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Accessible, Affordable Educational Technology… One person’s reflection on a new initiative

I recently read the “Impatient Optimists” blog posting on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation site entitled: Introducing inBloom: Accessible, Affordable Education Technology 

First I have to say that I am not “a techie”.  In fact, I may be the only person that not only doesn’t have a smart phone, but doesn’t have any sort of a data plan on the cell phone that I do own… and sometimes use.  However, I am married to a techie and while the knowledge doesn’t rub off, the attitude does.  As a result, my beliefs in this topic can be summarized as follows:

  • The goal of education is to increase independence and the ability to make choices in one’s life.  This applies to all children, regardless of their age or abilities.

  • Technology is an important tool not only for education, but life outside of school, and eventually, of work.

  • Accessible technology is not optional for students with disabilities who can benefit from it.

The author, Vicki Phillips, describes the challenge schools face as they strive to personalize learning as teachers start to implement Common Core State Standards.  Data and content live “in separate places and in different formats” which can inhibit integration in to the classroom environment.  This challenge is called “interoperability” The intent of the partners in the inBloom initiative is tackle interoperability in a timely way and not wait for the expected 20 years the marketplace might need.

The parts about this blog that caught my attention were in the title and some of the language used throughout.

I am encouraged that the first word is “Accessible”.  I am optimistic enough to think that when someone uses “accessible” we are no longer talking about PC vs Apple platforms.  I am hopeful that it is assumed that all educational technology will be accessible in the near future.  For example, it is well documented that students beyond those with disabilities can benefit when provided with audio-outputs.

The other section that attracted my attention, and hope, was the following quotation:

We are all committed to making it easier to personalize learning for students, and our support for inBloom is a key building block for this goal. And, as expectations rise and budgets shrink, it is imperative that scarce dollars spent on learning technologies are effective for students and teachers and affordable for schools.  We are united in a common goal. 

Ms. Phillips uses the phrase “personalized learning” more than once in the 6 short paragraphs of this blog.  This, in conjunction with “accessible” may truly reflect a respect for students with various learning needs.

It is impossible to say how and when this very broad and very ambitious initiative will translate into individual classrooms.  Yet, as I watch the development of this project I am hopeful, even optimistic that the common goal we are reaching for is this: All students can learn and that this project will be a tool to help realize that goal.

KC Dignan, PhD.
Professional Preparation Coordinator
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