Friday, May 4, 2012

Being an Advocate for Educational Technology

I recently, had the privilege to participate in the Washington Education Technology Policy Summit as a representative from the Maryland Society for Educational Technology (MSET), the Maryland ISTE affiliate. I volunteered to participate in order to document advocacy hours for JHU/ISTE Administration and Supervision internship log.
Attending this summit was a learning experience to say the least. It began with an information session that focused on the top-level requests from technology education advocates. I must admit I had not heard about any of them prior to this summit. The requests included (1) to restore Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) funding, (2) support the inclusion in ESEA reauthorization of the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation Act and the meaningful infusion of education technology into all pertinent federal education programs (e.g., Title I, IDEA, Title IIA, etc.), and (3) support the passage of the Rockefeller/Snowe bill, which would permanently exempt from the Anti Deficiency Act all universal service program and the E-rate. In addition to learning about these requests, there was a crash course in appropriations. After the crash course, I was sent on my way with other MSET members to meet with local politics and let them know the importance of having technology in the classroom.
               For me the highlight of the event was meeting with Congressional staff. I was impressed at how attentively they listened as summit participants talked about how technology can make learning more efficient for teachers, engaging for students, and effective for learning. I was able to attend the meetings with three other representatives from Maryland. The stories we shared with the staff members included, using Edmodo to engage students in learning, using Wikis to collaborate among teachers, and using media to assist students in making authentic real life connection to learning in the classroom. I discussed how technology, specifically wikis, is used with teachers to provide a professional learning community in which they can share lessons, ideas, and success stories. I informed the staff members that technology is not only about the students understanding and utilizing computers but teachers using it to make their teaching more effective. Other stories shared included, learning being differentiated with computer programs.
After meeting with the members of the congressional staff from the offices of Barbara Mikulski, Ben Cardin, and John Sarbanes, I really felt that I made a difference because I was able to convey the idea that Technology in Education is powerful. I felt they understood the importance of having technology in the classroom for both teachers and students but their hands were tied because of the federal budget. I know I made a difference because I at the very least planted the seed for the staff members to know that technology is important because I was able to share my success story with teachers and students I worked with. Educational Technology may not have been on their agenda before I went and told them how it made a difference in my teaching. Now, that I have told my story I feel I have made a difference and I can not wait until the next time I can meet with the staff members to share my next success story of using technology in the classroom and explain how vital technology can be to in order to make technology effective and engaging.