Teaching, Learning, and Tech: A New Name for New America’s Tech-Oriented Ed Policy Program

Blog Post
Penn State, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
May 7, 2019

Five years ago, the Education Policy Program launched the Learning Technologies Project—a subprogram that was designed to analyze, report on, and make recommendations for improving the way digital media and technology is used in education. Our work has included reports on the potential of openly licensed curricula, toolkits and surveys of early learning in the Digital Age, an examination of online degree programs, a book on how children learn to read in an age of screens, and, more recently, articles, events, and presentations on media literacy, media mentorship, and inclusive teaching using openly licensed digital materials. Through it all, our reporting and analysis has lifted up the need to focus efforts on people more than technology. It is today’s teachers, librarians, education policy leaders, and parents who need the support, training, and recognition for the decisions they are making in selecting and using different types of technology every day.

Today, we are changing our name to better reflect that focus: Our team is now the Teaching, Learning, and Tech team in the Education Policy Program at New America.

Our aim is to explore and report on the best ways for educators to use new media and technologies to promote more equitable systems of learning, from pre-K through 12th grade and into the post-secondary years. This focus brings us to examine teaching and learning experiences across formal environments, such as schools and colleges, and informal spaces, such as libraries, museums, and community centers, to determine what is missing in these ecosystems and holding people back from using new tools to gain rich learning experiences. As before, we will continue to use research and storytelling methods that include translation of learning-sciences research, in-depth interviews with policy and education leaders, and on-the-ground reporting in districts and communities, to develop policy recommendations and highlight models that focus on training adults who work with the next generation. In short, we take a human-centered approach to tackling equity issues in the Digital Age.

Our theory of change is that fixing the problems of new digital divides in teaching and learning requires both 1) raising awareness of the problems so that policy influencers and policymakers understand the stakes and 2) providing more tailored support to educators and other professionals who work with students and families at the local and state levels to help overcome those divides.

This year we have been extending our reach through speaking engagements at professional learning events in communities and school districts and in regional and city forums. (For example, this past weekend, our senior program manager Kristina Ishmael was a featured speaker at CUE BOLD, a professional learning event to help educators in California and elsewhere develop new skills for blended and online lesson design, and in July we will be co-hosting an event on education and artificial intelligence with the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project in Pittsburgh as part of our forthcoming Humanities+Tech conversation series in the Southwestern Pennsylvania region.) We continue to benefit greatly from intersections with other programs at New America, including our fellow analysts in Education Policy who are focused on early and elementary education, educator quality across preK-12 schools, family engagement, innovative approaches in higher education, and culturally responsive teaching, and with New America’s Public Interest Technology program and National Network.

It is exciting to be learning and exploring the implications of today’s digital tools and media using a name for our work that best reflects where we are putting our efforts: with technology squarely in our sights and in our realm of expertise, but with teaching and learning coming before the word “technology.” We plan to ensure that our team’s recommendations and reporting continue to put teaching and learning first.

Our current work is supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Grable Foundation, and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, as well as the Trust for Learning and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for part of New America’s Early and Elementary Education Policy work. Thank you as well to our funders from 2014 to 2018: the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop (in joint projects funded by the Joyce Foundation and the National Science Foundation), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Harford County Public Library in Harford County, Maryland.

Related Topics
Culturally Responsive Education Open Learning Open Educational Resources Digital & Media Literacy Digital Media and Learning