Open Access Government examines the priorities of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, including a look at AI in education, plus digital equity for all learners
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology (OET) creates a national education technology policy and sets the roadmap for how technology can revolutionize teaching and learning and how to create everywhere, all the time learning for early learners in K-12, higher education, plus adult education.
The five ways OET accomplishes its mission are by:
• Ensuring equitable access to transformative learning opportunities offered by technology.
• Encouraging individualized professional development for state, district, school educators and leaders.
• Making sure everyone in the classroom has access to broadband internet and having access to top-notch, cost-effective digital learning tools both in school and at home.
• Promoting a robust ecosystem of entrepreneurs and creators.
• Leading innovative research to deliver new paradigms of evidence and personalize and enhance learning.
OET is part of the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. OET works with other federal agencies to learn how to use technology to help teach and learn. It’s also the main Department of Education office for contacting the ed tech developer community. (1)
The priorities of the OET are rooted in their Digital Equity & Opportunity vision, which aims to promote and facilitate the conditions and actions that create opportunities for all students and educators to participate fully in society and the economy. (2)
Further digital equity for all learners
The OET in September 2022 heralded Advancing Digital Equity for All: Community-based Recommendations for Developing Effective Digital Equity Plans to Close the Digital Divide and Enable Technology-Empowered Learning. This resource recommends equitable broadband adoption to help leaders craft digital equity plans. This aspiration became an emergency for many schools and families during the pandemic.
The Digital Equity Act, passed by Congress in 2022, allocates $2.75 billion to support this goal, intending to ensure that all individuals and communities can benefit from the digital economy.
“Digital equity has never felt more urgent. But our opportunity to deliver digital equity has never felt more within reach. The pandemic turned equitable access to technology from an aspiration into an emergency,” the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said.
“Students without broadband access or only a cell phone have lower rates of homework completion, lower grade point averages … even lower college completion rates. Today, there can be no equity without digital equity. Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re making tremendous progress towards that goal,” the U.S. Secretary of Education added. (3)
AI in education
Does AI play a part in the top OET priorities mentioned at the beginning of this article? Let’s see. Indeed, as part of its work, the OTE develops policies and support focusing on the safe, effective, and equitable utilization of AI-enabled educational technology. I was interested to learn that educators use AI-based tools in their daily lives, including voice assistants at home, to correct grammar, complete sentences, write essays, and even use their phones to plan trips automatically.
Educators see ways to leverage AI capabilities, such as speech recognition, to improve support for students with disabilities and multilingual learners who may benefit from greater flexibility and customization in digital learning tools. It’s no wonder that educators are digging deeper into how AI can help them write or enhance lessons and how they find, select, and modify content for their classes.
Educators are mindful of new risks concerning AI. Even though AI can be helpful and powerful, it can also come with new data privacy and security risks. Educators know that AI can sometimes make bad or inappropriate decisions. “They are wary that the associations or automations created by AI may amplify unwanted biases. They have noted new ways in which students may represent others’ work as their own,” we hear as part of the manifold concerns of educators’ when it comes to AI.
Considering this, all those involved in education must use the good of AI to promote educational objectives while safeguarding against the risks that may result from integrating AI into educational technology. (4)
The OET issued a report in May 2023, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations, which sums up the potential and risks of using AI in teaching, education, research, and evaluation, based on what people have said.
This report is a part of the ongoing effort to develop a unified and holistic approach to the opportunities and risks associated with AI as part of the ongoing Biden- Harris administration. According to the report, there is a clear need to share knowledge, engage educators and communities, and refine technology strategies and policies for using AI in education.
According to the report, AI is one of the fastest-growing technologies that can open new ways for educators to connect with learners, help educators address learning variability, boost feedback channels, and empower educators. Moreover, it also highlights AI’s potential risks, such as algorithmic bias, and the need for safety, trust, security, and safeguards to protect teachers and students.(5)
Education technology policy
In this editorial, we have briefly explored OET’s priorities for national education technology policy and their role in charting a road map for how technology can transform teaching and learning. In this vein, we have used the fitting examples of digital equity and AI in education.
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