Weapons of Mass Instruction

Technology Policy Brief by Stephanie Cherney

US Congress in 1988 issued Power On!

"It has been less than a decade since the first personal computers appeared on the education scene. Schools have acquired computers rapidly since then, but most elements of the instructional process remain the same. This contrasts with other sectors of society, where technology has changed the way business is transacted, medical problems are analyzed, and products are produced. During this same decade, calls for improving the quality of education for all children have increased." John Gibbons - Director of Power On! New Tools for Teaching and Learning.

TECHNOLOGY IN SCHOOLS - INTENT TO INCREASE EFFECTIVENESS AND EFFICIENCY

Sputnik launched on October 4th, 1957 and the seed of technology in education in America was planted. America, enraged by competition and humbled by the Russians starting the space race, opened NASA and the need for a more educated and technical society became necessary. Thirty-two years ago, A Nation at Risk (1983) recommended “computer science” as the fifth core subject to taught in every school. US Congress, as key players in this policy, wrote a report in 1988, "Power On! New Tools for Teaching and Learning" pointing to a disparity between the world of work and the world of school. Texas, reflective of a national trend, also, in 1988 required the State Board of Education (SBOE) to develop a long-range technology plan for the state of Texas. This policy became known as Chapter 32.001 titled Long-Range Plan for Technology. In 1996, this plan was updated to become the Long-Range Plan for Technology 1996-2010. This new technology plan was the first of it's kind in the nation. The code asked for the SBOE four significant pieces: acquire and use technology in the public school, provide professional development for educators around technology, each high school graduate must meet standards of computer literacy, and continue to disperse information in regards to new technology. The SBOE was also asked to update this plan and provide the funding necessary to implement the policy. When No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) led to the opportunity for Texas to receive federal technology funding, the SBOE updated the plan again in 2002. In 2006, Geraldine Miller, Chairman of the SBOE, submitted and passed the Long-Range Plan for Technology 2006-2020. Texas was the first to require students to be computer literate with requiring each student to be computer literate with enacting the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for Technology Applications in September 1998. The Long-Range Plan for Technology 2006-2020 is a visionary document laid out in three phases that includes some very bold statements in regards to the four pieces of access, educator training, student proficiency, and continuing technology education by offering three timeline phases necessary to produce 21st Century Learners. The timeline has three phases: Phase I - 2006-2010, Phase II - 2011-2015, and Phase III - 2016-2020. Phase I includes aligning curriculum and assessment to 21st Century Skills, providing digital formats for curriculum and testing, equitable access, teacher and student workstations, interactive digital tools, connectivity, and increase the allotment by $50 per student per year from the Telecommunications Infrastructure. The result of the plan by 2020 would have the desired outcome of multiple measures divided by learners, educators, leaders, and infrastructure. The plan calls for learners to create digital portfolios to show academic achievement, educators to graduate from technology preparation programs and adapt their learning environment to incorporate the training. By 2020, leaders will inspire, support, and infuse technology into all aspects of a district's vision and practices, and the infrastructure will provide equity to access, safety, and security, and of course, be cost efficient. In 2014, a progress report was submitted to the 84th Legislature in regards to Phase II of the Long-Range Plan for Technology 2006-2020. Some Phase II priorities include continuing Phase I and adding a shift to digital learning using digital content, provide anytime professional development for teachers, assess educators in the demonstration of digital literacy skills, allow educators and students to use their personal devices and high-speed Internet access infrastructure. This progress report update recognizes the changes in the ways student learn and necessary in the learning environment to lead the digital revolution. Texas used a measure called the Texas Campus and Teacher School Technology and Readiness (STaR) Charts to verify if Phase 1 was successful and provided the direction for Phase II. STaR Chart requirements came to an abrupt halt when federal technology funding became no longer available through NCLB, Title II, Part D funds. Our state with the Long-Range Plan for Technology 2006-2020 intended to produce the 21st Century graduates who are computer literate, digital producers, digital consumers, and equity and infrastructure to all and lead the way for the national stage to integrate technology into the public school.

TEXAS CLAIMS TO GIVE DECISION-MAKING POWER TO LOCAL DISTRICTS IN REGARDS TO INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS.

Texas intended to train teachers to use, give access to all, supply instructional materials, and update regularly technology. As Texans say, "Good intentions pave the road to Hell." The Texas SBOE states in Title 2, Sec. 31.001. states, "FREE INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS. Instructional materials selected for use in the public schools shall be furnished without cost to the students attending those schools. Except as provided by Section 31.104(d), a school district may not charge a student for instructional material or technological equipment purchased by the district with the district's instructional materials allotment." This Chapter does not mention the word textbook, yet in 2012, - just one year after Senate Bill 6 lifted the requirement for the SBOE to approve all instructional materials purchased and gave local districts the ability to spend state allotment on technology, 351 million dollars was spent on learning and materials. Only 14.9 million of that was spent on technology.

WHY AREN'T WE SPENDING THE MONEY TO INCREASE CLASSROOM EFFICIENCY?

The Long-Range Plan for Technology 2006-2020 attempts to solve the technology gap by handing each district the ability to decide how the instructional allotment will be spent. In districts where access is limited, the allotment is spent on textbooks, rather than technology and technology training for teachers. Some districts also blame the inability to shift to a digital learning environment on a lack of internet access in the home *see map below. Districts could easily allocate money for mobile wifi units for students to take home to use. In 2015, Holland and Jones conducted a study with middle schools in Region 2 of South Texas. The results showed a that there was a problem with technology usage in the classroom with regard to state assessment scores, such as STAAR. Teachers who used technology in the classroom would score lower on state assessments than teachers who did not use technology in the classroom. This discrepancy begs the question of the knowing-doing gap. For most teachers the shift to technology integration into their instructional practice by using technology to increase effectiveness in the classroom is not worth the price of cognitive dissonance it creates. This study showing a decrease is an anomaly; however, multiple other studies claim increasing engagement through using technology will increase student achievement. The theory of action behind The Long-Range Plan for Technology is to place Texas teachers and students academically and technologically ahead of the rest of the United States.
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TECHNOLOGY CAN EQUIP STUDENTS AND CLOSE THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP

Technology access in high poverty districts is not considered an instructional necessity due to the need for more teachers and programs that help move students to be on grade level in reading and mathematics. This further increases the achievement gap between affluence and poverty. By using textbooks, students from poverty fall significantly behind their peers in wealthier districts due to a lack of digital skills needed to be successful in the world of work and play outside of school. We must educate students from poverty about using technology through one to one access for all students to engage, educate, and enable students from poverty the equity they richly deserve. Although, Toyama claims in his study technology is unable to end poverty and that it would only widen the gap between the affluent and the poor due to the wealthy having more access to technology, the poor having limited capacity when using the technology, and families from poverty using it for entertainment only, I work in a high poverty school and I disagree. Teachers who use technology combined with good relationships with students can help students achieve more. Technology increases student engagement and high student engagement results in student achievement. For students who are at-risk, engagement is key.
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POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

* One to One access to students in all Texas Public Schools by shifting to digital textbooks and instructional materials. Low income students are less likely to have these opportunities at home.

* Texas teachers are trained using a blended model of learning where teachers are using technology to differentiate, give feedback, and allow students to use inquiry based methods to learn content.

* Technology is written into the core Texas TEKS curricula (Math, Reading, Science, and Social Studies) as a tool to engage students by creating digital products to be carried through their school years like a cumulative file.

* Texas Students may submit digital products that synthesize the core TEKS to the state in lieu of the STAAR Assessment.

REFERENCES

Darling-Hammond, L. (n.d). Using Technology to Support At-Risk Students’ Learning. Retrieved December 12, 2015, from http://www.slideshare.net/CiscoPublicSector/using- techonology-to-support-at-risk-students

Kuyatt, A., Holland, G., & Jones, D. (2015). An analysis of teacher effectiveness related to technology implementation in texas secondary schools. Contemporary Issues in Education Research (Online), 8(1), 63.

Muschamp, Y., Bullock, K., Ridge, T., & Wikeley, F. (2009). 'nothing to do': The impact of poverty on pupils' learning identities within out-of-school activities. British Educational Research Journal, 35(2), 305-321. doi:10.1080/01411920802044362

Power on! : New tools for teaching and learning : Summary(1988). United States

State Board of Education (2006, December). Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020: A Report to the 80th Texas Legislature from the Texas Education Agency. (GE07 211 01). Austin, TX: Texas Education Agency