California Education Dialogue

A public policy dialogue produced by Information Renaissance
with support from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation,
IBM Corporation and Intel Corporation

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Emerging Modes of Delivery, Certification and Planning

Section I
EMERGING MODES OF INSTRUCTIONAL DELIVERY

OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

The diversity of Californians, varying learning styles, new and emerging technology, revised approaches to instructional delivery, and other factors, such as expanded community partnerships, warrant greater access, equity, flexibility, and learning opportunities. Researchers have amassed sufficient evidence to lead some policymakers to accept the premise that along with the accountability required for educational progress, the overall education system must embrace universal efforts to remove the learning barriers facing youth and adults. Specifically, the State must:

  • Strengthen learning support systems.
  • Align instructional systems.
  • Support new governance systems in all segments.
  • Strengthen academic accountability throughout the system.

There must be a comprehensive, integrated, programmatic approach that weaves together the efforts of schools and communities that are seen as a critical elements to successful reform, if barriers to learning are to be effectively overcome. Anything less, educationally and programmatically, would result in an inferior delivery system for some students and an unprepared workforce with lower literacy skills than the level required for a strong economy.

Multiple barriers exist that interrupt or deny students access to equitable high quality educational opportunities. The State needs to take advantage of all available opportunities to provide support services that allow students to focus on learning. It is imperative that California public schools and postsecondary education institutions make more effective use of the emerging generation of information and telecommunication technologies to improve the flexibility, accessibility, and responsiveness of the learning and teaching process. Considerable empirical evidence exists demonstrating that these technologies can be used to:

  • Institute more flexible academic calendars and course offerings, including academic programs that allow students to combine classroom attendance and online instructional activities.
  • Increase student access to flexibly organized learning activities, including standards-based, computer-mediated instructional materials that provide students more frequent and timely feedback than possible within conventionally organized classroom settings.
  • Construct learning settings that are more responsive to the diverse educational needs of California’s students, including those of English language learners, who can benefit from multimedia instructional materials that combine academic content access in native languages and English language instruction and of disabled students, who require greater access to self-paced and assisted learning programs.

When other instructional methods are not successful, technology may make the difference in narrowing the achievement gap and reducing student dropout rates. Further, there are many new web-based and stand-alone computer-mediated instructional materials that offer learners the tools to access new knowledge and reinforce newly developed skills. The strategic use of technology can thus expand opportunities for promoting greater student achievement for more diverse students, both effectively and efficiently. The tools of technology:

  • Offer convenient ways to tap into multiple learning modalities and languages to help students understand and achieve the instructional objectives set by teachers.
  • Provide students with non-judgmental opportunities for ‘drill and practice’ learning activities that are not constrained by availability of a teacher or tutor.
  • Provide teachers with an expanded capacity to respond to the learning needs of special education and disabled students, such that they can achieve high knowledge and skill levels.

Technology should also be used to promote greater collaboration between:

  • University-based teacher education and professional development programs and the schools.
  • Community-based educational organizations and agencies, including neighborhood youth groups and public libraries, and the schools.

Innovative technologies have changed how businesses are conducted, how lives and homes are managed, and how individuals teach and learn. Technologies offer a unique opportunity to expand the school day, week, and year voluntarily.

The recommendations in this report incorporate the opportunities afforded by the emerging generation of information and telecommunication technologies to support location-independent learning and teaching. The recommendations also address a pressing problem confronting education in California, the looming facilities crisis, which is the product of increasing population and years of inadequate funding for new schools.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Equity and Access[3]

  1. The State should ensure that educational institutions provide multiple modes of delivery, including applying technologies, to ensure meaningful access for all populations and individuals throughout their lives.

    Multiple modes of delivery are important
    in meeting the diverse learning styles of students.
    Commentary: Individuals learn in different ways. The State must be proactive in responding to individual needs by taking advantage of all available educational resources and by encouraging flexibility. These resources, including technology, must be available to all students, including newcomers with language issues and other special needs, those who are economically disadvantaged, those with disabilities, and those in rural areas. It is also critical that teachers have access to technological tools that can best assist them in effectively teaching their students, and that they receive the training necessary to both use the technology and to effectively enhance all students’ skills, especially those with language issues and students with other special needs. The State needs to support multiple venues/media to respond to diverse learning needs. The State must commit to providing funding and other necessary resources to ensure access at all public schools, colleges, and universities.
  2. The State should ensure long-term, continuous support that will result in access to technology by all institutions regardless of how remote the location of the learner.

    All students and institutions must have technology access – which requires ongoing state support.
    Commentary: The Master Plan should include provisions for ensuring that all education segments — PreKindergarten through University — have access to appropriate technology. Further, learners in rural areas must be provided the same opportunities as those in metropolitan areas.

    Technology resources have become increasingly available to learners of all ages, but these resources are not uniformly available over different types of programs. In addition, the type of Internet access available does not always support learning activities; and resources are not always available in the places where learning occurs.

    The State should be responsible for establishing within each education segment a set of basic standards for technology use and ensuring that each segment has the resources necessary to achieve those standards. Such standards should include a baseline expectation. The elements of that baseline could include, for example: preexisting software, content, appropriate mastery levels, technological literacy, staff development, minimum funding, state functions, and economic development issues.
  3. The State should encourage technology that aims for simplicity in design, supports flexibility, is financially feasible, is measured through outcomes and assessment, and allows users to enhance its applications.

    Commentary: Technology that is used to support or augment instruction should be easy to use and should not require extensive training. Easy to use features include point-and-click, voice activated, touch-screen, and video technology that can be used at home. Use of web-based tools should be universally available to students. Technology must be both cost-effective and affordable to the user.

    Priorities must be set that define standards for technology resources and provide a framework that the educational segments can use in planning for programs, funding, and professional development. These standards should encompass hardware, software, networking, and professional development. The issues related to technology use must be addressed on an ongoing basis. Technology is a constantly evolving educational resource, and no one-time-only program can be expected to support all the education needs in this major shift in instruction and assessment. The use of technology must be assessed on an ongoing basis. Users must be properly trained, and the appropriate technology must be deployed to facilitate widespread use.

Flexibility to Meet Learner Needs

  1. The State should provide funding for institutional development of distributed learning.

    The promise of technology to improve education will not be realized unless instructors have access to professional development opportunities related to the use of technology in the classroom and in distance learning formats.
    Commentary: With so many adult students juggling difficult schedules that include families, working, and going to school, more courses should be made available on a distributed learning basis. Resources should be directed to facilitate this effort as part of the transformation to an educational system prepared to meet the demands, and to take advantage of the opportunities, provided by the 21st century.

    For the PreK through secondary levels, distributed learning may occur not as distance or location-independent learning but as asynchronous learning, with students working on laptops. This configuration would help facilitate differential learning in the classroom setting.

Quality and Accountability

  1. The State should support the ongoing professional development of all staff in technology applications, to ensure they have the skills to help students develop the technology skills, knowledge, and aptitudes needed for lifelong success.

    Commentary: The Commission on Technology in Learning heard testimony describing the lack of professional development in the area of technology. It is not enough to ensure that technology is available in schools throughout the state. Teachers must be proficient in the use of the technology that is available to their students.

    The potential that technology holds for improving instruction, assessment, and accountability cannot be realized if instructors do not know the range of available resources and how to use the technology to its fullest, and fail to understand how to integrate it into the classroom and instruction. Success in integrating technology into instruction is influenced by the instructor’s attitude and comfort level with technology application.

    The need for professional development changes as the teacher becomes more sophisticated and interested in controlling how technology is used in the classroom. With training and subsequent support, instructors typically go through stages of development that start with using pre-developed solutions, such as packaged software and dedicated web sites that define and control options. As instructors experience success with these initial product types, they then may begin using authoring tools to create software or web sites or developing advanced Internet search skills. Ultimately, instructors then may begin to use more sophisticated software to develop unique products or applications in the learning environment. The challenge in any technology professional development effort is to capture both the rapid changes in technology and the diverse levels of interest, knowledge, and motivation of individual instructors.

Coordination, Cooperation and Planning

  1. The State should take the lead in developing educational technology partnerships that include the public, private, non-profit, and for-profit sectors.

    Commentary: To develop effective educational technology, the State should take advantage of all available resources. Clearly there are many organizations that have expertise in this arena. The State should draw on this expertise and be responsible for bringing together leaders in the field to develop cutting edge technology to augment instructional delivery. Many agencies have initiated a number of exciting applications of technology to enhance teaching and learning and to streamline administrative practices. Many of these initiatives have already been introduced by private sector business responding to compelling business needs, but they also have applicability for educational institutions. Others have been developed within the education sector and have application in a broader arena. A key consideration for the State is the extent to which education and business can collaborate to scale up their respective initiatives into a coordinated and complementary delivery system that meets both educational and business needs for creating lifelong learners.

    Increasingly, states are creating public-private partnerships to ‘leverage’ and extend resources for e-learning (technologically augmented) capacity. More than two-thirds of the 39 states surveyed by the National Governors Association (NGA) for The State of
    E-Learning in the States [4] have public-private partnerships related to e-learning.

    Another innovative technology partnership is one established by the Library of California. Established by the State in 1999 (SB 409 authored by Senator Alpert and Assemblymember Sweeney in 1998) The Library of California has the goal of electronically linking the State’s 8,000 public, school, academic, and special libraries and facilitating the sharing of library resources. In its third year of operation, the Library of California is enabling Californians to electronically search library catalogs, access full text databases, initiate their own loans without regard to where they live or work, and do research with a “live librarian” (via the Internet).

    Member comments: A minority expressed concern about the role of the for-profit sector in education and wish to ensure that faculty have decision making authority regarding curriculum. Clear guidelines should be established.

  2. The State should encourage local education agencies to establish partnerships with utilities, telecommunication companies, software and hardware providers, and others to facilitate functional universal access to technology.

    Commentary: While the State should provide the necessary funding to make technology available for every student, the current budget situation may not enable sufficient funding for wide-scale implementation in the near future. Schools should also be encouraged to seek additional resources to support this activity, including grant funding and other available monies.

    In addition to funding, schools should also look to ‘leverage’ other resources. One example is the Live Homework Help Program administered by the California State Library in conjunction with tutor.com. This homework assistance program in grades 5-12 provides students at more than 45 sites in public libraries statewide the opportunity to connect with tutors on a one-to-one basis by using the Internet. The program combines the best of two worlds – technology and assistance to students.

  3. The State should encourage cross-segmental collaboration and dialogue among teachers at the same levels, to improve instructional delivery.

    Commentary: There should be a formal venue for sharing effective instructional practices across the segments as well as among teachers at the same levels throughout the state. Such a venue would support teacher professional development and help maintain the state’s economic competitiveness. The goal is to develop a set of ‘best practices’ that could be replicated throughout the state.

Contents Summary Background I. Delivery
II. Organization III. Assessment IV. Certification V. Planning
VI. Adult Ed. Conclusion Presenters Members