The Education Commission of the States recently released a brief called “Technology in Early Education: Building Platforms for Connections and Content that Strengthen Families and Promote Success in School” that advises states to harness technology to encourage collaboration across many sectors that typically sit in silos, including school districts, early learning programs, libraries, museums, afterschool programs, adult education, and health services.
Author Lisa Guernsey’s, Director of the Early Education Initiative, research found that only 68% of U.S. households have access to broadband Internet networks, with lower-income families, minorities, those with less education and rural residents less likely to have access. She also found that many publicly funded pre-K programs, including Head Start centers, are not included in federal government programs that provide technology discounts (typically schools and libraries would be eligible).
The brief goes on to suggest two approaches that Guernsey writes would “foster better services for children in a digital age: teacher effectiveness and library partnerships.”
Guernsey writes that many teachers are unsure of how to integrate technology into the classroom and are not always well-versed in how to use technology in lesson plans or to communicate with parents. She advocates for school districts to implement or increase teacher training in this area and for states to mandate trainings, licensing systems for educators and professional development sessions.
Of course, as Guernsey points out earlier in the brief, many families do not have access to technology in their home, which can make communication efforts with parents difficult. This supports her second approach of increasing library partnerships as a way to increase access. From weekly story-time sessions to workshops for parents on child development, libraries are often a great resource for communities, particularly those with less access to technology in their homes. In addition to community sessions, libraries offer internet and computer access, helping parents who need to apply to jobs or communicate with teachers, as well as children who need to conduct research for school projects and learn the technical skills to be successful in the workforce.
Such initiatives are in line with the current administration; President Obama recently stated that “by harnessing the power of technology in the classroom, we equip our educators with the tools they need to prepare our next generation of doers and thinkers for the jobs of tomorrow.” In February, U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski released a guide to helping schools implement technology in the classroom and expressed a goal of nationwide digital textbook adoption within five years.
To read the full brief, please click here.