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How Will a Trump Admin Impact Tech in Schools? Office of Ed Tech Defines Goals

The confirmation of President Donald Trump's nominee for Education Secretary has been pushed back to January 31, leaving lots more time to speculate as to how her leadership will affect various aspects of education in the U.S.

One of those aspects is education technology. Earlier this month, in the final days of John B. King, Jr.'s leadership, the Department of Education's Office of Ed Tech (OET) released an update to the 2016 National Education Technology Plan; this update includes a reflection on how educational technology improved last year in U.S. schools and how leaders can build on that momentum in 2017. Here are a few of those goals that OET hopes the Trump administration will focus on in its first year:

Improving Access to Broadband in the Country's Most Needy Communities

While OET acknowledged that more and more classrooms were provided access to high-speed Internet last year thanks to a series of partnerships the Department orchestrated (see: ConnectED), it also acknowledged that more needs to be done in order to connect the most high-need communities.

"We are encouraged by the fact that most classrooms in our country now have access to broadband, yet we know that many that do not are in communities where the potential impact is the greatest," it said.

Increasing Evidence-Based Recommendations for EdTech

OET believes the quality of ed tech in schools will improve once evidence is primarily used to impact buying decisions. On the bright side, OET notes that last year saw an influx of affordable device options and believes the Every Student Succeed Act's focus on evidence-based approaches will help schools and teachers adopt an evidence-based culture for ed tech selection.

"We welcome lower price points for devices designed for school use, but also lament that most ed tech purchases are still based on word of mouth rather than evidence of effectiveness...We look forward to a greater emphasis on the use of evidence as outlined within the reauthorization of ESEA, as amended by ESSA," it said.

Recognizing Libraries as Leaders of Digital Change

This year, OET hopes that the potential of libraries as leaders of digital change will be recognized and the underutilization of libraries within the country's communities will stop.

When tight funding forces schools to make cuts, the OET hopes the first thing to go will not be library staff positions as was frequently the case last year.

The End to the 'Passive Digital Babysitter'

The OET hopes that ed tech for young learners can be used as a genuine learning tool as opposed to simply being used to occupy a young mind.

"We are eager to take a step forward in understanding and recognizing how the active use of technology by early learners with adults can positively impact them, yet are concerned by the number of children left alone for long periods of time with a passive digital babysitter," it said.

How Will Betsy DeVos Help or Hinder Ed Tech Efforts?

According to eSchoolNews, DeVos' long career as an education advocate has also proven her to be an advocate of supporting innovation in ed tech. She's invested money in the effort before, has advocated for improving technology to in turn improve schools and has even equipped the charter schools she's founded with both state-of-the-art technology and courses that help students learn technological concepts.

eSchoolNews also points out, however, that this doesn't mean DeVos is the ideal candidate to work on creating ed tech equality for all of America's schools.

"Funding and access to better teachers and resources [might] be unfairly tipped toward charter schools. If this argument has merit, will only some schools see the benefit of having DeVos as an edtech advocate?" eSchoolNews asks.

Unfortunately, as is the case with many questions surrounding how Trump's presidency will impact education, only time will provide the answers.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

1/24/2017

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