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4 Simple but Critical Strategies to Improve the Effectiveness of Technolgy in Education

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Gary Page, who is the Information Technology Consultant for the U.S. Department of Education, and someone who I highly respect for the work he is doing to improve education in general, sent the following email last week:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced the creation of a 48-member Education Technology Task Force this week, with the charge to help bring 21st century tools into California’s classrooms to improve teaching and learning.

While the state’s budget crisis is causing many California schools to postpone the use of better technology, a plan developed by the Task Force will be made to wisely use technology when more resources become available.

Members are assigned to focus groups that will examine the state’s current education technology infrastructure and assess future needs, as well as recommend how to improve teaching, learning, and equal access to technology for all students.

You are invited to participate in the planning process by providing your perspectives, information and resources to the Task Force members through the Brokers of Expertise Web site: http://commentedtech.myboe.org/

As an adult education technology instructor, technician, programmer, amateur mathematician*, and one of the primary authors of the upcoming revised standards for Information and Communications Technologies for California, I think it is important to share my thoughts.  Here are the strategies that I think are imperative for California to follow to remain a leader in technology.

  1. California should join with the U.S. Department of Education is supporting Open Content, including Free/Open Source Software, and Free/Open Textbooks & Learning Materials.   Teachers should be encouraged to release their works under an open license, and I believe that work that is directly funded by the California Department of Education should be mandated to be released under one of these licenses.  If we want equitable access to resources, we need to build a public system that automatically shares what it has with all its citizens, and that is what open licensing does. Further, open source software can often run on older computer hardware, thus optimizing resources and reducing what is thrown away.
  2. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing should either make a new credential for computer science, as the California Computing Education Advocacy Network has proposed. Or simply allow computer science credits and degrees to count towards a math credential, since the current regulations already suggest that math and computer science have a basic equivalency.  Currently we are lacking computer scientists in the ranks of teachers, and this leads to a culture that is less computer savvy and more disconnected from technology than we could or should have.
  3. Real-world project-based assessment needs to become the norm, as The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has advocated.  Schools should utilize their students to make flyers, documents, forms, spreadsheets, software applications, and do technical support under the guidance of certificated and classified staff.  This accelerates learning, improves the relevancy of education, and optimizes resources by having additional manpower to accomplish the basic tasks that then free up office staff and IT departments to focus on the higher level tasks that can improve education.
  4. We need to have the right technology educational content standards.  I am very glad that the task force has the first step of reviewing “relevant research and literature on education technology” but my concern is that most current research looks at how to implement, and how to teach with technology, but there is very little research about what knowledge and skills related to technology is most relevant to the potential future of our children and our State. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that while all students are supposed to know scientific notation as part of our current math standards, none are required to know the metric/SI prefix “tera” (as in terabyte) nor actually know that tera means a trillion, and further, there is no standard that says that students even need to know what a trillion means.   I also do not believe Boolean logic appears anywhere in our math standards (although we now have it in the proposed ICT standards), which is one of the most important parts of understanding technology at any deeper level than just being a user.  We need to keep Drucker’s maxim in mind: Efficiency is doing things right, but true Effectiveness is doing the right thing.

I do not know how much I can get involved in this process.  I dived in deep, but only briefly, into revising the ICT standards, but I am also balancing my family and work, which is still taking way more time than I wish.  But, this is a critical issue for our state and our world, and the proposed strategies above are simple in many ways, and would make a tremendous difference in California’s future.

* In many ways I’m actually a  professional mathematician, because while I do not have a math degree, I apply math very regularly as part of my career, as my previous post shows.

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Written by Jacob Walker

March 29th, 2012 at 6:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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