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TIE Event Focuses on National Educational Technology Plan

At a recent reunion of Technology, Innovation, and Education (TIE) alums, Professor Chris Dede and Lecturer David Rose, Ed.D.'76, took center stage to discuss the nine months they spent working on a draft of the new National Educational Technology Plan under the U.S. Department of Education.

The event, which attracted dozens of alums from around the globe in addition to those who watched the live webcast on the Internet, is part of an effort to create a learning community that extends to alums after graduation, according to TIE Program Director and Senior Lecturer Joe Blatt. "We think it's essential to maintain close relationships with alums," Blatt said.

Rose and Dede, who were part of a 15-person team focused on developing a new National Educational Technology Plan to provide a vision for how information and communication technologies can help transform American education, shared how to make a government report, formulate policy, and how you get it on the national agenda. The draft plan, completed just two months ago, outlines a set of five goals that can inform state and local educational technology plans.

Dede said he was pleased to share information about the process and plan. "This could be called, 'So You Think You Can Be an Adviser to Policymakers' - that's the role that David and I were cast in when asked to be part of the planning process," Dede said.

Using an "official PowerPoint" from the U.S. Department of Education, Dede and Rose provided a brief overview of the plan. "There's no way for us to go into the plan without being incredibly boring," quipped Rose.

The plan is a product of many people including the 15 "experts" of the working group and many outside independent organizations such as National Science Foundation and Federal Communications Commission. The plan includes recommendations, a research agenda and goals examining the following five areas:

  • Empowering all learners in and outside of school to be active, creative, and knowledgeable participants in our global society.
  • Assessment focuses on shifting from too narrow measurement of skills in the past to measuring what truly matters today. Additionally, how to use new technologies to measure everyone responsibly.
  • Teaching builds on connecting teachers to informal learning happening inside but also outside of the school. By broadening the education system, this can lead to making teachers feel less alone.
  • Infrastructure examines how to use emerging infrastructure like cell phones and laptops in the classroom and schools.
  • Productivity leverages technology expenses in a time when there are tremendous cuts happening in education. This goal explores how to spend money in different ways where schools can decrease some expenditures while increasing others.

"Each section rests on the shoulders of the one before it," Dede said.

During a brief questions and answer session, Dede and Rose shared more behind the scenes views into the process. They admitted that they both liked that the plan was a "draft" which symbolizes that it's a working document which can be changed as necessary and continuously improved.

Asked whether there were any surprises along the way, Dede and Rose both said that the report demanded much more of their time than they initially anticipated. Dede and Rose said they spent Christmas morning writing the report. "I asked Santa to bring me a draft," Dede said.

And, of course, much of what they had written ended up being cut from the draft. "They needed to tie closely to things Obama had talked about," Rose said. However, ultimately, Rose and Dede said that it was important for them to be comfortable with the draft seeing as their names are on it.

Idit Harel Caperton, Ed.M.'84, C.A.S.'85, inquired about execution of the plan. "To bring from idea a vision and plan to the field and just make it happen out there is one thing, and just measuring the outcome is one thing," Caperton said.

Dede said during the first meeting of that task force, he made himself very unpopular by pushing some of Caperton's ideas. "I don't think any of us in the room wanted to produce an unfunded vision as the plan. We wanted it to have an engine behind it that would take it out of the category of vision and into the context of something that would be empowered," he explained, noting that he raised many questions about budgets and plans for funding technology at the federal level to no avail. How the U.S. Department of Education is going to make this a priority is still under discussion, said Dede.

"The issue of whether or not there is really going to be an engine behind the plan is still blowing in the wind. And it wasn't a major part of Race to Top priorities, it wasn't a major part of the IT priorities, and if isn't a major part of the ESEA reauthorization priorities then we have lost that battle," he said.


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