In education, we already have a wall, one that keeps education technology from unleashing student learning.
Education Technology Directors at the state level are working to eliminate the wall, both within their own states and cooperatively with other directors to share best practices across states. It’s at the SETDA (State Ed Tech Directors Association) Fall Leadership Summit where these issues get discussed.
TeacherGaming's Santeri Koivisto explaining to Ed Tech leaders from Minnesota and New Jersey how game-based learning motivates students to advance their skills and knowledge
There are 7 requirements to education technology effectiveness.
- Applications and content that Ss and Ts want to use
- Machines powerful plentiful enough
- Bandwidth, to school, in school, to Ss
- Assessment, reporting and feedback
- Knowing how to use
- Compliance: security, privacy, and equity
- Non duplication, interoperability
If any one is missing, ed tech fails. This isn’t horseshoes, getting close doesn’t count. We reach our goal, or we don’t. Period.
Applications and content that students and teachers want to use
If the applications don’t make the teachers job easier, if they don’t engage students, the students aren’t going to learn. While ed tech may have started with primarily replicating what textbooks did, today’s best content facilitates students’ learning by doing.
Where are we? These is no shortage of good content, it’s just sometimes hard to find and hard to evaluate.
Machines powerful and plentiful enough
In the real world, we live on our devices every waking moment. We communicate on our devices. We research. We work. We plan. We create. When we don’t have enough devices for all kids, or when we provide kids with devices that less powerful than the phones we carry around, we place those kids at a distinct disadvantage.
Where are we? Fewer than 15% of students are in 1:1 environments. Most of that 15% are using relatively powerful devices. For the rest, too little access and often on underpowered devices.
Bandwidth, to school, in the school, and to the students
The computer is primarily a way for a student to access a network, and the network needs to follow the student, just like we all use our networks all the time. Five million families with kids don’t have Internet access, that’s between 20% and 30% of school age kids.
Even in classrooms, access to content is not guaranteed, with fewer than 20% of classrooms meeting current guidelines.
AND, FCC chairman Ajit Pai is proposing rules to further reduce Internet access for schools in two ways. Internet access is primarily funded through E-Rate, which comes out of the Universal Services fees we pay for phones. Pai is looking to reduce E-Rate funds in order to reduce the fees themselves and to reallocate funds to other, nonspecified, priorities. He has proposed reducing the guideline measures to something that most schools already have in order to make it appear that the country has met its connectivity goals for schools.
The $61M spent annually by telecom lobbyists probably has nothing to do with that, though, right?
Where are we? The vast majority of schools do not have adequate bandwidth, and large swaths of students do not have access outside of school. But if we lower our standards enough, we can meet the new goal.
Assessment, reporting, and feedback
Students need to know how they are doing. Teachers need to know how their students are doing. And schools and districts need to know whether their students are on target.
The right data has to be accumulated, and it must be reported back in a timely and understandable way so that the different parties can take appropriate action.
Where are we? Most state data is obsolete by the time it is reported back. Additionally, we are often measuring what’s easy, not what we need to know. And with all that, we are spending too much time testing.
Knowing how to use
Educators need to know how to operate the hardware, how to use the software, and how to integrate the content into instruction. One of the byproducts of the OER (Open Education Resources) movement is that it is freeing up money for districts to use to support teachers in learning new methods to teach using technology.
Where are we? We are just at the beginning, but making progress. Unfortunately, the teachers- ed colleges are tending to teach the same way they always have, so we aren’t even getting the next generation of teachers coming in prepared to teach the way we need them to.
There are federal policies and guidelines (ADA) for to make sure content is accessible for all students and others so that student data is secure and private. But they are vague and open to interpretation.
Different states (16 in the last year alone) passed their own security and privacy acts. But translating those acts into district contracts is the job of each of the 15,000 districts in the US. Imagine the extra work and confusion this causes, when each district employs a law firm, not necessarily an expert in the uses of student data, drafts its own interpretation of those laws.
Connecticut calculated that 100,000 hours were spent last year negotiating student data privacy clauses alone.
Where are we? It’s a hodge podge of different policies at the district level, along with the inability of smaller districts to access the expertise to devise policies that protect and provide access.
Non-duplication of effort and interoperability
Students should be able to sign in once and get access to all their content instead of having to sign in to each application separately. Teachers should have their classes set up automatically rather than having to create class lists for each application. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents should be able to go to one place to see how students are progressing rather than having to look at reports, if they even exist, in each learning application.
Where are we? We certainly don’t have a shortage of standards. But none of those goals are consistently being achieved. There are a few districts that have shown leadership, like Houston, but nothing nationally.
We cannot count on national leadership, either from the US Department of Education or Congress. SETDA has established working groups and position papers on most of these issues. Probably our best hope is that SETDA can lead us to private-public partnerships for leadership at the state level and across states.
You can join in live online discussions of these issues at Edchat Interactive events.