Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology
The National Education Technology Plan, Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology, calls
for applying the advanced technologies used in our daily personal and professional lives to our entire education system
to improve student learning, accelerate and scale up the adoption of effective practices, and use data and information
for continuous improvement.
It presents five goals with recommendations for states, districts, the federal government, and other stakeholders.
Each goal addresses one of the five essential components of learning powered by technology: Learning, Assessment,
Teaching, Infrastructure, and Productivity.
Learning: Engage and Empower
The model of 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 and to enable continuous and lifelong learning.
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.
Beyond that, students and educators should have options for
engaging in learning: large groups, small groups, and work tailored to the individual goals, needs, interests, and prior
experience of each learner. Technology should be leveraged to provide 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. It also should be used to enable 24/7 and lifelong learning.
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 such expertise 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. That involves
developing deep understanding within specific content areas and making the connections among 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 the data 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.
Assessment: Measure What Matters
The model of 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.
The nation's governors and state education chiefs have begun to develop standards and assessments that measure
21st-century competencies and expertise 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. This can be done 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 and Wiliam 1998). 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 address 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 relevant data, and take appropriate action.
Teaching: Prepare and Connect
Just as leveraging technology can help us improve learning and assessment, the model of 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, classrooms are fully connected to
provide educators with 24/7 access to data and analytic tools, and educators have access to resources that help them
act on the insights the data provide.
Professional educators are a critical component of transforming our education systems, and therefore strengthening
and elevating the teaching profession is as important as effective teaching and accountability. All are 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, it also can help us shift to a model of
In a connected teaching model, 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 in and out of 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 after-school 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 more options for all learners. This is accomplished by augmenting the expertise
and competencies of specialized and exceptional educators with online and blended (online and offline) learning systems,
on-demand courses, and other self-directed learning opportunities.
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 preservice and in-service professional learning.
This gap prevents technology from being used in ways that would improve instructional practices and learning outcomes.