The 2016 National Education Technology Plan could not have come at a better time.
I don’t say this flippantly, knowing that a national plan (for anything) cannot be applied wholesale to any organization, let alone a large urban district with many current strategies and initiatives to combat the opportunity gaps that are ever-present and urgent within our schools.
Rather, I say this with the full knowledge that this 106 page document does not represent the silver bullet for our students or our schools. It does, however, provide overwhelming support for an idea that has been percolating and gaining momentum, for years.
The idea is this: EdTech is everyone’s job.
What is so carefully laid out in its sections on Learning, Teaching, Leadership, Assessment, and Infrastructure is the argument that our goals for teachers and leaders are far beyond the scope that any one team (no matter how big) can accomplish. Moreover, it speaks to an urgent need for teachers and leaders (both school and district-level) to come together and transform learning with technology, creating opportunities for both personalization and equity.
In each section, it puts the learning front and center. It doesn’t mince words about the technology being the driver of change, but it also doesn’t confuse the driver with the purpose of the drive. The purpose, as I see it, is fully engaged student and adult learning.
One of the most compelling aspects of this entire plan its discussion of the “Digital Use Divide”, which lays out the difference between the passive use of technology and the active participation that transformational use requires.
It is here that we are most acutely confronted with the paradox of Educational Technology.
It goes like this: EdTech is least powerful when it is most visible.
It is only when EdTech is not a novelty or a passive tool for occupying student time and attention that it reaches the transformation it is capable of. It is only when technology becomes the way in which we achieve our goals (student goals, teacher goals, school/district goals) that it becomes everyone’s job to use it effectively.
And that is where we are headed.
We are headed towards a time where:
- Curriculum and Instruction sees technology as a core element and not merely supplemental
- Professional learning sees technology as the method for deep implementation of pedagogy and content rather than as a distraction from required seat time
- School and District Leaders see tech as an equity strategy rather than a testing requirement
- Assessment, Research, and Evaluation see software platforms as portals for understanding an individual students’ success instead of as an aggregation/disaggregation machine
- Technology Services sees the devices and software as educational and instructional rights and not support liabilities
But, we are only headed there if we all take responsibility for it.
If any one of us, as educators (in the broadest possible definition of the word), leave the role of EdTech to a single department with offices “downtown”, we have not heard nor understood the call laid out within this plan. If we shirk this responsibility, we are asking for ongoing discussions of “whether or not” technology should be used rather than “how and for which instructional purpose.”
All of this is to say that I am glad this plan exists. I am so happy to read it and to hear that so many other schools and districts are headed down this same path. I am glad to be a part of this movement.
Make no mistake, it is a movement. It is a movement toward becoming Future Ready, and it is a movement toward the democratization of EdTech. No longer will we have a single place to go for learning about the innovative ways that technology can enhance and transform our learning environments. No longer will we have to wait until the next available EdTech event to consider how these tools can and should be used in our classrooms. No longer will Educational Technology stand on its own.
We will all stand for it.
I will stand for it.