This week, the ‘finalized’ version of the National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) was unveiled, setting guiding lights for edutech professionals on all levels.
Corralled by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Director of Educational Technology Karen Cator, hundreds, if not thousands, of the luminaries from every sector of the education world have weighed in on the plan, which addresses virtually every aspect of modern edutech: assessment, infrastructure, lifelong and informal learning, video games, adaptivity, collaborative learning, teacher tools… the list goes on.
But perhaps one phrase, repeated throughout the document, wraps it all up:
“Rethink basic assumptions.”
Here’s one: In true Web 2.0 fashion, the NETP draft has been publicly available for the better part of this year, with every individual section open to comment. Many an edutech twitterer and blogger have weighed in, and the distinct voices of k-12 educators, education researchers, data wonks, and privateers were all heard in the brilliant, if cacophonous, debates.
Other big assumptions that will be rethought in coming years:
The NETP gives us this robocop vision of the teacher of the future: interconnected, armed with legions of learning tools, and ready to be Googled or friended with pride, or to create hyper-modern technological lessons for her or his students.
2. Tests are for accountability
The NETP hopes that tests will change from the high-stakes, funding-determining nail-biters they are currently into continual, embedded check-ins that provide massive amounts of data to improve learning outcomes. Heck, maybe they could even be fun — something that game developers have been saying for years.
At Knewton we’re big believers in idea that assessments can be used to help students learn, instead of just as yardsticks for how far they’ve come. The key is to make sure that tests are part of a flexible, adaptive learning system that adjusts according to students’ needs.
3. Facebook (and other social networks) are for shenanigans
The spectre of social communities pervades the NETP; it looks like the DOE can see the writing on the wall (pun intended). Surprisingly, 30% of college students already use social networks for coursework and a quarter would like them to be used more for coursework. It’s only a matter of time before one “likes” Orgo, and companies like Schoology are banking on it.
4. One Size Fits All/All Tracking is Unfair
The education community has had a long, strange relationship with tracking; grouping students by ability level, learning style, or anything else. In fact, our entire political system and the American constitution (House and Senate, electoral college) have struggled with the question of how to help everybody — that’s democracy, right? –without interfering with personal liberties and rights.
Gifted education, bilingual education, school desegregation, parochial schooling, remediation stigmas, gender biases, unisex schools — the list of educational arenas in which the struggle is re-eneacted goes on and on. Technology is the latest (and greatest?) hope for personalized, adaptive learning that both reaches out to individual students AND enables every student to work alongside peers.
5. School stops at 18
The NETP discusses “informal learning” and “lifelong learning” with a somewhat different air than the usual “adult learning” crowd. After all, on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog — and if education is everywhere, why waste it on the young?
The plan is just that — a plan. Now it’s up to us in the edutech world to make it a reality.
Watch a video of Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology, going through the plan here: