Content, Context, Computing: Keys to the National Education Technology Plan

Article excerpt

Beyond high-tech gadgets and iPad apps lies the simple connection among content, context, computing, and learning.

The teacher librarian plays a unique role in helping teachers and students apply technology in meaningful ways.

The U.S. Department of Education and Office of Educational Technology hope to transform American education through a renewed emphasis on real-world activities that promote student achievement and a passion for learning. The National Education Technology Plan (NETP) ( focuses on 21st century learning "powered by technology" (2010, p. 4).

While much of the plan reinforces the "data-centered" emphasis of the last decade, glimpses of hope can be found in a shift toward innovative approaches to teaching and learning.

The plan contains five elements: learning, assessment, teaching, productivity, and infrastructure. Let's explore aspects of the plan with implications for the school library program.


"All learners will have engaging and empowering learning experiences both in and outside of school that prepare them to be active, creative, knowledgeable, and ethical participants in our globally networked society."

When selecting online resources, look for materials that connect subject-area content with real-world experiences. For instance, the website Your Life, Your Money from PBS ( provides quality learning resources that can be applied both inside and outside the school setting. Students view compelling real-life stories about young people facing economic challenges, develop financial literacy skills, and apply their knowledge to authentic situations.

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of identifying new materials for every content area and grade level. Instead, focus your attention on the individual NETP action items listed under each NETP goal.

Action 1.4--Use advances in the learning sciences and technology to enhance STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning and develop, adopt, and evaluate new methodologies with the potential to enable all learners to excel in STEM.

Help teachers explore new ways to express science content. The real-world data found on infographics such as Quakes (http:// can help bring scientific data alive for learners. Experiences such as Prince William's Oily Mess: A Tale of Recovery ( provide real-world applications of science.


Let's explore how you can combine content, context, and computing to build a meaningful learning experience.

Content. The interactive tutorials at Learn Genetics (http:// are an engaging way to learn about how cells work.

Context. Once students have an understanding of cell biology, give the generic cell a face. Read the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, watch Hela Cell ( on YouTube, and explore Henrietta Lacks (HeLa) ( website. Examine the Henrietta Everlasting timeline ( st_henrietta) visualizing the impact of the HeLa cell lines and read the 1976 article The Miracle of Hela (

Computing. Ask students to transfer their knowledge of cell biology and medical research to a new situation. What other people have been used for medical research without their knowledge? Use online resources for background information about medical ethics and issues in medical research. Then, ask students to create a video about their findings and post it on Vimeo (


Providing students meaningful examples and engaging ways to share their understanding is an important part of designing an effective learning environment. …