In February, U.S. Rep. George Miller of California introduced the Transforming Education Through Technology Act, a bill designed to help schools, districts and states improve teaching and learning through technology. It would provide a way for K12 districts to offer the necessary technology tools students will need to succeed in college and career, since about one-third of districts nationwide do not designate budget money for new computers.
The bill has two components: to build the capacity of all districts to ensure they have the infrastructure, devices, and professional development programs to provide technology to students, and to encourage district innovation and new approaches to identify the next generation of applications and tools that can dramatically improve student achievement.
“I don’t think it is possible to meet the college and career-ready goals that policymakers have set for schools [with the Common Core] if everyone doesn’t have sufficient access to technology,” says Doug Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), one of nine organizations representing K12 educators, state and district administrators and technology providers supporting the bill.
The bill would change the technology landscape in K12 districts by providing support for teachers and principals to use technology to redesign curriculum, use real-time data to drive classroom practice, and individualize instruction. It would also help bridge the digital divide by ensuring equitable access to a technology infrastructure and learning applications that students need for online assessment and computer-based curriculum.
Though most states are focused on implementing computer-based Common Core assessments for the 2014-2015 school year, this testing cannot be the first and only time that students are exposed to such technology that requires them to use higher-order thinking skills. If it is not used in teaching and learning, Levin says, it is difficult to see if we are measuring knowledge of the material or merely test-taking abilities. The act is designed to address this need and increase technology in schools prior to these assessments.
The bill requests $250 million from the federal government, which states would apply for and distribute to districts in the greatest need. While most districts might strive for 1:1 laptop-to-student ratios, the funding might not cover that, Levin says. The vision is for every student to have easy and ready access to the tools they need in and out of school.
The bill has to pass through the House committee and the Senate before becoming law, which Levin expects will be difficult, given how little legislation has been passed this year. But “the need is real, and if people are serious about college and career-ready standards, this issue is going to have to be addressed—if not with this bill, in other ways,” he says.