Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Ensuring Educational Technology Meets the Needs of Students Today
Born in Another Time - The Report of the NASBE Study Group on the Role of Technology in Schools and Communities Summary and Recommendations
Innovative technologies—from smartphones and smart TVs to iPads and even Leap Pads for preschoolers— have launched our children into a digital age, a period in which the average teenager texts 60 times every day, a large majority of teens have a social networking site, and the combined use of media by students averages 6.5 to nearly 10 hours daily, much of it in a multi-tasking environment. This generation of students truly has been born in a time very different from that of their parents, school board members, principals, and most of their teachers. For educators and policymakers, one of the keys for effectively responding to this generation is remembering that educational technology is both a tool and a game changer.
As digital infl uences expand and their effects on students’ lives increases, some of students’ fundamental educational experiences change as well. And as is true of any transformative era, this changing world that includes instant communication and access to information, open source instructional materials, personalized learning plans, and online learning provides both abundant opportunities and challenges to teachers and administrators. It also presents challenges to state boards of education, whose policy decisions made for a digital environment will deeply affect teaching and learning and impact more than simply what happens in school buildings.
To address these challenges, NASBE’s Board of Directors charged the 2012 Study Group on the Role of Technology in Schools and Communities with examining how our digital age has affected the learning needs of today’s students, and how state boards can ensure that their schools are fully prepared to address the impact of rapid technological change on the fundamental processes of teaching and learning. The Study Group was also asked to analyze how the issues around educational technology intersect with other reforms being undertaken by school systems, including the Common Core and other college- and career-ready standards, the emergence of robust data systems, the upcoming next-generation assessments, the burgeoning number of virtual courses and schools, and efforts to address digital bullying and other aspects of the social and emotional health of students.
CHAPTER 1. Addressing the Voice and Needs of Today’s Students
Much has been written about the cohort of students in school today, who are generally considered digital natives. Commentators frequently point out how these children have always lived with computers in their homes, cell phones in everyone’s pocket, and hundreds of channels available on their televisions. They easily adapt to every new piece of technology that arrives in the marketplace and can text as easily and quickly as adults can talk. They are constantly “plugged in.” For this generation, there is no divide between “technology” and their daily lives.
Today the combination of immense portable computing power, digital communications, and the Internet presents education with an enormous number of opportunities, challenges, and imperatives. There is the imperative, for example, that all students be digitally literate, which will require educators to meet students in the technological world where they now live in order to bring them to a new place. There are the challenges that come with ensuring students are good digital citizens—that they understand the potential consequences, negative and positive, of anything they put out on the web, understand plagiarism, and how to harness the power of technology safely, respectfully, and responsibly. Finally, there are the vast opportunities technology brings as a vehicle for enhancing the learning process through greater personalization of instruction—something leaders may need to address through policies that provide the fl exibility and incentives needed to allow educators to take advantage of these opportunities.
• Today’s students have never lived in a world where the internet wasn’t in their homes and cell phones weren’t in everyone’s pockets. For them, there is no divide between “technology” and their daily lives.
• “Our kids are digitally savvy when it comes to gaming, texting, and social networking,” one expert told state board members, “but when it comes to information, even the best students can be digital doofuses.” In other words, just because they have a more intuitive grasp of how to make technology “work” doesn’t mean students automatically know how to use it as a tool for learning. Students still need to be taught foundational research skills and processes that can be enhanced by technology use. This means students—and educators— need to understand that doing research is more than just sorting through what pops up via online search engines.
• Internet information often does not have the ordered structure provided by textbooks or other resources for students. Educators need to be sensitive to this, and to their students frame of reference in regards to online searches, when integrating technology in to their lessons. • With increased access to many different types of tools for learning and socializing and ever-increasing multitasking, it has become even more important to teach students how to focus their attention.
• One of the great advantages of technology is its potential for personalizing instruction. Students are used to being able to personalize how they receive information, and when schools don’t present information in the same way, they sometimes become bored and disengaged. Instruction should be designed to take advantage of each student’s personal style of learning.
• Because online problems can cause disruptions at school, there is a role for schools to help students learn to be safe, responsible, and respectful digital citizens. But in order to do so, school teachers and staff have to be prepared and equipped to monitor and instruct students in safe environments that are close to what they will experience once the fi lters and monitoring are removed.
!) Address digital citizenship and digital literacy.
These are relatively new areas for education leaders to address through the creation of policies and programs. It is important for policymakers to realize that every school community is different and each is starting at a different place. Some will be ready to institute integrated curricula, while others fi rst need to create common defi nitions. The study group recommends that state boards urge their districts and schools to address the critical areas of digital citizenship and digital literacy and ensure that the state education department is prepared to offer resources and guidance for these discussions.
2) Design instruction to take advantage of how each student learns now.
It is time to revisit what “school” is and how education policymakers can ensure that their decisions create a learning environment that best fi ts current learners’ needs. Policies at the state and local levels should be responsive to student’s lifestyles and behaviors at home and in the classroom.
3) Create policies that allocate resources based on data, student needs, and student, parent and stakeholder voices.
These key stakeholder groups understand the complexities of the issues involved, and can provide the most accurate feedback about what solutions might work best. Additionally, providing access to student performance data to parents and students can also help them serve as an informed partner in ensuring that student study habits, methods and schedules are most conducive to learning outside of school hours.