06/30/2011 06:21 pm ET | Updated Aug 30, 2011

Don Knezek Talks About Technology Education

Like it or not, technology in education is here to stay. As the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) annual conference is underway in Philadelphia this week, Chief Executive Officer Don Knezek functions as a teacher, an advocate and a community builder. He is joined by global "edtech" companies, educators and policy makers.

With more than one million students enrolled in online courses at the K-12 level in 2008, according to a study by the Sloan Consortium, technology in education means much more than "computer lab." Budget pressures will likely force innovation and the evolution of mobile and social technology make systems accessible and easy to use. I spoke recently with Knezek about how he sees the evolving learning landscape. A longer version of the conversation can be found over here, on edReformer.

What is education technology?
Knezek: It is the use of modern tools, a browser, for example, for information and knowledge to support and enhance relevant teaching and learning. It may refer to analyzing student data and management or access and mapping of curriculum for standards. Think of it as the interaction of teachers and students in terms of knowledge and skills.

What do students need to know?
Knezek: Obviously, there's a place for traditional curriculum but things like effective communications, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking are essential for student academic and professional success in the 21st century. We don't assess these digital age skills. Test results are isolated yet our work [outside of school] is social and engaged in teamwork. There's such a misalignment.

How does online learning enable students to develop 21st century skills and knowledge?
Knezek: Quality online learning can expand the learning opportunities for many students because it can be made available anytime and anyplace. Learning can be done through online lectures, electronic workbooks or engaging social or problem solving projects. However, simply putting learning resources online, or simply requiring students to participate in online learning guarantees almost nothing.

How do we ensure quality education in devising a plan for technology infusion?
Knezek: There are four things to consider.
1. Ensure you know what your goals are that you expect to accomplish by infusing technology.
2. Become aware of others who have had success similar to your goals, and examine how they got there.
3. Build a quality implementation plan, and implement it, based on strategies for which you have reasonable expectations of success.
4. Gather baseline data, and monitor whether or not technology has caused you to move toward those goals over time. To decide whether or not to continue, formal data collection, as well as teacher and student evaluations, can help determine the quality, as can specific indicators of learning.

What role should digital education business leaders play in education reform?
Knezek: They are legitimate partners in this effort to transform schools. By working closely with them, we are better able to ensure the interests of students and society, in general, dominate.

What is the role of teachers, administrators and policy-makers in digital learning?

Knezek: To continue to treat schools as if this were the mid-1990s is gross negligence and all three groups are guilty of malpractice if they allow the system to continue to treat education of our youth in this way.

So, how will you affect change?
Knezek: We do almost nothing alone. We seek out partnerships and collaboration and try to connect as much as possible in the digital learning effort. While we produce a lot of thought leadership 'stuff' and beautiful documents (traditional and virtual), we believe that if we are not changing the capacity of individuals and institutions to use this 'stuff' to truly improve education and move it into the digital world, we are not doing half enough.

"If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn." -Ignacio Estrada

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