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« Odds and Ends - the new | Main | Looking back »
Thursday
Jan052006

Looking forward

What might the next 10 years bring using the "look back" to examine the forces that might make significant change in technology use happen?

 This is what my crystal ball (the defective, cloudy one) showed me when I wrote our district's 2004-07 long range technology plan in 2003:

Directions - 2004-05 to 2006-07
As quickly as technology changes, it is almost impossible to predict or plan with any accuracy the specific challenges that will be facing us over the next few years. We can speculate on some general trends:

    1. Less emphasis on “technology’ as a separate area of concern; more emphasis on technology as a means to achieve goals of other areas.
    2. Greater need to train students and staff on ethics, safety and civility when using technology, as well as the ability to evaluate the reliability of information found and to use it purposely.
    3. Greater need for a secure source of adequate technology funding. Strategizing for decreasing “total cost of ownership” through maintenance outsourcing, use of thin client architectures, use of single-purpose devices (e.g. AlphaSmarts), adopting handheld computers by staff and students, and purchasing upgradeable devices.
    4. Continued integration of technology skills into the content areas to meet specific state standards as well as being able to meet NCLB requirements that all students be technologically literate by the end of eighth grade.
    5. Increased demand for individualized technology training by staff.
    6. Continued, accelerated move to information in digital formats such as e-books, online databases, electronically submitted student work, web-based video conferencing, and video on demand.
    7. More emphasis on anytime, anyplace access to personal information through web-based personal file space, calendars, and wirelessly networked hand-held devices. Increased access to tools that allow teachers to supplement classroom instruction with online learning opportunities such as class chats, threaded discussion groups, online syllabi and study materials, collaborative work spaces, etc.
    8. Increased desire by parents for real-time student information available via the web. Higher parent expectations of schools and teachers to provide comprehensive information about school programs and individual student achievement.
    9. Increased importance of the tools and knowledge need to do good data-driven decision-making by administrators, building teams and individual teachers.
    10. Increased efforts to assure data privacy, data security, and network reliability.
    11. Increased educational options for all learners including more choices of schools, more online course offerings, more interactive video offerings, and more computer courseware options. This will result in an increased need for school marketing efforts and increased “consumer-driven” attention.
    12. Higher accountability for technology expenditures and impact on school effectiveness.

On reflection over the past two years since this was written, what  I don't think I recognized  was the impact that state and federal laws/mandates have had on how district technology efforts and expeditures have been prioritized. Since my career in education started in the mid-70s, I don't remember a time in which the state has played a bigger role in dictating curriculum and policy of its own making or in enforcing federal laws. So, based on state and federal education policy, here might be some bold, not very encouraging, predictions:

  • NCLB will continue to be enforced with little change in emphasis on "basic skills." This means more tech dollars spent on record-keeping, testing, datawarehousing/datamining, and instructional reading and math programs directed at low-performing students. The "technology literate" requirement of Title IID will not be enforced.
  • The state will continue to empahasize content-based standards and not recognize the need to teach or assess process-based skills such as technology or information literacy. This means any requirement that all teachers teach and expect the use of technology, HOTS, and information-problem solving will come from district mandates, not from the state or feds. At the present, the state of Minnesota's only interest in the school use of technology is in online testing. These state tests will be normed or criterion-based, not "value-added." Authentic assessment will continue to fade as fewer teachers practice the skills learned when the state standards were performance-based.
  • The district will continue to focus its efforts on skills tested as required by the state (in enforcing NCLB and its own content standards.) The major effort of the board and building improvement/staff development committtees will be in keeping the district and schools off the "does not meet AYP" list, which will be increasingly challenging to do. At this time, despite my personal campaigning, I do not see the district adopting technology/information literacy skills as a major goal.
  • Competition for students will not come from online courses, but from charter schools. While some teachers will choose to supplement F2F instruction with online resources, there will be no mass migration to online high schools. Parents who recognize that their kids need 21st Century Skills will gravitate toward charter schools that have project-based learning as a focus (and don't seem to worry about their scores on state tests).
  • Brick and mortar public schools will around for as long as we are still the cheapest day-care going.

A few things that might - might - make a real difference in business as usual are:

  • The availability of a truly functional $100 laptop for students. Even if the schools don't buy them, parents will. The change in instruction will be driven by student expectations and abilities rather than from planned efforts by curriculum committees.
  • In the 2006 elections, there is a backlash both in the state and nation to the right-wing educational agenda. Of course, both Democrats and Republicans signed on to NCLB, so it would be interesting to see if national organizations like school board associations, library organizations, technology organizations, teacher organizations etc. can find their own Jack Abramhof who can move congress  to make 21st century skills an important and enforced part of NCLB. I am not holding my breath on this one. (A future blog entry on why we should be lobbying for student skills requirements, not dedicated funding for libraries and technology.)
  • A bunch of bloggers who have seen the light and decide to get political by joining professional organizations who do do lobbying. At this point, we all seem to be rather happy talking only to each other, so I'm not holding my breath on this one either.
Wish I could be more optimistic. And what does your crystal ball tell you?

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Reader Comments (4)

I think you're correct in your conclusion to emphasize the explicitly political nature of our problem.
January 5, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman
Thanks, Tom.

I think a lot of us tech directors beat ourselves up for not being more effective. "Were I only harder-working, more persuasive, more visionary, more something, our district would not be struggling with technology integration," the internal dialog goes. Of course, being "more" of those things would help probably all of us, but we also have to acknowledge we are up against some pretty damn big social and political forces.

When Margaret Mead wrote, "Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world" she never really spelled out how exactly they went about it.

All the best,

Doug
January 5, 2006 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson
Hi Doug, whatever happened to your prediction about eBooks? :)
January 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Chew
Hi Ivan,

Oh, e-books will be here. But will schools adopt them?

Doug
January 8, 2006 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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