I was recently invited to attend one of the education technology roundtables Education Secretary Spellings is holding across the country. This one was in California where I reside, right in the heart of Silicon Valley, a stones throw from Google, Apple, Yahoo!, HP, Sun, etc. It was refreshing to be part of a conversation designed to open the dialogue on education technology.
Scott McNealy, chairman of Sun, was promoting the new open source project he launched called Curikki. He is fired up about technology and education. Pat Suppes, the emeritus Stanford professor who has been instructing gifted students online in a rigorous assessment environment for years (EPGY), argued for increasingly sophisticated assessment models.
But what became clear in the course of the two-hour session is that the Secretary, who was accompanied by FCC Chairman Martin, is searching for what comes next for NCLB.
In the first round, NCLB put the country on a data-gathering mission, and eRate, from the FCC, helped ensure schools have access to technology. But round two needs a significant step up: to move from simple data metrics to full systemic deployment of diagnosis, treatment and implementation, all with technology at the core. If we don’t, cautioned Net Day‘s Julie Evans, who routinely runs massive student and teacher surveys, the students will simply come up with their own workarounds for school.
We have been mired in technology with a small "t," such as desktop applications, and need to move to technology with a capital "T," as in modern infrastructure, not all that different from every large commercial or governmental enterprise. However, the large "T" means that we also must mass-customize and reach right down to every individual student, track their progress, and make appropriate and personalized instructional decisions based on this data. Today, school is about classes; tomorrow it will be about each student.
In the end, what made the Spellings panel special was that there was a mix of individual educators who are providing phenomenal instructions and 21st century learning not possible without technology, districts that are implementing and integrating technology deeply so that it is part of a modern education paradigm, and school operators who have already perfected systematic models that run like enterprises but touch each student’s progress every day.
While the Secretary is making her rounds, significant activity and interest is invading statehouses across the country. Keep an eye on Governors Richardson (NM), Napolitano (AZ), Gradholm (MI) and California’s own, Arnold. For the first time in years, there is a sense that technology is not just a tool, but part of something much larger.