You know the ed-tech landscape is shifting when federal government policy finally adjusts to cultural, educational, and technological changes.
That policy shift happened last month when the Federal Communications Commission approved revisions to the E-rate that would allow select schools in a pilot program to compete for funds to support learning initiatives that use school-issued mobile devices, such as cellphones and netbooks, in school and at home. Before that change, schools could use E-rate funds to pay for mobile devices only if those devices remained on campus—a seemingly ridiculous restriction, given that the point of having a mobile device is to be able to use it anytime, anywhere.
Over the past year, too, many districts and schools have started changing their views about the role of student-owned mobile devices in classrooms. (See “Left to Their Owned Devices,” this issue.) Once intent on banning such devices from school grounds, schools are now embracing them as cost-effective learning tools for building 1-to-1 computing programs. But concerns remain about just how effective such efforts will be and what unintended technical and behavior problems might arise when students are allowed to use their own devices in school. Those are issues Education Week Digital Directions will keep a close eye on as more schools move in this direction.
You also know the landscape is shifting when school administrators begin to embrace new ways of learning that they once did not support. A new survey of 400 high school principals, conducted by Babson College in Massachusetts, for instance, found that most view online learning as a way to offer credit recovery, Advanced Placement, and college elective courses they might be unable to offer in face-to-face classes. And it noted most of those principals expressed interest in broadening their online offerings, even while being skeptical about the effectiveness of online instruction.
The next step, undoubtedly, is identifying exactly how mobile computing, e-learning, and other emerging technologies do work to improve student achievement. That’s a step that would likely prompt a major shift in the educational technology landscape.
A version of this article appeared in the October 20, 2010 edition of Digital Directions as New Policy, Attitudes Signal Significant Shift in Ed-Tech Perspective