A panel of education technology researchers, professionals, and advocates took the stage today at the Brookings Institution—a Washington-based nonprofit public policy research organization—to discuss the potential of technology to improve education and the challenges of harnessing that potential.
The Brookings Institution's Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies, moderated the discussion. He was joined by UC Berkeley's Marcia Lynn, the chief executive officer and founder of Education Elements Anthony Kim, author of Assessing the Educational Data Movement Philip Piety, and Florida State University's Valerie Shute.
Each of the panelists described the different ed-tech projects they were working on, but all acknowledged that many K-12 schools in the United States do not have the proper infrastructure to embrace the full benefits of those technologies.
"Only a third of the schools have proper bandwidth," said Education Element's Anthony Kim. He shared an anecdote about a presentation he gave in a school that took 25 minutes to set up because of the passwords needed to log on to the computer system. "When technology is that hard for us to utilize, we tend to put it away," he said.
Valerie Shute has spent much of her research investigating the use of "stealth" assessments, or programs that collect and analyze data while students are playing games. The kinds of assessments students are using today "are woefully inadequate for assessing the kinds of complex skills that are really important," she said. Stealth assessments, however, are seamless and ubiquitous and provide meaningful feedback on how long students spend on certain problems, how they approach challenges, and how much they are learning.
The panelists agreed that in order to reap the benefits of education technology, schools must shift in a systemic way. "If we assume that it's the technology that needs to change, we'll be in the same place we were 20 years ago," said West. "It's about changing the organizations and the culture of schools."
The discussion took place in conjunction with the release of a paper called Education Technology Success Stories, written by West from the Brookings Institution and his colleague, governance studies research assistant, Joshua Bleiberg.
The paper outlined five different examples of education technology making a difference for students and teachers: robots teaching students English in South Korea, the rise of massively open online classes (or MOOCs), the use of Minecraft in K-12 classrooms, shifting to computerized adaptive testing, and implementing stealth assessments.
Each of the technologies have the potential to help inform teaching, provide quicker and more meaningful feedback to teachers and students, and make education more cost effective, the report said, but policies allowing more flexibility for teachers must be passed in order to take full advantage of the new tools.