August 16, 2012
Modern Technology a Major Tool in Preparing Students
for the Future, Educators and Other Experts Say
"Education Technology Task Force" Submits Recommendations to State Schools Chief
SACRAMENTO—Rather than seeing smart phones and other electronic devices as barriers to learning, educators should be using them as central tools in preparing students for the careers of the 21st century economy, according to a new report that teachers and other education experts prepared for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
Torlakson created the Education Technology Task Force under his No Child Left Offline initiative earlier this year to begin setting the stage for a modern California Education Technology Blueprint. A plan for education technology in California's public schools has not been thoroughly updated in more than a decade.
The 48-member Task Force includes teachers, superintendents, chief technology officers for school districts, and representatives of the business community, among others. This week, members submitted a memo to Torlakson that contains an initial look at the challenge and opportunities facing schools as they move toward modern education technology.
"With its ubiquity and its adaptability, computing technology is changing the face of education—and rightfully so," said Torlakson, who authored legislation when he was in the California State Senate to support teachers' use of technology. "It can be a powerful tool for preparing kids for the economy they will become a part of once they leave school.”
Advanced instructional technology already is being used to great effect in schools and districts across California. At New Technology High School in the Napa Valley Unified School District, for example, students are using individual devices—or "1:1 computing"—to work together and solve problems. And at Otay Elementary School in the Chula Vista Elementary School District, adaptive software gives teachers a clear picture of each student's needs depending on their English proficiency.
State and national research consistently shows that teachers and students all believe that increasing the use of technology can improve learning and help students connect their education to life after school. The Task Force identified goals for the use of technology for teaching and administration, as well as obstacles that stand in the way.
Some of its initial recommendations include:
- Promote expanded use of online instructional materials and student access to technology for standards-based curricula. In Elk Grove Unified School District, schools have begun using online instruction to supplement other coursework.
- Every student has access to at least one Internet device for learning anytime and anywhere, often called 1:1, which the Task Force calls "possibly the biggest challenge facing public education" in this context.
- Form public-private partnerships for the funding and use of technology in the classroom.
- Develop guidance documents for students and their schools on safety and appropriate use, as well as existing laws and regulations.
- Create modern, personalized assessments for students that can help tailor their instruction—even within one class period.
- Encourage and reward teachers' and administrators' use of technology, including offering professional development to prepare them for its use across the education spectrum.
- Continue pursuing minimum bandwidth standards across the state.
The full memo from the Task Force can be found online at Education Technology Task Force Work Group Memos (PDF). Torlakson will consider these recommendations as well as public comment in working toward an updated Education Technology Plan.