One hundred public school superintendents nationwide were invited to the White House for the inaugural digital education summit ConnectED to the Future on November 19. Ten percent of them were from Texas. That means, 10 of the school district officials who attended were from the Lone Star state — two from Denton County in North Texas alone.
That’s right, the one state that steadfastly rejected the national Common Core standards sent a small delegation from these independent school districts — Arlington, Dripping Springs, El Paso, Harlingen, Houston, Justin (Northwest ISD), Lewisville, New Braunfels, Presidio, and Wescalo.
The Texas 10 were among those being recognized by U.S. Department of Education officials and President Barack Obama as exemplary leaders in making the transition to digital learning.
This was all part of the 2013 ConnectED Initiative, Obama’s plan to connect to “99 percent of America’s students to next-generation connectivity within five years” via high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless by 2017.
ConnectED is another federally led program from the College and Career Readiness Education Industrial Complex, with its ever pervasive slant on nationalized standards and a cultural of collaboration and global, digital citizenry.
No one is left out either. ConnectED’s mantra is “access, equity and excellence” and it promises to level the playing field for rural schools, according to a White House fact sheet which asserts that these schools “will experience some of the greatest benefits of new learning technology.”
ConnectED describes its e-textbooks, apps, devices, and platforms as adaptive, meaning they “adapt to the level of the individual student knowledge and help teachers know precisely which lessons or activities are working, many schools are already seeing the benefits of digital learning and connectivity,” according to the White House website.
An example of another adaptive platform is Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT), the online education tool that adjusts in difficulty based upon a student’s correct or incorrect answers. The system tracks data to be able to make these changes. This is the kind of Big Data that has come under fire for violating student privacy in the Common Core states.
Last year, the Deseret News reported on the Utah Criterion-Referenced based tests noting that no two adaptive learning or testing experiences were alike. This makes it virtually impossible for a parent to review the exact test materials their students will be presented.
ConnectED is digital learning designed to propel students down the workforce preparedness pipeline to “get good jobs and compete with other countries.” It relies “increasingly on interactive, personalized learning experiences driven by new technology,” the White House website also noted.
A major component of ConnectED is the Future Ready District Pledge, which allows the feds access to school districts directly, bypassing the states completely. This is reminiscent of Race to the Top – District (RTTT-D), which enabled the feds to go into non-participating states with a backdoor option so that individual school districts could apply for the federal mega-grants.Houston ISD is an example of an RTTT-D winner, which Breitbart Texas has reported.
The US Department of Education’s Office of Education Technology dubbed the Future Ready pledge a roadmap to achieve success and to “commit districts to move as quickly as possible towards our shared vision of preparing students for success in college, careers and citizenship.”
Sixteen thousand school districts currently participate in ConnectED. Two billion dollars from the federal E-Rate program, increased flexibility in the use of federal funds, and billions of dollars in additional commitments from the private sector, have been pumped into this partnership of “progress towards improving the nation’s physical infrastructure,” the Office of Education Technology website also stated.
They highlighted that it was after the 2014 State of the Union address that the President tapped the FCC and “called on businesses, states, districts, schools and communities to support this educational vision, which required “no congressional action” — neither did the Common Core.
Big Education knows best and this whole digital push is because the United States “once a pioneer in connecting schools to the internet” is just dreadfully falling behind other nations that have made “aggressive investments in digital learning and technology education,” also according to the White House website.
Like South Korea, where they explain all schools have high-speed internet connections, and all teachers are trained in digital learning. Printed textbooks will be phased out by 2016.
Forget Korea, Texas has Senate Bill 6 (SB 6), which, among other changes, dumped paper textbooks in favor of virtual e-books now.
SB 6 also broadened out the definition of textbook to include digital instructional materials and e-textbooks. It allocated funds for the technology to access and use that digital content.
In 2013, the Chicago Tribune looked at the pros and cons of all this digital learning, noting that the classic textbook was going the way of cursive writing and the old library card catalog — gone.
In a study of 233 Terra Haute University students, they found convenience to be the biggest plus of virtual textbooks for the half of the college students accessing instructional materials online. They also learned that professors liked digital texts because they could provide more current material than a hardbound print textbook, which could take a year or two to get into print.
Learning digitally can be a wondrous tool. However, the concern of online materials is over who controls the content. There has been a massive tug-of-war between the traditional learning aficionados and raging progressives, the latter of whom have worked overtime to hijack the education narrative in the 2014 Texas K-12 Social Studies textbook adoption process.
The Dallas Morning News reported that Northwest ISD superintendent Karen Rue, who was attending the White House summit, said she intended to present an electronic portfolio of how digital platforms were used in her district’s classrooms. The portfolio would include student blogs and student-produced videos.
“I am gratified and excited to be one of 10 Texas superintendents to be invited to this summit at the White House,” Lewisville ISD superintendent Stephen Waddell commented on the district’s website.
In 2013, Lewisville ISD implemented a “transformative flexible learning environment” they call the 1:X™ initiative that “gives students tools to access, create and collaborate as thriving, 21st century digital citizens and is a direct reflection of our commitment to provide all students with a personalized educational experience,” it says on the Lewisville ISD website.
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