Yesterday I attended a session at TIES (the Minnesota state educational technology conference) by Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. Keith presented some findings from a report on Hot Technologies in K-12 Education by CoSN's Emerging Technologies Committee. He noted that the committee focused on technologies that have the potential to transform practice and that the emphasis was on technologies that are emerging, not those that have emerged [note: when Keith asked the audience for technologies in their organization that fit this description, responses include electronic whiteboards, wireless, projectors, and parent portals]. Here are my notes from Keith's session:

5 Key Educational Issues

  1. galvanize instruction and promote authentic learning
  2. improve assessment and evaluation
  3. address diverse learning styles and needs
  4. build community
  5. improve administrative efficiency

To be included in the committee's report, a technology tool needed to

  • address one of the major educational issues above,
  • possess transformative power, and
  • be feasible

1. Promote authentic learning

  • active highly portable storage devices (e.g., flash keys, portable external hard drives, iPods)
  • datacasting

Transformative value

  • incorporate compelling, up-to-date audio, video, data into everyday instruction
  • empowering students to play an active role in their own learning

2. Improve assessment

Transformative value

  • making NCLB-required assessments easier to perform
  • managing mountains of data and finding the "gems" that actually assist in making decisions

3. Address diverse learning styles

Transformative value

  • based on principles of universal design / accessibility, these tools help all students, not just those with hearing disabilities

4. Build community

  • programmable phone systems (can send pre-recorded phone messages in multiple languages)
  • student information systems (web-enabled)
  • learning management systems (student / parent portals)
  • blogs

Transformative value

  • engaging parents and the larger community
  • enabling schools to reach increasingly diverse populations
  • substituting electronic communication for printed reports and face-to-face conferences

5. Improve administrative efficiency

  • radio frequency identification (RFID)

Transformative value

  • student safety
  • eliminating time-consuming busy work of taking attendance
  • tracking inventory

My reactions

Keith's presentation helped me remember that most of these tools are not present in most school districts. As an educational technology person, it's easy to feel from the practitioner magazines and conferences that this stuff is all over the place because you read about it and hear about it so often. For example, wireless, electronic whiteboards, and parent portals all have been around for a while and have been written about extensively. To hear educators say that they are "emerging technologies" was a sober reminder that we have a long way to go in most school districts.

It is also important to reemphasize that, while schools are finding value in these tools, they are not all needed in all places. Districts need to continue to give careful thought to technology purchases and not just "jump on the bandwagon" with the latest, greatest thing. It's easy to get swept up in the hype – finding real value from your technology investments is much more difficult.

Finally, I have written about this before, but I continue to be concerned about the slow pace of change in schools compared to society.