The evidence is strong that technology and eLearning are powerful tools for revitalizing education and preparing students for the world beyond the classroom. Pioneering schools have already shown what is possible when good education and good technology come together. Technology has repeatedly proven its power to energize and improve learning outcomes.
The Educational Goals
We know that with educational software, digital content,
e-learning and related technologies:
- Help meet the personalized needs of all students
Digital technology enables multiple approaches to learning to effectively address each student's individual learning style, abilities, pace and interests. Through embedded assessment and personalized content, today's courseware helps educators understand and respond to the specific learning needs of each student. Simulation and animation make complex concepts more visual. Robust support tools—including virtual mentors and tutors, portals with tailored entry points to information, adaptive and accessible technologies for students with disabilities, and digital assistants to help with everything from searching and sorting to voice recognition—help level the playing field and deliver key learning skills, making it possible for a wide range of students to succeed and thrive.
- Support accountability and inform instruction
Computer-based assessment not only helps address, enrich and measure individual student progress as it occurs, it also provides educators with valuable data for making instructional decisions and creating more effective learning organizations. In assembling their digital learning portfolios, students not only build organization and presentation skills, but also document their complete educational journey and accomplishments. Portfolios can migrate with learners through their school years and beyond, and serve as an "education ID" that documents learning and achievement.
Technology is also the only means for helping integrate the pieces of the learning puzzle, creating new connections between isolated pockets of assessment and other student and school data over time. Technology helps pinpoint systemic strengths and weaknesses, creating a model for educational accountability and continual improvement.
- Deepen learning and motivate students
Compelling and broadly accessible digital content and tools engage students, fuel exploration and motivate learning. These learning technologies range from virtual field trips that allow students to travel across the globe without leaving their desks, to interactive and adaptive courseware, to immersive, game-based multimedia simulations. They provide a range of modalities, topics, complexity and representations to ensure the breadth and depth of content resources needed to meet every student's interests and abilities. Such electronic learning resources make lessons visually interesting within exciting contexts to capture and hold student attention. In this way, they provide both the means and the motives for achievement, helping to ignite in students a life-long love of learning. Ultimately, this passion may be how technology best prepares American students to thrive in an increasingly competitive and fast-paced world, where change is the norm and flexibility, ability and desire to learn are the keys to success.
- Facilitate communication, connectivity and collaboration
As members of "Generation M," the multi-tasking, multimedia-fluent and continually-connected young people in today's schools and colleges are already accustomed to rich digital multimedia resources, online collaborative spaces and other social interactions mediated by technology. Participation in a variety of virtual learning communities inspires students and teachers to discover, explore, guide and share—and to refine the collaborative skills so crucial to 21st century work environments. With 24/7 connectivity, it is possible for parents and other community members to access information and communicate with learners, teachers, professors and administrators at times convenient to all involved.
- Manage the education enterprise effectively
Just as businesses have harnessed the power of technology to increase productivity and manage complex organizational tasks, schools and colleges are discovering the benefits of technology to help run the education enterprise. By employing powerful digital tools for data analysis and management, investing in key communications technologies, and leveraging the digital infrastructure for multiple purposes, schools save money while achieving better results. Accessible data also provides answers to questions of accountability and progress. Procurement, finance and accounting, human resources and professional development, physical plant, registration, scheduling and many other institutional functions are conducted more efficiently and effectively, thus increasing focus and resources on the core teaching and learning mission.
- Enable students to learn from any place at any time
Advancements in technology provide increasingly ubiquitous high-speed, mobile Internet access. As a result, learning and teaching are no longer constrained by the physical limits of space and time (including the scheduled class time). Postsecondary education has led the charge in providing ubiquitous access to its students, making it possible for faculty and students to interact, communicate and learn nearly anywhere, at any time. Online learning helps meet the needs of traditional and non-traditional students, of rural students with otherwise limited options and of those for whom the traditional classroom model is neither practical nor convenient. Students are empowered to take control of their learning and enroll in virtual and hybrid classes and degree programs and engage in lifelong learning experiences that address their personal, academic and professional needs.
- Nurture creativity and self-expression
Students of all ages are now creators of—and commentators on—digital content, not simply consumers of it. As they interact with peers around the world, students naturally come to see the value of collaboration, creative thinking skills and the importance of being able to convey one's thoughts clearly, in an engaging and persuasive manner. These are skills that will serve them well in the workplace and as a global citizen.
Moreover, multiple forms of expression—including writing, music, the spoken word, visual arts and a variety of other media—are equally valued on the Internet's digital stage. These representations tap into, and enable the development of, students' full creative range, while allowing them to demonstrate mastery of knowledge and skills in more comprehensive and authentic ways.
The Technology Benchmarks
To achieve the vision for K-20 education, SIIA anticipates an education system that effectively and as a matter of common, second-nature practice:
- Widely utilizes 21st century tools for teaching
- Educational content delivered everywhere more flexibly, through multiple formats, media and platforms
- Interactive, adaptive, multimedia courseware and simulations
- Data management and analysis systems for the educator and administrator
- Adaptive and diagnostic computer-based assessment tools
- Security tools to protect student privacy and safety
- High-speed broadband access to enable collaborative and distance learning, video-based communication and other multimedia-rich interactions
- Provides all members of the education community with anytime/anywhere educational access
- Education portals that provide teachers, students and community members with access to all types of applications, resources and collaboration tools
- Ubiquitous, reliable mobile devices and access points
- Virtual schools and online courses to ensure all students have high-quality courses and teachers, no matter their location or schedule
- Online professional development resources, courses and peer collaborative communities for K-20 educators
- Online student services
- Offers differentiated learning options and resources to close achievement gaps
- Individual learning programs and differentiated instruction for all students
- Online supplemental educational resources and tutoring, accessible to all students
- Courseware and learning management systems to optimize instructor effectiveness and computer-delivered instruction
- Employs technology-based assessment tools
- Personal digital portfolios that travel with students from one year—and one geographic setting—to the next, to demonstrate a wide range of skills and knowledge
- Embedded, technology-based assessment that provides authentic, immediate measurement of student skills and knowledge, as well as suggestions for next steps
- Information systems that measure student, teacher, school and district performance, in order to enable individualized instruction, facilitate professional development and enable accountability and decision-making
- Uses technology to design and enable the enterprise
- Access by educators to the level of technology resources, technical support and training common to other professionals
- Infrastructure, data management, communication and systems diagnostic tools critical to the success of any business enterprise
- Flexible use of resources, whereby technology is not supplemental but rather integrated into planning, budgeting and practice