Archived Information

Executive Summary

Education is the key to America’s economic growth and prosperity and to our ability to compete in the global economy. It is the path to good jobs and higher earning power for Americans. It is necessary for our democracy to work. It fosters the cross-border, cross-cultural collaboration required to solve the most challenging problems of our time.

Under the Obama administration, education has become an urgent priority driven by two clear goals. By 2020,

  • We will raise the proportion of college graduates from where it now stands [39%] so that 60% of our population holds a 2-year or 4-year degree.
  • We will close the achievement gap so that all students – regardless of race, income, or neighborhood – graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and careers.

These are aggressive goals and achieving them is a sizable challenge. Add to the challenge the projections of most states and the federal government of reduced revenues for the foreseeable future, and it is clear we need cost-effective and cost-saving strategies that improve learning outcomes and graduation rates for millions of Americans. Specifically, we must embrace innovation, prompt implementation, regular evaluation, and continuous improvement. The programs and projects that work must be brought to scale so every school has the opportunity to take advantage of that success. Our regulations, policies, actions, and investments must be strategic and coherent.

Transforming American Education

To achieve these goals, the National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) calls for revolutionary transformation rather than evolutionary tinkering. It urges our education system at all levels to

  • Be clear about the outcomes we seek.
  • Collaborate to redesign structures and processes for effectiveness, efficiency, and flexibility.
  • Continually monitor and measure our performance.
  • Hold ourselves accountable for progress and results every step of the way.

Just as technology is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work, we must leverage it to provide engaging and powerful learning experiences, content, and resources and assessments that measure student achievement in more complete, authentic, and meaningful ways. Technology-based learning and assessment systems will be pivotal in improving student learning and generating data that can be used to continuously improve the education system at all levels. Technology will help us execute collaborative teaching strategies combined with professional learning that better prepare and enhance educators’ competencies and expertise over the course of their careers. To shorten our learning curve, we can learn from other kinds of enterprises that have used technology to improve outcomes while increasing productivity.

A 21st Century Model of Learning Powered by Technology

The NETP presents a model of 21st century learning powered by technology, with goals and recommendations in five essential areas: learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity. The plan also identifies far-reaching “grand challenge problems” that should be funded and coordinated at a national level.

The challenging and rapidly changing demands of our global economy tell us what people need to know and who needs to learn. Advances in learning sciences show us how people learn. Technology makes it possible for us to act on this knowledge and understanding.


The model of 21st century learning described in this plan calls for engaging and empowering learning experiences for all learners. The model asks that we focus what and how we teach to match what people need to know, how they learn, where and when they will learn, and who needs to learn. It brings state-of-the art technology into learning to enable, motivate, and inspire all students, regardless of background, languages, or disabilities, to achieve. It leverages the power of technology to provide personalized learning instead of a one-size-fits-all curriculum, pace of teaching, and instructional practices.

Many students’ lives today are filled with technology that gives them mobile access to information and resources 24/7, enables them to create multimedia content and share it with the world, and allows them to participate in online social networks where people from all over the world share ideas, collaborate, and learn new things. Outside school, students are free to pursue their passions in their own way and at their own pace. The opportunities are limitless, borderless, and instantaneous.

The challenge for our education system is to leverage the learning sciences and modern technology to create engaging, relevant, and personalized learning experiences for all learners that mirror students’ daily lives and the reality of their futures. In contrast to traditional classroom instruction, this requires that we put students at the center and empower them to take control of their own learning by providing flexibility on several dimensions. A core set of standards-based concepts and competencies should form the basis of what all students should learn, but beyond that students and educators should have options for engaging in learning: large groups, small groups, and work tailored to individual goals, needs, interests, and prior experience of each learner. By supporting student learning in areas that are of real concern or particular interest to them, personalized learning adds to its relevance, inspiring higher levels of motivation and achievement.

In addition, technology provides access to more learning resources than are available in classrooms and connections to a wider set of “educators,” including teachers, parents, experts, and mentors outside the classroom. On-demand learning is now within reach, supporting learning that is life-long and life-wide (Bransford et al., 2006).

What and How People Need to Learn

Whether the domain is English language arts, mathematics, sciences, social studies, history, art, or music, 21st century competencies and expertise such as critical thinking, complex problem solving, collaboration, and multimedia communication should be woven into all content areas. These competencies are necessary to become expert learners, which we all must be if we are to adapt to our rapidly changing world over the course of our lives, and that involves developing deep understanding within specific content areas and making the connections between them.

How we need to learn includes using the technology that professionals in various disciplines use. Professionals routinely use the web and tools such as wikis, blogs, and digital content for the research, collaboration, and communication demanded in their jobs. They gather data and analyze it using inquiry and visualization tools. They use graphical and 3D modeling tools for design. For students, using these real-world tools creates learning opportunities that allow them to grapple with real-world problems – opportunities that prepare them to be more productive members of a globally competitive workforce.


The model of 21st century learning requires new and better ways to measure what matters, diagnose strengths and weaknesses in the course of learning when there is still time to improve student performance, and involve multiple stakeholders in the process of designing, conducting, and using assessment. In all these activities, technology-based assessments can provide data to drive decisions on the basis of what is best for each and every student and that in aggregate will lead to continuous improvement across our entire education system.

President Obama has called on our nation’s governors and state education chiefs to develop standards and assessments that measure 21st century competencies and expertise – critical thinking, complex problem solving, collaboration, and multimedia communication – in all content areas. Technology-based assessments that combine cognitive research and theory about how students think with multimedia, interactivity, and connectivity make it possible to directly assess these types of skills. And we can do so within the context of relevant societal issues and problems that people care about in everyday life.

When combined with learning systems, technology-based assessments can be used formatively to diagnose and modify the conditions of learning and instructional practices while at the same time determining what students have learned for grading and accountability purposes. Both uses are important, but the former can improve student learning in the moment (Black & William, 1998; Black et al., 2004). Furthermore, systems can be designed to capture students’ inputs and collect evidence of their knowledge and problem solving abilities as they work. Over time, the system “learns” more about students’ abilities and can provide increasingly appropriate support.

Using Data to Drive Continuous Improvement

With assessments in place that assess the full range of expertise and competencies reflected in standards, student learning data can be collected and used to continually improve learning outcomes and productivity. For example, such data could be used to create a system of interconnected feedback for students, educators, parents, school leaders, and district administrators.

For this to work, relevant data must be made available to the right people at the right time and in the right form. Educators and leaders at all levels of our education system also must be provided with support – tools and training – that can help them manage the assessment process, analyze data, and take appropriate action.


Just as leveraging technology can help us improve learning and assessment, the model of 21st century learning calls for using technology to help build the capacity of educators by enabling a shift to a model of connected teaching. In such a teaching model, teams of connected educators replace solo practitioners and classrooms are fully connected to provide educators with 24/7 access to data and analytic tools as well as to resources that help them act on the insights the data provide.

The expectation of effective teaching and accountability for professional educators is a critical component of transforming our education system, but equally important is recognizing that we need to strengthen and elevate the teaching profession. This is necessary if we are to attract and retain the most effective educators and achieve the learning outcomes we seek. Just as leveraging technology can help us improve learning and assessment, technology can help us build the capacity of educators by enabling a shift to a model of connected teaching.

In a connected teaching model, connection replaces isolation. Classroom educators are fully connected to learning data and tools for using the data; to content, resources, and systems that empower them to create, manage, and assess engaging and relevant learning experiences; and directly to their students in support of learning both inside and outside school. The same connections give them access to resources and expertise that improve their own instructional practices and guide them in becoming facilitators and collaborators in their students’ increasingly self-directed learning.

In connected teaching, teaching is a team activity. Individual educators build online learning communities consisting of their students and their students’ peers; fellow educators in their schools, libraries, and afterschool programs; professional experts in various disciplines around the world; members of community organizations that serve students in the hours they are not in school; and parents who desire greater participation in their children’s education.

Episodic and ineffective professional development is replaced by professional learning that is collaborative, coherent, and continuous and that blends more effective in-person courses and workshops with the expanded opportunities, immediacy, and convenience enabled by online environments full of resources and opportunities for collaboration. For their part, the colleges of education and other institutions that prepare teachers play an ongoing role in the professional growth of their graduates throughout the entire course of their careers.

Connected teaching enables our education system to provide access to effective teaching and learning resources where they are not otherwise available and provide more options for all learners at all levels. This is accomplished by augmenting the expertise and competencies of specialized and exceptional educators with online learning systems and through on-demand courses and other self-directed learning opportunities. Clearly, more teachers will need to be expert at providing online instruction.

21st Century Resources for Professional Educators

The technology that enables connected teaching is available now, but not all the conditions necessary to leverage it are. Many of our existing educators do not have the same understanding of and ease with using technology that is part of the daily lives of professionals in other sectors. The same can be said of many of the education leaders and policymakers in schools, districts, and states and of the higher education institutions that prepare new educators for the field.

This gap in technology understanding influences program and curriculum development, funding and purchasing decisions about educational and information technology in schools, and pre-service and in-service professional learning. This gap prevents technology from being used in ways that would improve instructional practices and learning outcomes. Still, we must introduce connected teaching into our education system rapidly, and therefore we need innovation in the organizations that support educators in their profession – schools and districts, colleges of education, professional learning providers, and professional organizations.


An essential component of the 21st century learning model is a comprehensive infrastructure for learning that provides every student, educator, and level of our education system with the resources they need when and where they are needed. The underlying principle is that infrastructure includes people, processes, learning resources, policies, and sustainable models for continuous improvement in addition to broadband connectivity, servers, software, management systems, and administration tools. Building this infrastructure is a far-reaching project that will demand concerted and coordinated effort. Although we have adopted technology in many aspects of education today, a comprehensive infrastructure for learning is necessary to move us beyond the traditional model of educators and students in classrooms to a learning model that brings together teaching teams and students in classrooms, labs, libraries, museums, workplaces, and homes – anywhere in the world where people have access devices and an adequate Internet connection.

Over the past 40 years, we have seen unprecedented advances in computing and communications that have led to powerful technology resources and tools for learning. Today, low-cost Internet access devices, easy-to-use digital authoring tools, and the web facilitate access to information and multimedia learning content, communication, and collaboration. They provide the ability to participate in online learning communities that cross disciplines, organizations, international boundaries, and cultures. Many of these technology resources and tools already are being used within our public education system. We are now, however, at an inflection point for a much bolder transformation of education powered by technology. This revolutionary opportunity for change is driven by the continuing push of emerging technology and the pull of the critical national need to radically improve our education system.

Always-on Learning Resources

Our model of an infrastructure for learning is always on, available to students, educators, and administrators regardless of their location or the time of day. It supports not just access to information, but access to people and participation in online learning communities. It offers a platform on which developers can build and tailor applications.

An infrastructure for learning unleashes new ways of capturing and sharing knowledge based on multimedia that integrate text, still and moving images, audio, and applications that run on a variety of devices. It enables seamless integration of in- and out-of-school learning. It frees learning from a rigid information transfer model (from book or educator to students) and enables a much more motivating intertwine of learning about, learning to do, and learning to be.

On a more operational level, an infrastructure for learning brings together and enables access to data from multiple sources while ensuring appropriate levels of security and privacy. It integrates computer hardware, data and networks, information resources, interoperable software, middleware services and tools, and devices and connects and supports interdisciplinary teams of professionals responsible for its development, maintenance, and management and its use in transformative approaches to teaching and learning.


To achieve our goal of transforming American education, we must rethink basic assumptions and redesign our education system. We must apply technology to implement personalized learning and ensure that students are making appropriate progress through our K-16 system so they graduate. These and other initiatives require investment, but tight economic times and basic fiscal responsibility demand that we get more out of each dollar we spend. We must leverage technology to plan, manage, monitor, and report spending to provide decision-makers with a reliable, accurate, and complete view of the financial performance of our education system at all levels. Such visibility is essential to meeting our goals for educational attainment within the budgets we can afford.

Improving productivity is a daily focus of most American organizations in all sectors – both for-profit and nonprofit – and especially so in tight economic times. Education has not, however, incorporated many of the practices other sectors regularly use to improve productivity and manage costs, nor has it leveraged technology to enable or enhance them. We can learn much from the experience in other sectors.

What education can learn from the experience of business is that we need to make the fundamental structural changes that technology enables if we are to see dramatic improvements in productivity. As we do so, we should recognize that although the fundamental purpose of our public education system is the same, the roles and processes of schools, educators, and the system itself should change to reflect the times we live in and our goals as a world leader. Such rethinking applies to learning, assessment, and teaching processes, and to the infrastructure and operational and financial sides of running schools and school systems.

Rethinking Basic Assumptions

One of the most basic assumptions in our education system is time-based or “seat-time” measures of educational attainment. These measures were created in the late 1800s and early 1900s to smooth transitions from K-12 into higher education by translating high school work to college admissions offices (Shedd, 2003) and made their way into higher education when institutions began moving away from standardized curricula.

Another basic assumption is the way we organize students into age-determined groups, structure separate academic disciplines, organize learning into classes of roughly equal size with all the students in a particular class receiving the same content at the same pace, and keep these groups in place all year.

The last decade has seen the emergence of some radically redesigned schools, demonstrating the range of possibilities for structuring education. These include schools that organize around competence rather than seat time and others that enable more flexible scheduling that fits students’ individual needs rather than traditional academic periods and lockstep curriculum pacing. In addition, schools are beginning to incorporate online learning, which gives us the opportunity to extend the learning day, week, or year.

The United States has a long way to go if we are to see every student complete at least a year of higher education or postsecondary career training. There is no way to achieve this target unless we can dramatically reduce the number of students who leave high school without getting a diploma and/or who are unprepared for postsecondary education.

A complex set of personal and academic factors underlie students’ decision to leave school or to disengage from learning, but support should start as early as possible, before children enter school, and should become intensified for those students who need it as they move through school. Practices supported with technology can help address the problem, including learning dashboards that keep students on track with their course requirements and earning credits for courses taken online. Redesigning education in America for improved productivity is a complex challenge that will require all 50 states, the thousands of districts and schools across the country, the federal government, and other education stakeholders in the public and private sector coming together to design and implement innovative solutions. It is a challenge for educators – leaders, teachers, and policymakers committed to learning – as well as technologists, and ideally they will come together to lead the effort.

A Rigorous and Inclusive Process

The NETP, led by the Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, was developed using a rigorous and inclusive process built on the report of a technical working group of leading education researchers and practitioners. In keeping with the White House’s Open Government Directive, the Department invited extensive public participation in the development of the NETP. Broad outreach efforts and state-of-the-art communications and collaboration technology enabled tens of thousands of individuals to learn about and contribute to the development of the NETP over its 9-month development period.

The Time To Act Is Now

The NETP accepts that we do not have the luxury of time – we must act now and commit to fine-tuning and midcourse corrections as we go. Success will require leadership, collaboration, and investment at all levels of our education system – states, districts, schools, and the federal government – as well as partnerships with higher education institutions, private enterprises, and not-for-profit entities.

In the United States, education is primarily a state and local responsibility. State and local public education institutions must ensure equitable access to learning experiences for all students and especially students in underserved populations – low-income and minority students, students with disabilities, English language learners, preschool-aged children, and others. States and districts need to build capacity for transformation. The Department of Education has a role in identifying effective strategies and implementation practices; encouraging, promoting, and actively supporting innovation in states and districts; and nurturing collaborations that help states and districts leverage resources so the best ideas can be scaled up.

Postsecondary education institutions – community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities – will need to partner more closely with K-12 schools to remove barriers to postsecondary education and put plans of their own in place to decrease dropout rates. Clearly, postsecondary institutions would be key players in the national R&D efforts recommended in this plan.

Education has long relied on the contributions of organizations in both the private and not-for-profit sectors, and this will not change.

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, there has never been a more pressing need to transform American education and there will never be a better time to act. The NETP is a 5-year action plan that responds to an urgent national priority and a growing understanding of what the United States needs to do to remain competitive in a global economy.

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The teaching section primarily focuses on how technology can be used to reform the entire process for training teachers at the university level, how instruction happens in the classroom itself, and also be used to improve the quality of ongoing professional development for teachers already in the field. The section also addresses the potential of technology to improve the experiences of students by offering instruction that is tailored to their social and emotional needs.

Another theme that is discussed is the idea of using technology to combat teaching, and learning, in isolation. The report’s primary recommendation in this area is to foster the use of learning management systems as a means to promote coordinated teaching efforts, and to allow for the free exchange of ideas and information across departments, schools, and districts.

Our team found multiple examples of how Connections Academy is already implementing the recommendations. For instance, Connections Academy’s Learning Management System (LMS) already provides our teachers, and students, with the functionality the report recommends. Through use of the Grade Book, Data View Exports, Webmail, the Student Log, and Personalized Learning Plans (PLP), Connections Academy’s teachers are able to quickly assess the progress of each student, and adapt their instructional methods as needed. Moreover, our review found that Connections Academy’s online teacher orientations, teacher message boards, school support team, and online professional development community allows teachers to learn and continually develop in tandem with their colleagues, effectively eliminating teaching and learning in isolation.

Similar examples of ways Connections Academy is already implementing some of the recommendations in the report. For instance, Marjorie focused on the potential of technology to personalize learning, effectively removing the ethic of one-size-fits-all curriculum, fixed paces of learning, and stagnant instructional practices.

Two key components that are not developed in this section are the necessity of utilizing technology to provide educational choices that would allow students to find the learning environment they would need to achieve our target of having every student complete at least a year of higher education or post-secondary career training. The other omission from this section is that there is a subtext which indicates that comprehensive standards for online learning do not exist. To that end, we suggest that a recommendation should be made to include the research on existing standards, such as those set by iNACOL.

Connections Academy (CA) would like to emphasize that our learning platform achieves the following key goals mentioned in NETP’s “Learning” chapter:

• CA supports the Model of Learning on p. 11, showing the interaction between the learner and the varying roles of teachers, mentors, and parents. We view parents as learning coaches and active participants who help students learn and succeed.

• CA engages in collaborative learning. We network across the country (teachers, staff, students, Learning Coaches); and we support student learning with student mentors. In Florida, Language Arts teachers are working to improve writing skills of 8th grade students who then mentor 4th grade students.

• CA proves each day that school does not have to take place within brick-and-mortar buildings and between the hours of 9:00 and 3:00. Our learning is available “on demand.” For example, our students at the elementary level have the flexibility of user-schedules allowing them to learn in chunks, whether that is by breaking a subject into smaller parts spread throughout the day or whether they concentrate on one group of subjects for a period of time and then move to a different subject at a later time. This freedom to select learning opportunities builds on learning style differences and developing strong ownership over one's learning tasks.

• CA serves the underserved. The NETP identifies that low-income and minority learners could benefit from access to networked computers during extended hours in school. In CA’s model, such learners do not need to visit a site nor does the school need to use funds for staff or facilities. We are accessible 24/7 in the home.

• CA sustains student motivation through technology-based learning resources. Our Learning Management System supports the wide variety of media the NETP recommends for a richer acquisition of factual knowledge. The integration of Discovery Education, BrianPOP, Grolier Online, and other third party educational vendors enhance our students’ encounters with the subject matter. CA Teachlets provide scaffolds that students can access repeatedly to assist their learning.

The goal of the chapter on productivity is to "redesign processes and structures to take advantage of the power of technology to improve learning outcomes while making more efficient use of time, money, and staff." At Connections Academy, our Learning Management System (LMS), is at the core our success with regard to increasing productivity through the use of technology. Our online gradebook that is available 24/7 and our teachers who work with students via synchronous chat are but two examples of how technology is used at Connections Academy to increase productivity, The chapter discusses creating systems of "interoperability" (p.66). Our Learning Management System is our "one stop data warehouse" for curriculum management, user information (parent, learning coach, student and teacher), communication (webmail, issue-tracking, message boards) and assessment. Depending on the role of the individual, permissions to the LMS vary. Data is readily avalailable to students, parents, teachers, administrators, and central office. The LMS allows for reports pertinent to each user level with the click of a button. Silos are not in the CA vocabulary. The LMS is available to all CA members 24/7. The issue of seattime is nonexistent, as our students are able to learn and work any time of any day, and they have online teachers who offer flexible work hours. Teachers focus on differentiating instruction, based on a Personal Learning Plan designed for each student. School closings do not stop students from learning any more than weather does in the virtual world. The biggest issue CA has with seattime demands comes from legislatures at the State level who mandate seat time, which sometimes makes the acceptance of virtual schooling difficult to impossible, short of changing outdated laws of this nature. Our system is set up to allow students, regardless of age, to access courses of interest and academic need to the student. Again, it is State mandates that prohibit First Graders from completing Third Grade work, appropriate to a particular learner.

With regard to what is missing in this section of the Plan, we would like to see a clearer delineation between the interest in extended learning time versus the irrelevancy of seat time. We would also like to see more examples of how education can beat the productivity paradox that the business world has already accomplished.

The Infrastructure chapter of the NETP examines the people, processes, and technologies needed for learning and challenges us to provide to our students educators that work with families harmoniously and can deliver results.
As it pertains to infrastructure, the authors of the NETP have embraced the idea of expanding learning beyond the classroom, but do not yet seem to have fully understood the potential of the virtual or blended school concept. They envision expanding learning beyond the school building and campus (much the way our iphones, Blackberry’s, etc. extend the workplace to everywhere), but a physical location is still the focus of where school ‘starts,’ if you will. Letting go of the idea of school as a physical place where people congregate to teach/learn is a huge step and the authors are almost, but not quite, there. As we know at Connections Academy, monies for the technological infrastructure are freed up when the need for full-scale, traditional school facilities is greatly diminished by a virtual or blended model. I think our National Connections Academy blended model is worth explaining more – full curriculum and most instruction delivered via technology, with a mentor (not teacher) overseeing students who are mostly located in a physical classroom but at any given time might work from anywhere they have Internet, and most or all teachers working remotely. Also, something as “simple” as a virtual rock kit that may be time- and resource-intensive to create but then is infinitely reusable, scalable, and portable is a prime example of how technology, correctly used, can reshape our whole notion of what is required for school infrastructure. Virtual labs, itexts, etc.
One of the biggest infrastructure challenges really is finding or creating a platform that will seamlessly, reliably, and safely provide 24/7 access to teaching and learning resources. CA has made a substantial investment in both physical and human resources to make this happen, and has been highly successful, but it is a significant challenge and I think the authors have some interesting ideas on addressing this. Security of data and protected information is a huge concern, particularly when using a range of Internet access devices. In addition to the people, processes, and technologies, it is about creating a lasting model of education where collaboration is encouraged and accessible by a variety of individuals at any time and any location. At Connections Academy, not only are the operational requirements (i.e., bandwidth, computers, hardware, and other Internet devices) identified and discussed, but some specific regulations and training for those who are new to these systems are also presented as part of this section.

Congratulations from a Continental-European viewpoint! A a physics-, mathematics- and CS-teacher in Germany I'm very curious how this initiative will work out. I'm rather enthused about your envisaging "revolutionary transformation rather than evolutionary tinkering". I'm sad as well as your initiative may show once again that the future of education will not be developed in my country but elsewhere —maybe even in yours.

I would like to contribute two remarks.

1) What People Need to Learn: I believe that the most prominent goal of every education in a democratic and free society must be to enable every single person to become a Citizen: to be able to partake in the settlement of controversies of common interest. The classroom is the one or at least the most important place to pass down the competences needed for citizenship from one generation to the next. The republic is engendered in the classroom. I miss this noble and challenging goal in your plan. Employability comes second and so does competitiveness.

2) Learning, teaching and technology: Everyone knows that modern IT can offer a vast array of possibilities for education. Information at your fingertips! Tools to alleviate tedious tasks. The whole contents and methodology of Maths for example has to change dramatically. "Revolutionary transformation" is indeed a necessity. Brace yourself for tough discussions!

But don't forget over all these technological possibilities that Learning is an utmost personal experience between teachers and students. You need highly educated, motivated, involved educators to make technology serve your educational goals and not just be a funny distraction. Stuff that just "deliver" modularized chunks of knowledge whether via blackboard or via a computer screen per child will not do.

In order to serve your goals, the most important role of technology in education may be: To help to get people in contact.

Klaus Füller, Kassel, Germany

An initial scan of the NETP 2010 provides a great deal of encouragement that the U.S. is about to embark on a more robust and promising agenda, with technology as a catalyst, to transform our education system into a world-class digital-age system with renewed relevance for the emerging global economy and the connected digital world-society in which our citizens find themselves.

The six priority areas in the NETP establish a framework that outlines critical areas of focus for bringing about this transformation in learning and schooling across the nation. With learning leading the way, these six areas outline a solid structure including:
• Learning
• Assessment
• Teaching
• Infrastructure
• Productivity
• R&D to address Grand Challenge Problems

ISTE commends the Department, and the Office of Educational Technology specifically, for releasing the document first as a draft and encouraging us all to review, comment and help to refine this plan.

ISTE is committed, in our own development efforts, to rigorous and inclusive processes. We are pleased to see the Department of Education embracing that pattern in development of the NETP. We encourage broad participation in this refinement process.

Upon examination of the draft of the NETP, ISTE finds many strengths, and there has clearly been deep, broad and sophisticated consideration of how technology will demand, support and enable educational transformation.

ISTE, however, challenges the priority afforded some elements within a number of the six major areas of focus, and we recommend that some elements not afforded coverage in the Executive Summary have their profile raised as a result of the feedback and refinement process.

Several of the topics not appearing as top priorities in the Plan are addressed in subsequent Department releases and remarks, indicating that the Department has already received some important feedback regarding re-ordering of priorities. It is encouraging to know the Department is listening.

Among priorities for learning and assessment, far too little priority is given to establishing a shared understanding of what is meaningful and critical for students to learn and for educators to measure. There are far too many references to “academic standards” and “student achievement” when the most important first step is to ensure we are targeting a comprehensive set of critical learning outcomes, and not simply “student achievement” defined by very minimal and traditional academic standards. Far too little emphasis is placed on documenting a national consensus about what is important and meaningful to learn, and therefore to measure. While the consensus is clear around contemporary digital skills and digital-age learning skills, the plan chooses to essentially ignore these new literacies, especially in the executive summary.

Continuing to allow a focus on traditional academic standards without equal considerations for emerging literacies and digital-age learning skills will result in failure to achieve major educational goals including college and career success and closure of the student learning gaps. We hope this is rectified in subsequent drafts.

We find a number of strengths in the treatment of assessment in the plan. ISTE supports assessment integrated into instruction, and, because what we assess and evaluate drives what we teach, it is extremely important that the NETP have as a high priority formative assessment for learning. Performance assessment through the use of technology, electronic portfolios, and authentic performance tasks will bring the benefit of assessment to enhance learning like never before.

ISTE applauds the plan’s reference to a new definition of a teacher in this new century. Today’s educators must be co-learners with colleagues and students, and they should be prepared and developed “with competencies and expertise such as critical thinking, complex problem solving, collaboration, and multimedia communication … woven into all content areas. These competencies are necessary to become expert learners…” We believe teachers must be supported to embrace the NETP model. “The model asks that we focus what and how we teach to match what people need to know, how they learn, where and when they will learn, and who needs to learn.” ISTE values this as a powerful and important statement.

We suggest adding to the list of references the attributes of a new century educator as noted in ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS•T), 2008 and for Administrators (NETS•A), 2009.

The priority area of teaching also has some sub-priorities inverted. Affording data (access to data, interpretation of data, and data informed teaching) overwhelming dominance within the teaching section of the plan ignores the critical need for all teachers to first be effective facilitators of student learning in digital-age, connected learning environments. Creating a cadre of teachers who are data analysis experts will hardly transform our education systems if teachers are not enabled and empowered to transform the student learning experience with digital-age pedagogy. And, today they are not. Data interpretation and usage skills are only one component contributing to an effective teacher and it is far from the most important. So, while this should be addressed in the plan, allowing it to dominate the teaching section as the top priority brings into question the understanding of what contributes to teacher effectiveness.

ISTE believes there are a multitude of effective models of learning emerging in this digital, Web 2.0 era. Singling out online instruction as the most important new model discounts blended models, self-directed models, and much of the informal learning taking place today. A more appropriate priority is bringing teachers up to speed on a wide array of digital-age pedagogies and models of learning support.

ISTE also acknowledges the inadequacy of the ‘highly qualified teacher’ definition and we support a focus on ‘highly effective teachers and school leaders’, with definitions that include global digital-age teaching and leadership skills as defined in ISTE’s NETS•T and NETS•A.

ISTE applauds the expanded definition of “infrastructure” as applied to a new century of “always-on” learning environments. It is important to note that the systems need to be available to students, educators and leaders, but also add access for parent/guardians. An expanded view may also include access to learning systems for the under educated adult population. “The underlying principle is that infrastructure includes people, processes, learning resources, policies, and sustainable models for continuous improvement…” is a milestone definition which will require a systemic approach to become widely adopted. By placing “policies” in the category of infrastructure, the NETP and Department of Education are making a bold statement about the need to examine school, SEA and LEA policies which may be overtly or inadvertently placing roadblocks in the path of seamless access to learning opportunities.

We also believe, because of overwhelming evidence of impact, the importance of coaching and mentoring of teachers for effective use of technology in learning should be highlighted in the Executive Summary.

Finally, ISTE agrees that rethinking metrics of productivity in transformed, contemporary American education is one of the most important activities we can undertake at this time. It ranks right up there with creating a shared vision of what is really important to learn and measure in this day and age. And, the definition of productivity must be tied tightly to the learning of what is meaningful, relevant and important to future success. And we remain concerned that 'learning' and 'achievement' as used in the plan focuses on inadequate traditional academics only.

Leading with cost and efficiency in the consideration of productivity in education is a frightening thing, and reduced cost is not the most important educational priority in our country today. The treatment of these [cost and efficiency] in the current draft of the plan would indicate differently. – We believe, in error. Upgrading impact and efficacy should be so much more a priority than lowering cost at this time of education crisis.

ISTE applauds the commitment to R&D in the plan, but we enthusiastically challenge the contention that the ultimate grand challenge problem in education is “establishing an integrated end-to-end real-time system for managing learning outcomes and costs across our entire education system at all levels.” This indicates that authors of the plan believe our grand challenge lies with transformation at the edges of learning – within the logistics and management of education.

ISTE rather believes our ultimate grand challenge problem is at the heart of learning – in the student learning experience - to:
1. define the learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and dispositions) necessary for students to thrive in learning, working, and engaging in meaningful social and civic involvement in an increasingly digital world,
2. create engaging, relevant and valid experiences that ensure success in learning and assessing those critical learning outcomes for all students, and
3. enable and empower educators – including faculty and prospective teachers in preservice preparation programs - to effectively foster achievement of currently relevant learning outcomes among all students.

So, the areas of major focus are very appropriate for this version of the NETP, and ISTE hopes to see significant support for the framework they delineate. The priorities identified within each major topic of focus, however, are much less appropriately prioritized. We hope to see those sub-priorities re-ordered by overwhelming feedback from educators, parents, students and other stakeholders who understand we need a transformation at the heart of learning – a transformation in the student learning experience – and not simply innovation around the edges of learning.

The intent of the plan is indeed attractive. However, true change in outcome requires true change in execution. I will look forward to seeing true changes in the time worn model of higher education hiring subject matter experts instead of actual trained and qualified university level instructors and course designers. In our world of embracing cheaper goods and services, it would be refreshing to see our society embrace education as a highly prized value instead of just another product that can be mass produced. The plan outlined here shows goals centered in quantity, not necessarily in quality. Time will tell where the value lies as the plan develops.

I have commented here on what appear to me to be some major differences between the conversation you are forwarding in this document and the wider conversation I see on the Internet, communities, and learning.

I am for higher standards for my students; I ask more of them every day. I’m just surprised that no one has commented on the obvious contradiction here of personalized instruction v. standardized tests. When I read the passage on personalized instruction and not a one size fits all model I immediately thought of Differentiated Instruction. So I guess how that is going to work, since the very nature of DI is about student interest, how do you differentiate/personalize instruction yet still standardize a test?
Additionally, a standardized curriculum? Everyone getting information at the same pace, really? Some people get information quicker than others just look in any classroom and that is an obvious truth. In a truly differentiated environment this is not an issue as it accounts for student levels, ex. tiered assignments. Standardization of anything is the ideology and practice they want to get away from, in their reference to the 19th and 20th centuries, yet the 19th and 20th century ideology is still rearing its ugly head with words like standardized testing, same pace, etc. Make no mistake, listen to the words of the Secretary of Education and the President we know this to be true.
Next, what is with this blanket assumption that kids need to go to college. There is a diversity of jobs available in the workplace why should we encourage all to go to college many of which don’t require any particular skills or education to do? Additionally, many jobs offer on the job training why unnecessarily create debt at a trade school or by going to college if jobs offer the same training? This makes no sense to me! What we should be doing is training kids to be citizens. What skills do citizens of the US need to survive and be productive? If you answer the question honestly you’ll begin to see the path to improving education isn’t in reform or restructuring but transforming attitudes about schools in communities and teacher practice.
Lastly, involve the public and private sector, really? Why go to those who have no idea like the public and private sector. They aren’t doing the job, they have no idea what is wrong with schools. Let me offer an idea here, why don’t you ask the teachers? I know a novel conception, actually asking the people who do the job what is the best way to transform education. I’m insulted at the blanket assumption that government and the private sector have the answer. Teachers are professionals and have not been given the respect they deserve. What people forget is every profession has started with a teacher, not the other way around.

This is a start, and i'm excited to see that education has finally come to the top of the list as a priority by our executive office! HOWEVER, if we have to choose two goals (as listed in the executive summary) could we possibly think a little bit out of the box? The first goal needs to be expanded to include post high school Vocational Education for learners who want to pursue honorable occupations that keep our country running, and we need to include apprenticeship programs for those not ready to spend another two years in a structured educational system, but could benefit by a work experience with similar living experiences as college students- including counseling.
A bigger issue for me is how do we level the playing field in our K-12 Public schools? Technology integration, physical setting, general competencies in leadership, sustainable teacher mentoring and for goodness sakes, will someone just mandate that ALL children must have gym or physical activity every single day (thus we will be contributing through our actions the significance of healthy behaviors that will reduce childhood obesity!)

I have worked both in the public and private educational sectors. I presently create communicative language tests for users of English as another language. One thing I have found, particularly within economically depressed areas is the need to provide job related skills that are usable even before graduating from High School. I'd like to further this statement, by saying I do not believe that every student is a candidate for college. We need to have programs that are practical in nature so as to keep our high school students who know they are not going to be going to college interested and prepared for their future.