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Software Industry Promotes Goals for School Technology

By Andrew Trotter — March 21, 2008 3 min read
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An influential software-industry group has unrolled a project to help education and business better define the role of technology in 21st-century education.

The Vision K-20 Initiative is offering school districts an online survey to measure their progress toward goals that the Software & Information Industry Association has established with feedback from several national education organizations.

The goals address student engagement and achievement, equity and technology access, accountability for student performance, collaborative learning, teaching and administrative effectiveness, and 21st-century skills for students.

First outlined in an association report last spring, the goals provide the framework for the online benchmarking survey and a growing collection of research information and best practices offered on a new Web site, www.siia.net/visionk20.

‘Some Self-Interest’

A major thrust of the initiative is to persuade schools to incorporate the goals into their institutional missions.

The project is also meant to assist the roughly 160 companies in the organization’s education division that sell technology to education customers, said Karen Billings, the Washington-based trade group’s vice president in charge of its education division, at a March 12 event held here to launch the project.

‘Vision K-20’ for Education

The Software & Information Industry Association has proposed a set of benchmarks for the U.S. education system, from kindergarten through graduate school, to achieve by 2010.

• Widely utilize 21st-century tools for teaching and learning

• Provide all members of the education community with anytime/anywhere educational access

• Use technology to enable the education enterprise

• Offer differentiated learning options and resources to close achievement gaps

• Employ technology-based assessment tools

SOURCE: Software & Information Industry Association

The origin of the venture, in fact, was those companies’ desire for a common educational vision that they could share with schools and communities across the United States, said Mark A. Schneiderman, the association’s director of education policy.

“There is some self-interest here,” he acknowledged.

He said the trade association knows that educational improvement “is not about technology, but that a lot of our educational goals can be greatly enhanced through the use of technology.”

A case in point, Mr. Schneiderman said, is found in the widely recognized need for student assessment and school accountability, even among students who have very diverse educational needs. “Technology is a very efficient way of collecting student data, managing that data, and sharing that data with the community, policymakers, and educators,” he said.

Mr. Schneiderman said the project would include outreach to sectors beyond schools and educational technology companies, for example to the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, both based in Washington.

‘Broader Perspective’

Several educators at the launch of the initiative endorsed the project.

Claudia Mansfield Sutton, the associate executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, based in Arlington, Va., praised the “simple elegance” of the goals and said they were aligned with the education group’s views.

“We in public education need to work with others; that will build toward a tipping point,” said Ms. Sutton, who in previous jobs has been both an educator and an executive at educational technology companies.

Keith R. Krueger, the executive director of the Consortium for School Networking, which has a membership principally of school technology officials, said the project will help move the policy discussion about educational improvement beyond the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

“We need to have a broader perspective,” he said in an interview. “For the last seven years, we’ve had national debate where everything we do is strictly about accountability and standardized testing in math, writing, and reading.”

Digital Directions

Digital Directions online keeps you up to date on current trends and best advice for K-12 technology leaders. Go to Digtial Directions

Mr. Krueger said that, thus far, technology has played a very limited role in education. “Other industries use technology for a range of purposes—one of them is innovation,” he said. “We haven’t had discussion about how do we use it for improving the enterprise of education.”

The Software & Information Industry Association effort is not the first word in this discussion. For example, the goals echo parts of the National Education Technology Plan, now in its third version, published by the U.S. Department of Education in 2005. (“Ed. Tech. Plan Is Focused on Broad Themes,” Jan. 12, 2005.)

The association’s project will not be the last word either, noted Mr. Krueger, adding that the Washington-based CoSN will soon present recommendations on the role of technology in education, based on a national survey of school administrators.

The software industry’s foray into setting a common agenda could help “start a conversation” in local communities, as well as nationally, Mr. Krueger said.

A version of this article appeared in the March 26, 2008 edition of Education Week

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