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Learning Library Blog The times they are a changing — but how much and how fast?
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The times they are a changing — but how much and how fast?

By Valerie Thompson
January 1, 2015
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A revolution is taking place in innovative classrooms worldwide. Learning environments are changing from silent places where students were expected to absorb the knowledge of their teachers to dynamic environments where students explore ideas, are informed by the latest knowledge in the field and collaborate across the globe. This can only happen when all students are provided ubiquitous access to technology.

However, the digital divide continues to accelerate worldwide. We can no longer be satisfied with the status quo. It is our moral imperative to deliver on a fundamental vision for education where learning is truly personalized, and each and every student is able to maximize his or her full potential.

To enact this transformation of education, we need to wage successful debates with governments, school leadership teams and communities. We also need to empower students, parents and teachers with actions that will accelerate the adoption of a personalized and student-centered approach to learning and teaching—and make sure no student is left behind, regardless of financial or social circumstances or the lack of leadership for implementation of robust technology learning environments.

It is time to move beyond the senseless debate about whether or not we should have technology in schools. Every other industry has reaped the vast benefits of technology, and it touches every corner of society. By not keeping up with innovative practices and the tools of innovation in our highly competitive global environment, we ensure the obsolescence of our public education systems. So what can be done?

The newly created Transatlantic Education Alliance was born out of a meeting of minds between the e-Learning Foundation of the United Kingdom and the One to One Institute in the U.S. Lord Jim Knight, a former schools minister of the U.K. government, agreed to chair this movement when it began its work in London in January 2014. Organizations such as ISTE, Intel, Samsung, Core of Education and the Canadian Education Association have since rallied behind it.

ISTE initially participated by providing knowledge about innovative learning and teaching practices. During conversations in London, ISTE pledged to keep the conversation going and hosted a second alliance meeting during ISTE 2014.

Today, ISTE is collaborating with peers in the alliance and in the education technology community to develop answers to the key questions, with the aim of moving the conversation about transforming education forward globally. 

The next step is to move to tangible outcomes that enable the changes we want to catalyze and support. We've identified six critical areas where the alliance can make a difference:

Policy. How do we most effectively influence and support policy makers to provide the strategic framework for educators to make the most of what learning technology has to offer students and teachers?

Principals. How do we provide education leaders with the information, inspiration and confidence to ensure that their institutions embrace the potential of learning technology and provide learners with the resources of a 21st century learning environment, and prepare them for work in a digital economy? How do we get beyond the " "where's the evidence" " block?

Pedagogy and practice. How can we help more teachers evolve their classroom into a more personalized, student-centered learning experience?

Pupils. How can we ensure the student voice is heard and reflected on in developing our ideas and programs?

Parents. How can we help parents make the most of technology to support their children's learning? We need to educate the broader adult community on what school must look like in a digital global economy so that the community then takes that vision to school board members and policy makers to demand the " "new school" " for their children and their community.

Partnership and collaboration. How can we build a community of change agents who can share the considerable workload involved in providing answers to the above questions? And how can we build collaboration into the programs that are generated? 

Getting the right questions is important. Now we need to provide the answers.

Valerie Thompson is the chief executive of the e-Learning Foundation based in Berkshire, England.