US National Education Technology Plan 2017

The National Education Technology Plan (NETP) 2017 from the US Department of Education was recently released. It sets out a vision for learning enabled by technology at all levels of education. The plan consists of 5 sections: Learning, Teaching, Leadership, Assessment, and Infrastructure.

Learning—Engaging and Empowering Learning through Technology

The goal is for learners to have engaging and empowering learning experiences in both formal and informal settings to prepare them to be active, creative and knowledgeable and ethical citizens.

  • Technology-Enabled Learning in Action
    • Enabling personalised learning experiences (menu of learning experiences: write an essay, produce media, collect data etc.)
    • Organise learning around projects and real-world learning (sharing outputs online)
    • Learning opportunities in museums, libraries and out-of-school settings
    • Pursue passions and personal interests
  • The Future of Learning Technologies (increased games and simulations, augmented reality and virtual reality)
  • Bringing Equity to Learning Through Technology (Closing the digital divide and ensure students understand how to use technology as a tool to engage in creative, productive, lifelong learning, and not simply consuming passive content)
  • Providing Technology Accessibility for All Learners (Universal Design for Learning)
  • Physical Spaces and Technology-Enabled Learning (Flexible and blended learning spaces)
  • Recommendations
    • Develop and implement learning resources to create equitable and accessible learning ecosystems that make learning possible everywhere and all the time
    • Develop and implement learning resources that use technology to embody learning sciences design principles
    • Align learning technology resources to intended learning outcomes
    • Develop an accessible standard of learning resource design to help educators select and evaluate learning resources for accessibility and equity of learning experience
    • More research is needed on how learning sciences can inform how technology is developed and used for learning

Teaching—Teaching With Technology

The goal is for educators to be connected to people, resources, expertise and learning experiences that empower and inspire them to provide more effective teaching.

  • Roles and Practices of Educators in Technology-Supported Learning
    • Collaborate outside their own schools
    • Design engaging and relevant learning experiences (using games, social networks, simulations, and multimedia)
    • Lead evaluations and implementations of new technologies for learning
    • Motivate learners (create spaces to experiment, iterate and risk)
    • Co-learners with students and peers
    • Serve the underserved
  • Rethinking Teacher Preparation (active use of technology to enable learning, program-deep and program-wide educational technology experiences)
  • Fostering Ongoing Professional Learning and Development
  • Recommendations
    • Provide teachers educators with learning experiences powered by technology to increase their digital literacy
    • Provide learners with online access to effective teaching
    • Develop skills in online and blended instruction
    • Develop a common set of technology competencies for lecturers and teachers

Leadership—Creating a Culture and Conditions for Innovation and Change

The goal is to embed an understanding of technology-enabled education within the roles and responsibilities of educational leaders.

  • Characteristics of Effective Leadership
    • Collaborative leadership
    • Personalised student learning
    • Robust infrastructure
    • Personalised professional learning
  • Budgeting and Funding for the Transition to Digital Learning (reduce existing costs, partner with other organisations, use federal funds, rethink staff responsibilities, long-term sustainability)
  • Recommendations
    • Establish clear strategic planning connections at all levels
    • Set a vision for the use of technology to enable learning
    • Develop funding models and plans for sustainable technology purchases and leverage openly licensed content
    • Develop clear communities of practice for education leaders

Assessment—Measuring for Learning

The goal is to leverage the power of technology to measure what matters most and use assessments to improve learning

  • Approaches to Assessment (formative and summative)
  • Using Assessment Data to Support Learning
  • How Technology Transforms Assessment
    • Enhanced question types (graphic response, simulations, equation response)
    • Complex competency measurement (measure social and emotional learning)
    • Real-time feedback
    • Accessibility
    • Adapt to learner ability and knowledge (adaptive testing)
    • Embedded within the learning process
    • Assess for ongoing learning
  • The Future of Technology-Based Assessment (continuous improvement, integrated learning and assessment systems, use data appropriately, learning dashboards, micro-credentials)
  • Recommendations
    • Ensure privacy protection while ongoing gathering and sharing of assessment data for continuous improvement of learning
    • Implement learning dashboards and response systems to provide feedback about student learning
    • Create an integrated system for valid, reliable and cost-effective assessments
    • Research to explore how embedded assessment technologies (simulations, games, virtual worlds) assess and engage learners

Infrastructure—Enabling Access and Effective Use

The goal is ensure access to a robust and comprehensive infrastructure when and where it is needed for learning

  • Ubiquitous Connectivity (quality internet at school and home)
  • Powerful Learning Devices (including BYOT)
  • High-Quality Digital Learning Content (including OERs)
  • Responsible Use Policies (RUP)
  • Protections for Student Data and Privacy
  • Device and Network Management
  • Recommendations
    • Ensure broadband access to the internet and adequate wifi connectivity
    • Ensure there is at least one internet access device and appropriate software for use in and out of school
    • Support the development and use of openly licensed materials
    • Draft sustainable infrastructure plans
    • Create a map of connectivity, device access and their uses
    • Include cyber safety and cybersecurity training

The University of the Future: Round Table

A global summit was held on the Future of Universities, as part of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) Research Week 2016, 18-22 April 2016. On the 22nd of April, a 2.5 hour round table consisting of a panel of experts debating and discussing issues related to the University of the Future. The panel was open to students, researchers and academics at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and other universities in Catalonia. The panel of experts consisted of:

  • Marta Aymerich, Vice President for Strategic Planning and Research, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain (Chairperson).
  • Martha Burkle, Knowledge and Learning Analytics, Information Technology and Learning Commons, Yukon College, Canada.
  • Alec Ian Gershberg, Chair of Urban Policy, Analysis and Management Programme, Milano School of Policy, The New School, United States.
  • María Antonia Huertas, Professor, Faculty of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain.
  • Michael Power, Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Laval, Canada.
  • David White, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning, University of the Arts London, United Kingdom.

The following sections highlight my notes from the discussions:

Changes in the University Context

The context for universities has changed. There is now a wider group of stakeholders involved such as the local community, industry and global stakeholders. Universities face financial and funding issues. There are different business models emerging, those that are tuition driven and those that are non-tuition driven. Online learning has also opened new opportunities for flexible learning. There is also increasing diversity in learners, greater number of women, learners from working class backgrounds etc. Universities are no longer accessible only to a niche, but need to have universal access. In a competitive world, universities need to stay current and relevant.

Universities need to be able to negotiate a series of tensions, rather than solve a set of problems. These are long-term challenges that cannot be solved overnight. These tensions relate to student independence vs curricula to be taught, creative learners vs doing what they are told. Universities need to provide access to knowledge and skills. Universities provide private returns to individuals and public returns to societies.

Balancing Academic Needs and Workforce Needs

The role of academics is to promote critical thinking, filter information and conduct research. They also need to negotiate between competing needs. Faculties try to defend their territories as knowledge holders, while industry says graduates do not meet their needs. Universities need to respond to the needs of societies, but also question those needs or challenge those expectations. For example, the importance of long term needs of specific disciplines such as the arts, over short term funding constraints. The skills required from graduates are permanent long term lifelong learning skills (21st century skills). Our curricula need to be different to develop the skills the graduates will need for future careers.

The Increasing Importance of Transdisciplinary / Interdisciplinary Knowledge

Graduates are working in increasing knowledge-based societies. The nature of jobs and career paths are changing. Universities need to build bridges between pure knowledge and reality. Students require a depth of disciplinary knowledge and skills, but also a breadth of related disciplinary knowledge and skills. Thus there is a need for specialised and deep knowledge, but also more general knowledge. Research groups with interdisciplinary team members can reveal insights and provide different ways of working and learning. Often universities are hierarchical and work in disciplinary silos, but flexible interdisciplinary approaches are needed  to solve complex problems. There may be a shift needed away from traditional disciplines to new to cross-disciplines. Workforces are increasingly teamwork driven to accomplish set goals. Yet mostly student are tasked to work individually. Where there are team projects, these are still often assessed individually.

Changes Needed in Universities

We need to open up universities to the broader community and shift away from being content producers to providers of expertise. The meaning of a degree has been stretched to be useful to different stakeholders. But we need to rethink the value of qualifications and match them to student needs. Universities also operate in a global environment and need to be better at incorporating different cultural viewpoints. Universities can often reproduce social structures, but need to be able to change those social structures as well. The aim of universities should be to equip people to negotiate life with confidence.