Unleashing Ed Tech Potential?

It is no secret that Eduflack has been less than impressed with the federal government’s recent commitment (or lack there of) to education technology.  In recent years, federal dollars for ed tech have been a fraction of what they should be or of what other industries experience.  And this year, as part of the budget process, the White House and Congress agreed to put the EETT program out to pasture, killing a terrific program that directed needed dollars to supporting classroom educators on how best to incorporate technology into classroom instruction.

As the feds look to pare back its commitment to ed tech, it should come as no surprise that others are taking a closer look at how to direct more resource and better direct existing resource into the classroom.  Under the guide of determining how we provide a 21st century classroom and learning experience for all 21st century students, we are now seeing states, school districts, non-profits, and the private sector step in to fill a much-needed role.
The latest example of this is the Boston Consulting Group, which today released a new report entitled Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education.  The report is best consumed in two chunks.  The first is a primer on the “closed loop instructional system,” a model that BCG researchers see as essential to maximizing technology investment in our K-12 education systems.
The second chunk is the always necessary list of recommendations for policymakers.  (And I’ll say it again, if a group issues a report without a specific call to action or clear recommendations, it may as well release a study with nothing more than blank pages.
Unleashing the Potential offers seven recommendations for decisionmakers:
* Embrace a holistic closed-loop strategy to meet clear educational goals
* Enable teachers to use and leverage technology in the classroom
* Create and engaging student experience
* Promote the development of high-quality digital assessments that enable continuous feedback
* Develop a critical mass of research that confirms – or refutes – technology’s benefits
* Enact policies that encourage and facilitate the proliferation of digital learning
* Build an information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure that enables the closed loop
Who can argue with that?  Clear goals.  Teacher empowering and student centric.  Assessments.  Research and evidence.  It sells in districts urban, suburban, and rural.  And it has something for the strongest of reformers and the most loyal of status quoers. 
Best of all, it provides some ideas for the education policy community to chew on, particularly the merits of a closed-loop instructional system.  At a time when dedicated ed tech dollars are being eliminated by the feds, supposedly replaced with ed tech being “embedded” in K-12 in general, such a system can be a win-win.
Yes, it is seriously disappointing to see in print that technology spending in the education space is just one third of what other sectors spend on IT (when you look at it in terms of total percentage of operating costs).  And yes, one realizes we aren’t going to be tripling ed tech spending in the near future.  But it is refreshing to see ed tech talked about in ways other than hardware.  And it is particularly refreshing to see some real potential for how to maximize the intersection of ed tech and human capital in our education system.
(Full disclosure: Eduflack has advised BCG and ed tech groups over the years.)

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