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Advocating a Bolder Education Vision for the Future

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As this election season hits full stride, the education debate among those holding and seeking public office appears short of discourse about a critical means to ensuring student success. Our students are rightfully being held to higher expectations, both in school and in their lives that follow as citizens and workers. Yet, too many students, educators and educational institutions lack the tools needed to meet our educational goals. Therefore, candidates must be challenged to lead with a bolder vision that arms our students and educators with the technology-based tools and practices needed to meet the demands of the new century.

The future of our country is being determined every day in our nation’s schools. Unfortunately, in too many cases, we are relying on yesterday’s tools and methods. The technological innovations that have dramatically changed our workplaces, civic institutions and children’s daily lives have largely bypassed our schools. Too many of our educational institutions don’t reflect this 21st century life and are therefore unable to adequately prepare our students for that life.

Outside of the school day, our students live in a digital world where technologies seamlessly engage them, support them and help them communicate with the world around them. Thus, they require a school environment that employs learning and communication technologies that better reflect this daily experience and better prepare them for the future. In schools, students must also learn the 21st century skills of technology literacy, inventive thinking, communication and collaboration, and the capacity for self-directed lifelong learning that will lead to their success.

Holding Candidates Accountable

Technology solutions are providing the means to redefine teaching and learning by helping us find new ways to engage and instruct students, personalizing instruction to meet each learner’s needs and interests, and providing real-world learning contexts and communication. Technology also facilitates utilization of assessment as a meaningful diagnostic tool, allows educators to better manage data to assess individual student’s progress as well as overall student achievement trends, and provides additional opportunities through distance learning.

To achieve this potential, we need public officials who share this vision and are willing to not just hold schools accountable for student performance, but are willing to provide the leadership that ensures schools are equipped with the resources and trained educators to meet today’s needs.

When voters go to the polls this year, they should understand a candidate’s positions on meeting this challenge. They should share this vision with candidates, encourage them to adopt it and back it up with specific policies, and hold them accountable to do so. Those who care about education and the future of our youth should insist on knowing where candidates stand on these important issues. They should urge candidates to speak up about actions they will take to underscore the importance of technology and ensure our schools and students are equipped to meet the demands of the 21st century. We cannot afford a generation of policymakers who fail to understand these needs and solutions, nor can we afford to have our students leave schools without the educational preparation and skills they need in the new century.

A Call to Action

To help lead this cause, a nonpartisan coalition of leading education associations, nonprofit groups and corporations is launching a campaign to encourage voters to communicate with candidates on the need to get 21st century tools into America’s classrooms. The National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET) seeks to mobilize voters nationwide to urge candidates for public office to pledge support for policies that ensure students have access today to the best available learning technologies to guarantee America’s success tomorrow.

This pledge would include providing the necessary leadership and vision, investing in technology in our schools, and providing educators with the training and support they need. It would also include ensuring that long-standing regulations and policy barriers are modernized so as to not inappropriately limit our educational institutions’ abilities to acquire and effectively implement technology-based tools and methods. The campaign is aimed at candidates at all levels - from the local school board to the White House. Those interested in taking part in this grassroots effort should visit www.nctet.org.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.

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