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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 05/20/2010

Obama’s mistake with technology in ed reform

By Valerie Strauss

This is the third in a series of occasional posts by faculty at Teachers College, Columbia University, about President Obama's blueprint for rewriting the No Child Left Behind law. The author is Ellen Meier, a professor of computing and education, and co-director of the college's Center for Technology and School Change, which studies the integration of technology in schools.

By Ellen Meier
The Obama administration's "Blueprint for Reform" makes the mistake of relegating technology – a catalyst for all educational reform efforts for the 21st century – to just an “additional, cross-cutting priority.”

The blueprint is President Obama's plan of action for the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the law more commonly known as No Child Left Behind. Regrettably, it eliminates technology as a separately funded program in a move that could seriously undermine the progress made to date with technology integration.

The blueprint effectively consigns technology to a subordinate role in reform, rather than recognizing it as a fundamental requirement for new millennium teaching and learning. By consolidating technology funding, it effectively silences the voices of innovative educators interested in using technology to leverage effective, imaginative approaches to schooling.

Technology is dynamic; the tools change quickly. Technology leaders are needed to focus on educational possibilities. Unless technology is funded as a separate program, it will be relegated to a supporting role, without oversight from educators who are knowledgeable about emerging digital tools and their potential.

This approach is more likely to result in “technologizing” the status quo—integrating technology into existing practices – rather than using technology to create engaging new learning environments.

Previously, technology legislation, (Title II, Part D, “Enhancing Education through Technology” or EETT), provided millions of dollars to New York schools--$22 million in 2009 alone. Funds have been distributed through the state to help teachers use new tools and to rethink classroom opportunities.

As a result, students have become more fluent users of technology, developing essential skills to enhance problem solving and critical thinking. It is important to remember that young people find technology irresistible; their excitement is a powerful motivator to achievement.

Under the proposed consolidation, the support for statewide educational technology coordination is eliminated. Among other activities, statewide coordination provides leadership for equity and access to technology resources.

The blueprint appears to value technology, and notes that it can “improve how schools work, how teachers teach, and how students learn” (p. 41), and yet this grossly understates the catalytic potential of technology to help the U.S. develop more powerful educational models for our students.

Other educational groups such as the Council of Chief State School Officers and the State Educational Technology Directors Association also oppose the elimination of the separate Enhancing Education Through Technology funding in the proposed program consolidation.

I urge the administration and Congress to continue to support a separate technology program to coordinate, integrate and evaluate all of the technology initiatives that flow from the reauthorized No Child Left Behind, and to incorporate the ATTAIN Act, EETT’s proposed successor, into the reauthorization.

This would enhance the role of technology as a catalyst for school improvement, ensure that technology leaders continue to address the digital divide, and invigorate the Blueprint for Reform.


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By Valerie Strauss  | May 20, 2010; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Technology  | Tags:  blueprint for reform, obama and blueprint for reform, obama and mistake, obama and nclb, obamas, teachers college, teachers college at columbia university, technology in education, technology in schools  
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I'm sorry, Ellen Meier, but I think technology has already had more than it's fair share of domination in education,as too many other important parts of HUMAN education have taken a back seat or come close to elimination to make way for it's advent.

While technology is responsible for many new wonders, there has been a lot of collateral damage due to the hastiness of its incorporation: a lot of students now take the easy way in research - just click on google and snip a few paragraphs - many don't have the patience to do careful writing, let alone rewrites, and focus!?!?!
Why focus when everything is a click away?
Let's see,what else...alright - human face time with others has decreased, everyone's face is too consumed with the computer screen, other departments in schools see their budgets shorted because technology is gobbling up too many resources, and learning to work with ones hands? I can't even talk or write coherently on the subject.

I am not against new development of the wonders of technology - and no, I am not being sarcastic - but I would like to see the human elements of education - sans machines - get back their due before
we are completely dependent on technology to do all of our thinking and doing for us.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | May 20, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Good points PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large. Something else to consider. How many billions spent on educational technology since 1990? Any discernable impact on NAEP? What is the new toy students must have to be competitive?

Posted by: Dogfish1 | May 20, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

The underlying core of Obama's education reform is so very different than what the surface of the bill speaks to that there is no comparison between the two.

This education bill is a trojan horse to take over and drive all education from the federal government. In essence, government indoctrination and training - one mind.

Posted by: prossers7 | May 20, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

The comments made by PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large are out-of-sync with the new generation of learners and the workforce skill demands. I will agree however, that an oversaturation of technology in education is begining to outpace effective uses. This doesn't mean that technology iniatives should take a back seat but more effort needs to be made by educators to adopt methods that will help improve the imformation literacy skills of students' in terms of use, research, collaboration and critical thinking. As to Ellen Meier's report, I agree that technology should be a seperate focus but would add that methods of teaching using technology need to be imbedded in the core of its plan.

Posted by: plomb424 | May 21, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

@plomb424: I do appreciate your comment vis-a-vis an 'oversaturation of technology in education is beginning to outpace effective uses.'

And I was not suggesting that technology necessarily take a back seat - I am primarily concerned that we continue to give equal time to the human elements of education, and I think this concern holds true for any generation of "learners".

As a techer in the arts, I am concerned that the next generations can hold on to their imaginations, hold meaningful conversations with other human beings,and demonstrate discernment, integrity, engagement and even compassion with whatever line of work they may be in. And I don't think these human attributes are ever out-of-sync with 'workforce skill demands' unless you are involved in criminal activity - whitecollar or otherwise.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | May 21, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

typo correction: 'teacher', not 'techer'(sigh)

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | May 21, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

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