians and tech savvy classroom teachers) an opportunity to teach students who to use 2.0 ethically, productively, and safely . When pressured, their argument centers around E-Rate, legal counsel advice, and the inability of IT to differentiate filter settings by age and grade. More often than not, teachers are blocked from content as well, or have very limited access to 2.0 through a limited override authentication. I won’t begin to address how troubling this is when considering the social, college, and workplace readiness of our digital divide students.
    From mentoring and collaborating with new and pre-service teachers, it is clear that even these “almost” digital natives are not arriving to the field of teaching as digitally literate educators. There doesn’t seem to be any recognition of 21st century learning or ISTE standards in undergrad, graduate, and administrative programs at the university level.
    Considering the economic climate, the integration of cloud computing and outsources of the “business of Information Technology” seems to me to be a no brainer. I think schools are wasting so much money forking over millions (per school) annual for licensing alone. The instructional technology integration can, in my opinion, be handled very effectively and efficiently. However, again, many of my peers are not able to get far with their advocacy. I suppose it could be a matter of innovation disrupting potential highly paid careers entrenched in decades of tradition? For sure, there is not enough power sharing when decisions of technology innovation are concerned.
    What is having the most impact on the tech ed market right now is online learning environments. As a progressive educator, I see so much potential in this borderless learning space. As a researcher and scholar, I use PLN’s and as many social tools as possible. However, here is the reality. For-profits are making huge profits by replacing teachers with packaged software programs. School buildings and virtual schools alike are becoming “credit mills” that rely on low level thinking and testing skills. Fewer teachers equal more money to acquire an ungodly number of licenses and to increase the pay of administrators. What I hope to see soon is more open access courses created by quality educators that can be accessed and applied easily by teachers and learners alike, but again, that will threaten the current structure and the status quo.
    Consequently, I am wondering within your implementation guidelines if you will more thoroughly discuss team based decision making and collaborative integration. Will this be a top down approach, or grassroots? Will you strive to work with University Education programs? Who will be on that team? If your team decides to take a pragmatic/human approach to implementation, please don’t forget to include school librarians (media specialists) to this team. We are information specialists and teachers by training, and have a lot of offer, especially when looking at how best to organize and search for 2.0 content, and apply it through inquiry based learning.

  • Marie Bjerede

    Good points, Lucy.

    The report talks about two trends that are of particular interest due to the kinds of requirements they place on infrastructure. Cloud computing environments accessed via mobile devices are critical technologies for advancing the scalability and sustainability of education reform. Yet, as investments in technology infrastructure are made, the trick is going to be to design at the systems level for future evolution and growth. Moving from textbooks to the Internet, from the Internet to personal devices, from personal devices to mobile devices – all these have design implications for the networks that support them. WIthout systems design guiding the implementations, we are unlikely to realize the potential of technology in the classrooms.

  • Rob Tucker

    Well said, Lucy. I particularly liked your call for, “communities [to] hold thoughtful conversations around how schools and families can support students’ development towards becoming effective and participatory digital citizens. Schools must take a longitudinal and developmental approach to deliberately planning for the skills, literacies and habits of mind that they value in their graduates.” As my dad drilled into me when I was growing up, “Fail to plan — Plan on failing.” The broader the community of input, the more buy-in schools will have for their implementation. Very useful!

  • Lucy Gray

    One of the reasons I posted the Horizon Report is that I think it provides a context for non-educators to understand what’s going on in my world. One comment submitted in response to Rob’s original post called for a definition of Edu 2.0, and while I’m not sure there is an official definition, this document sheds some light. Education types have long been talking in an echo chamber about what’s needed to change things up, and that conversation doesn’t seem to have spread.

    That said, thank you for your comments, Maureen, and for posting the AASL standards. I am not as familiar with them as I am with ISTE NETS (http://www.iste.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=NETS) and my experience has been that there is little discussion about “21st century skills” in urban schools because there are just other priorities to contend with. This is very much of the attitudinal digital divide that I am seeing; schools may be wired now and have decent hardware, but administrators’ attitudes are from the dark ages.

    I also agree with you regarding the blocking of Web 2.0 technologies. Schools are so fearful that something awful will happen if they give kids access to powerful tools. There’s much education of adults that needs to happen on that front. I wonder how the tech industry could help schools embrace Web 2.0… but that’s for another blog post, I think!

    Marie, I hope that the National Education Tech Plan will call attention to the infrastructure issues you raise. I think your points are very valid and important. Who’s going to take ownership for that part of the vision?

    Rob, I’d like to see schools plot out what they expect of kids technology-wise over the course of a kids’ experience in school. Some questions to address: What tools are appropriate when? How do we teach kids about digital life in a meaningful context? How do we help kids develop good judgement around technology? Again, I feel another blog post coming on!