Letter of Support for 2015 Funding for Educational Technology

MACUL, along with many other organizations across the country, has signed the ISTE letter to show support for educational technology funding for 2015. Read the letter in its entirety below:

The undersigned organizations — representing educators, state and local education leaders, and the high-tech industry — urge you to fund education technology at a minimum of $200 million in FY 2015. We believe funding for education technology devices, resources and professional learning should be administered through the Enhancing Education through Technology (EETT) program, a proven formula program.  At this critical juncture for education, it is imperative that school districts have both the technology infrastructure — including devices, equipment, software and connectivity — and technology professional development to transition to digital learning and leverage broadband investments made through the E-Rate program. We believe that the existing EETT program, with a few small changes, is the right dissemination mechanism.

Technology can open the door to new types and ways of learning that were not imaginable even a few short years ago. With high-speed connectivity, students can collaborate, communicate and create content through blogs, wikis, videos and other forms of project-based learning; teachers can choose from a wide array of digital textbooks, online resources and assessments that provide real-time feedback of student progress to personalize the learning experience; and entire classrooms can go on virtual field trips and even talk to astronauts at the International Space Station. However, without access to a sufficient number of devices and appropriate software, the limitless digital educational possibilities will be restricted for students and educators.

Furthermore, for digital learning to become a reality nationwide, educators must receive ongoing, sustainable and scalable technology professional learning opportunities. According to a 2012 survey from Project Tomorrow, one-third of all educators indicated that the lack of sufficient professional development was a major obstacle to implementing technology in the classroom. The advent of online assessments makes even more acute the need educators have for  professional learning on how to develop and implement digital learning curriculum, incorporate technology into the classroom and use data from online assessments to personalize and strengthen instruction to the needs, styles, and interests of students.

We submit that a funded and slightly updated EETT would serve as the appropriate vehicle to ensure that digital learning can flourish. This program, unfunded since 2011, already prioritizes funding for professional learning, requiring districts to set aside 25 percent of funds received for that purpose. We believe that focus can be sharpened further, along the lines already proposed in two bills offered to revamp EETT (S. 1087 and HR 521), by increasing the funding requirement for professional learning to a minimum of 35 percent. Additionally, with a renewed need for devices and software to accommodate 1:1 initiatives and online assessments, we also recommend that EETT language be tweaked to allow districts to set aside a minimum of 40 percent of funds received for their infrastructure needs. We believe that the remainder of EETT’s existing structure, including its use of a poverty-based formula for distributions to states, remains sound and is in need of no update. We would recommend, though, that the program be altered to establish a trigger that would permit states to allocate funds via competition rather than formula if the program is funded below $300 million.

Thank you for your consideration of our request to fund EETT at a minimum of $200 million and to make small but important changes to the existing program to emphasize support for education technology infrastructure and professional learning.

For additional information, please contact Hilary Goldmann, senior director for government relations, International Society for Technology in Education at 202-861-7777 x119 or hgoldmann@iste.org .

ISTE Statement on Net Neutrality

From:  Hilary Goldmann, ISTE Sr. Director Government Relations and Jon Bernstein, ISTE Policy Counsel

It’s good to see all of the interest in the Net Neutrality/Open Internet policy debate.  Below is some background information about the current policy status. ISTE staff is working with the ISTE Public Policy and Advocacy Executive Committee to refine our position on this important issue and is not issuing a public statement at this time.  Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions with us as we move forward on crafting ISTE’s messaging, hgoldmann@iste.org .  Here is a link to Chairman Wheeler’s most recent blog post on the Open Internet.

Please continue to use the new ISTE Advocacy Network as a resource for information on Net Neutrality and other policy issues, and check-out the Voices Carry blog for the latest information digital learning policy.


ISTE Net Neutrality Backgrounder

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that on May 15, at its Open Public Meeting, it will consider and vote on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to seek public comment on revised net neutrality rules. These rules would govern the ability of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block transmission of particular online content or prioritize the transmission of particular online content over other content. This new NPRM responds to a 2014 federal court decision that struck down the FCC’s previous approved rules on this topic. The FCC is currently crafting the NPRM and no drafts are available to the public at this time.

Just the announcement of an upcoming NPRM has already stirred great interest and controversy.  FCC Chairman Wheeler indicated that he is interested in exploring allowing ISPs to enter into agreements with content providers to provide faster levels of service—or a “fast lane” as long as those agreements are “commercially reasonable.” Supporters of the concept of a free and open Internet, where ISPs cannot favor certain digital content over other digital content, decried this proposal immediately. They claim it will favor large content providers who can afford to pay additional fees for faster speeds, like Google and Netflix, over smaller content providers, thereby disadvantaging smaller content companies and stifling innovation. Chairman Wheeler, for his part, suggests that the establishment of a fast lane that “degrades service…would be shut down.” This suggests that ISPs could not slow existing service speeds for a fast lane but that they might be able to create a fee-based service with speeds in excess of existing service.

In the education realm, it remains unclear how or if the FCC’s approval of “fast lanes” would impact schools. On the one hand, there is the possibility that schools might have to pay more to the large content providers as they pass along costs that arise from the “fast lanes.” Also, schools would likely receive content from smaller providers at speeds slower than content in the “fast lanes.” On the other hand, schools might receive a lot of content faster from large content providers and the additional costs to schools might be negligible or non-existent. It is also worth noting concerns raised that the increase costs of doing business online engendered by the rise of “fast lanes” could cause some small content providers to limit their offerings or close and others to never build new content. On this last point, Chairman Wheeler says: “If we get to a situation where arrival of the ‘next Google’ or the ‘next Amazon’ is being delayed or deterred, we will act as necessary using the full panoply of our authority.”

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) supports efforts to ensure that the internet remains open as a source of content for schools, students and educators. The use of digital tools in the classroom is the new normal.  Educators are incorporating online content to create personalized learning environments and engage students in project-based learning to prepare our students for college and career in the 21st century global—and digital—economy.  As the FCC moves forward and considers new net neutrality regulations, it should evaluate the impact on schools and digital learning, including potentially higher costs and reduced digital offerings, of any proposals that it adopts.

Resources for Making Your Voice Heard

At the beginning of 2014, ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education) made changes to its voice for advocacy about digital-age policy and the importance of technology in our schools. ETAN, the Ed Tech Action Network, was retired and replaced by the ISTE Advocacy Network.   This new portal is the place to go to access state and federal resources concerning educational technology and to make your voice heard about the importance of robust broadband for ALL schools and strong technology support by policy makers. The new ISTE website also provides opportunities to connect with other educators interested in policy issues through an “ABC’s of Advocacy” workshop.

The ISTE Voices Carry blog, written by Hillary Goldman, is a wonderful resource to not only keep up to date on national issues, but also issues across the country in state legislatures and individual school communities. The Advocacy Toolkit website offers resources to learn how to conduct a meeting with a policymaker or staffer, a template for a one-page policy position letter to send or hand deliver to a policymaker, a template for a press release, and a guideline for a letter to the editor of your local news outlet.

Keeping up with federal and state policy issues related to K-12 educational technology can get lost in the mix of daily news stories and more immediate issues that come up throughout the day. Thankfully, the new ISTE Advocacy Network website has a Public Policy web page that highlights all the current federal House of Representatives and Senate bills and current key policy issues like E-Rate, Common Core State Standards, and Investing in Innovation (i3) Legislation.  Finally, the Public Policy web page has a link to state-by-state profiles about state legislature leadership, state education policy landscape, and recent funding issues.

When one thinks about Effective Instruction, the theme of this edition of the MACUL Journal, often times instruction today is wrapped around the use of a technology like a SMART Board or involves students going online to research a topic. How do we know that technology if being effectively integrated into instruction? Professional development for teachers, technology integrationists, and IT personnel is critical for schools to be able to provide a robust learning experience for kids when technology is integrated within an individual lesson or course design.  Funding for schools to purchase new technology or provide professional development for teachers to learn how to integrate technology is often times tied up in the political trade winds of the current party holding power in the governors office, House of Representatives, or Senate.  One of the best ways to let elected officials know about what is happening in your school district and what is needed in your classroom is to make your voice heard.  The ISTE Advocacy Network and MACUL Advocacy website are here to provide you with the resources to get started.