EdTech’s Moment of Truth

Never has there been so great of a disruption in education than the past school year. Likewise, never has there been such an opportunity going forward, according to Keith Kreuger, CEO for the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). In this episode, Keith follows the money and lays out specific steps the industry can take to ensure that lofty ideas like digital equity and personalized learning turn into practical realities as soon as possible.

More than 80 education technology leaders from 37 states this spring met virtually for meetings in Washington, D.C. with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Department of Education (ED) policymakers to discuss their COVID-19 pandemic experiences and advocate for actionable policies that support digital learning.

This was the second of a two-part 2021 virtual advocacy fly-in and happened just as President Biden announced a more than 40 percent increase in ED base funding as part of his $1.5 trillion budget and schools across the country prepare to utilize the $7.1 billion that was allocated to the FCC for a new Emergency Connectivity Fund in the latest COVID-19 relief package.

In the first part during February, participants spoke with Members of Congress and their staff about how to safely transition to a post-pandemic world, connect all students and close the “homework gap,” fund professional development to help educators leverage technology for learning, and protect student data privacy. The conversation continued on Wednesday, April 14, as the group met with the FCC regarding student connectivity needs and talked to senior ED staff about the implementation of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) and annual funding to support digital learning.

Key outcomes from these discussions include:

  1. Federal leaders learned about state and local strategies and need to connect students to broadband and equip them with learning devices during, and beyond, the pandemic;
  2. Summit participants learned about the ED’s plans for supporting the implementation of the ARP; and
  3. Collaboration among local, state, and federal leaders to meet students’ and educators’ digital learning needs increased.

“We are thrilled to see Congress, the Department of Education and the FCC taking action to help close the homework chasm that students and teachers nationwide continue to face. Our virtual fly-in participants were keen to discuss everything from student data privacy to professional development funding with these key policymakers to help shape edtech policy moving forward and advocate for equitable access to advanced learning technologies,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN.

“The American Rescue Plan’s investment in the education system and the President’s FY22 budget request provide an unprecedented opportunity for leaders and educators to envision a new, post-pandemic era that leverages technology as an essential vehicle for effective learning and equitable supports. ISTE, our partner organizations and virtual fly-in participants look forward to continuing to collaborate with federal policymakers on these issues,” said Ji Soo Song, Senior Policy Advisor at ISTE.

“Connecting all students and teachers to digital learning opportunities — no matter where they live — has been, and will remain, a top priority for SETDA’s members. Now more than ever, we need strong local-state-federal partnerships focused on closing the digital divide once and for all. Our members deeply appreciate this invaluable annual opportunity to exchange ideas with SETDA’s school district and federal partners,” said Julia Fallon, Executive Director of SETDA.

“SIIA and our education technology member companies are thrilled to partner with CoSN, ISTE and SEDTA to bring our real-world experiences of the past year to Congress, the Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission. Throughout the pandemic, our members stepped up to provide the tools to facilitate the rapid switch to distance learning, the transition to hybrid learning and the switch to safe learning in the classroom. We are thankful that policymakers have been so responsive to the needs of learners, educators and edtech providers by passing the American Rescue Plan and other relief bills over the past year. We look forward to continued collaboration as these laws are implemented and we address longstanding inequities exacerbated by the pandemic,” said SIIA President Jeff Joseph.

This year’s annual summit, led by CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking), ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education), SETDA (the State Educational Technology Directors Association) and SIIA (the Software & Information Industry Association), took place virtually for the second year in a row due to the impact of COVID-19.

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