Karen Cator, director of educational technology for the U.S. Department of Education, said Monday at the ISTE 2010 ed-tech conference in Denver that, of all the portions of the recently released National Education Technology Plan, the guidelines about teaching were hardest to write.
“We wanted to make absolutely sure that nobody would read the plan and think that technology would replace teachers,” Cator said to a gathering of about 200. “We also knew we wanted to figure out how teachers could be as connected as possible.”
Cator outlined the structure of the plan—which was first released in March but is in the process of being rewritten—and stressed that technology is meant to enhance the social aspects of learning, not replace them. But with the increase in mobile technology, digital content and social networking, Cator stressed that access to the latest and best ed-tech tools was vital not only to boost teachers’ instructional ability, but also their morale.
“We want the entire teaching profession to become re-inspired,” Cator said. “That’s incredibly important. And we do think one of the ways ... is to give them the highest level of professional tools possible. And we know that equals the best technologies we can design and develop.”
Cator insisted that technology would help a shift from a focus on qualified teachers to effective ones, reminiscent of the Obama Administration’s push for states to link student performance to teacher evaluations as part of their applications to the $4 billion Race to the Top federal grant competition.
Perhaps in response to teacher advocates who had criticized those measures for placing too much emphasis on assessment and testing, Cator said she hoped the ed-tech plan would drive the creation of new assessments that could be given at intervals throughout the school year and not interrupt instruction or learning.
In addition, Cator stressed the need for research and development, particularly with regards to Internet safety. For example, she said, filtering systems need to be far more nuanced to allow students and teachers to use the benefits of social networking in an education setting. She did not, however, outline specific initiatives in that or other fields which have come about as a direct result of the plan.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.