Using Technology to Transform Education

Using Technology to Transform Education Introduction The use of technology for educational purposes is on the rise. More students than ever before are taking courses online or being exposed to blended learning opportunities that infuse traditional instruction with digital components. Increasingly, teachers are using tools that enhance student participation during class and allow for ongoing assessment of student progress. New technologies are also helping to inform teachers’ instructional practices and provide students with additional avenues for learning outside the classroom. To prepare students for success after high school, Tennessee has committed to a comprehensive education reform plan that includes raising academic standards, supporting teachers and leaders, and using data to enhance student learning. Tennessee’s educators are using technology to support all components of this plan. The work to date has included using technology to deliver information to students in new ways and engage them as active learners in the classroom, connect students with access to rigorous or individualized coursework, help practitioners develop and share their best practices, and give teachers real-time access to data on student performance in their classroom. In January 2013, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam made an unprecedented commitment to significantly enhance the technological capacity of schools and districts to use technology to improve education. To ensure that this investment is used in a meaningful way, it is crucial to not only understand how our newest technology is and can be used in classrooms, but also what steps should be taken to support educators to use new tools and techniques and build the infrastructure to support technology use over time. From a state and national standpoint, technology must continue to be used to enhance learning. Many current challenges and barriers to integrating technology in schools exist, but there is much Tennessee can do to improve moving forward. March 2013 Historical Context The term “educational technology” refers to a broad range of devices, applications, and curricular materials used by schools to facilitate and enhance teaching practices and student learning.i The term also refers to the ways schools use these tools and materials to create more educational opportunities for students that are tailored to their individual abilities and learning styles. Results from several studies show that the use of technology in classrooms increases student interest and engagement in specific content areas and creates opportunities for cooperative and project-based learning.ii The current influx of technology is not the first time that reformers have sought to dramatically improve learning and instruction through new media. In the 1920s, film was supposed to provide teachers with an engaging presentation platform and a broad range of content. Reformers in the 1930s wanted radio to open classrooms to the world and “allow students access to the finest teachers, the best authorities in every field, and the world’s leaders.”iii In the 1970s, people had high hopes for instructional television, but its introduction into the classroom did not come with effective training for teachers and essentially became entertainment for students while teachers graded work. The exciting new advances of film, radio, and television were not able to transform education as intended because of three key issues: 1) After investing in the initial purchases, schools and districts failed to allocate funds for upkeep and new equipment; 2) teachers were not trained on how to integrate new technology into their classrooms; and 3) teachers were not involved in decisions about content and format, and were often not consulted on how to best integrate technology into the classroom.iv Tennessee has an unprecedented opportunity to leverage technology to transform education and prepare students for success in college and the workforce. 1207 18th Avenue South, Suite 326, Nashville, TN 37212 — tel 615.727.1545 — fax 615.727.1569 —