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Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT): Supporting teachers in creating Future Ready classrooms

Technology is not a silver bullet. It’s only as good as the teachers … using it as one more tool to help inspire, and teach, and work through problems.
President Barack Obama

November 19, 2014

Photo credit: Community Consolidated School District 59

Photo credit: Community Consolidated School District 59

Technology offers extraordinary new capacities to teachers. The vast breadth and depth of educational materials and other information available on the Internet can break boundaries, making any subject accessible anywhere. And new technologies give teachers innovative tools and flexibility to engage students and work smarter. President Obama’s ConnectED initiative will provide high-speed Internet to every school in America, and will help to make affordable computers, tablets, software, and other digital resources widely available. Yet these capacities offer their greatest benefits to students only when teachers and principals have the skills and supports to leverage them. EETT will help educators grow those skills.

The need

According to a 2013 survey, about three-quarters of teachers are seeing benefits from educational technology for students, which range from motivating students to responding to a variety of student learning styles.

About two-thirds of teachers surveyed said that educational technology allows them to “do much more than ever before” for their students, allowing educators to demonstrate something they could not show in any other way. Yet as technology changes rapidly, teachers need support in adapting their practice, and school principals need support to help teachers use technology. There is a massive unmet need in both of these areas.

According to another recent survey, almost one third of teachers said that the greatest obstacle to using technology in their classroom was their need for professional development; only 8 percent of classroom teachers describe themselves as self-sufficient with professional development in this area. EETT will help teachers master new technology and harness it to benefit students—while protecting student security and privacy online.

The goal

President Obama wants to want to make sure our young people have the same competitive advantages as students in other countries. He wants to ensure that teachers and leaders in all of America’s schools receive the support and professional development they need to select and use technology to improve student outcomes.

The plan

EETT would help educators leverage technology and data to personalize learning and improve college- and career-ready instruction, ensuring that as schools increase access to broadband Internet through the ConnectED Initiative, teachers and leaders are prepared to use these resources in a way that increases student learning and achievement.

Funds would support educators in delivering high-quality, open digital learning resources and content; using a wide range of devices and digital tools, including those related to new assessments; using real-time data to personalize learning; using technology to increase engagement with families and other teachers; and offering greater access to effective teachers by providing teachers in rural areas or specialized subjects with coaching in other localities and/or by providing online advanced or hard-to-staff course offerings to students whose own schools cannot provide them.

The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Proposal

The Obama administration’s budget requests $200 million for EETT.

The Administration requests $200 million in fiscal year 2016 for Educational Technology State Grants to help ensure teachers and leaders have the skills and tools to use technology effectively to improve instruction and personalize learning. States will make competitive subgrants to model districts that have basic technology infrastructure, including a minimum student to computer ratio and Internet speed, and that commit to use of evidence-based strategies where possible. The request would specifically encourage the use of evidence and build the evidence base about the use of technology to improve student outcomes. The funding would also build State capacity to help districts use technology to improve instruction as well as identify and scale effective local practices to other districts in the State. While this program has not been funded since 2010, the Administration believes that key reforms will position it well to support the President’s broader ConnectED initiative.

Creating Model Districts

Through this program, States would make competitive awards to high-need LEAs to support the creation of exemplary models of transforming learning through effective use of educational technology. Grantees would implement such technology-enabled activities as: (1) providing in-person or virtual coaching from expert teachers to help educators use technology and data to personalize instruction; (2) creating virtual networks that allow educators to share resources, collaborate on lessons, and share feedback; or (3) expanding online learning so all students can access courses and instruction, including advanced coursework, that may not be available in their schools, especially in rural and high needs schools. For example, one Arizona district worked with its educators to create a district-wide instructional program that includes professional development resources and formative assessments aligned to State standards that is now available online to all 9,000 teachers in the district. Due to the popularity of the program, which saves countless planning hours for teachers and school leaders, and which has demonstrated promising student achievement results, 85 other districts and charter schools in the State are now partnering with that district to share standards-aligned instructional resources. The Administration’s request will help State leaders seed more of these models in their districts while also promoting efforts to scale up effective local technology-based initiatives so that they can be shared statewide.

Developing State Capacity

States would also use program funds to hire dedicated educational technology leaders with knowledge of the fast-evolving resources in this area as well as an understanding of how best to put them into use in schools. These leaders would support the development of evidence-based practices and resources among all districts in the State. They would support the creation of and updates to robust privacy protections for students and parents on digital platforms. They would also explore opportunities for innovation and new models for statewide and regional technology procurement of both hardware and learning software, such as model contracts, cooperative purchasing, buyer’s consortia, advanced market commitments, and greater transparency for technology product contracts at the State and district levels. For example, the Department anticipates that States would create education collaboration portals open to all districts that would include, in part, ready access to activities and tools supported through local subgrants. In particular, States have a critical role to play in fostering collaboration among districts, so districts do not have to work in isolation. Georgia, for instance, provides analytic tools so educators can seamlessly access needed resources, including professional development networks and student performance data, to help create personalized learning for all students. States like Rhode Island provide infrastructure support, connect schools, and broker connections between professional development providers and the districts.

Based on the Department’s experience implementing this program when it was previously funded, the Administration will seek appropriations language to make important programmatic improvements. In particular, the new appropriations language would: (1) require SEAs to award 100 percent of subgrant funds competitively; (2) target subgrant awards to applicants with existing technology capacity, including connectivity and devices; (3) promote evidence-based practices; (4) limit local spending on hardware; and (5) ensure that all States are able to reserve sufficient funds to support meaningful State-level activities. Consistent with the authorizing statute, the Department would reserve up to 2 percent of program funds for evaluation and national leadership activities, such as working with States and districts to improve procurement and technology planning practices, help spur innovation in technology products, and disseminate innovative and evidence-based technology tools and products. Specific activities could also include helping SEAs and LEAs identify critical shared needs and solutions and streamline technology procurement practices.

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