Digital technology trends in education

9 Nov 2012

One of the difficulties for school and educational leaders is to develop strategies for innovation and change, writes Gerry White in DERN.

There is no doubt that digital technologies used professionally and with skill can improve student and professional learning engagement and performance. A concise, succinct explanation of trends and successful strategies that have been tried and tested carefully over time can be very useful at such a time.

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) in the US produces an annual report of the trends and efforts of school districts that innovate using of digital technologies. The ninth report released in 2012 called National Educational Technology Trends: 2012: State Leadership Empowers Educators, Transforms Teaching and Learning is a rich analysis of trends with a compendium of successes. The SETDA annual report stands out as a very useful and reliable national report, that has no peer in other OECD countries, about the integration of digital technologies with education .

National Educational Technology Trends: 2012 report is structured to amplify four major trends in using digital technologies in education. The four trends are:

•    Ensuring an infrastructure for learning
•    Educator effectiveness
•    Innovative learning models, and
•    College and career preparation (p. 1).

Noticeably there is no mention of specific digital devices in the report but instead an emphasis on learning environments and professional learning for teachers in order to be effective as educators to improve student learning. ‘An adequate infrastructure provides access to professional development resources that offer educators opportunities to obtain skills for a changing global environment’ (p. 1), states the report. The report goes on to outline successful online professional learning communities where teachers, with support from coaches and mentors, are engaged and committed to learning .

The report was compiled by detailed surveys of the states in the US, through personal interviews, analysis of education websites and a review of public information (p. 3). Considering that in the US there are 50 states plus two territories and Indian Affairs engaged with schooling and organised into 14,000 school districts, this report is a major research contribution to an understanding of the use of digital technologies in education. This report is made even more valuable by the examples of successful innovations contained in the fourteen appendices. The appendices range across topics such as infrastructure, interoperability and content standards, resources, communities of practice, coaches and mentors, personalised learning, digital and open content, collaborative learning and student drop-out prevention. Each of the appendices provides a very valuable short description of selected school districts that have taken the opportunity to improve learning using technology.

The actual analysis of the trends provides some very useful lessons based on the experiences of educators and educational leaders. ‘A digital environment cannot be successful if it is only within the walls of a bricks and mortar building’ (p. 6), argues the report. The report continues in stating that a ‘critical area to improving the education system is providing support for and access to effective professional development’ (p. 11) which is best achieved through engaging in online communities with supportive coaches and mentors, and access to education resource repositories (p. 12). Professional learning communities engage in ‘a variety of activities including sharing a vision, working and learning collaboratively, visiting and observing other classrooms, and participating in shared decision-making’ (p. 13).

National Educational Technology Trends: 2012 is a significant report that can provide substantial insights into the implementation of digital technologies in education in order to improve learning. However, the successes of innovations can often be attributed to those involved and the leadership. In a similar sentiment, National Educational Technology Trendsconcludes that success occurs where ‘teachers are trained to integrate the technology tools and resources effectively with innovative teaching approaches into the curriculum’ (p. 17).

National Educational Technology Trends: 2012: State Leadership Empowers Educators, Transforms Teaching and Learning is a report not to be missed for educators keen to improve learning engagement and performance.


Gerry White is Principal Research Fellow: Teaching & Learning using Digital Technologies, Australian Council for Educational Research

This article was first published on the Digital Education Research Network (DERN)

Read the article on DERN (free registration required)

Photo: Flickr / mortsan


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