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Big Steps for National Education Technology Plan

Cator says ambitious technology plan is not lacking funding.

"It's 2010, and the world has changed," says Karen Cator, director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education and former Apple executive. "Technology is going more mobile."

The National Education Technology Plan (NETP), released March 5, reflects the changing approach to K12 education. The central theme of this year's plan, "Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology," is learning, and it includes proposals for increased mobile learning, the proliferation of digital content, and social networking as a platform for learning. Many K12 education groups have expressed concern that the funding for these proposals simply is not available, while Cator believes technology remains the cornerstone of the education budget.

President Obama's FY2011 proposed budget recommends eliminating direct funding and support for education technology by removing the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) program, which has provided federal funding for student technology support since 1994. EETT has been streamlined into a broader program, "Effective Teaching and Learning for a Complete Education."

"We're deeply concerned that the federal government may be neglecting its previous commitments to strong and dedicated technology efforts," says Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology Education (ISTE), in a statement following the plan's release. "Rhetoric isn't enough to move a grand plan forward."

According to Cator, there is available funding—if not more funding—than in previous years. Technology, she says, must be incorporated into every education element and will impact the education financial plan in more ways than one. "Technology is a cross-cutting priority of all parts of the budget," says Cator. "It's a myth that there's less money."

Since its release, the NETP has been available on the DOE's Web site for public comment. The DOE plans on removing it in early May to review feedback, update the plan, and then rerelease it. Also being considered is leveraging the plan as a continuing education online course for educators.