A Robust Agenda for Technology’s Infrastructure

Type: Article
Topics: School Administrator Magazine, School Safety & Cybersecurity

March 01, 2024

EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE

Thanks to everyone who attended our National Conference on Education last month in San Diego. It was an awesome opportunity to connect and learn with colleagues from across the country.

Remote learning, hybrid and blended learning dramatically accelerated during the past few years as school districts nationwide were compelled to implement new and varying approaches almost overnight. Remote learning, once thought of as correspondence schools sending materials back and forth or a version of classroom flipping, was completely altered to force students to use their devices for learning. However, in many classrooms, instruction still looked like it did when I attended school.

What we experienced over the past few years reinforced that the role of the teacher is crucial. The relationships built within classroom walls, either concrete or digital, between an adult and a student are some of the most significant relationships students will have in their lifetime as they have the potential to shape the trajectory of a student’s life.

We must continue thinking differently about leveraging technology to transform the educational experience. The adaptability and flexibility of technology may not fit into the current accountability structures, and that’s all right. Learning can and does happen everywhere, and states need to shift to measuring what students know and can do through learning standards and outcomes, not solely test scores.

Dramatic Effects

With technological advances, we are just beginning the next generation of educational innovation brought on by generative artificial intelligence’s amazing opportunity to further personalize the educational experience. From the introduction of calculators in schools in the 1970s to one-to-one devices in the 2000s to today’s generative AI tools and platforms, these advances help students learn and teachers become more operationally efficient. Advancements in quantum computing, AI, virtual reality, augmented reality and cloud computing will dramatically impact teaching and learning through the next decade.

Countries, as well as major tech companies, are racing to become the dominant force in generative AI and quantum computing, which could fundamentally alter encryption and processing speeds.

The potential to create highly personalized and tailored learning experiences is just beginning and ushers in this next generation of teaching and learning. We need to consider the implications today to prepare our school systems to be ready.

The digital divide still exists and creates significant challenges in effectively implementing remote learning, as students without reliable internet access or adequate technological devices are at a distinct disadvantage.

Policy Initiatives

From a policy perspective, AASA has a robust agenda in this area. We advocate at the federal level to enhance district infrastructure as well as data privacy and continue to work to increase internet connectivity for students both at home and at school. Community partnerships are equally important at the local level, where collaborations between schools, nonprofit organizations and local businesses can provide resources and support to bridge the gap.

Infrastructure development must increase, especially in rural and remote areas where internet connectivity is poor or nonexistent. Innovative solutions like mobile internet hotspots, community technology centers and partnerships with internet service providers can significantly improve access.

In my former district, we launched a project to install a wireless point-to-point bridge system where students living in specific areas of the district could have immediate access to their school devices from home. Leveraging private foundation money and government grants, we were able to move beyond the mobile hotspots we had distributed to those who needed them.

By combining policy initiatives with community partnerships and other strategies, it is possible to make remote learning more inclusive and practical, ensuring that all students, regardless of their socioeconomic status, have equal access and opportunities to benefit from technological advancements.

We live in a time of many societal, technological and political shifts, and the technology we are experiencing today in its infancy could profoundly impact and alter the education system as we know it. I know, with AASA members like you leading the way, our schools will be ready to prepare our students for a world we cannot yet imagine. Be well!

David Schuler is AASA executive director. Twitter: @AASA_ED

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