The TechAmerica Foundation announced key recommendations on Friday for research initiatives and policies to enhance education across the nation through technology.
The recommendations came from a report compiled by the Recommendations for Education and Advancement of Learning (REAL) Agenda Commission, made up of leaders in science and technology in government and industry. Their intent is to advance the goals of Digital Promise, a national center founded to spur breakthrough technologies that aims to transform the way teachers teach and students learn.
They gathered to present the report to industry and government executives in a Department of Education conference room Friday morning.
“Our job is not done with this report,” said Tom Kalil, the Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “We want to show in a couple of years that technology enabled learning solutions can dramatically improve student performance … and knock that out of the park.”
The report focuses on learning tailored to the individual while prioritizing achievement, affordability and access. The recommendations serve as a framework for identifying the necessary people, processes, and technologies for promoting continuous learning from pre-kindergarten through higher education and the workplace.
“These recommendations strike the right balance between idealism and pragmatism,” said commission co-chair Dave Belanger, Chief Scientist at AT&T. “It’s not just about technology … it’s how it relates to social factors and economic factors. The proper use of technology can engage parents and employers. At the end of the day it’s the people that are key to this.”
The commission was formed at the behest of former White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra to provide the research direction for the inaugural years of Digital Promise and identify any policy hurdles that inhibit progress. Digital Promise is designed to identify the information and technological needs that will improve all levels of formal and informal learning and education to prepare Americans to compete in the global economy.
Commission members described challenges related to the recommendations, from which a common theme was the need for a nationwide holistic and standardized approach to the use of technology in education.
They also described described specific recommendations, which involve the use of mobile devices, developing mobile apps, delivering broadband access in libraries, schools and homes and the use of data to track trends, provide teaching tools and analyze educational progress. For example, data could be used to personalize learning and align instruction with the way students are assessed; or employing gaming as a learning tool and researching educational results.
Additional recommendations include:
- Research innovative technology-based assessments to improve validity of automated scoring systems and improve the interpretation of highly interactive performance tasks.
- Enable data-enhanced teaching and learning environments through the creation of data collection, access, and interpretation tools and systems that connect and foster virtual teaching and learning communities.
- Research ways to derive additional value from education data.
- Update and expand professional development and pedagogy for teachers, librarians, and administrators to support innovation in learning and in particular, how to use data to impact achievement and productivity.
- Develop a network of teaching and learning virtual communities with supporting toolkits for sustained involvement and efficacy.
The report also details necessary policy changes at the federal, state, and/or local levels to support the results of the research findings and/or pilot projects and to create a sustained base for innovation. Those recommendations include:
- Create policies that support government and industry collaborations for a national education industry standards framework for digital learning and the development of an Education Data Standards organization.
- Develop policies, investments, and programs that will improve school infrastructure.
Members also said Friday that U.S. competitiveness depends on having people ready and able to fill the jobs that the technology industry is creating. Commissioner Diana Richie, Executive Director, K-12 Education Industry Solutions at Oracle, said the company hired 1,000 people last year outside of the U.S. for technology jobs.
“Importing a workforce isn’t an option,” she said. “As a company, we need to help school districts fill that pipeline.”