A Policy Agenda for a 21st-Century Education
45 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2014 Last revised: 21 Oct 2014
Date Written: June 30, 2014
For more than three decades, educational technology has been a policy minefield. Lacking any incontrovertible proof of benefit, it has continually struggled to build a case for funding, yet paradoxically, it has commandeered a substantial percentage of educational budgets worldwide.
After the initial exuberance of the first computers in schools in the early eighties had died down, so too, it seems, did the appetite for bold and ambitious thinking. Computer use conformed to school as it had always existed, and there was little evidence of any significant shift in thinking around the potential for technology, until the belated realisation, around the turn of the century, that any such impact was dependent on new models of access.
What was evident, was there had been a genuine lack of understanding of what a fundamental change in access to personal technology from the lab visit model to one of ubiquitous access would make possible, for both teachers and students. The introduction of such a radically disruptive shift was unprecedented in modern schooling history.
Consequently, the early years of the 21st-Century saw a dramatic shift in thinking, and today with an estimated thirty million students world-wide with 24/7 access to their own personal, portable, fully-functional computer, one to one is now seen as inevitable by many educational leaders around the world.
But what has been learnt, and what should now be done to capitalize on this moment in time, when we are challenging many of the very fundamentals on which schooling as we know it has been based? What policies can be developed that will allow educational leadership to provide learning opportunities that leverage the digitally-rich world in which young people today are growing up in?
By examining the challenges and policy decisions of a large number of high profile, large-scale initiatives around the world, it is possible to identify six key policy priorities that together could be called ‘world’s best practice’. A close review of these initiatives indicates that carefully crafted policies in these areas have been essential for a successful, sustainable initiatives that have delivered the best outcomes for students, teachers and the wider school communities. This then, creates both opportunities and challenges for policy leadership.
Too many have gone before, with barely scant attention paid to vision clarity, sustainable funding, or any realisation of the enormity of the increase in learning opportunities ubiquitous access can provide students. This paper then seeks to outline the lessons learned from their mistakes, the insights gained from all of the successes, and the unprecedented possibilities effective policy wisdom can provide young people.
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