2024 ED National Education Technology Plan Focuses on Use of Technology to Advance Learning

In January, the U.S. Department of Education (ED)'s Office of Educational Technology released its annual 2024 "National Education Technology Plan (NETP): A Call to Action for Closing the Digital Access, Design and Use Divides." The plan, first released as part of the 2000 Educate America Act, has been updated several times, most recently in 2016, ED said.

This update represents a departure from descriptive survey reports of the past and focuses more on prescriptive strategies to address rapid developments in digital education technology. It outlines how students, educators, and state leaders can design, access, and use it to advance learning.

As the NETP's introduction notes: "… [E]ducational technology (ed tech) tools sometimes claim (without independent, research-based evidence) that student assessment results will soar if school systems adopt a given digital resource. Such claims are not only misleading, but they can undermine the true potential of ed tech. Reliance on a specific tool to accelerate learning or deliver a comprehensive and rigorous education for every student places all responsibility on the content. It ignores educators and students and the relationships between all three."

The comprehensive report is divided into three ed tech "divides" in use, design, and access that limit technology's ability to support teaching and learning:

  • The Digital Use Divide, addressing opportunities to improve how students use technology to enhance their learning, including dynamic applications of technology to explore, create, and engage in critical analysis of academic content and knowledge;
  • The Digital Design Divide, addressing opportunities for educators to expand their professional learning and build the capacities necessary to design learning experiences enabled by technology; and
  • The Digital Access Divide, addressing opportunities for students and educators to gain equitable access to educational technology, including connectivity, devices, and digital content. This also includes accessibility and digital health, safety, and citizenship as key elements of digital access.

Each section contains actionable recommendations for closing these divides. The report also includes appendices with examples from all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and territories that illustrate how these divides are being addressed (with the caveat that "examples are not endorsements"), as well as separate guides for educators and state, district, and school leaders.

Each section, particular to ed tech use, design, and access, addresses:

  • Profiles/portraits of learner and educator ed tech competencies and the learning environment;
  • Systems, plans, and processes that support students and educators, and how to establish oversight and budgets for them;
  • Feedback mechanisms and needs assessments;
  • Rubrics for adopting, modeling, and upgrading ed tech;
  • Age-appropriate curriculum effectiveness evaluations;
  • Public/private/stakeholder input and partnerships;
  • Professional development of educators and administrators;
  • Data privacy and digital health, safety, and citizenship; and
  • Ed tech accessibility.

To complement the NETP, ED has released two guides: "Assistive Technology and Devices for Children with Disabilities Under the IDEA," and a resources list for "Digital Health, Safety, and Citizenship."

Those interested can also read additional "Stories of EdTech Innovation" beyond the NETP's appendices.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.