Okay, truth be known, I’ve only read the Executive Summary. (The Executive Summary is only ten and a half pages of tiny type. The whole is 80+ pages.) While I don’t know what version this is, I love reading drafts – the earlier the better. Just like I loved reading Margaret Spellings August 8, 2006 draft of “The Commission on the Future of Higher Education” this gives a rather unvarnished view of what they (the current administration) would REALLY like to see. Somewhere along the way it will be watered down, yet if we get even a quarter of the way to their vision great strides will be made in education.
In these times of budget cuts, it takes a lot of guts to start the report with:
“Education is the key to America’s economic growth and prosperity and to our ability to compete in the global economy.”4700 teachers in LA received lay-off notices, Kansas City is closing almost half their schools, and on a local note one of my city’s two middle schools is closing.
Just in the first page these other statements caught my eye:
“Specifically, we must embrace innovation, prompt implementation, regular evaluation, and continuous improvement.”
"To shorten our learning curve, we can learn from other kinds of enterprises that have used technology to improve outcomes while increasing productivity.”(Didn’t business and government used to turn to education for innovation?)
Basically there are five areas of interest: Learning, Assessment, Teaching, Infrastructure, and Productivity.
Learning – engage and empower the learner – let learning be available 24/7 – personalize learning. They seem to recognize that learning doesn’t only happen in the classroom and ‘educators’ include many. They give a nod to online social networks (wikis, blogs and digital content), recognize “limitless, borderless and instantaneous” opportunities, and mention “life-long and life-wide” learning.
“All learners will have engaging and empowering learning experiences both in and outside of school that prepare them to be active, creative, knowledgeable, and ethical participants in our globally networked society.”
Assessment – measure what matters, diagnose during the course of learning, and aim for continuous improvement. We need “21st century competencies” (who knows what that means?) and systems that will capture and collect evidence of students knowledge. Systems will ‘learn’ and provide appropriate support.
“Our education system at all levels will leverage the power of technology to measure what matters and use assessment data for continuous improvement.”
Teaching –shift to a model of ‘connected teaching’. Teams will teach, not individuals. Teaching is a team activity; educators will build online learning communities encouraging collaborative, coherent, and continuous learning.
“Clearly, more teachers will need to be expert at providing online instruction.”Clearly.
“Professional educators will be supported individually and in teams by technology that connects them to data, content, resources, expertise, and learning experiences that enable and inspire more effective teaching for all learners.”
Infrastructure –Resources when and where they are needed – people, processes, learning resources, policies, and sustainable models. This includes broadband, servers, software, management systems, and admin tools.
“All students and educators will have access to a comprehensive infrastructure for learning when and where they need it.”
Productivity – Getting more out of each dollar we spend by leveraging technology. Learn from other sectors. Seat-time vs. competence based learning. Age-determined groups, with specific pace are questioned.
"Our education system at all levels will redesign processes and structures to take advantage of the power of technology to improve learning outcomes while making more efficient use of time, money, and staff.”
The paper closes with a list of Grand Challenge Problems, which appear to be classified “R&D” however, I would venture to say many of these ‘problems’ have solutions that exist. I think it’s our infrastructure that is the weak link. Years ago at a CENIC conference the representative for the state admitted they made a mistake when they didn’t push broadband through. They pushed up to libraries and County Offices of Education, hoping counties would ‘find’ funding to push further. I think San Bernardino received a Gates grant, but other than that I haven’t heard of other ‘successes’.