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Reconceptualizing Teaching and Learning: The 2016 National Educational Technology Plan

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology released the 2016 National Educational Technology Plan, titled Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education. Billed as the nation’s “flagship educational technology policy document,” the plan contains specific recommendations for teacher preparation programs relative to its “vision of equity, active use, and collaborative leadership to make everywhere-all-the-time learning possible.” For this article, AACTE asked two of our field’s leaders on the topic to reflect on the plan and its relevance for educator preparation providers.

Since 2000, the AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology has hosted an annual leadership summit for the presidents of a dozen teacher educator associations and editors of educational technology journals, who together comprise the National Technology Leadership Coalition. This summit in Washington, DC, provides a unique forum for interdisciplinary planning focused on technology and teacher preparation. Sharon Robinson, president and CEO of AACTE, recently wrote of the coalition, “Rather than reacting to new technologies, members of [the coalition] sought to shape them by partnering with developers to include discipline-specific pedagogical considerations.”

Many of the innovative directions that emerge from the summit’s interdisciplinary dialogues each year are reflected in the National Educational Technology Plan (NETP). In 2008, for example, AACTE published the Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Educators, establishing a new context for thinking about infusion of technology in teaching. The influence of this book has been reflected in the hundreds of articles, books, dissertations, conference presentations, and symposia stimulated by its publication.

Certainly, the 2016 NETP reflects this influence. A section titled “Rethinking Teacher Preparation” highlights the redesign of a teacher education program in which “on the basis of the Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge model, pre-service teachers learned to blend content, pedagogical, and technological knowledge in their PK–12 instruction” (p. 33). In that regard, next month’s publication of the second edition the TPACK Handbookis timely. Edited by past chairs and members of the AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology, Mary Herring, Punya Mishra, and Matt Koehler, the new edition has been updated to reflect the most current research in this area.

The 2016 NETP recommends that teacher preparation programs, school systems, state and local policy makers, and educators provide preservice and in-service educators with professional learning experiences powered by technology to increase their digital literacy and enable them to create compelling learning activities that improve learning and teaching, assessment, and instructional practices (see p. 37). The AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology recently developed a TPACK formative diagnostic tool designed for self-reflection and guidance to assist educational leaders in development of technology-rich models for teacher candidates. The diagnostic tool serves as an opportunity to examine current practices, helps develop realistic goals for program development and professional learning experiences, and supports the NETP recommendation to rethink teacher preparation so teacher candidates have a solid understanding of how to use technology to support learning.

The updated NETP also highlights active use of digital tools for creation versus passive consumption of information. It encourages use of technology that facilitates development of noncognitive skills such as inquiry, teamwork, and creativity, citing teacher preparation programs that develop “digital skills associated with implementing project-based learning with digital media and technology” (p. 34). However, the plan notes that there is still a significant digital divide between schools that encourage learners to use technology in active creative ways and those in which students predominately use technology for passive consumption.

Photo Credit: James Rutter, Laboratory School for Advanced Manufacturing

Finally, the updated technology plan references the “maker movement” for the first time. A post on the White House web site titled “A Nation of Makers” notes that new technologies such as 3D printers are “enabling more Americans to design and build almost anything.” An increasing awareness of related educational opportunities is reflected in references to “maker spaces” in schools in the updated technology plan.

Technology is changing culture and society, presenting opportunities and challenges for schools and universities. The 2016 NETP highlights the importance of ensuring that teachers are prepared for this future.


Glen Bull is professor and codirector of the Center for Technology and Teacher Education in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Kevin Graziano, professor in the School of Education at Nevada State College, chairs AACTE’s Committee on Innovation and Technology.


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Glen Bull

University of Virginia

Kevin Graziano

Nevada State College

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