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Goals and Recommendations

The NETP presents five goals with recommendations for states, districts, the federal government, and other stakeholders in our education system that address 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.

1.0 Learning

All learners will have engaging and empowering learning experiences both in and outside of school that prepare them to be active, creative, knowledgeable, and ethical participants in our globally networked society.

To meet this goal, we recommend the following actions:

1.1 Revise, create, and adopt standards and learning objectives for all content areas that reflect 21st century expertise and the power of technology to improve learning.

1.2 Develop and adopt learning resources that use technology to embody design principles from the learning sciences.

1.3 Develop and adopt learning resources that exploit the flexibility and power of technology to reach all learners anytime and anywhere.

1.4 Use advances in the learning sciences and technology to enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning and develop, adopt, and evaluate new methodologies with the potential to enable all learners to excel in STEM.

2.0 Assessment

Our education system at all levels will leverage the power of technology to measure what matters and use assessment data for continuous improvement.

To meet this goal, we recommend the following actions:

2.1 Design, develop, and adopt assessments that give students, educators, and other stakeholders timely and actionable feedback about student learning to improve achievement and instructional practices.

2.2 Build the capacity of educators and educational institutions to use technology to improve assessment materials and processes for both formative and summative uses.

2.3 Conduct research and development that explore how gaming technology, simulations, collaboration environments, and virtual worlds can be used in assessments to engage and motivate learners and to assess complex skills and performances embedded in standards.

2.4 Revise practices, policies, and regulations to ensure privacy and information protection while enabling a model of assessment that includes ongoing student learning data gathering and sharing for continuous improvement.

3.0 Teaching

Professional educators will be supported individually and in teams by technology that connects them to data, content, resources, expertise, and learning experiences that enable and inspire more effective teaching for all learners.

To meet this goal, we recommend the following actions:

3.1 Design, develop, and adopt technology-based content, resources, and online learning communities that create opportunities for educators to collaborate for more effective teaching, inspire and attract new people into the profession, and encourage our best educators to continue teaching.

3.2 Provide pre-service and in-service educators with preparation and professional learning experiences powered by technology that close the gap between students’ and educators’ fluencies with technology and promote and enable technology use in ways that improve learning, assessment, and instructional practices.

3.3 Transform the preparation and professional learning of educators and education leaders by leveraging technology to create career-long personal learning networks within and across schools, pre-service preparation and in-service educational institutions, and professional organizations.

3.4 Use technology to provide access to the most effective teaching and learning resources, especially where they are not otherwise available, and to provide more options for all learners at all levels.

3.5 Develop a teaching force skilled in online instruction.

4.0 Infrastructure

All students and educators will have access to a comprehensive infrastructure for learning when and where they need it. To meet this goal, we recommend the following actions:

4.1 Ensure that students and educators have adequate broadband access to the Internet and adequate wireless connectivity both inside and outside school.

4.2 Ensure that every student and educator has at least one Internet access device and software and resources for research, communication, multimedia content creation, and collaboration for use in and out of school.

4.3 Leverage open educational resources to promote innovative and creative opportunities for all learners and accelerate the development and adoption of new open technology-based learning tools and courses.

4.4 Build state and local education agency capacity for evolving an infrastructure for learning.

4.5 Support “meaningful use” of educational and information technology in states and districts by establishing definitions, goals, and metrics.

5.0 Productivity

Our education system at all levels will 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.

To meet this goal, we recommend the following actions:

5.1 Develop and adopt a common definition of productivity in education and more relevant and meaningful measures of learning outcomes and costs.

5.2 Improve policies and use technology to manage costs including those for procurement.

5.3 Fund the development and use of interoperability standards for content, student learning data, and financial data to enable collecting, sharing, and analyzing data to improve decision-making at all levels of our education system.

5.4 Rethink basic assumptions in our education system that inhibit leveraging technology to improve learning, starting with our current practice of organizing student and educator learning around seat time instead of the demonstration of competencies.

5.5 Design, implement, and evaluate technology-powered programs and interventions to ensure that students progress through our K-16 education system and emerge prepared for the workplace and citizenship.

A New Kind of R&D for Education

To design and implement more efficient and effective education system, this plan calls for an organization with the mission of serving the public good through research and development at the intersection of learning sciences, technology, and education (Pea & Lazowska, 2003).

The Higher Education Act (P.L. 110-315) passed in August 2008 authorizes establishment of the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies (also called the Digital Promise). Housed in the Department of Education, the center is authorized as a 501(c)3 that would bring together contributions from the public and private sectors to support the R&D needed to transform learning in America. The Digital Promise’s intent of involving private sector technology companies in precompetitive R&D with the center can be realized only if the federal government provides the funding that would demonstrate its own commitment to a major program of R&D addressing the complex problems associated with redesigning our education system.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) offers an example of how such a research agency can promote work that builds basic understanding and addresses practical problems. DARPA sponsors high-risk/high-gain research on behalf of Department of Defense agencies, but it is independently managed and staffed by individuals from both industry and academia who are experts in the relevant research areas. DARPA program officers are given considerable discretion, both in defining the research agenda and making decisions about the funding and structuring of research (Cooke-Deegan, 2007).

In a similar manner, the National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies should identify key emerging trends and priorities and recruit and bring together the best minds and organizations to collaborate on high-risk/high-gain R&D projects. It should aim for radical, orders-of-magnitude improvements by envisioning the impact of innovations and then working backward to identify the fundamental breakthroughs required to make them possible.

Grand Challenge Problems

This plan also urges the national research center to focus on grand challenge problems in education research and development. “Grand challenge problems” are important problems that require bringing together a community of scientists and researchers to work toward their solution.

The following grand challenge problems illustrate the kinds of ambitious R&D efforts that should be coordinated at a national level. Notably, although each of these problems is a grand challenge in its own right, they all combine to form the ultimate grand challenge problem in education: establishing an integrated end-to-end real-time system for managing learning outcomes and costs across our entire education system at all levels.

1.0: Design and validate an integrated system that provides real-time access to learning experiences tuned to the levels of difficulty and assistance that optimizes learning for all learners and that incorporates self-improving features that enable it to become increasingly effective through interaction with learners.

2.0: Design and validate an integrated system for designing and implementing valid, reliable, and cost-effective assessments of complex aspects of 21st century expertise and competencies across academic disciplines.

3.0: Design and validate an integrated approach for capturing, aggregating, mining, and sharing content, student learning, and financial data cost-effectively for multiple purposes across many learning platforms and data systems in near real time.

4.0: Identify and validate design principles for efficient and effective online learning systems and combined online and offline learning systems that produce content expertise and competencies equal to or better than those produced by the best conventional instruction in half the time at half the cost.

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