Yesterday the senate committee that has jurisdiction over federal education programs voted to include a dedicated digital learning program to its version of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This vote demonstrates strong support from both Republicans and Democrats for digital learning, a rarity in an era when it is difficult to find common ground on anything.
ISTE worked with Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to craft the Innovative Technology Expands Children’s Horizons (I-TECH) program, which would replace the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program. The I-TECH program would fund digital learning integration with a significant emphasis on professional development. In fact, 50 percent of funds allocated to school districts would be dedicated to professional development for digital learning.
I-TECH would provide educators with ongoing, sustainable and scalable technology professional learning opportunities. According to a 2012 survey from Project Tomorrow, one-third of all educators indicated that the lack of sufficient professional development was a major obstacle to implementing technology in the classroom. Like any profession, educators must be supported to continually hone their craft to ensure students achieve academic success.
This digital learning victory is just one step in a very long process, which includes full Senate approval, passage of a House version of ESEA, and a final version approved by both chambers and President Obama. ISTE will continue to lead the effort to include digital learning as a critical component in the reauthorization of ESEA.
Craig Thibaudeau is ISTE chief external relations officer.