Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 16
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS > Tracking news and ideas in educational technology
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without a permanent director.
The uncertainty raises a big question: Who will be the source of K-12
technology leadership in the coming
Among ed-tech leaders, there is no
clear consensus as to what will happen next. South and other Obamaera officials say their work-around
such issues as district technology
leadership, open educational resources, personalized learning, and
"innovation clusters"-will continue
regardless of what the new administration does, thanks in large part to
State Leadership Questions
State officials hold a somewhat different view. Individuals involved with
key ed-tech efforts in Connecticut,
Indiana, and Utah, for instance, say
the federal Education Department
was often piggybacking on work that
states were already doing. It will be
disappointing if Washington's interest in educational technology wanes,
they say, but states will have little
problem resuming a leadership role
Some longtime observers of the edtech arena, however, are more skeptical of states' ability to fill the void. It
could be hard to sustain the Obama
administration's priorities, they say,
because its ed-tech initiatives came
with few new laws, regulations, or
funding. In some cases, the Education Department may also have overreached, seeking to proactively shape
trends and markets, thus setting itself up for a backlash.
And for all its attention to innovation, the Obama administration
in 2011 eliminated the federal government's lone dedicated funding
stream for educational technology,
the $100 million Enhancing Education Through Technology program.
With more cuts in the federal education budget potentially looming in
the fall, and the Trump administration clearly signaling its general preference for market-based solutions, it
could be that private-sector technology companies will have an opportunity to step into a vacuum, said
Douglas A. Levin, a consultant with
EdTech Strategies and a former director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association.
"There's no indication to suggest
the Trump White House will lend its
voice to this issue," Levin said. "And
the notion that states will somehow
invest in innovation during a time of
dramatic scarcity is not realistic."
The federal #GoOpen initiative offers a window into the changing policy landscape.
Launched in 2015, #GoOpen sought
to encourage states and school districts to adopt "open educational resources," or free digital instructional
materials that users can alter or
share as they see fit.
While working as a classroom
teacher at Danville Community High
School, Molly Yowell helped lead Indiana's involvement in the initiative.
Its biggest impact?
"It gave validity to the work we
were already doing," Yowell said.
The real driving forces for Indiana
schools' pursuit of free digital curricular resources, she said, predated
#GoOpen. Among them: a surge of
classroom digital devices, a move toward online state testing, and a 2011
state law that gave districts more
freedom to adopt curricular materials
other than traditional textbooks.
Beginning in the 2013-14 school
year, a group of Indiana districts
began curating and sharing free digital content. That work took root and
expanded locally. Similar dynamics
played out in other states.
Eventually, ed-tech leaders in
Washington took notice.
Along with such partners as Amazon Education, the federal Education
Department sought to boost the uptake of OER, relying heavily on the
power of the bully pulpit.
The attention was welcome in Indiana, Yowell said.
But it didn't mean any new money.
There were no new mandates. The department's partnership with Amazon
(around a new online platform that
was supposed to make it easier for
teachers to host and find open digital
content) ran into problems.
And some critics say that while the
Education Department's support for
open resources was well-intentioned,
#GoOpen is an example of misplaced
focus. The department misread the
landscape, encouraging educators to
think of OER as supplemental resources rather than whole-course curricula, argued Larry Singer, a former
executive at the educational publisher
Pearson who is now the CEO of Open
Up Resources, a nonprofit that aims
to provide complete open-resources
curricula to districts.
"Rather than supporting study and
research, the department tried to predict a market outcome," Singer said.
"Government generally is not very
good at that."
Expanding 'Innovation Clusters'
South, the former director of the
office of educational technology, disputes that claim, saying the federal
department supported a variety of
So far, though, just 108 districts
have signed the #GoOpen pledge.
Only 22 of those have followed
through and fully replaced a textbook with open content, according to
Kristina Peters, the #GoOpen fellow
at the office of educational technology until earlier last month.
So, while the open-resources movement overall continues to grow, it's
not at all clear that federal involvement is a main reason why. Nor is
16 | EDUCATION WEEK | May 10, 2017 | www.edweek.org
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
White House Unclear
On Ed-Tech Roadmap
President Obama instructs
school district leaders on how
to use their electronic tablets
to sign a pledge to improve
K-12 digital learning.
The pledge was part
of "ConnectED to the
Future," held at the
White House in 2014.
I'd be watching
to see if the new
power of ed tech
Former director, U.S. Office
of Educational Technology
it clear that the momentum behind
open resources will slow if the Education Department turns its attention elsewhere.
"We have so many awesome educators in Indiana who think this is
what's best for kids," Yowell said.
"Regardless of what's happening
in Washington, they'll get the work
Douglas Casey has similar feelings
about the future of "education innovation clusters," including the one he
helps broker as the executive director of the Connecticut Commission
for Educational Technology.
The idea is to help schools, ed-tech
vendors, and researchers collaborate more easily. In Connecticut, relationships between the three parties began organically. When Casey
learned that federal education officials had a framework for what
he was already trying to build, he
leaned on the department for ideas
But Connecticut's innovation cluster will continue, even if federal interest doesn't, he said.
"The U.S. Department of Education is a resource, but there are a lot
of great innovation leaders that we
draw on," Casey said.
That was also the philosophy behind Future Ready. The feds played
a significant role in drawing attention to the effort, but the actual work
of convening and supporting district
leaders was, and remains, the responsibility of an independent nonprofit organization, the Alliance for
Support from the Education Department and its office of educational technology has been valuable,
and more would be welcome, said
Thomas Murray, who does policy advocacy for the alliance. But the idea
from the beginning was to make
sure that Future Ready could withstand any political changes.
"It was vital that the program not
be seen as a political endeavor," Murray said."We didn't want this to be a
red or a blue thing."
Murray is among those who say
they have little idea what the Education Department's technology
priorities will be under the Trump
DeVos isn't providing any clarity.
Through a spokesman, the secretary
declined a request for an interview.
"The department is reviewing and
assessing all ongoing and existing
projects, initiatives, and plans to
ensure they align with the administration's priorities," a department
spokesman said in a statement.
President Trump has been vocal
about his commitment to deregulation. Already, that has meant
delaying the implementation of an
Obama-era rule that would have
required any curricular materials
produced with federal grant money
to be "open" for use, reuse, and modification by the public.
In addition, Congress last month
approved just $400 million in Title
IV aid to states, money that may be
used for a variety of purposes, including technology. Ed-tech advocates had
been hoping for the full $1.5 billion
that was written into the Every Student Succeeds Act.
And both Trump and DeVos have
been clear about their faith in the private sector, leading some observers
to believe that companies working in
ed tech will soon have an opportunity
to exert much greater influence over
federal education policy.
However the federal priorities
evolve, it seems clear that Washington's role in promoting educational
technology will change.
Under President Obama, the idea
was to use the power of the federal
government to shine a spotlight on
innovative work at the local and
state levels, then support the spread
of such efforts through partnerships,
policymaking, convenings, and documents such as the National Educational Technology Plan.
"The previous administration
understood that everything is impacted by technology, so they baked
it in across all of their priorities," said
South, the former federal ed-tech official. "I'd be watching to see if the
new administration understands the
power of ed tech to accelerate bipartisan goals."
Visit the DIGITAL EDUCATION blog, which
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 10, 2017
Education Week - May 10, 2017
Pruning Dead-End Pathways In Career Tech. Ed.
Teachers Lace Academics With Relationship Skills
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Ed-Tech Leadership Hazy Under Trump
Parker Davis and Alina Lopez, right, talk about words and acts that cause happiness, in a 2nd grade classroom at Lincoln Elementary School in Oakland, Calif. Peer-to-peer conversations are part of an effort to build academic and social-emotional skills
Legislatures Tackle ESSA, Fiscal Issues
News in Brief
Record U.S. Graduation Rate Not Seen as Inflated
Obama-Era Nutrition Standards Loosened for School Meals
Mostly White Town Can Leave Diverse District, Court Says
Teacher Residencies Can Help Curb Shortages, Studies Say
Do Parents See Math as ‘Less Useful’ Than Reading?
Oregon GEAR UP Links Rural Students To Private Colleges
2017 Budget Deal Defers Fierce Fights on Education Aid
Trump Orders Hard Look At Federal Reach on K-12 Policy
Hurdles Remain for Calif. K-12 Funding Formula, Study Says
100 Days: How Three Presidents Stack Up on K-12
Rafiq R. Kalam Id-Din II: Black Teachers Matter. School Integration Doesn’t
By Robert W. Runcie & Antwan Wilson: How We Stopped Sending Students to Jail
Q&A With Peggy Orenstein: Let’s Talk to K-12 Girls About Sex
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
David Jacobson: A Purple Agenda for (Early) Education
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - Legislatures Tackle ESSA, Fiscal Issues
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 2
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 3
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - News in Brief
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 5
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - Obama-Era Nutrition Standards Loosened for School Meals
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - Mostly White Town Can Leave Diverse District, Court Says
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - Teacher Residencies Can Help Curb Shortages, Studies Say
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - Do Parents See Math as ‘Less Useful’ Than Reading?
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - Oregon GEAR UP Links Rural Students To Private Colleges
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 11
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 12
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 13
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 14
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 15
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 16
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 17
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 2017 Budget Deal Defers Fierce Fights on Education Aid
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 19
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - Hurdles Remain for Calif. K-12 Funding Formula, Study Says
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 100 Days: How Three Presidents Stack Up on K-12
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 22
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 23
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - By Robert W. Runcie & Antwan Wilson: How We Stopped Sending Students to Jail
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 26
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 27
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 29
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 30
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - 31
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - David Jacobson: A Purple Agenda for (Early) Education
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - May 10, 2017 - CW4