Home Articles Reader Opinion Editorial Book Reviews Discussion Writers Guide About TCRecord
transparent 13
Topics
Discussion
Announcements
 

Transforming Schooling via the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan


by Chris Dede - June 02, 2010

Along with many others, I believe that a new structure for formal education is needed for our nation's graduates to compete in the 21st century knowledge-based global economy. The one-room rural schoolhouse, emblematic of agricultural America, was replaced a century ago with the industrial-era schools we still have today. A comparable shift is necessary now; valiant attempts to keep the obsolete structure of today's schools (and colleges), but change people, policies, and practices are falling well short of delivering high quality educational outcomes for all our students. The U.S. Department of Education's draft 2010 National Educational Technology Plan provides a pathway towards developing a 21st century model of formal education to replace industrial-era schooling. Schools as custodial institutions are a starting point for considering the work of teaching, but a distributed model of human and technical infrastructure encompasses a wider context of formal learning outside of classrooms that includes parents, museum and library staff, community members, and older peers as educators who collaborate with teachers in achieving equity and excellence. The many affordances of modern technology can now support both a broader suite of roles involving "teaching" and a range of educational delivery systems beyond the walls of the school.

Along with many others, I believe that a new structure for formal education is needed for our nation’s graduates to compete in the 21st century knowledge-based global economy. The one-room rural schoolhouse, emblematic of agricultural America, was replaced a century ago with the industrial-era schools we still have today. A comparable shift is necessary now; valiant attempts to keep the obsolete structure of today’s schools (and colleges), but change people, policies, and practices are falling well short of delivering high quality educational outcomes for all our students. If we were to redesign education not to make historic models of industrial-era schooling more efficient, but instead to prepare students for the 21st century – simultaneously transforming teaching in light of our current knowledge about the mind – what types of learning environments might sophisticated information and communication technologies enable us to create?


The U.S. Department of Education’s draft 2010 National Educational Technology Plan provides a pathway towards developing a 21st century model of formal education to replace industrial-era schooling. As a member of the 15-person technical working group that helped to develop the draft, I can attest to the long hours of work that went into developing a comprehensive analysis. This is not a narrow, tactical plan for technology investments that aid industrial-era schooling, but a strategic vision of a redesigned K-20 formal educational system that leverages current technologies to implement sophisticated learning, teaching, and assessment anyplace and anytime, lifelong and lifewide.


The Plan appropriately begins its reconceptualization of formal education by describing powerful ways of learning accessible to all students through universal design. The next section delineates dramatically different types of assessments emerging to empower students’ and teachers’ learning through rich diagnostic feedback. Later sections on infrastructure and on productivity delineate the types of investments in technology needed to realize its vision and the ways a redesigned model of education could generate cost savings that would repay these investments.


In terms of redesigning the formal educational system, the heart of the Plan is the section on teaching. Here, I would go beyond what the Plan describes. As discussed by the “teaching” subset of the working group, schools as custodial institutions are a starting point for considering the work of teaching, but a “distributed” model of human and technical infrastructure encompasses a wider context of formal learning outside of classrooms that includes parents, museum and library staff, community members, and older peers as “educators” who collaborate with teachers in achieving equity and excellence. The many affordances of modern technology can now support both a broader suite of roles involving "teaching" and a range of educational delivery systems beyond the walls of the school.


An analogy to public health professionals can serve to illustrate the value of a model for teaching/learning distributed through time, space, and multiple people rather than localized to a small set of classroom teachers just during school hours. Due largely to the efforts of public health professionals, life expectancy has increased more than 60% in the last century. Advances in medical interventions account for some of this improvement, but a greater factor is various types of public health roles distributed through society that help people learn to embrace wellness behaviors and to lead healthy lifestyles. For example, reductions in smoking and in obesity depend largely on the educational roles not just of doctors and nurses, but also of state and local boards of health, pharmacists, personnel in fitness-related organizations (e.g., personal trainers), coaches and athletes, teachers, reporters in various types of media, and concerned citizens. In contrast to the objectives of formal education, the types of learning involved in public health are relatively simple, and the coordination among roles is minimal and informal. Nonetheless, this example illustrates a public sector responsibility crucial to society in which expanding education beyond a single narrow place and group of professionals (physicians' offices staffed by doctors and nurses) has reaped enormous benefits whose financial savings have more than offset the costs involved.


Applying modern technologies, a comparably distributed system of teaching/learning could complement education in schools with "educator" roles throughout children's lives. As an illustration of a complementary role in a distributed model of formal education, collaborative media could help to coordinate between museum educators and both teachers and students. Teachers could use technology to make public the progression of curricular goals through the school year and the content/skills on which students need most help. In turn, museums could gear their exhibits and activities to foster these types of learning, making special outreach efforts to students for whom school-based learning was insufficient. Museums also could craft strong professional development experiences for teachers, with abstract concepts richly grounded in artifacts and with curators providing content expertise. Virtual outreach beyond the walls and schedule of the museum could include both web-based educational activities, such as immersive educational simulations, and "augmented realities" that help people learn about digitized artifacts virtually embedded in physical settings throughout the region and accessible by cell phone. Faculty from local campuses could provide support in the design and evaluation of these museum-based educational resources.


Members of a student's family or community could choose to play a different type of complementary educational role in a distributed model. Teachers interact with dozens or hundreds of students each day and must balance a focus on the individual and the group, but people outside of schools who are involved with a child's life know how to engage and support that particular individual. The local context – present and past – in which a student lives provides numerous ways in which to ground, exemplify, and practice the knowledge and skills teachers are attempting to communicate. However, fully realizing the academic value of students’ learning from people and resources in their lives outside of school depends on a skilled teacher coordinating and orchestrating those informal experiences. Schools of education could shift their training and credentialing to encompass not only teachers, but also parent tutors, informal-educator coaches, and community mentors.


Distributed education is not a new concept, but at last – as the Plan describes – we have the technologies needed to actualize this vision. Whether we have the political will remains to be seen; the time to act is now, when enormous investments are instead being used to shore up the obsolete model of industrial-era schooling. “Plan” is a verb, not a noun, and hopefully the draft document will catalyze an ongoing discussion of how to accomplish a transformation of formal education as far beyond the industrial-era school as that institution moved beyond the one-room rural schoolhouse.


Reference


U.S. Department of Education. (2010). Draft 2010 National Educational Technology Plan. http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: June 02, 2010
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15998, Date Accessed: 12/6/2021 6:07:08 PM

Purchase Reprint Rights for this article or review
 
Article Tools

Related Media


Related Articles

Related Discussion
 
Post a Comment | Read All

About the Author
  • Chris Dede
    Harvard University
    E-mail Author
    CHRIS DEDE is the Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. His fields of scholarship include emerging technologies, policy, and leadership. His funded research includes three grants from NSF and the US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences to explore immersive and semi-immersive simulations as a means of student engagement, learning, and assessment. In 2007, he was honored by Harvard University as an outstanding teacher. Chris has served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Foundations of Educational and Psychological Assessment and a member of the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan Technical Working Group. His co-edited book, Scaling Up Success: Lessons Learned from Technology-based Educational Improvement, was published by Jossey-Bass in 2005. A second volume he edited, Online Professional Development for Teachers: Emerging Models and Methods, was published by the Harvard Education Press in 2006.
 
Member Center
In Print
This Month's Issue

Submit
EMAIL

Twitter

RSS