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A tipping point for ed tech public policy

By Craig Thibaudeau
January 1, 2015
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The “tipping point,” as popular author Malcolm Gladwell describes it, is “that magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

Everyone who attended ISTE 2014 in Atlanta, or is part of the ISTE community of some 100,000 educators and education leaders, is aware of the paradigm shift taking place in our classrooms — a tipping point for all of us.

While the concept of technology as a tool for innovation in education is not new, we are witnessing an evolution of thought leaders — from the classroom to the corporate boardroom to elected officials — who are recognizing technology’s impact on transforming education.

The combination of unprecedented achievements in technology, the creation of a global, knowledge-based economy, and an educator community driven by passion and optimism, has created a tipping point that calls for policy makers from Washington, D.C., to our state capitals to embrace the opportunity we face. And it screams out for our voices to be heard.

At the federal level, the ConnectEd initiative and modernizing the E-Rate program have taken center stage. ISTE members have been actively advocating for public policy that has the potential to empower student learning and become a significant factor influencing the national and global economies.

At the state level, we’re witnessing public policy decisions that will have an impact on education for years to come. Governors and state legislators understand the importance of providing an education environment that creates 21st century skills that align with employer needs. In a tough economy where funding is limited, elected officials want to know how to best invest scarce resources in digital learning solutions that can meet their education challenges and strengthen our nation. We have an opportunity and responsibility to lend our expertise to help them!

In 2014, ISTE piloted a new state advocacy program through which we collaborated with state affiliates across the country. From Alabama to Massachusetts and New York to Arizona, we’ve collaborated with our affiliate leaders to actively engage with state policy makers. We’re providing them with accurate information and the education professionals who can assist them in determining how to best invest millions, and even billions, of dollars in state revenues wisely, with the most impact on student success.

Our message has not only included how best to help schools and districts bring devices and infrastructure into the classroom, but how to effectively integrate it by providing high-quality, continuous professional learning for all educators. The foundation of this work is the ISTE Essential Conditions that describe necessary components to ensure successful and robust transformation to digital age learning. ISTE Standards provide the roadmap for the skills students and professionals should aspire to meet to bring about this change. If the education community doesn’t take on this responsibility, policy makers cannot benefit from our insight and expertise.

ISTE is committed to providing the resources that will empower the ISTE community and the global education community to increase their effectiveness as advocates to help policy makers make the best decisions for students and schools around the globe.

The ISTE Advocacy Network is a resource for information about digital age learning policy, as well as tools to help promote change. By joining the network, you’ll have access to state and federal ed tech policies, practical resources to support your advocacy efforts and opportunities to connect with peers. Participation in the network can empower educators to make a difference in the lives of students everywhere.

Craig Thibaudeau, chief external relations officer, is an innovative and strategic thinker with a passion for the difference education can make for our children, our schools and our world. Craig has more than 30 years of senior-level association management experience representing U.S. nonprofit, domestic and international organizations.