MEC2011 Keynote: Karen Cator Department of Ed on NETP

Date March 14, 2011

Karen Cator Direction, Office of Education Technology US Dept of Ed on Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Tech #mec2011

Cator was introduced by John Huppenthal, Arizona Superintendent of Public Schools. National Education Technology Plan introduced in fall through Drupal, and they said it was a “draft” because this is a working document that is alive. Not some proposal printed, stuck on a shelf and forgotten.

“Now is the Time!” Obama, Huppenthal, and Cator are speaking the language of tech in education. Teachers have been doing this for years, she said; it’s time to make hit work. Obama: “By 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduate in the world”. Now the question actor asks is “how do we become a learning nation”. Obama said we need to “…out innovate, our educate, out build…” by learning from other nations and jumping ahead. 82% of schools are in improvement currently, and that can’t work.

Karen Cator at MEC 2011
CC image posted on Flickr by ALan Levine.

We need to reboot our education system … this is a “matter of national security”. One year ago there was no market for tablet computers. What we’ve seen this year is a proliferation of mobile computing that includes 24/7 access. 50-70 million tablets will be sold this year globally. Mobile productivity means we move beyond eight hours inside four classroom walls. Learning in the 21st century is about learning how to handle “Social Interactions for Learning”. There’s so much digital content out that that we can all learn from including PBS chunking their videos, universities adding free online free courses. Stop blocking student access to these things. We do need to learn how to “safe search” in schools, but don’t just arbitrarily block everything. We have paper classrooms and online classrooms but how do we blend the two? Print has become digital.

Digital books can take us deeper into concepts, teach us about the writers, take us to other books and ideas by others. Much more than just the print book of yesteryear. When disability act required ramps and sidewalks, it did not just help wheel-chaired people, but also strollers, bikes, etc… Digital print is like this as we move to a digital learning environment.

NETP has three parts. Teaching, Learning, and Assessment. This is the infrastructure, and now we need to move towards productivity. Next up is R&D. What is the importance of learning and what do we need? How do real world people think and learn? “We’re training for 2020 Olympics, but we don’t know the sport yet.” We need 21st century expertise. How do students learn to think globally? In what ways do students now approach learning? NETP is grounded in how people learn and the importance of affect, language, prior experience, etc… We need to personalize learning, and with tech this is absolutely possible. There should be a universal design for learning, and multiple avenues for learning are being created so students can access learning in various ways. Finally, in the learning space learning has to be connected as informal and formal; we can’t keep kids in schools for 12 hours. Learning moves beyond the classroom walls. Students have so many opportunities: robotics, music classes, sports, etc… So much of their learning is outside of schools.

Assessment is still key. How do we make sure student performance is measured? We need to measure what matters. Assessment 2.0 goes beyond the bubble test and gives us an understanding about growth. The opportunity to embed assessment inside games, scaffolded spaces, etc… gives measurement on the fly. Which sorts of assessments work for which kids, in which circumstances, etc… By examining this, we have real time feedback. Real time feedback is better than the refrigerator door model. Online student publishing is so important today, and no longer does it really matter when teachers hang student work on their classroom walls … it’s more important to have that work published online where it is more permanent than the end of the quarter when the classroom is cleaned.

Teachers need to be highly “effective” and highly connected. Teachers need to be connected to the experts, colleges of ed, and their peers. Engage teachers in new ways of thinking about learning and how we can use ubiquitous technology. Teachers should have a laser focus on the idea of time as an issue; we live in a print based environment, but as we moved to digital, students can move on to the next piece of learning instead of waiting for the teacher. Once we put the tools in the hands of the students, teachers will have more time to be more engaged with more of our students. Differentiated roles of teachers is important. Online scaffolded education is so important as we have so many experts but so little physical time, let’s move this all online. So much teaching is outside of the school walls. And what can we do to help teachers be more successful in helping students learn. We need to inspire both our colleagues and our students. Teaching never ends when the final bells role.

Cator said teachers need to have a persistent online profile, just like a Facebook profile. The profile should include what we’re interested in, what we ourselves want to learn, what we’ve published, etc… We can’t shy away from online profiles. When this is public student can seek us out to learn from us. When we hide this information away, we reach less students.

Cator said our goal is “All students and educators will have access to a comprehensive infrastructure for learning when and where they need it.” What the Department of Education wants for our education system is: 24/7 Community wide to technology (some school districts like Vail in Tucson give them hardware), Broadband in schools, Access Points for the Internet, and support for technology (having access to people who know how to troubleshoot the hardware and software), and we need equity in technology. is launching broadband availability for US Schools. NITA and the FCC is working on this right now with the department of education. This is the National Broadband Map, and Dept of Ed wants transparency on where broadband is so we can all work on building up access so ALL students have connectivity EVERYWHERE they need it WHENEVER they need it.

How do we make sure we’re building efficiency and effectiveness in student productivity? We have had decades of print education, and we need to have new ways of redesigning processes to better deal with helping learning be more productive. Cator’s talking about Kahn Academy about learning math online; videos online is cool but now practice sets have been added, so students can practice, find out if they’re right or wrong, and then students can measure their own learning. How can teachers use this for learning?

Research and development. What needs to be invented next for all of this to work? Nobody is being funded to take these ideas to market even when we have prototypes available. There’s a gap between R&D and getting tech into the hands of our students. This is being worked on now.

CC image posted on Flickr by Devon Christopher Adams
Slide with Department of Ed’s National Technology Educational Plan outlined. At Microcomputers in Education conference at Arizona State U.

How will the Department of Education help support schools, a teacher asked Cantor? Her response: NETP is a good start if you make that required for teachers, admins, district officials and school boards. There are a ton of examples that you can put into practice right now in schools.

To conclude, NETP is improving access, creating transparency (telling thew stories of what is working in tech ed now and the classrooms, focus on people (support our communities and support system), and we need to invest in rapid improvement in technology for our students and classrooms. This is where the department of education is now, and these are the discussions that need to be going on in our schools and districts RIGHT NOW.