Check out this lecture about the future of education in North America…
About the Lecture
The Obama Administration’s recently unveiled plan for transforming American education through technology does not envision “plugging kids in and making them smarter,” declares Karen Cator. Instead, it focuses on leveraging aspects of digital technology “to create way more compelling environments in schools,” and to address educational inequities and the larger issue of undereducated Americans.
Cator illustrates the pervasive presence and transformative power of digital media with current examples: the use of Facebook and Twitter in Arab political uprisings; mobile media coverage of the Japanese tsunami; Super Bowl ads embedded with secret codes that invite viewers to go online and play games. Educators could bring this kind of immediacy and creativity to schools, finding opportunities “to work with students in the moment and build experience, before, during and after,” says Cator.
Now is the right time to push for these opportunities, she believes, because of 24/7 internet mobility; the explosion of social interactivity and digital content online; and new methods for aggregating and analyzing data “to help students learn better.” We’re at “an inflection point,” she claims, “between the print-based classroom and the digital-based environment,” and must design and develop “entirely new learning environments that take us further, where the locus of control moves from teacher to student.”
The National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) delineates five goals for engaging and empowering learners of all ages through technology. In the first, Learning, the plan aims to personalize learning environments, incorporating life outside the school, and help for people with disabilities. New Assessment, objectives involve measuring a “full range of standards, not just those in bubble tests,” and should employ real-time feedback, as well as “persistent learning records” available to the parents of students. In Teaching, technology should “augment human performance,” just as it does in other industries, says Cator, enabling teachers to connect to experts and each other. Infrastructure, improvements mean bringing broadband internet to 98% of the country in a few years’ time, so no matter where they live, all students have online access. The Productivity, goal involves offering technology platforms so students may accomplish the most in a given subject.
Finally, the NETP addresses large-scale, persistent inequities in American education, says Cator. Some estimates suggest 90 million adult Americans may be undereducated – for instance, reading at grade school level or worse. Broadband access and new learning platforms will create a richer set of informal learning pathways for such adults and provide new opportunities for lifelong learners.
About the Speaker
Director of the Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education
Karen Cator has devoted her career to creating the best possible learning environments for this generation of students. Prior to joining the department, Cator directed Apple’s leadership and advocacy efforts in education. In this role, she focused on the intersection of education policy and research, emerging technologies, and the reality faced by teachers, students and administrators.
Cator joined Apple in 1997 from the public education sector, most recently leading technology planning and implementation in Juneau, Alaska. She also served as Special Assistant for Telecommunications for the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. Cator holds a Masters in school administration from the University of Oregon and Bachelors in early childhood education from Springfield College. She is the past chair of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and has served on the several boards including the Software & Information Industry Association—Education.