“Never mistake a clear view for a short distance.” – Paul Saffo, Futurist
In 1996, President Bill Clinton in his State of the Union address challenged the nation to ensure – as a matter of educational equity and opportunity – that every classroom be connected to the Internet and equipped with computers, good software, and well-trained teachers. In response, the federal government launched a concerted effort focused on wiring and equipping schools, teacher professional development, classroom-level integration of technology, and student technology literacy skills. This national strategy ultimately struggled to maintain political will and, by 2011, the Obama administration and Congress agreed that other priorities for federal education policy were greater, bringing an end to the beginning of the modern movement to employ technology as a school improvement and reform strategy.
Indeed, educators and education policymakers have had and continue to maintain a complex and fickle relationship with technology and with those who promote its use as a component of school improvement and reform strategies. Yet, as the pace of technological innovation continues to drive fundamental changes in the personal, civic, and professional lives of many Americans, it is hard to imagine how public K-12 education could be immune to its influence or why that would even be desirable, particularly in the face of a college- and career-readiness agenda, bolstered by the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. College students rely on technology for academic success and to improve personal productivity. In the workplace, everyone from mechanics to accountants to physicians depends on technology to conduct work, grow businesses, and collaborate with colleagues – both locally and globally.
Looking ahead, what is at issue is not whether technology has influenced or will influence education. Rather, the issues at hand are how, how fast, and whether this influence will help us achieve our stated goals and values for public education or something altogether different. In fact, if we, as a nation, are serious about preparing all students for college and careers, a concerted effort will be required to re-establish a shared vision for technology’s role in education policy and to attend – in a systemic and sustained manner – to good implementation.