This is absolutely the most amazing time to be an educational leader. As a society, we are continuing to transition to the Information Age. As a nation, we are implementing the Common Core State Standards which raise the level of student expectations and compel significant changes in teaching and learning. As part of a multi-state consortium, we in California will soon be assessing our students using a computer-based performance assessment that includes adaptive capabilities. In addition, our state is implementing an entirely new funding and accountability system paradoxically known as “Local Control.”
Long-standing barriers melting away
While I find some irony in the title of the new funding and accountability model, the reality is that long-standing barriers to learning and opportunity are rapidly melting away. California legislative changes seem to be promoting a shift to digital learning resources. Revenues are on the upswing, including an investment of one-time dollars to support the transition to Common Core. The cost of mobile devices is declining and the computing power of the new tools continues to rise. We can now conduct video chats on our cell connection without the support of a wired or Wi-Fi Internet connection. Web-based resources and cloud storage developments are reducing the significant interoperability issues that have historically led to reliance on specific platforms in a given environment. Higher levels of connectivity allow us to leverage these resources in new and innovative ways.
Time for some important questions
With fewer obstacles, we are now entering a phase where we must begin to ask some important questions related to educational technology, some of which are not directly related to technology itself but which are vital considerations as we move forward:
- What is the purpose of public education?
- How will we know if we are making progress?
- What is the problem that we are trying to solve?
- Is this resource effectively addressing the problem that we are trying to solve?
- Is this resource providing some other unanticipated benefit that adds value?
- Is this resource efficiently solving the problem or otherwise adding value?
- Is there another resource that would more efficiently achieve the same result?
Are we ready?
As a leader, I wonder if we are ready to collect information, complete the requisite analysis, and engage in meaningful conversations that address these questions to help inform our ongoing efforts. I worry that if we do not adequately and systematically engage in this process we will miss our window of opportunity to maximize the creative potential of the amazing opportunities that are available in the midst of these transitions.
As we should have perhaps expected, our success in the Information Age will largely depend on our ability to make sense of an overwhelming amount of information. If we expect our students to have a high level of sophistication with an abundance of information, we will need to model the way.
Devin Vodicka is Superintendent at
Vista Unified School District in Vista, California.