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New Report: Leveraging Tech. to Improve Learning

A new report from the Boston Consulting Group, based in Boston, says technology needs to be infused into a "closed-loop instructional system" in order to fully leverage its potential and improve student outcomes.

The report, which outlines how technology should be infused into all aspects of education to improve student outcomes, defines such a system as "a deeply aligned set of educational objectives, standards, curricula, assessments, interventions, and professional development."

Allison Bailey, one of the report's authors, says the closed-loop model "is not philosophically new. But technology enables you to execute the closed-loop system in fundamentally different and better ways."

That means not just spending money on putting technology in the classroom, but also providing the professional development that teachers need as well as exploring how the classroom, the curriculum, and the student-teacher relationship need to shift to maximize technology's potential, the report says.

"You can't just try to technologically enable existing practices, you have to use it as an opportunity to rethink fundamentally the educational model," says Bailey.

The report provides several suggestions on how to facilitate this kind of educational model, including creating educational objectives based on 21st-century objectives, developing curriculum based on open-source content, providing online instruction, embedding assessments into curriculum to create a continuous data feedback loop, providing customized and timely interventions for all students, and collecting data to track student progress and outcomes.

"Policymakers can actually do a lot to encourage and facilitate the expansion of digital learning and technology," says Bailey, such as promoting more flexibility in funding for technology and technology-related expenses, removing obstacles for implementing technology, and encouraging technology-infused professional development. "[Technology] has to be a part of everything that's done," she says.

And while so far this technology transformation has been slow to happen in the K-12 field, Bailey is hopeful that K-12 education is moving down this path. Many factors, such as the increased number of technology companies, the accelerated rate of technological innovation, increased scrutiny on the return on investment in public education, and the larger role technology is playing in children's lives, will contribute to a technology-infused educational environment.

"I'm more hopeful now than at any point in the past about this," says Bailey. "There are so many conditions that make it right for this thing to ignite. ... It's increasingly harder for educators not to get on the bus."

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