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My goal is to convince you to download, print, read (or skim) the Higher Education Supplement to the National Education Technology Plan released last week by the Department of Education.  

Downloading, printing, reading (or skimming) is - however - not enough. I am also hoping to convince you lobby other people in your network to do the same. And then I’m hoping that you’ll chat with your colleagues, your students, and people that you barely know about the report.

To make things easier on you - here is a direct link to the pdf for the report.  

I recognize that there may be some reasons why you might be skeptical about why you should spend your precious time reading an 83 page government report.  

Mostly, you are wondering if anything that the Department of Education says now will matter after January 20th?  

Good question. Here are the 3 reasons why I think it is still worth your time to download, read (or skim), share, and discuss the report:

1 - A Conversation Starter:

The odds are high that at least part of your job involves doing something new at your institution. Right?  

If you are involved in getting your school to do something different than it has done before then I can guarantee three things: 

a) Technology is involved in some way in your work.

b) There is not enough people, money, or time for your project.  

c)  The forces of the status quo are doing everything possible to resist the changes that you are trying to make.

Am I right?

The sort of cool thing about this 83 page government report is that whatever higher ed project you are working on will connect, in some way, to the frameworks and examples cited in the document.  

Normally, a kitchen sink approach to any narrative on organizational change initiatives is ineffective. In this case, the breadth of the ideas and examples provided are useful as almost all of our own higher ed work will somehow relate to the content of the report.  

The breadth of the document will allow you to leverage the report to start a conversation about your own work at your institution. You can compare and contrast your own initiatives to the 10-point design principles for a student-centered higher ed ecosystem that are highlighted at the beginning of the report. You can contrast the goals and outcomes of your work to those examples in each of the reports chapters.  

In short, sharing the Higher Education Supplement to the National Education Technology Plan gives you a method (and excuse) to start a conversation about your own campus innovation work.

2 - Examples of Innovation:

Beyond the totally self-serving idea of using this report to start a conversation about your own higher ed work - another good reason to spend some time with the document are all the examples of innovation contained within its pages.

You will probably know some of the edtech innovation examples, but you will not know all of them.

For instance, I did not realized that University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is making a total switch to 100% open educational resources (OER). This is a very big deal.  

UMUC is one of the largest providers of online education in the US, with over 90,000 students.  The leadership of UMUC (and the University System of Maryland) are hugely respected and influential in higher education. UMUC’s move to all OER has the potential to shift how we think about the feasibility of actually making the leap to free and open digital curriculum.

There are tons of other examples of similar digital learning innovations sprinkled throughout the report. The folks at the Office of Educational Technology have done our community a great service by doing the work to collate and describe all of these initiatives.

3 - Ted Mitchell, the Professional Staff at the Department, and the Power of Convening:

The final reason that I think that it is worth your time to read and discuss the Higher Education Supplement to the National Education Technology Plan is that many of the people who actually put together this report will still be working at the Department of Education after January 20th. These are the professional staff from the Office of Educational Technology.  

I’ve had the opportunity to get to know some of these folks over the past few years, and I have nothing but respect for their expertise and professionalism.  

The Department of Education is one of the few bodies in our higher ed world that has the power of convening. (Who are others? Gates and other big foundations?  Maybe Apple , perhaps Google?  Who else?

The Department has the ability to bring together a wide cross-section of leaders in working on all aspects of higher ed innovation. I expect that the conversations that the Department of Education and the Office of Educational Technology have initiated (and which resulted in this report) will continue in the years to come. This is not political work, but rather the essential effort to gather the higher ed community to discuss how we are leveraging technology to improve access, lower costs, and drive quality improvements. Reading this report will help you understand how the professional staff at the Department of Education - and in particular the Office of Educational Technology - thinks about higher ed innovation.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to say a few words about Ted Mitchell, Undersecretary of Education. It is hard to imagine a more qualified and respected person to fill the top higher ed job in the Department. Everyone that I know that has had the pleasure of interacting with Ted Mitchell has come away impressed by his intelligence, eloquence, and fierce commitment to postsecondary opportunity - as well as to the people and institutions that constitute our higher ed world. I know that I speak for many in our digital learning community in saying thank you to Undersecretary Mitchell, and for wishing him well in whatever challenges he chooses to take on next.

My respect for Ted Mitchell, and for his colleagues at the Department of Education (both those that are leaving and those that are staying), no doubt biases my enthusiasm for sharing this report.  So be it. Sometimes, the best way to say thank you is to give your attention to the work of the people that you wish to say thanks.  Maybe spending a few minutes with the Higher Education Supplement to the National Education Technology Plan, (and I know that this is a mouthful), is one way we can honor the work of the outgoing leadership at the Department of Education.

Have a I convinced you to spend a few minutes with the report?

What are your reactions?


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