National Education Technology Plan
"Today we set a new vision for technology to support learning and have assembled an unprecedented coalition of partners dedicated to making sure that vision becomes practice to transform the learning of all students."
Richard Culatta, Director, Office of Educational Technology The National Education Technology Plan is the flagship educational technology policy document for the United States. The 2016 Plan, Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education, articulates a vision of equity, active use, and collaborative leadership to make everywhere, all-the-time learning possible. While acknowledging the continuing need to provide greater equity of access to technology itself, the plan goes further to call upon all involved in American education to ensure equity of access to transformational learning experiences enabled by technology. The principles and examples provided in this document align to the Activities to Support the Effective Use of Technology (Title IV A) of Every Student Succeeds Act as authorized by Congress in December 2015.
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - National Education Technology Plan
Future Ready Learning
Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education
2016 NATIONAL EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY PLAN
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
About This Plan 1
Recent Progress and the Road Ahead 5
Section 1: Learning—Engaging and Empowering Learning Through Technology 7
What People Need to Learn 8
Technology-Enabled Learning in Action 10
The Future of Learning Technologies 16
Bringing Equity to Learning Through Technology 17
Physical Spaces and Technology-Enabled Learning 20
Section 2: Teaching—Teaching With Technology 25
Roles and Practices of Educators in Technology-Supported Learning 26
Connected Educators: Exemplars 30
Rethinking Teacher Preparation 32
Fostering Ongoing Professional Learning 34
Section 3: Leadership—Creating a Culture and Conditions for Innovation and Change 39
Future Ready Leaders 40
Future Ready Focus Areas 40
Implementation is Key 42
Budgeting and Funding for Technology 45
Section 4: Assessment—Measuring for Learning 51
Approaches to Assessment 53
Using Assessment Data to Support Learning 53
How Technology Transforms Assessment 54
The Future of Technology-Based Assessment 59
Section 5: Infrastructure—Enabling Access and Effective Use 65
Ubiquitous Connectivity 68
Powerful Learning Devices 72
High-Quality Digital Learning Content 72
Responsible Use Policies (RUP) 74
Protections for Student Data and Privacy 74
Device and Network Management 76
Challenges Remain 80
We Already Have Begun 81
Appendix A. Future Ready Resources 87
Appendix B. Acknowledgments 95
Project Team 95
Technical Working Group 95
Leaders of National Organizations 96
Outreach Events 97
Target Virtual Outreach 99
External Reviewers 99
Appendix C. The Development of the 2016 NETP 100
Support for the creation of this document was provided by the American Institutes for
Research under the contract ED-04-CO-0040/0010.
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Educational Technology
Examples Are Not Endorsements
This document contains examples and resource materials that are provided for the user’s
convenience. The inclusion of any material is not intended to reflect its importance, nor is it
intended to endorse any views expressed, or products or services offered. These materials may
contain the views and recommendations of various subject matter experts as well as hypertext
links, contact addresses and websites to information created and maintained by other public
and private organizations. The opinions expressed in any of these materials do not necessarily
reflect the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education. The U.S. Department of
Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of
any outside information included in these materials.
Licensing and Availability
This report is in the public domain. Authorization to reproduce this report in whole or in part
is granted. While permission to reprint this publication is not necessary, the suggested citation
is: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, Future Ready Learning:
Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education, Washington, D.C., 2016.
This report is available on the Department’s Website at http://tech.ed.gov.
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1OFFICE OF Educational Technology
If the technology revolution only happens for families that
already have money and education, then it’s not really a
revolution.—Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education
Technology can be a powerful tool for transforming learning. It can help affirm and advance
relationships between educators and students, reinvent our approaches to learning and collabora-
tion, shrink long-standing equity and accessibility gaps, and adapt learning experiences to meet
the needs of all learners.
Our schools, community colleges, and universities should be incubators of exploration and
invention. Educators should be collaborators in learning, seeking new knowledge and constantly
acquiring new skills alongside their students. Education leaders should set a vision for creating
learning experiences that provide the right tools and supports for all learners to thrive.
However, to realize fully the benefits of technology in our education system and provide
authentic learning experiences, educators need to use technology effectively in their practice.
Furthermore, education stakeholders should commit to working together to use technology to
improve American education. These stakeholders include leaders; teachers, faculty, and other
educators; researchers; policymakers; funders; technology developers; community members and
organizations; and learners and their families.
About This Plan
The National Education Technology Plan (NETP) sets a national vision and plan for learning
enabled by technology through building on the work of leading education researchers; district,
school, and higher education leaders; classroom teachers; developers; entrepreneurs; and
nonprofit organizations. The principles and examples provided in this document align to the
Activities to Support the Effective Use of Technology (Title IV A) of Every Student Succeeds Act
as authorized by Congress in December 2015.
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Teachers Teacher preparation
THE NETP IS...
a vision for learning
& real-world examples
EVERYWHERE, ALL-THE-TIME LEARNING
MAKING POSSIBLE ...
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To illustrate key ideas and recommendations, the plan includes examples of
the transformation enabled by the effective use of technology. These examples
include both those backed by rigorous evidence as well as emerging innovations.
The identification of specific programs or products in these examples is designed
to provide a clearer understanding of innovative ideas and is not meant as an
endorsement. The NETP also provides actionable recommendations to implement
technology and conduct research and development successfully that can advance
the effective use of technology to support learning and teaching.
Intended to be useful for any group or individual with a stake in education, the
NETP assumes as its primary audiences teachers; education leaders; those
responsible for preparing teachers; and policymakers at the federal, state, and
local levels. The concepts, recommendations, and examples are also applicable to
post-secondary institutions, community organizations, and state-level initiatives.
The NETP focuses on using technology to transform learning experiences with
the goal of providing greater equity and accessibility (see Section 1: Learning).
When carefully designed and thoughtfully applied, technology can accelerate,
amplify, and expand the impact of effective teaching practices. However, to be
transformative, educators need to have the knowledge and skills to take full
advantage of technology-rich learning environments (see Section 2: Teaching).
In addition, the roles of PK–12 classroom teachers and post-secondary instruc-
tors, librarians, families, and learners all will need to shift as technology
enables new types of learning experiences.
For these systemic changes in learning and teaching to occur, education lead-
ers need to create a shared vision for how technology best can meet the needs
of all learners and to develop a plan that translates the vision into action (see
Section 3: Leadership).
Technology-enabled assessments support learning and teaching by commu-
nicating evidence of learning progress and providing insights to teachers;
administrators; families; and, most importantly, the learners themselves. These
assessments can be embedded within digital learning activities to reduce inter-
ruptions to learning time (see Section 4: Assessment).
Learning, teaching, and assessment enabled by technology require a robust
infrastructure (see Section 5: Infrastructure). Key elements of this infrastruc-
ture include high-speed connectivity and devices that are available to teachers
and students when they need them. Aside from wires and devices, a comprehen-
sive learning infrastructure includes digital learning content and other resources
as well as professional development for educators and education leaders.
Equity in education means
increasing all students’ access to
educational opportunities with
a focus on closing achievement
gaps and removing barriers
students face based on their
race, ethnicity, or national origin;
sex; sexual orientation or gender
identity or expression; disability;
English language ability; religion;
socio-economic status; or
Accessibility refers to the design
of apps, devices, materials, and
environments that support and
enable access to content and
educational activities for all
learners. In addition to enabling
students with disabilities to
use content and participate in
activities, the concepts also apply
to accommodating the individual
learning needs of students, such
as English language learners,
students in rural communities, or
students from economically dis-
advantaged homes. Technology
can support accessibility through
example, text-to-speech, audio
and digital text formats of
instructional materials, programs
that differentiate instruction,
adaptive testing, built-in accom-
modations, and other assistive
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Providing accessibility, resources and connectivity so that learning is
everywhere, all the time
Setting the vision
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Recent Progress and the Road Ahead
Since the 2010 NETP, the United States has made significant progress in
leveraging technology to transform learning in a variety of ways.
• The conversation has shifted from whether technology should be used in
learning to how it can improve learning to ensure that all students have
access to high-quality educational experiences.3
• Technology increasingly is being used to personalize learning and give
students more choice over what and how they learn and at what pace, prepar-
ing them to organize and direct their own learning for the rest of their lives.
• Advances in the learning sciences have improved our understanding of how
people learn and illuminated which personal and contextual factors most
impact their success.
• Research and experience have improved our understanding of what people
need to know and the skills and competencies they need to acquire for success
in life and work in the 21st century. Through pre-service teacher prepara-
tion programs and professional learning, educators are gaining experience
and confidence in using technology to achieve learning outcomes.
• Sophisticated software has begun to allow us to adapt assessments to the
needs and abilities of individual learners and provide near real-time results.
• Nationally, progress has been made toward ensuring that every school
has high-speed classroom connectivity as a foundation for other learning
• The cost of digital devices has decreased dramatically, while computing
power has increased, along with the availability of high-quality interactive
educational tools and apps.
• Technology has allowed us to rethink the design of physical learning spaces
to accommodate new and expanded relationships among learners, teachers,
peers, and mentors.
Although we can be proud of the progress of the last five years, there is still much
work to do. Now, a look at the work ahead:
• A digital use divide continues to exist between learners who are using
technology in active, creative ways to support their learning and those
who predominantly use technology for passive content consumption.
• Research on the effectiveness of technology-enabled programs and
resources is still limited, and we should build capacity to generate evi-
dence of individual-, program-, and community-level outcomes.
• Many schools do not yet have access to or are not yet using technology in
ways that can improve learning on a daily basis, which underscores the
need—guided by new research—to accelerate and scale up adoption of
effective approaches and technologies.
• Few schools have adopted approaches for using technology to support
informal learning experiences aligned with formal learning goals.
• Supporting learners in using technology for out-of-school learning experi-
ences is often a missed opportunity.
• Across the board, teacher preparation and professional development pro-
grams fail to prepare teachers to use technology in effective ways.
Traditionally, the digital divide
referred to the gap between
students who had access to the
Internet and devices at school
and home and those who did
Significant progress is being
made to increase Internet access
in schools, libraries, and homes
across the country. However,
a digital use divide separates
many students who use technol-
ogy in ways that transform their
learning from those who use the
tools to complete the same activi-
ties but now with an electronic
device (e.g., digital worksheets,
online multiple-choice tests).
The digital use divide is present
in both formal and informal
learning settings and across high-
and low-poverty schools and
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• Assessment approaches have evolved but still do not use technology to its
full potential to measure a broader range of desired educational outcomes,
especially non-cognitive competencies.
• The focus on providing Internet access and devices for learners should not
overshadow the importance of preparing teachers to teach effectively with
technology and to select engaging and relevant digital learning content.
• As students use technology to support their learning, schools are faced with
a growing need to protect student privacy continuously while allowing the
appropriate use of data to personalize learning, advance research, and visu-
alize student progress for families and teachers.
The NETP is a common vision and action plan that responds to an urgent
national priority. It describes specific actions the United States should take to
ensure learners of all ages have opportunities for personal growth and pros-
perity and remain competitive in a global economy.
(also referred to as social and
emotional learning) include
a range of skills, habits, and
attitudes that facilitate functioning
well in school, work, and life. They
include self-awareness, self-man-
agement, social awareness,
and relationship skills as well as
perseverance, motivation, and
U.S. Department of Education. (2013). U.S. Department of Education strategic plan for fiscal years 2014–2018.
Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/strat/plan2014-18/strategic-plan.pdf.
Assistive Technology Industry Association. What is assistive technology? How is it funded? Retrieved from http://
American Association of School Administrators, Consortium for School Networking, and National School Boards
Association. Leading the digital leap. Retrieved from leaddigitalleap.org.
McConnaughey, J., Nila, C. A., & Sloan, T. (1995). Falling through the net: A survey of the “have nots” in rural and
urban America. Washington, DC: National Telecommunications and Information Administration, United States
Department of Commerce.
Culp, K. M., Honey, M., & Mandinach, E. (2005). A retrospective on twenty years of education technology policy.
Journal of Educational Computing Research, 32(3), 279–307.
Warschauer, M. (2012). The digital divide and social inclusion. Americas Quarterly, 6(2), 131–135.
Fishman, B., Dede, C., & Means, B. (in press). Teaching and technology: New tools for new times. In D. Gitomer
& C. Bell (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Teaching (5th ed.).
Valadez, J. R., & Durán, R. P. (2007). Redefining the digital divide: Beyond access to computers and the Internet.
The High School Journal, 90(3), 31–44.
Borghans, L., Duckworth, A. L., Heckman, J. J., & ter Weel, B. (2008). The economics and psychology of person-
ality traits. Journal of Human Resources, 43(4), 972–1059.
Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhanc-
ing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions.
Child Development, 82(1), 405–432.
Spitzer, B., & Aronson, J. (2015). Minding and mending the gap: Social psychological interventions to reduce
educational disparities. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(1), 1–18.
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Engaging and Empowering Learning Through Technology
Personalized learning refers to
instruction in which the pace of
learning and the instructional
approach are optimized for
the needs of each learner.
Learning objectives, instructional
approaches, and instructional
content (and its sequencing) all
may vary based on learner needs.
In addition, learning activities
are meaningful and relevant to
learners, driven by their interests,
and often self-initiated.
GOAL: All learners will have engaging and empowering learning experiences
in both formal and informal settings that prepare them to be active, creative,
knowledgeable, and ethical participants in our globally connected society.
To be successful in our daily lives and in a global workforce, Americans need
pathways to acquire expertise and form meaningful connections to peers and
mentors. This journey begins with a base of knowledge and abilities that can be
augmented and enhanced throughout our lives. Fortunately, advances in learning
sciences have provided new insights into how people learn.1
Technology can be a
powerful tool to reimagine learning experiences on the basis of those insights.
Historically, a learner’s educational opportunities have been limited by the
resources found within the walls of a school. Technology-enabled learning allows
learners to tap resources and expertise anywhere in the world, starting with their
own communities. For example:
• With high-speed Internet access, a student interested in learning computer
science can take the course online in a school that lacks the budget or a
faculty member with the appropriate skills to teach the course.
• Learners struggling with planning for college and careers can access
high-quality online mentoring and advising programs where resources or
geography present challenges to obtaining sufficient face-to-face mentoring.
• With mobile data collection tools and online collaboration platforms,
students in a remote geographic area studying local phenomena can col-
laborate with peers doing similar work anywhere in the world.
• A school with connectivity but without robust science facilities can offer its
students virtual chemistry, biology, anatomy, and physics labs—offering stu-
dents learning experiences that approach those of peers with better resources.
• Students engaged in creative writing, music, or media production can
publish their work to a broad global audience regardless of where they
go to school.
• Technology-enabled learning environments allow less experienced learners
to access and participate in specialized communities of practice, graduating
to more complex activities and deeper participation as they gain the experi-
ence needed to become expert members of the community.2
These opportunities expand growth possibilities for all students while affording
historically disadvantaged students greater equity of access to high-quality learn-
ing materials, expertise, personalized learning, and tools for planning for future
Such opportunities also can support increased capacity for educators
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to create blended learning opportunities for their students, rethinking when,
where, and how students complete different components of a learning experience.
What People Need to Learn
To remain globally competitive and develop engaged citizens, our schools should
weave 21st century competencies and expertise throughout the learning expe-
rience. These include the development of critical thinking, complex problem
solving, collaboration, and adding multimedia communication into the teaching
of traditional academic subjects.5
In addition, learners should have the opportu-
nity to develop a sense of agency in their learning and the belief that they are
capable of succeeding in school.
Beyond these essential core academic competencies, there is a growing body
of research on the importance of non-cognitive competencies as they relate to
Non-cognitive competencies include successful navigation
through tasks such as forming relationships and solving everyday problems.
They also include development of self-awareness, control of impulsivity, execu-
tive function, working cooperatively, and caring about oneself and others.
BUILDING NON-COGNITIVE COMPETENCIES: PROVIDING
OPPORTUNITIES FOR PRACTICE
Interacting with peers, handling conflicts, resolving disputes, or per-
sisting through a challenging problem are all experiences that are
important to academic success.
Digital games can allow students to try out varied responses and
roles and gauge the outcomes without fear of negative consequences.28
Accumulating evidence suggests that virtual environments and games
can help increase empathy, self-awareness, emotional regulation, social
awareness, cooperation, and problem solving while decreasing the
number of behavior referrals and in-school suspensions.29
Games such as Ripple Effects and The Social Express use virtual
environments, storytelling, and interactive experiences to assess a stu-
dent’s social skill competencies and provide opportunities to practice.
Other apps help bridge the gap between the virtual environment and
the real world by providing just-in-time supports for emotional regulation
and conflict resolution. A number of apps are available to help students
name and identify how they are feeling, express their emotions, and
receive targeted suggestions or strategies for self-regulation. Examples
include Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame; Smiling Mind; Stop, Breathe &
Think; Touch and Learn—Emotions; and Digital Problem Solver.
In a blended learning
environment, learning occurs
online and in person, augmenting
and supporting teacher practice.
This approach often allows
students to have some control
over time, place, path, or pace
of learning. In many blended
learning models, students spend
some of their face-to-face time
with the teacher in a large group,
some face-to-face time with a
teacher or tutor in a small group,
and some time learning with and
from peers. Blended learning
often benefits from a reconfig-
uration of the physical learning
space to facilitate learning
activities, providing a variety of
zones optimized for collaboration,
informal learning, and individu-
AGENCY IN LEARNING
Learners with agency
can “intentionally make things
happen by [their] actions,” and
“agency enables people to play
a part in their self-development,
adaptation, and self-renewal with
To build this
capacity, learners should have the
opportunity to make meaning-
ful choices about their learning,
and they need practice at doing
so effectively. Learners who
successfully develop this ability
lay the foundation for lifelong,
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FOSTERING GROWTH MINDSET: TECHNOLOGY-BASED PROGRAM
TO FUEL STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
A key part of non-cognitive development is fostering a growth mindset about learning.
Growth mindset is the understanding that abilities can be developed through effort
and practice and leads to increased motivation and achievement. The U.S. Department
of Education has funded several growth mindset–related projects, including a grant to
develop and evaluate SchoolKit, a suite of resources developed to teach growth mind-
set quickly and efficiently in schools.
Jill Balzer, a middle school principal in Killeen, Texas, has seen success from using
SchoolKit in her school. Balzer spoke with an eighth grader who achieved academic
distinction for the first time in five years after using the using the program. “When I
asked him what the difference was,” recalled Balzer, “he said that now he understood
that even though learning was not always going to come easy to him it didn’t mean he
was stupid, it just meant he needed to work harder on that subject.”30
District of Columbia Public Schools also have made the SchoolKit available to all middle
schools. Principal Dawn Clemens of Stuart-Hobson Middle School saw increases in read-
ing scores for their seventh-grade students after using the program. “With middle-schoolers,
there are always excuses,” Clemens said. “But this shifts the language to be about payoff
from effort, rather than ‘the test was too hard’ or ‘the teacher doesn’t like me.’”31
Increased connectivity also increases the importance of teaching learners how to become respon-
sible digital citizens. We need to guide the development of competencies to use technology in
ways that are meaningful, productive, respectful, and safe. For example, helping students learn
to use proper online etiquette, recognize how their personal information may be collected and
used online, and leverage access to a global community to improve the world around them
can help prepare them for successfully navigating life in a connected world. Mastering these
skills requires a basic understanding of the technology tools and the ability to make increas-
ingly sound judgments about the use of them in learning and daily life. For the development of
digital citizenship, educators can turn to resources such as Common Sense Education’s digital
citizenship curriculum or the student technology standards from the International Society for
Technology in Education (ISTE).
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Technology-Enabled Learning in Action
Learning principles transcend specific technologies. However, when carefully designed and
thoughtfully applied, technology has the potential to accelerate, amplify, and expand the
impact of powerful principles of learning. Because the process of learning is not directly
observable, the study of learning often produces models and conclusions that evolve across
time. The recommendations in this plan are based on current assumptions and theories of how
people learn even while education researchers, learning scientists, and educators continue to
work toward a deeper understanding.
The NETP focuses on how technology can help learners unlock the power of some of the most
potent learning principles discovered to date. For example, we know that technology can help
learners think about an idea in more than one way and in more than one context, reflect on
what is learned, and adjust understanding accordingly.10,11
Technology also can help capture
learners’ attention by tapping into their interests and passions.12
It can help us align how we
learn with what we learn.
Following are five ways technology can improve and enhance learning, both in formal learn-
ing and in informal settings. Each is accompanied by examples of transformational learning
1. Technology can enable personalized learning or experiences that are more engaging
and relevant. Mindful of the learning objectives, educators might design learning experi-
ences that allow students in a class to choose from a menu of learning experiences—writing
essays, producing media, building websites, collaborating with experts across the globe
in data collection—assessed via a common rubric to demonstrate their learning. Such tech-
nology-enabled learning experiences can be more engaging and relevant to learners.
SCALING UP PERSONALIZED LEARNING: MASSACHUSETTS’ INNOVATION SCHOOLS
CREATE MULTIPLE PATHWAYS TO LEARNING
As part of Massachusetts’ Achievement Gap Act of 2010, funding was set aside to give
schools the opportunity to implement innovative strategies to improve learning. Through
this legislation, educators can create Innovation Schools that can operate with increased
flexibility in key areas such as schedule, curriculum, instruction, and professional
As of 2015, there were 54 approved Innovation Schools and Academies in 26 school
districts across Massachusetts. Some schools implemented a science, technology, engi-
neering, and mathematics (STEM) or STEM-plus-arts model, and others implemented
a combination of one or more of the following educational models: multiple pathways,
early college, dual-language immersion, or expanded learning time.
Students in a Safety and Public Service Academy combine rigorous college-style
coursework available in a variety of formats (in class, online, blended learning, off-site for
internships and job shadows) in areas such as forensics, computer science, criminal law,
crisis management, psychology, and video production. Students at the Arts Academy
may combine their coursework with off-site learning opportunities at local universities,
combining high-tech design skills and knowledge of the creative arts to prepare them
for post-secondary education and a career in the arts.
Pentucket Regional School District’s program has scaled their innovation approach
to every elementary school in the district. Their approach is centered on student
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choice and the use of opportunities for learning that extend beyond
the classroom walls. Through the redesign of the school day and
year, students engage in hands-on experiential learning with in-class
lessons; online and blended coursework; and off-campus academic
opportunities, internships, and apprenticeships.
2. Technology can help organize learning around real-world challenges
and project-based learning using a wide variety of digital learning
devices and resources to show competency with complex concepts and
content. Rather than writing a research report to be read only by her biology
teacher and a small group of classmates, a student might publish her findings
online where she receives feedback from researchers and other members of
communities of practice around the country. In an attempt to understand the
construction of persuasive arguments, another student might draft, produce,
and share a public service announcement via online video streaming sites,
asking his audience for constructive feedback every step of the way.
ENGAGED CREATION: EXPLORATORIUM CREATES A MASSIVE
OPEN ONLINE COURSE (MOOC) FOR EXPLORING CIRCUITS
In the summer of 2015, the Exploratorium in San Francisco launched
its first MOOC, working with Coursera, called Tinkering Fundamentals
to inspire STEM-rich tinkering; introduce a set of high-quality activities
that could be replicated easily in the classroom; and foster robust
discussions of the learning.
The six-week course included a blend of hands-on activities, short
videos of five to eight minutes each, an active discussion forum, live
Web chats, social media, and other resources. Each week the videos
highlighted an introduction to a new tinkering activity, the learning
goals, and tips for facilitation; step-by-step instructions for how to build
and support others to build the tinkering contraption; classroom video
and interviews with teachers about classroom imple-
mentation and student learning; profiles of artists; and
comments by learning experts. Reflective prompts gen-
erated extensive conversation in the discussion forums.
To facilitate these online activities, the Exploratorium
integrated multiple platforms, including Coursera
and live video streaming tools. Instructors used these
online platforms and spaces to reflect on the week’s
activities and forum posts and to provide real-time
feedback to participants. In videoconferences, the
instructors positioned themselves as questioners
rather than as experts, enhancing a strong sense of
camaraderie and collaborative exploration.
The Exploratorium used a social media aggregator to
showcase photos and videos of participants’ tinkering
creations, underscoring the hands-on and material
nature of the work of the MOOC. The course attracted
Project-based learning takes
place in the context of authentic
problems, continues across time,
and brings in knowledge from
many subjects. Project-based
learning, if properly implemented
and supported, helps students
develop 21st century skills,
including creativity, collaboration,
and leadership, and engages
them in complex, real-world
challenges that help them meet
expectations for critical thinking.13
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more than 7,000 participants from 150 countries, of whom approximately 4,400 were
active participants, resulting in more than 66,000 video views and 6,700 forum posts.
For more information, visit the Exploratorium and Coursera on the Web.
BUILDING PROJECTS FOR REAL AUDIENCES: NATIONAL PARKS SERVICE DEEPENS
ENGAGEMENT THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
Journey Through Hallowed Ground is a partnership project of the National Park Service
that encourages students to create rich connections to history through project-based
learning, specifically making videos about their visits to historical sites. The students
take the roles of writers, actors, directors, producers, costume designers, music direc-
tors, editors, and filmmakers with the support of professional video editors. The videos
allow the students to speak about history in their own words as well as share their
knowledge with their peers. In addition to learning about history, participating in the
projects also teaches students to refine their skills of leadership and teamwork. All
videos become official material of the National Park Service and are licensed openly
for use by other students and teachers around the world.
3. Technology can help learning move beyond the classroom and take advantage of
learning opportunities available in museums, libraries, and other out-of-school set-
tings. Coordinated events such as the Global Read Aloud allow classrooms from all over
the world to come together through literacy. One book is chosen, and participating class-
rooms have six weeks in which teachers read the book aloud to students and then connect
their classrooms to other participants across the world. Although the book is the same
for each student, the interpretation, thoughts, and connections are different. This setting
helps support learners through the shared experience of reading and builds a perception of
learners as existing within a world of readers. The shared experience of connecting glob-
ally to read can lead to deeper understanding of not only the literature but also of their
peers with whom students are learning.
UPSKILLING ADULT LEARNERS: AT PEER-TO-PEER UNIVERSITY (P2PU), EVERYONE IS
A TEACHER AND A LEARNER
P2PU and the Chicago Public Library (CPL) have partnered to pilot Learning Circles—
lightly facilitated study groups for adult learners taking online courses together at their
local library. In spring 2015, the partnership ran a pilot program in two CPL branches,
facilitating in-person study groups around a number of free, online courses. The
pilot program has expanded to 10 CPL branches in fall 2015, with the ultimate goal
of developing an open-source, off-the-shelf solution that can be deployed by other
public libraries, allowing all libraries and their communities to harness the potential of
blended learning for little to no expertise or cost.
Meeting once a week in two-hour sessions, a non-content expert librarian helps
facilitate a peer-learning environment, with the goal that after six weeks the Learning
Circles become self-sustainable. P2PU has designed a number of software tools and
guidelines to help onboard learners and facilitators, easing administrative burdens
and integrating deeper learning principles into existing online learning content. Initial
results suggest that students in Learning Circles have far higher retention than do
students in most online courses, participants acquire non-cognitive skills often absent
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from pure online learning environments, and a diverse audience is participating. By
working with libraries and building in additional learning support, P2PU also is able to
reach first-time online learners, many of whom do not have a post-secondary degree.
P2PU measures success in terms of both the progress of individual learners and the
viability of the model. In addition to the number of branches involved, cost per user, and
number of learners, attributes such as retention, returning to additional Learning Circles,
advancing from the role of learner to that of facilitator, and transitioning from Learning
Circles into other fields (formal education, new job) are all other factors that contribute to
success. Furthermore, P2PU designs for and measures academic mindsets (community,
self-efficacy, growth mindsets, relevance) as a proxy for learner success.
HELPING PARENTS NAVIGATE A TECHNOLOGICAL WORLD: A RESOURCE FOR
MAKING INFORMED TECHNOLOGY DECISIONS
Family Time With Apps: A Guide to Using Apps With Your Kids is an interactive
resource for parents seeking to select and use apps in the most effective ways with their
The guide informs parents of the variety of ways that apps can support chil-
dren’s healthy development and family learning, communication, and connection with
eight strategies. These strategies are playing games together, reading together every
day, creating media projects, preparing for new experiences, connecting with distant
family, exploring the outside world, making travel more fun, and creating a predictable
routine. Tips on how to find the best apps to meet a child’s particular needs and an
explanation of how and why to use apps together also are included.
The guide references specific apps, which connect parents with the resources to
select appropriate apps for their children. This online community is connected with vari-
ous app stores and gives parents a menu for app selection on the basis of learning topic,
age, connectivity, and device capability. Information also is included that describes
exactly what other elements are attached to each app—for example, privacy settings,
information collection, advertisements allowed, related apps, and so on.
The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop also recommends the Parents’
Choice Award Winners as a tool for selecting child-appropriate apps. These apps,
reviewed by the Parents’ Choice Awards Committee within the Parents’ Choice
Foundation, have gone through a rigorous, multi-tiered evaluation process. The com-
mittee looks for apps that help children grow socially, intellectually, emotionally, and
ethically while inspiring creativity and imagination and connecting parents and children.
4. Technology can help learners pursue passions and personal interests. A student who
learns Spanish to read the works of Gabriel García Márquez in the original language and a
student who collects data and creates visualizations of wind patterns in the San Francisco
Bay in anticipation of a sailing trip are learning skills that are of unique interest to them.
This ability to learn topics of personal interest teaches students to practice exploration and
research that can help instill a mindset of lifelong learning.
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LEVERAGING THE POWER OF NETWORKS: CULTIVATING CONNECTIONS BETWEEN
SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITY INSTITUTIONS
Cities of LRNG helps close the opportunity gap by connecting young people with a
wide range of learning opportunities throughout their cities. The program makes learn-
ing activities from hundreds of community organizations easily discoverable to youth
and their families on a single online platform.
Each LRNG city has a website where partner organizations can make their offerings
visible. Young people receive recommended activities on the basis of their personal
passions. For example, in Chicago through the local Chicago Cities of Learning initia-
tive, more than 120 organizations have provided a collective 4,500 engaging learning
opportunities for tens of thousands of young people in all areas of the city through the
As students participate in learning activities, they earn digital badges that showcase
their skills and achievements. These digital badges signify mastery of a
skill—for example, coding, games, design, or fashion—giving out-of-school
learning greater currency by documenting and archiving learning wherever it
occurs. Each time a young person earns a badge, he or she is recommended
additional learning experiences and invited to broaden or deepen skills to
propel him or her along academic, civic, or career trajectories. Because digital
badges contain in-depth information about each individual’s learning experi-
ences, schools and potential employers can gain a comprehensive view of each
person’s interests and competencies.
Hive Learning Networks, a project of the Mozilla Foundation, organize and support
city-based, peer-to-peer professional development networks and champion con-
nected learning, digital skills, and Web literacy in youth-serving organizations in urban
centers around the world. Using a laboratory approach and catalytic funding model,
Hive re-imagines learning as interest based and empowers learners through collabo-
ration with peer educators, youth, technology experts, and entrepreneurs.
Similar to Cities of LRNG, Hive networks are made up of community-based
organizations, including libraries; museums; schools; after-school programs;
and individuals, such as educators, designers, and artists. Hive participants
work together to create learning opportunities for youth within and beyond
the confines of traditional classroom experiences, design innovative prac-
tices and tools that leverage digital literacy skills for greater impact, and
advance their own professional development.
The Hive model supports three levels of engagement:
1. Events. Organizations with shared learning goals unite to provide fun,
engaging events, such as maker parties, as a first step toward exploring
longer term collaborations.
2. Learning Communities. Community organizers with an interest in Hive’s core
principles come together in regular meet-ups and events to explore how to
apply connected learning tools and practices. Learning communities are in
seven cities in the United States, Canada, and India.
3. Learning Networks. With an operational budget and staff, Hive Learning
Networks commit to promoting innovative, open-source learning models in
partnership with a community’s civic and cultural organizations, businesses,
entrepreneurs, educators, and learners. Learning Networks are in New York,
Chicago, and Pittsburgh.
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5. Technology access when equitable can help close the digital divide and make trans-
formative learning opportunities available to all learners. An adult learner with limited
physical access to continuing education can upskill by taking advantage of online programs
to earn new certifications and can accomplish these goals regardless of location.
BUILDING EQUAL EXPERIENCES: BLACK GIRLS CODE (BGC)
INFORMS AND INSPIRES
Introducing girls of color to technology at an early age is one key to unlocking oppor-
tunities that mostly have eluded this underserved group. BGC, founded in 2001 by
Kimberly Bryant, an electrical engineer, aims to “increase the number of women of
color in the digital space by empowering girls of color to become innovators in STEM
subjects, leaders in their communities, and builders of their own futures through expo-
sure to computer science and technology.”34
Through a combination of workshops and field trips, BGC gives girls of color a chance
to learn computer programming and connects them to role models in the technology
space. BGC also hosts events and workshops across the country designed to help girls
develop a wide range of other skills such as ideation, teamwork, and presenting while
exploring social justice issues and engaging in creating solutions to those issues through
One example of such an event occurred at DeVry University where 100
girls between the ages of 7 and 17 learned how to build a webpage in a day. Tech indus-
try volunteers led sessions in how to code using HTML, change the look and formatting
of webpages using CCS, and design a basic Web structure. The girls developed web-
pages that integrated text, images, videos, and music, according to their interests and
creativity. Toward the end of the day, participants presented their websites to cheering
parents, volunteers, and other attendees. Between 10 and 12 similar events by BGC are
held in Oakland each year.36
BGC is headquartered in San Francisco, and BGC chapters are located in Chicago; Detroit;
Memphis; New York; Oakland; Raleigh; and Washington, D.C., with more in development.
CREATING FOR ACCESS: HELLO NAVI FOR THE VISUALLY IMPAIRED
When Maggie Bolado, a teacher at Resaca Middle School in Los Fresnos, Texas, was
approached about the unique challenge of helping a visually impaired student navigate
the school’s campus, she had not imagined the innovation that was about to happen.
Bolado helped guide a group of seventh- and eighth-grade students to develop an app
to navigate the school grounds called Hello Navi. Working mostly during extracurricu-
lar time, the students learned bracket coding via online tutorials that enabled them to
develop the app. As they learned to program, they also were developing problem-solv-
ing skills and becoming more detail oriented.
When the app was made available for download, requests came in to tailor the app
to the needs of other particular users, including one parent who wanted to know how
to make it work for her two-year-old child. The students participated in a developers’
forum to go through requests and questions on the app and problem-solve challenges
and issues together. The students also interpreted various data sets, tracking the num-
ber of times the app was downloaded and monitoring the number of total potential
users, making possible an improved next iteration of the app.
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The Future of Learning Technologies
Although these examples help provide understanding of the current state of educational
technologies, it is also important to note the research being done on early stage educational
technology and how this research might be applied more widely in the future to learning.
As part of their work in cyberlearning, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is researching
opportunities offered by integrating emerging technologies with advances in the learning
sciences. Following are examples of the projects being funded by the NSF as part of this effort:
Increased use of games and simulations to give students the experience of working
together on a project without leaving their classrooms. Students are involved actively in
a situation that feels urgent and must decide what to measure and how to analyze data in
order to solve a challenging problem. Examples include RoomQuake, in which an entire
classroom becomes a scaled-down simulation of an earthquake. As speakers play the sounds
of an earthquake, the students can take readings on simulated seismographs at different loca-
tions in the room, inspect an emerging fault line, and stretch twine to identify the epicenter.
Another example is Robot-Assisted Language Learning in Education (RALL-E), in which
students learning Mandarin converse with a robot that exhibits a range of facial expressions
and gestures, coupled with language dialogue software. Such robots will allow students to
engage in a social role-playing experience with a new language without the usual anxieties
of speaking a new language. The RALL-E also encourages cultural awareness while encour-
aging good use of language skills and building student confidence through practice.
New ways to connect physical and virtual interaction with learning technologies that
bridge the tangible and the abstract. For example, the In Touch With Molecules project has
students manipulate a physical ball-and-stick model of a molecule such as hemoglobin, while
a camera senses the model and visualizes it with related scientific phenomena, such as the
energy field around the molecule. Students’ tangible engagement with a physical model is
connected to more abstract, conceptual models, supporting students’ growth of understanding.
Toward a similar goal, elementary school students sketch pictures of mathematical situations
by using a pen on a tablet surface with representational tools and freehand sketching, much
as they would on paper. Unlike with paper, they easily copy, move, group, and transform their
pictures and representations in ways that help them to express what they are learning about
mathematics. These can be shared with the teacher, and, via artificial intelligence, the com-
puter can help the teacher see patterns in the sketches and support the teacher’s using student
expression as a powerful instructional resource.
Interactive three-dimensional imaging software, such as zSpace, is creating potentially trans-
formational learning experiences. With three-dimensional glasses and a stylus, students are able
to work with a wide range of images from the layers of the earth to the human heart. The zSpace
program’s noble failure feature allows students constructing a motor or building a battery to
make mistakes and retry, learning throughout the process. Although the content and curriculum
are supplied, teachers can customize and tailor lesson plans to fit the needs of their classes. This
type of versatile technology allows students to work with objects schools typically would not be
able to afford, providing a richer, more engaging learning experience.
Augmented reality (AR) as a new way of investigating our context and history. In the
Cyberlearning: Transforming Education EXP project, researchers are addressing how and for
what purposes AR technologies can be used to support the learning of critical inquiry strate-
gies and processes. The question is being explored in the context of history education and the
17OFFICE OF Educational Technology
Summarizing, Contextualizing, Inferring, Monitoring, and Corroborating
(SCIM-C) framework developed for historical inquiry education. A combined
hardware and software platform is being built to support SCIM-C pedagogy.
Students use a mobile device with AR to augment their “field” experience
at a local historical site. In addition to experiencing the site as it exists, AR
technology allows students to view and experience the site from several social
perspectives and to view its structure and uses across several time periods.
Research focuses on the potential of AR technology in inquiry-based fieldwork
for disciplines in which analysis of change across time is important to promote
understanding of how very small changes across long periods of time may add
up to very large changes.
Across these examples, we see that learning is not contained within screens or
classrooms and that technology can enrich how students engage in the world
To see additional examples of cyberlearning, visit The Center for Innovative
Research in CyberLearning.14
Bringing Equity to Learning Through Technology
Closing the Digital Use Divide
Traditionally, the digital divide in education referred to schools and communi-
ties in which access to devices and Internet connectivity were either unavailable
Although there is still much work to be done, great progress
has been made providing connectivity and device access. The modernization of
the federal E-rate program has made billions of dollars available to provide
high-speed wireless access in schools across the country.
SOURCE OF FUNDING
The Schools and Libraries
Universal Service Support
Program, commonly known as
the E-rate program, is a source
of federal funding for Internet
connectivity for U.S. schools and
libraries. Created by Congress
in 1996, E-rate provides schools
and libraries with discounted
Internet service on the basis of
need. The program was mod-
ernized in 2014 to ensure there
is sufficient funding available to
meet the need for robust wire-
less connectivity within schools
and high-speed connectivity to
schools. For more information
about E-rate, visit the website
of the Federal Communications
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However, we have to be cognizant of a new digital divide—the disparity between students who
use technology to create, design, build, explore, and collaborate and those who simply use tech-
nology to consume media passively.16,17,18,19
On its own, access to connectivity and devices does not guarantee access to engaging educational
experiences or a quality education.20
Without thoughtful intervention and attention to the way
technology is used for learning, the digital use divide could grow even as access to technology in
Providing Technology Accessibility for All Learners
Learning experiences enabled by technology should be accessible for all learners, including those
with special needs. Supports to make learning accessible should be built into learning software
and hardware by default. The approach of including accessibility features from the beginning
of the development process, also known as universal design, is a concept well established in
the field of architecture. Modern public buildings include features such as ramps, automatic
doors, or braille on signs to make them accessible by everyone. In the same way, features such
DIGITAL USE DIVIDE
While essential, closing the digital divide alone will not transform learning.
We must also close the digital use divide by ensuring all students understand
how to use technology as a tool to engage in creative, productive,
life-long learning rather than simply consuming passive content.
Simply consuming media or completing
digitized worksheets falls short.
PASSIVE USE ACTIVE USE
z z z
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as text-to-speech, speech-to-text, enlarged font sizes, color contrast, dictionaries, and glossaries
should be built into educational hardware and software to make learning accessible to everyone.
Three main principles drive application of universal design for learning (UDL)25,26,27
1. Provide multiple means of representation so that students can approach information
in more than one way. Examples include digital books, specialized software and websites,
and screen readers that include features such as text-to-speech, changeable color contrast,
alterable text size, or selection of different reading levels.
2. Provide multiple means of expression so that all students can demonstrate and
express what they know. Examples include providing options in how they express their
learning, where appropriate, which can include options such as writing, online concept
mapping, or speech-to-text programs.
3. Provide multiple means of engagement to stimulate interest in and motivation for
learning. Examples include providing options among several different learning activities
or content for a particular competency or skill and providing opportunities for increased
collaboration or scaffolding.
Digital learning tools can offer more flexibility and learning supports than can traditional
formats. Using mobile devices, laptops, and networked systems, educators are better able to
personalize and customize learning experiences to align with the needs of each student. They
also can expand communication with mentors, peers, and colleagues through social media
tools. Digital tools also can make it possible to modify content, such as raising or lowering the
complexity level of a text or changing the presentation rate.
At a higher level of engagement, digital tools such as games, websites, and digital books can be
designed to meet the needs of a range of learners, from novices to experts. Learners with little
understanding might approach the experience first as a novice and then move up to an inter-
mediate level as they gain more knowledge and skills. One example is McGill University’s The
Brain From Top to Bottom. The site includes options to engage with the content as a beginner,
intermediate, or advanced learner and adjusts the learning activities accordingly.
To help in the selection of appropriate universally designed products and tools, the National
Center on Universal Design for Learning has developed a resource linking each guideline to
information about digital supports that can help a teacher put UDL into practice.
REACHING ALL LEARNERS: TOOLS FOR UDL
Developed with support from the U.S. Department of Education, the tools listed here
were designed to help educators implement UDL principles into classroom practice
and make learning activities more accessible:
• Nimble Assessment Systems developed Nimble Tools to deliver standard ver-
sions of assessment instruments that are tailored with embedded accommodation
tools to meet the specific needs of students with disabilities. Some examples of
the accommodation tools include a keyboard with custom keyboard overlays,
the capacity of the system to read text aloud for students, an on-screen avatar
presenting questions in American Sign Language (ASL) or Signed English, and the
magnification of text and images for students with visual impairments.
• The Information Research Corporation developed eTouchSciences, an integrated
software and hardware assistive technology platform to support STEM learning
20OFFICE OF Educational Technology
among middle school students with (or
without) visual impairments. The product
includes a haptic sensing controller device
to provide real-time tactile, visual, and audio
feedback. See video.
• Filament Games developed the Game-
enhanced Interactive Life Science suite of
learning games to introduce middle school
students to key scientific concepts and
practices in the life sciences. These games,
aligned to UDL, provide students with
multiple means of representation, expres-
sion, and engagement and provide assistive
features such as in-game glossaries and
optional voice-over for all in-game text. See
• Institute for Disabilities Research and Training developed the myASL Quizmaker to pro-
vide Web-based assessments for deaf or hard of hearing students who use ASL. This
product provides automatic ASL graphic and video translations for students; enables
teachers to create customized tests, exams, and quizzes that are scored automatically;
and provides teacher reports with grades and corrected quizzes. See video.
DESIGN IN PRACTICE: INDIANA SCHOOL DISTRICT ADOPTS UDL FOR ALL STUDENTS
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation is a public school district in Columbus,
Indiana, serving approximately 12,000 students. The student population consists of 13
percent in special education, 50 percent receive free or reduced-price lunch, and more
than 54 languages are spoken. UDL has been helpful as a decision-making tool in the
deployment of technologies such as computers and other networked devices. The UDL
guidelines help educators determine what strategies, accessible technologies, and
teaching methods will enable all students to achieve lesson goals.
In one instance, a social studies teacher held an online discussion during a presiden-
tial debate. Realizing that some students were not taking part in class discussions, the
teacher used technology to provide multiple means of representation, expression, and
engagement. Some students who were reluctant to speak up in a face-to-face setting
felt safe to do so online, becoming engaged participants in the class discussion.
Since they adopted a universal design approach, graduation rates increased by 8 per-
cent for general education students and 22 percent for special education students. Also,
the number of students taking and passing Advanced Placement tests has increased.
Physical Spaces and Technology-Enabled Learning
Blended learning and other models of learning enabled by technology require educators to
rethink how they organize physical spaces to facilitate best collaborative learning using digital
tools. Considerations include the following:
• Are the design and layout of the physical space dynamic and flexible enough to facilitate
the technology-enabled learning models and practices selected? Can a space in which an
educator delivers whole-class instruction also be shifted to facilitate individual online
practice and research?
• Do the physical spaces align in their ability to facilitate individual and collaborative work?
When practices such as project-based learning require students to be working together
21OFFICE OF Educational Technology
with multiple devices for research and presentation building, is the space as useful as when
individual learners need time and space to connect with information and experts online for
• Can the physical spaces and tools be shaped to provide multiple contexts and learning
experiences such as Wi-Fi access for outdoor classrooms? Are library spaces able to become
laboratories? Can a space used as a history lecture hall for one class become a maker space
for engineering the next period?
For more information and tools for aligning physical spaces, visit the Centre for Effective
Learning Environments and the Clayton Christensen Institute’s Blended Learning Universe.
INNOVATION FROM THE GROUND UP: DENVER SCHOOL FOR SCIENCE AND
TECHNOLOGY (DSST) USES SPACE TO PROMOTE STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
The DSST is an innovative high school located in Stapleton, Colorado, a redeveloped
neighborhood near downtown Denver. Behind the bright colors and unique geometry
of spaces at DSST lies a relationship to the way academic subjects are taught and
community is formed at the high school. The school is designed to be flexible and aims
to support student achievement through the design of its physical spaces.
The school features a series of gathering spaces that can be used for various aca-
demic and social purposes throughout the day. The largest of the gathering areas, near
the school’s entrance, is where the school’s daily morning meeting for both students
and faculty is held. Student and faculty announcements, skits, and other community
functions are all encouraged in this communal setting.
Each of the three academic pods also includes informal spaces for gathering, study-
ing, and socializing. These academic clusters are linked by a galleria, or large open
hallway, that is lined with skylights and also serves as a gathering place for students
and faculty members.
DSST has demonstrated results in the academic achievement of its students and in
its attendance record. In 2005, the school’s founding Grade 9 class was the highest
scoring Grade 9 class in Denver in mathematics and the second highest scoring class
in reading and writing. DSST was also the only Denver high school to earn a significant
growth rating on the Colorado Student Assessment Program test scores from one year
to the next. Student attendance at the school is typically about 96 percent.
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States, districts, and post-secondary institutions should develop and implement learning
resources that embody the flexibility and power of technology to create equitable and
accessible learning ecosystems that make learning possible everywhere and all the time for
Whether creating learning resources internally, drawing on collaborative networks, or using
traditional procurement procedures, institutions should insist on the use of resources and the
design of learning experiences that use UD practices to ensure accessibility and increased
equity of learning opportunities.
States, districts, and post-secondary institutions should develop and implement learning
resources that use technology to embody design principles from the learning sciences.
Educational systems have access to cutting-edge learning sciences research. To make better use
of the existing body of research literature, however, educators and researchers will need to work
together to determine the most useful dissemination methods for easy incorporation and synthe-
sis of research findings into teachers’ instructional practices.
States, districts, and post-secondary institutions should take inventory of and align all learning
technology resources to intended educational outcomes. Using this inventory, they should
document all possible learner pathways to expertise, such as combinations of formal and
informal learning, blended learning, and distance learning.
Without thoughtful accounting of the available tools and resources within formal and informal
learning spaces within a community, matching learners to high-quality pathways to expertise is
left to chance. Such an undertaking will require increased capacity within organizations that have
never considered such a mapping of educational pathways. To aid in these efforts, networks such
as LRNG, the Hive Learning Networks, and education innovation clusters can serve as models for
cross-stakeholder collaboration in the interest of best using existing resources to present learners
with pathways to learning and expertise.
Education stakeholders should develop a born accessible standard of learning resource
design to help educators select and evaluate learning resources for accessibility and equity of
Born accessible is a play on the term born digital and is used to convey the idea that materials
that are born digital also can and should be born accessible. If producers adopt current industry
standards for producing educational materials, materials will be accessible out of the box. Using
the principles and research-base of UD and UDL, this standard would serve as a commonly
accepted framework and language around design for accessibility and offer guidance to ven-
dors and third-party technology developers in interactions with states, districts, and institutions
of higher education.
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Meyer, A., Rose, D. H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice. Wakefield, MA:
CAST Professional Publishing.
Reardon, C. (2015). More than toys—Gamer affirmative therapy. Social Work Today, 15(3), 10. Retrieved from
3C Institute. (2015). Serious games. Retrieved from https://www.3cisd.com/what-we-do/serious-games.
Mindset Works. (2012). The Experiences. Retrieved from https://www.mindsetworks.com/webnav/
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Governor’s Budget FY2012. (2011). Eliminating the Achievement Gap. Retrieved from http://www.mass.gov/bb/
The Joan Ganz Cooney Center. (2014). Family time with apps: A guide to using apps with your kids. Retrieved from
Black Girls Code: Imagine, Build, Create. (2013). Programs/events. Retrieved from http://www.blackgirlscode.
Black Girls Code: Imagine, Build, Create. (2013). Programs/events. Retrieved from http://www.blackgirlscode.
Tupa, M. (2014). Black Girls Code teaches girls digital technology skills. Retrieved from https://oaklandnorth.
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Teaching With Technology
GOAL: Educators will be supported by technology that connects them to people, data, content,
resources, expertise, and learning experiences that can empower and inspire them to provide
more effective teaching for all learners.
Technology offers the opportunity for teachers to become more collaborative and extend learning
beyond the classroom. Educators can create learning communities composed of students; fellow
educators in schools, museums, libraries, and after-school programs; experts in various disci-
plines around the world; members of community organizations; and families. This enhanced col-
laboration, enabled by technology offers access to instructional materials as well as the resources
and tools to create, manage, and assess their quality and usefulness.
To enact this vision, schools need to support teachers in accessing needed technology and in
learning how to use it effectively. Although research indicates that teachers have the biggest
impact on student learning out of all other school-level factors, we cannot expect individual
educators to assume full responsibility for bringing technology-based learning experiences
They need continuous, just-in-time support that includes professional
development, mentors, and informal collaborations. In fact, more than two thirds of teachers
say they would like more technology in their classrooms,6
and roughly half say that lack of
training is one of the biggest barriers to incorporating technology into their teaching.7
Institutions responsible for pre-service and in-service professional development for educators
should focus explicitly on ensuring all educators are capable of selecting, evaluating, and using
appropriate technologies and resources to create experiences that advance student engagement
and learning. They also should pay special care to make certain that educators understand the
privacy and security concerns associated with technology. This goal cannot be achieved without
incorporating technology-based learning into the programs themselves.
For many teacher preparation institutions, state offices of education, and school districts, the
transition to technology-enabled preparation and professional development will entail rethinking
instructional approaches and techniques, tools, and the skills and expertise of educators who
teach in these programs. This rethinking should be based on a deep understanding of the roles
and practices of educators in environments in which learning is supported by technology.
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Roles and Practices of Educators in
Technology can empower educators to become co-learners with their students
by building new experiences for deeper exploration of content. This enhanced
learning experience embodies John Dewey’s notion of creating “more mature
Side-by-side, students and teachers can become engineers of col-
laboration, designers of learning experiences, leaders, guides, and catalysts of
Following are some descriptions of these educator roles and examples
of how technology can play an integral part.
Educators can collaborate far beyond the walls of their schools. Through
technology, educators are no longer restricted to collaborating only with other
educators in their schools. They now can connect with other educators and
experts across their communities or around the world to expand their perspec-
tives and create opportunities for student learning. They can connect with
community organizations specializing in real-world concerns to design learning
experiences that allow students to explore local needs and priorities. All of
these elements make classroom learning more relevant and authentic.
In addition, by using tools such as videoconferencing, online chats, and social
media sites, educators, from large urban to small rural districts, can connect and
collaborate with experts and peers from around the world to form online profes-
sional learning communities.
BUILDING COMMUNITIES FOR EDUCATORS: INTERNATIONAL
EDUCATION AND RESOURCE NETWORK (iEARN) FOSTERS GLOBAL
COLLABORATIVE TEACHING AND LEARNING
Through technology, educators can create global communities of practice
that enable their students to collaborate with students around the world.
Technology enables collaborative teaching regardless of geographic
location, as demonstrated by the global nature of the Solar Cooking Project
organized by earth and environmental science teacher Kathy Bosiak.
Bosiak teaches at Lincolnton High School in Lincolnton, North
Carolina, and is a contributing educator for iEARN, a nonprofit orga-
nization made up of more than 30,000 schools and youth organiza-
tions in more than 140 countries. iEARN offers technology-enabled
resources that enable teachers and students around the world to
collaborate on educational projects, all designed and facilitated by
teachers and students to fit their curriculum, classroom needs, and
In addition to its student programs, iEARN offers professional face-
to-face workshops for teachers that combine technology and continued
engagement through virtual networks and online professional learning
opportunities. The workshops focus on the skills needed to engage in
Internet-based collaborative learning projects, including peer review,
team building, joining regional and international learning communities,
and developing project-based curricula that integrate national educa-
experiences are those that place
learners in the context of real-
world experiences and challenges.11
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Educators can design highly engaging and relevant learning experiences through
technology. Educators have nearly limitless opportunities to select and apply technology in
ways that connect with the interests of their students and achieve their learning goals. For exam-
ple, a classroom teacher beginning a new unit on fractions might choose to have his students play
a learning game such as Factor Samurai, Wuzzit Trouble, or Sushi Monster as a way to introduce
the concept. Later, the teacher might direct students to practice the concept by using manipula-
tives so they can start to develop some grounded ideas about equivalence.12
To create an engaging and relevant lesson that requires students to use content knowledge and
critical thinking skills, an educator might ask students to solve a community problem by using
technology. Students may create an online community forum, public presentation, or call to
action related to their proposed solution. They can use social networking platforms to gather
information and suggestions of resources from their contacts. Students can draft and present
their work by using animated presentation software or through multimedia formats such as
videos and blogs. This work can be shared in virtual discussions with content experts and
stored in online learning portfolios.
A school without access to science labs or equipment can use virtual simulations to offer learners
experiences that are currently unavailable because of limited resources. In addition, these simu-
lations are safe places for students to learn and practice effective processes before they conduct
research in the field. Just as technology can enhance science learning for schools lacking equip-
ment, it can enable deep learning once students are in the field as well. Students can collect data
for their own use via mobile devices and probes and sync their findings with those of collabora-
tors and researchers anywhere in the world to create large, authentic data sets for study.
Educators can lead the evaluation and implementation of new technologies for learning.
Lower price points for learning technologies make it easier for educators to pilot new technolo-
gies and approaches before attempting a school-wide adoption. These educators also can lead and
model practices around evaluating new tools for privacy and security risks, as well as compliance
with federal privacy regulations. (For more on these regulations, see Section 5: Infrastructure).
Teacher-leaders with a broad understanding of their own educational technology needs, as well
as those of students and colleagues, can design short pilot studies that impact a small number of
students to ensure the chosen technology and the implementation approach have the desired out-
comes. This allows schools to gain experience with and confidence in these technologies before
committing entire schools or districts to purchases and use.
Teacher-leaders and those with experience supporting learning with technology can work with
administrators to determine how to share their learning with other teachers. They also can
provide support to their peers by answering questions and modeling practical uses of technology
to support learning.
EVALUATING TECHNOLOGY THROUGH RAPID CYCLE TECHNOLOGY EVALUATIONS
As schools continue to invest heavily in education technology, there is a pressing
need to generate evidence about the effectiveness of these investments and also to
develop evaluation tools that developers and practitioners can use to conduct their
own evaluations that take less time and incur lower costs than do traditional evalua-
tions. The U.S. Department of Education is funding a rapid cycle technology evaluation
project that will design research approaches for evaluating apps, platforms, and tools;
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conduct pilots and disseminate the resulting short reports; and create an interactive
guide and implementation support tools for conducting rapid cycle technology evalu-
ations to be used by schools, districts, developers, and researchers.
Rapid cycle technology evaluations will help provide results in a timely manner so
that evidence of effectiveness is available to school and district leaders when they
need to make purchasing decisions.
TEACH TO LEAD: DEVELOPING TEACHERS AS LEADERS
Teach to Lead, a joint program of the National Board for Professional Teaching
Standards, ASCD, and the U.S. Department of Education, aims to advance student out-
comes by expanding opportunities for teacher leadership, particularly opportunities
that allow teachers to stay in the classroom. With the help of supporting organizations,
Teach to Lead provides a platform for teacher-leaders and allies across the country
(and around the world) to create and expand on their ideas.
Teach to Lead participants are invested personally in the development of their
teacher leadership action plans because the ideas are their own. Participants identify
a current problem within their school, district, or community and develop a theory
of action to solve that problem. Since its inception in March 2014, Teach to Lead has
engaged more than 3,000 educators, in person and virtually through its online plat-
form, with more than 850 teacher leadership ideas spanning 38 states. Teach to Lead
regional Teacher Leadership Summits brought together teams of teacher-leaders and
supporting organizations to strengthen their teacher leadership ideas, share resources,
and develop the skills necessary to make their projects a reality.
Marcia Hudson and Serena Stock, teacher-leaders at Avondale Elementary School
in Michigan, identified a need for teacher-led professional development at their school
and created a module for teachers to collect and analyze student outcome data to
drive new professional development opportunities. The teachers now are holding
engagement meetings with teacher-leaders to develop and fund professional devel-
opment and data collection further.
Chris Todd teaches at Windsor High School in Connecticut and is a Teacher-Leader-
in-Residence for the Connecticut State Department of Education. Chris’s team is
developing the Connecticut Educator Network, a database of teacher-leaders who
are readily available to advise on policy development. The group intends to provide
training and policy briefings to continue to hone the teachers’ leadership skills.
Educators can be guides, facilitators, and motivators of learners. The information available
to educators through high-speed Internet means teachers do not have to be content experts
across all possible subjects. By understanding how to help students access online information,
engage in simulations of real-world events, and use technology to document their world, edu-
cators can help their students examine problems and think deeply about their learning. Using
digital tools, they can help students create spaces to experiment, iterate, and take intellectual
risks with all of the information they need at their fingertips.13,14
Teachers also can take advan-
tage of these spaces for themselves as they navigate new understandings of teaching that move
beyond a focus on what they teach to how students can learn and show what they know.
Educators can help students make connections across subject areas and decide on the best tools
for collecting and showcasing learning through activities such as contributing to online forums,
producing webinars, or publishing their findings to relevant websites. These teachers can advise
students on how to build an online learning portfolio to demonstrate their learning progression.
Within these portfolios, students can catalog resources that they can review and share as they
29OFFICE OF Educational Technology
move into deeper and more complex thinking about a particular issue. With such portfolios,
learners will be able to transition through their education careers with robust examples of their
learning histories as well as evidence of what they know and are able to do. These become
compelling records of achievement as they apply for entrance into career and technical education
institutions, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities or for employment.
DEEPENING STUDENT UNDERSTANDING: USING INTERACTIVE VIDEO TO IMPROVE
Reflective teachers can search for new ways for their students to engage with technol-
ogy effectively, especially when students are not optimizing their learning experiences.
Every year at Crocker Middle School, Ryan Carroll would ask his sixth-grade world
history students to watch a variety of online videos for homework. He found that no
matter how entertaining or interesting the videos were, his students were not retaining
much of the information being presented, and often they were confused about key
concepts. After learning about Zaption, a teaching tool funded by the U.S. Department
of Education, Carroll realized his students could get more out of the videos he
assigned. Using Zaption’s interactive video platform, he added images, text, drawings,
and questions to clarify tricky concepts and check for understanding as students
watched the video.
Zaption’s analytics allow educators to review individual student responses and class-
wide engagement data quickly, giving greater insight on how students are mastering
key concepts as they watch and enabling teachers to address misconceptions quickly.
Educators can be co-learners with students and peers. The availability of technology-based
learning tools gives educators a chance be co-learners alongside their students and peers.
Although educators should not be expected to know everything there is to know in their disci-
plines, they should be expected to model how to leverage available tools to engage content with
curiosity and a mindset bent on problem solving and how to be co-creators of knowledge. In
short, teachers should be the students they hope to inspire in their classrooms.15
CO-LEARNING IN THE CLASSROOM: TEACHER USER GROUPS PROVIDE PEER
LEARNING FOR ADULT EDUCATION EDUCATORS
Recognizing the power of virtual peer learning, the U.S. Department of Education’s
Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education has funded projects that have estab-
lished teacher user groups to explore the introduction of openly licensed educational
resources into adult education. This model of professional development recognizes
that virtual peer learning can support teachers to change their practice and provide
leadership and growth opportunities. The small groups of far-flung teachers work with
a group moderator to identify, use, and review openly licensed resources in mathemat-
ics, science, and English language arts.
Reviews referenced the embedded evaluation criteria in OER Commons, a repository
of open educational resources (OER) that can be used or reused freely at no cost and
that align to the College- and Career-Readiness mathematics and language arts and
Next Generation Science Standards. They also included practice tips for teaching the
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content to adult learners. The reviews are posted on OER Commons and tagged as
Adult Basic Education or Adult English for Speakers of Other Languages to facilitate
the discovery by other teachers of these high-quality, standards-aligned teaching and
LEARNING OUT LOUD ONLINE: JENNIE MAGIERA, DISTRICT CHIEF TECHNOLOGY
OFFICER AND CLASSROOM TEACHER
Planning a lesson on how elevation and other environmental influences affect the
boiling point of water, Jennie Magiera realized that many of the students in her fourth-
grade class in Cook County, Illinois, had never seen a mountain. So Magiera reached
out to her network of fellow educators through social media to find a teacher in a
mountainous area of the country interested in working with her on the lesson.
Soon, Magiera and a teacher in Denver were collaborating on a lesson plan. Using
tablets and online videoconferencing, the students in Denver showed Magiera’s stu-
dents the mountains that they could see outside of their classrooms every day. After
a discussion of elevation, the two teachers engaged their students in a competition to
see which class could boil water faster. By interacting with students in the other class,
Magiera’s students became engaged more deeply in the project, which led them to
develop a richer understanding of ecosystems and environments than they might
Educators can become catalysts to serve the underserved. Technology provides a new oppor-
tunity for traditionally underserved populations to have equitable access to high-quality educa-
tional experiences. When connectivity and access are uneven, the digital divide in education is
widened, undermining the positive aspects of learning with technology.
All students deserve equal access to (1) the Internet, high-quality content, and devices when
they need them and (2) educators skilled at teaching in a technology-enabled learning envi-
ronment. When this occurs, it increases the likelihood that learners have personalized learning
experiences, choice in tools and activities, and access to adaptive assessments that identify their
individual abilities, needs, and interests.
Connected Educators: Exemplars
Technology can transform learning when used by teachers who know how to create engaging
and effective learning experiences for their students. In 2014, a group of educators collaborated
on a report entitled, Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom. Not a how-to guide or a set of
discrete tools, it draws together narratives from a group of educators within the National Writing
Project who are working to implement and refine practices around technology-enabled learning.
The goal was to rethink, iterate on, and assess how education can be made more relevant to
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PRODUCING STUDENT FILMS WITH ONLINE AUDIENCES: KATIE MCKAY:
LIGHTS, CAMERA, SOCIAL ACTION!
In Katie McKay’s diverse, fourth-grade transitional bilingual class, encouraging her stu-
dents to work together on a project helped them build literacy skills while simultaneously
giving them the opportunity to pursue culturally relevant questions related to equity.
McKay recognized that her students were searching for the language to talk about
complicated issues of race, gender, power, and equity. To address the competing
priorities of preparing her students for the state test and providing them with authentic
opportunities to develop as readers and writers, McKay started a project-based unit on
the history of discrimination in the United States.
Students worked in heterogeneously mixed groups to develop comic strips that
eventually were turned into two videos, one showing micro-aggressions students
commonly see today and one about the history of discrimination in the United States.
The movie on micro-aggressions portrayed current scenarios that included charac-
ters who acted as agents of change, bravely and respectfully defending the rights of
According to McKay, students who previously were disengaged found themselves
drawn into the classroom community in meaningful and engaging ways.
While reflecting on this unit, McKay wrote:
“We were not only working to promote tolerance and appreciation for diversity
in our community. We also were resisting an oppressive educational context. In
the midst of the pressure to perform on tests that were isolating and divisive, we
united in collaborative work that required critical thinking and troubleshooting.
In a climate that valued silence, antiquated skills, and high-stakes testing, we
engaged in peer-connected learning that highlighted 21st century skills and
made an impact on our community.”18
JUST-IN-TIME LEARNING: JANELLE BENCE: HOW DO I TEACH
WHAT I DO NOT KNOW?
Texas teacher Janelle Bence was looking for new ways to engage and challenge her
students, the majority of whom are English language learners from low-income fami-
lies. After observing her students’ motivation to persist through game challenges, she
wondered if games held a key to getting them similarly engaged in classwork. After
attending a session on gaming at a National Writing Project Annual Meeting, Bence
was inspired to incorporate gaming into her classroom. She did not know anything
about gaming and so, as is the case for many teachers seeking to bridge the gap
between students’ social interests and academic subjects, she had to figure out how
to teach what she did not know.
Bence started by reading a book about using video games to teach literacy. As she
read, she shared her ideas and questions on her blog and talked to other educators,
game designers, and systems thinkers. Through these collaborations, she decided that
by creating games, her students would be required to become informed experts in the
content of the game as well as to become powerful storytellers.
As she explored games as a way to make academic tasks more engaging and acces-
sible for her students, Bence found it was important to take advantage of professional
learning and peer networks, take risks by moving from a passive consumer of knowl-
edge to actually trying the tasks that she planned to use with students, and put herself
in her students’ shoes.
Bence shared that “finding a way to connect to students and their passions—by
investigating what makes them tick and bridging [those passions] to academic tasks—
educators are modeling risks that encourage the same behavior in their learners.”19
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BUILDING STUDENT AGENCY: JASON SELLERS: TEXT-BASED VIDEO GAMES
Aware of the popularity of video games among his students, and as a longtime fan
of video games himself, teacher Jason Sellers decided to use gaming to develop his
10th-grade students’ ability to use descriptive imagery in their writing. Specifically,
Sellers introduced his students to text-based video games. Unlike graphics-based
games in which users can view graphics and maneuver through the game by using
controller buttons, text-based games require players to read descriptions and maneu-
ver by typing commands such as “go north” or “unlock the door with a key.” Sellers
decided his students could practice using descriptive imagery by developing their
own text-based games.
Using tutorials and other resources found on Playfic, an interactive fiction online
community, Sellers created lessons that allowed students to play and eventually
create interactive fiction games. Prior to the creation of the games, Sellers’s class
analyzed several essays that skillfully used descriptive imagery, such as David Foster
Wallace’s A Ticket to the Fair, and composed short pieces of descriptive writing about
their favorite locations in San Francisco.
Students then transferred their newly honed descriptive storytelling skills to the
development of an entertaining text-based game. Because Sellers’s students wanted to
develop games their peers would want to play, they focused on ways to make their games
more appealing, including, as Sellers described, “using familiar settings (local or popular
culture), familiar characters (fellow students or popular culture), and tricky puzzles.”20
According to Sellers, this project allowed students to work through problems
collaboratively with peers from their classroom and the Playfic online community and
motivated them to move beyond basic requirements to create projects worthy
of entering competitions.
Rethinking Teacher Preparation
Teachers need to leave their teacher preparation programs with a solid understanding of how
to use technology to support learning. Effective use of technology is not an optional add-on or
a skill that we simply can expect teachers to pick up once they get into the classroom. Teachers
need to know how to use technology to realize each state’s learning standards from day one.
Most states have adopted and are implementing college- and career-ready standards to ensure
that their students graduate high school with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed.
For states that have voluntarily adopted the Common Core State Standards, there are more than
100 direct mentions of technology expectations, and similar expectations exist in states adopting
other college- and career-ready standards. Many federal, state, and district leaders have made
significant investments in providing infrastructure and devices to schools. Without a well-pre-
pared and empowered teaching force, our country will not experience the full benefits of those
investments for transformative learning.
Schools should be able to rely on teacher preparation programs to ensure that new teachers come
to them prepared to use technology in meaningful ways. No new teacher exiting a preparation
program should require remediation by his or her hiring school or district. Instead, every new
teacher should be prepared to model how to select and use the most appropriate apps and tools