Connecting the Trends

Implemented in 2010, The National Education Technology Plan (NETP) “calls for revolutionary transformation rather than evolutionary tinkering” according to the plan’s executive summary. This transformation is important because education fosters growth and prosperity for our country and helps the U.S. compete in the global economy.

There are two clear goals for education reform:
  • Raising the proportion of college graduates so that by the year 2020, 60 percent of the population will hold a two-year or four-year degree.
  • Closing the achievement gap so that all students graduating from high school are ready for college and careers.
The best way to create this change is through implementing technology in the classroom. Technology is a core part of our everyday lives, especially for pre-K-12 students, and it can “provide engaging and powerful learning experiences and content, as well as resources and assessments that measure student achievement in more complete, authentic and meaningful ways.” Technology in the classrooms results in collaborative learning between teachers and students — students’ engagement means a chance to take ownership of their own learning through the use of interactive devices and software. Teachers also have the chance to continue professional development and stay on-trend over the course of their careers through training and technology use.

An important part of the picture is also research and development (R&D). Just plugging interactive projectors into the classroom isn’t going to necessarily raise test scores. Studying how and why the technology is being used and developing best practices will help spread the use of classroom technology and create more innovations, as well as support STEM education.

The NETP models education powered by technology; goals and recommendations of the plan fall in five areas: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure and productivity. “The model asks that we focus on what and how we teach to match what people need to know, how they learn, where and when they learn, and who needs to learn.” Technology allows schools to bridge the divide between students of different backgrounds, languages and abilities, creating effective, engaging learning environments. Access to learning resources is increased, as well as the chance for more personalized teaching methods and the opportunities to reach students in several different ways with the same lesson. Subjects from art to science are connected and enhanced through an emphasis on technology in the classroom.

Trends in Technology
We’ve seen over the past year that technology has revamped and renewed classrooms. From interactive whiteboards and projectors to tablets to BYOD to classroom AV systems, technology use has opened up new opportunities for students and teachers. Classrooms are now built with the intent to accommodate new and innovative technology, and there are a host of products specifically geared to retrofitting existing rooms to make them 21st-century learning environments.

Since Marc Prensky’s “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” published in 2001, much has been made of the way students’ lives revolve around technology use and how teachers, often not “born digital,” can capitalize on students’ technological immersion. The NETP is a good framework that models the effort that must go into creating effective learning environments that use technology as learning tools — a common theme this past year in Technology Planning & Management.

BYOD, flipped classrooms and STEM education will continue to change how teachers teach and students learn through creative choices and thorough evaluation, and best practices will continue to develop to help districts make the best decisions for their students. New trends in education technology continue to emerge; collaboration between teachers, schools and districts will help spur these innovations. The NETP sets out the major goals of this undertaking as well as a roadmap that can help the education system get there. 

Christine Beitenhaus is an Ohio-based writer with experience in educational and architectural topics.