The U.S. Department of Education today released Non-Regulatory Guidance for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grants. SETDA was invited to deliver remarks on the Effective Use of Technology during a press call with Secretary John King regarding the guidance document. Below are the comments shared by Executive Director, Tracy Weeks, on behalf of SETDA.
We are at an exciting time in education where we now have access to applications, content, devices, and broadband that can allow educators to truly personalize learning for every student. But in order to leverage technology to transform the teaching and learning process, we need to support our teachers, administrators, and district and state leaders in building the skills and dispositions needed.
Increasingly, states, districts, and schools are shifting from print materials to a greater use of digital instructional materials. These digital materials might be purchased, free, or open. By using digital content in conjunction with content delivery systems, classroom teachers can help students learn by connecting students with content at the appropriate level for the student and in the mode that student learns best. Additionally, with these tools, the pace of learning can be personalized for each student. As a former math teacher, I often note that we need to move from time being a constant in our schools and quality being a variable to a model where quality is a constant and time is the variable. Further, with equity of access to high quality content and high quality teachers as a goal, schools can leverage technology to expand their course catalog by providing students with access to blended and online courses so that a student’s zip code no longer has to determine the student’s course of study.
In order to see technology transform teaching and learning, schools will need access to robust broadband, a variety of digital devices, content, applications, and most importantly to educators who understand how to teach in this new paradigm and leaders who can support these teachers. That is where the SSAE Grants are critical.
The effective use of technology can be leveraged in every area of the SSAE grants. There is a place for digital learning in all content areas and with all types of students. Further, these funds can be used in conjunction with other ESSA Titled programs. However, a low level allocation of funds will not adequately support any of these efforts.
Schools need an adequate level of SSAE funds to provide professional development to educators so that they can become developers, collaborators, and connoisseurs of open education materials. They need to learn blended learning strategies so that they can deliver this content in a way to maximize student achievement and growth. We need to develop our school, district, and state leaders so that they can begin to determine the devices and infrastructure needed in schools based on the teaching and learning needs rather than providing teachers with devices and broadband first and then having them determine the kind of teaching and learning that can be delivered with what they have been given. Additionally, with adequate funding, technology coaches can be hired to properly support teachers and leaders and district and state agencies can fund positions to provide the technical assistance needed for schools.
I am happy to see the priority of the effective use of technology throughout ESSA and especially in the SSAE Grant Program. I am hopeful that states will take this opportunity to rethink their approach to teaching and learning in all areas of ESSA and maximize the use of funds for technology.