Panel of U.S. Government Education Leaders Issues Call to Action

Just prior to Adam Bellow’s inspiring ISTE 2013 Closing Keynote, ISTE CEO Brian Lewis led a stellar panel in what he described as a “Speed Ignite Session.” Richard Culatta, acting director of the Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education; former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education; and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel shared the exciting things that their organizations are involved in and issued a call to action to ISTE attendees.

Culatta focused on President Obama’s recently announced ConnectEd initiative, which aims to connect 99% of U.S. students to the internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within five years. Culatta emphasized that while connectivity is critical, we also must be sure that students and teachers have devices, and that educators are prepared for teaching in connected learning environments. He urged all ISTE attendees to participate in Connected Educator Month, the U.S. Department of Education’s initiative to strengthen connected online communities of practice in education, in October.

Culatta also said that his department strives to respond to the feedback that it gets from educators and to provide tools to support them on Federal Resources for Educational Excellence, a regularly updated website that makes it easy to find learning and teaching resources from the federal government.

In the same vein, FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel called the E-Rate program “fabulously successful” but acknowledged that, today, capacity matters more than connectivity.

“No teacher should be in the classroom without broadband,” Rosenworcel said. “Now is the time to take the E-Rate to the next level.”

“Don’t leave things to the people in Washington, D.C.,” Rosenworcel urged the audience, asking them instead to let the FCC know how they have used E-Rate and what they think will be the best steps for expanding broadband access.

Governor Wise outlined the challenges that education is facing over the next two years: implementing higher standards (whether Common Core or other new, more rigorous standards), tightening budgets and exploding technology. He described Project 24, a set of tools for planning for investment in and implementation of digital learning that the Alliance for Excellent Education has offered. This free set of tools will guide schools and districts as they face today’s set of unique challenges and plan for school environments that will leverage technology to transform learning and teaching.

As all three panelists remarked, the challenges are great, but the opportunity for change is now, and it is critical that ISTE members share their voices!

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