ACU’s Connected Summit opened with a speech from Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology in the U.S. Department of Education. She stressed that now is the time to move technology into learning throughout the country.
And Cator said the main way to integrate technology in education is to flip from a predominately print-based classroom into a digital learning environment.
To make this a reality, Cator stressed new thinking in areas of teaching, learning, assessment, infrastructure and productivity.
Teachers must be highly effective and as good as possible at getting students what they need when and where they need it, and she said they must figure out what students need to learn and find ways to implement a “personalized learning” approach verses a “one sized-fits all” approach. Students also need real-time assessments and the ability to show what they’ve learned, Cator said.
To increase productivity, Cator suggested focusing on learning progressions in which students would work where they need to work instead of following a set curriculum per grade. The way to keep productivity successful is to ask the question, “what needs to be invented?” And to answer this question, Cator said they need to “power up” research and development.
But Cator said the way to be truly productive is to give everyone access to the Internet and mobile devices.
In the way of infrastructure, she showed a United States map revealing broadband access across the country.Â This map fuels the push for creating a transparent learning environment for sharing stories from the areas of the country, she said.
Obvious challenges to this initiative were raised during the question-and-answer portion of the keynote. Audience members asked how do they plan to send the Internet to rural areas in the country and posed questions about funding for these projects with dwindling technology budgets.
Cator responded by saying the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture were already working on plans to build up Internet in the rural areas. She also encouraged schools to stop treating the technology budget as it’s own category, but that technology should be funded at the base level.