Between the National Educational Technology Plan, the National Broadband Plan, and the blueprint for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, there’s been quite a bit of education news for ed-tech advocates to read, digest, and react to. This week, I caught up with Don Knezek, the chief executive officer of the International Society for Technology in Education, or ISTE, to talk more about the documents and what they mean for technology in education.
After looking through the blueprint for ESEA, Knezek expressed excitement at the broader spectrum of skills, beyond just reading and math, that were emphasized in the plan. However, the blueprint does not go quite far enough to include the digital skills and literacies that students need to prepare them for college, as well as in the workplace, he says. “We’re seeing [the ESEA blueprint] focus on traditional academics and common core standards and thinking that that’s the holy grail, but digital age learning skills are equally as important as those traditional academic skills and knowledge,” says Knezek. “The real key to people being successful in college is the ability to learn in a digital environment.”
Both the blueprint for ESEA as well as the National Educational Technology Plan acknowledge “the critical role of technology in engaging students,” says Knezek. But, unfortunately, both documents lack any plan to support that idea, he says.
By zeroing out the Enhancing Education Through Technology fund in the fiscal 2011 budget and not dedicating a specific funding source for technology initiatives, the leadership needed to help schools teach the technological skills and education that students need to know won’t exist, says Knezek. “We’re really concerned about the loss of dedicated funding,” he says. “That’s where the leadership and expertise for transformation for technology really came from.”
Also, the grand challenge identified in the National Educational Technology Plan is to “establish an integrated end-to-end real-time system for managing learning outcomes and costs across our entire education system at all levels,” but that “seems a bit off” to Knezek, who says the real grand challenge is “preparing teachers to be 21st-century professionals.”
Knezek was largely happy with the National Broadband Plan, which he felt was even more visionary than the other two documents, and he expressed satisfaction and gratitude that he and other ed-tech leaders were able to provide feedback on the U.S. Department of Education’s plans. “I’ve been asked more [about my opinion] in the first year of this administration than I have in the past eight years and that’s refreshing,” he says.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.