Apr 13 2015

Department of Education Spearheads Ed Tech Developers Guide

A 66-page document sets recommended guidelines for educational technology developers.

The U.S. Department of Education has developed a guide for education-technology developers, in part to foster responsible use of student data.

The department this week released a 66-page document that presents guidelines for the ed-tech industry. The guide was developed by the department's Office of Educational Technology, with input from "knowledgeable educators, developers, and researchers."

"This guide for developers, startups and entrepreneurs addresses key questions about the education ecosystem and highlights critical needs and opportunities to develop digital tools and apps for learning," according to the guide's description.

Richard Culatta, the director of the department’s Office of Educational Technology, said his team has spent years gathering input for the guide, which is intended to facilitate the application of technology in ways that will transform educational opportunities for all students.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke this month at the Arizona State University/Global Silicon Valley Summit on this issue, saying that the guide is intended to serve as a reference for ideas that address the most urgent needs in education. Duncan also said that although a technological revolution is on course for education, there are profound gaps in how access to these technologies is distributed. For the revolution to take hold, it must be put into action unilaterally across America.

“Simply put, the status quo is unacceptable,” Duncan said at a Summit keynote. “If the technology revolution only happens for families that already have money and education, then it's not really a revolution.”

Federal agencies have been trying to address that inequity by implementing initiatives such as the ConnectED, which aims to connect 99 percent of students to high-speed Internet by 2018, and by raising the spending cap of the federal E-Rate program.

The Ed Tech Developer's Guide suggests these 10 ways that ed-tech entrepreneurs can "transform teaching and learning":

  1. Improve mastery of academic skills.
  2. Develop skills to promote lifelong learning.
  3. Increase family engagement.
  4. Plan for future education opportunities.
  5. Design effective assessments.
  6. Improve educator professional development.
  7. Improve educator productivity.
  8. Make learning accessible to all students.
  9. Close opportunity gaps.
  10. Close achievement gaps.

President Barack Obama alluded to the Department of Education’s guide when he first announced the Student Digital Privacy Act, in January.

“The Department of Education is going to offer new tools to help schools and teachers work with tech companies to protect the privacy of students,” Obama said during his speech.

A portion of the guide does address the privacy of student data, suggesting that companies be transparent with educators and parents about the student data that is collected and minimize the amount of data collected by the companies’ products.

The full guide can be downloaded for free at the department's website.


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