from Technology & Learning
New studies, reports, and proposed legislation respond to a dearth of vision and practical uses of digital technology in schools.
Beyond "Beyond NCLB"
In the absence of a much-needed federal education technology plan, individual legislators are stepping up to the plate. U.S. Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) recently introduced House legislation dubbed INVENT: Innovations for our Nation's Vital Education Needs for Technology. The bill would establish a competitive grant program within the National Science Foundation to "develop tools to foster inventiveness and innovation" at the K-12 and undergrad levels. That includes a provision for creating an "appropriate supporting infrastructure, which should be fostered to enable teachers to utilize new teaching methods and materials." Honda, a member of the House Committee on Science and Technology, insists the legislation "will provide America's next generation of innovators the tools needed to keep America number one" in the technological field. So far, INVENT has received support from companies like HP and TechNet, venture capitalists, and (naturally) educators. Compared with the recent test data-focused "Beyond NCLB" report authored by No Child Left Behind co-chairs Tommy Thompson and Roy Barnes, INVENT is a practical and visionary breath of fresh air.
Eroding the Ivory Towers of Higher Ed
What's next on the horizon for the digital divide? It's pretty clear that higher education needs to tune in to the world of the digital native or risk being circumvented when it comes to learning. The fourth-annual "Horizon Report," sponsored by the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative, outlines six key trends of emerging tech that it expects will affect higher education in the next few years. Key points reinforce a growing generation-inspired divide, the major influence of Web 2.0 applications, and the need for student guidance from tech-savvy educators. Highlights include:
- "The environment of higher education is changing rapidly"
- "Information literacy increasingly should not be considered a given."
- "Academic review and faculty rewards are increasingly out of sync with new forms of scholarship"
- "Collective intelligence and mass amateurization are pushing the boundaries of scholarship."
- "Students views of what is and what is not technology are increasingly different from those of faculty."
As California Goes...
Trendsetting California, which leads the nation in bidding goodbye to smoking and affirmative action, may be on to its next new cause: charter schools. Despite a less-than-welcoming history toward charters, the state is finding it's reaping the biggest rewards AYP-wise for schools in the restructuring stage, according to a recent study by the Center on Education Policy. Going the charter route has proven the least popular option in a range of restructuring strategies that also include replacing staff and contracting with outside organizations to operate the school. While few other changes have made great impacts on AYP targets in the state (11 percent of students are meeting goals), California's five charter schools—representing just two percent of those in restructuring—reported an amazing 60 percent of students meeting AYP goals in language and math. Still, the report cautions that one year of data from one representative state is not enough to make a universal case for charter schools just yet. But at this point, California may be reaching the desperation point—considering the number of schools forced to restructure leapt from 401 in 2005-06 to 701 in 2006-07, or roughly 8 percent of the state total.
That's Good News?
Thanks to the 10-year-old E-rate program, the gap between tech haves and have-nots has been steadily shrinking in schools over the past decade, reports the latest "Technology Counts" study from the Education Research Center and Education Week. The study points out that while low-income schools' Internet implementation lagged far behind their high-income counterparts in the mid-90s, by 2002 they were nearing the same rate of connectivity: a little over 90 percent versus about 95 percent. But not so fast.
Time has marched on and so has the digital divide, which today moves way beyond mere connection to comprise factors such as high-speed access, teacher training, and one-to-one environments. Further, of 50 states and the District of Columbia, only Georgia managed to earn an "A" grade. Overall, the report laments that few states "have put in place policies to ensure that teachers and students make constructive use" of technology.
Quote of the Month
"The rest of the world is moving on. It is we in education who are staying behind."
—Lord David Puttnam, education advisor to the British government, speaking at the CoSN International Leadership Symposium in San Franciso in March, on the power of games, simulations, and other digital technologies to inspire, instruct and encourage innovation.