As a nation, we tend to give a great deal of lip service to the idea of a 21st century education. Such a notion is particularly popular when international achievement rankings come out, when we see how the United States stacks up to other industrialized nations, and we all seem to preach on the need to provide a 21st century education to lead to 21st century jobs and a 21st century economy.
Can we really provide a 21st century education without focusing on the role of technology in the process? While technology remains at the center of many an American life, our schools are still constructed around a 19th century instructional model. Rows of desks. A single teacher lecturing. And technology turned off and put away. We literally unplug many of our students as they step through the schoolhouse doors.
Yes, the White House paid note to the value of education technology last year, as it pledged to better integrate ed tech throughout the federal ESEA process. And U.S. Department of Education officials such as Karen Cator have long been advocating for the National Education Technology Plan released late last year. But how do such commitments translate into action items that are felt in classrooms across the country?
Yesterday, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) released An Ed Tech Trio for 2011: ISTE’s U.S. Education Technology Priorities. Following up on its popular Top 10 list of ed tech issues last year, ISTE’s Ed Tech Trio keys in on specific, actionable items that Congress can take on to demonstrate a true commitment to ed tech. The trifecta includes:
* Providing dedicated federal funding for ed tech programs such as Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) and Preparing Teachers for Digital Age Learners Act (PTDAL)
* Demanding that federal school turnaround efforts, including Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation, include an ed tech component
* Ensuring broadband for all students, both in the classroom and outside of classroom hours
It is no secret that well-conceived ed tech can serve an important role in addressing all four of the education pillars moved forward by EdSec Arne Duncan and the ESEA blueprint last year. From standards to data systems, teacher quality to turnaround schools, ed tech can and does play an essential role. For instance, programs like EETT (which has never been adequately funded by Congress) provide invaluable professional development and support in ed tech for classroom teachers.
At the end of the day, funding is king in the world of education priorities. If Congress is serious about ed tech, it’ll again find a way to fund efforts such as EETT. It’ll find the funding to match the promise in the recently signed American COMPETES Act, which moves our STEM commitment forward. And it will even direct specific dollars to ensure that NETP is acted on in classrooms across the country.
It’s time to plug our classrooms back in and provide all students the true 21st century education we just love to talk about. After all, do we really think we can move toward an instructional world filled with e-learning and virtual schools and OER if we don’t have teachers trained on technology and broadband in all schools?
(Full disclosure, Eduflack has advised ISTE and other ed tech groups over the years.)