Earlier this year, as the new decade began and the “Aughts” (2000s) faded, the CB&A team, with the help of clients and colleagues, reflected on some of the key achievements in education technology during the last 10 years. It had been an exhilarating, tumultuous ride, marked by destructive natural and human forces (from hurricanes and flu pandemics to wars and recessions) as well as triumphant scientific and technological advances, and real social progress. Mirroring these overarching economic and societal changes, the education industry experienced formidable setbacks and disappointments, but many spectacular moments as well, which have improved teaching and learning, and steered us closer to ensuring every student realizes their full potential.
Recently, these reflections came to mind as we started working with our clients to support a new project from the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry. For its 25th anniversary celebration, SIIA’s Education Division is compiling a timeline of significant moments in ed tech history. (If your company is an SIIA member, you can submit important events, such as the dates the company was founded and new products were launched, to Karen Billings by May 3 to be featured in the timeline and the “This Month in Ed Tech History” Web column.)
In the spirit of this venture, we’d like to share our list of the top 10 achievements of the 2000s.
- E-rate – While it began in 1996, the E-Rate program had a significant impact on education in the 2000s, disbursing $2.25 billion annually to connect schools to the Internet. The leading authority on E-rate, Funds For Learning provides products and services to help districts manage the E-rate application process. The E-rate program also protects students online, mandating districts install a Web filter, such as Lightspeed System‘s Web Access Manager, and provide Internet safety education.
- Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) – Initiated in 2002, the EETT program provides critical funding for technology, a vital component for the success of the entire educational enterprise. EETT funds have helped schools purchase technology tools and Web-based resources such as Califone‘s media centers and classroom amplification systems and AustimPro, online professional development and resources for educating students with autism.
- Mobile devices – While laptops have been around for some time, Maine’s one-to-one program, which began in 2001, marked the start of an increasing number of mobile computing initiatives in districts and states. The Apple iPod, introduced in 2001, also symbolized the mobile computing movement with innovative educators using the iPod with their students for personalized, interactive learning experiences. Shmoop, one of the largest multi-platform educational publishers, offers more than 1,900 titles across the Web, iPhone, Kindle, and Nook.
- Social media – The 2000s brought the introduction and monumental growth of social media sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook that made it easy and affordable for anyone to publish information and share it with the world. While these sites offer incredible educational value, they haven’t been widely used in schools yet because of safety and security risks, and need for teacher professional development. Pioneering ed tech vendors such as ePals offer a safe online community for teachers and students to communicate and collaborate on educational projects with peers across the globe. In addition, companies such as PCI Education have created online communities for educators to connect with each other through social media to share best practices.
- Online assessment and learning management systems – With the introduction of these Web-based systems such as those offered by STI, Discovery Education and GlobalScholar, teachers can quickly assess standards mastery for every student to adapt instruction to meet their needs. Supplementing yearly high-stakes tests, these new tools ushered in the ability for schools to use real-time assessment data to inform teaching and learning.
- Data tracking and analysis tools – Following the No Child Left Behind Act, districts and states began implementing longitudinal and Web-based data management systems to significantly improve data-driven decision-making. STI Information NOW is a Web-based student information system that’s customizable to each user, including parents, and integrates multiple data sets to create meaningful reports. GlobalScholar also offers Pinnacle Insight, which provides districts a simplified, yet powerful way to easily customize and distribute parsed data at all levels.
- Digital content and resources – Launched in January 2001, Discovery Education streaming (formerly known as unitedstreaming), delivers digital resources via the Internet, giving educators the means to integrate media-based resources across the curriculum. Today, digital content as a curriculum supplement is nearly ubiquitous, and is poised to become a core instructional resource thanks to a convergence of social, economic and policy changes. Educators also turn to PBS Teachers, which offers thousands of free, standards-aligned, educator-tested digital education resources, including video, interactive games, lesson plans, and more.
- Online learning – Over the past five years, there has been explosive growth in online learning and virtual schooling. Sloan Consortium estimated more than 1 million K-12 students enrolled in an online course during the 2007-08 school year. More than one-third of teachers have taken an online course according to a 2009 report by Project Tomorrow. PBS TeacherLine garnered the highest number of national enrollments in its online professional development courses for educators in its Summer 2009 term than in any other term since it launched nationwide in 2004. More than 40,000 teachers have completed courses through PBS TeacherLine to advance their careers and improve their skills.
- Interactive whiteboards – Although it was introduced in the 90s, interactive whiteboards gained widespread popularity and use during the past decade as a classroom tool to increase student engagement and learning. Futuresource Consulting estimates one in every seven classrooms worldwide will have an interactive whiteboard by 2011. Many educational software offerings are compatible with interactive whiteboards, including The Geometer’s Sketchpad from Key Curriculum Press. PBS offers free educational games based on its award-winning children’s programming for educators to use with interactive whiteboards.
- Document cameras and digital projectors – Document cameras, such as the Diggiditto from Califone, and digital projectors have replaced the old, messy overhead projector with transparencies, providing a more engaging, visual learning experience for students. Possibly the most effective time-saver for teachers, GradeCam software works with any document camera to enable educators to quickly grade and input student homework and assessment results into an electronic grade book.
- Virtualization/gaming simulations – A new way to explore learning, gaming simulations like the Business Education Simulations from Realityworks provide educators with an interactive, online solution to engage students in themes and lessons applicable to real life. Using such programs offesr a new way for educators to incorporate classroom curriculum in a unique educational setting, and help encourage student participation. Second Life, a revolutionary multi-user virtual environment, has provided valuable professional development and networking opportunities for educators, like the Eduverse Talk sessions hosted on ISTE Island; although the technology is not yet commonplace in the education community.
Picking just 10 examples from the past decade was difficult. What do you think are the most significant achievements (whether it be products, events, legislation, or other moments) of the 2000s? What will be the next ed tech industry game-changer?
For an inside look at the emerging technologies taking hold in education in the coming years, read our earlier blog post entitled Six Emerging Technologies Profiled in 2010 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition. The Horizon Report was produced by the New Media Consortium in collaboration with the Consortium for School Networking.