Getting Caught In the Net(P)

With all of the talk about innovation, 21st century skills, college and career readiness, and much of the remaining buzz words surrounding school improvement this past year, little has actually be said about the old innovation workhorse, education technology.

Back in February and March, President Obama’s budget proposed zeroing out a number of the programs that served as dedicated ed tech funding for states and school districts, with a promise that ed tech would be better integrated in ESEA (and in ESEA reauthorization), and that increased dollars would be available for competitive ed tech programs that reach directly into school districts and schools.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education finally released its National Education Technology Plan, or NETP 2010.  Wrapping itself around the topics of readiness, global competitiveness, performance, and accountability, ED planted a new flag for the direction of education technology programs, injecting a little 21st century into our national blueprint.

According to ED, “NETP presents a model of learning powered by technology, with goals and recommendations in five essential areas: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity. The plan also identifies far-reaching ‘grand challenge’ R&D problems that should be funded and coordinated at a national level.”

How novel.  We are connecting the issues of school tech with actual learning and teaching in the classroom.  We are connecting ed tech with assessment and student performance.  And most importantly, we are addressing the “R&D problems,” important shorthand for how grossly underfunded education R&D, particularly in the area of technology, has been at the government level.  (Don’t believe Eduflack, at the percentage of the federal health budget committed to R&D and compare it to the percentage of the ED budget committed to R&D.  And don’t even get me started on the horrific shortage of private-sector education R&D.)

The release of NETP 2010 is important.  What is equally important, though, is how the rhetoric will be moved into practice.  How are these goals being integrated into ESEA reauth planning?  How are these goals weaved into evaluations for both RttT and i3 efforts in 2011 and beyond?  In our national commitment to better integrate ed tech into the infrastructure of K-12 education, how are we ensuring the necessary funding?  And in answering all of the above, who will champion a renewed federal interest and investment in ed tech on Capitol Hill?

For too many years, the ed tech community has been forced to play defense, trying to protect programs from deeper cuts, year after year.  NETP 2010 provides a greater sense of hope, a verbal agreement that ed tech is a priority of this Administration and this nation.  Now that verbal just has to carry over to the written contracts of this coming February’s Presidential Budget and long-expected ESEA action.

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