The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act defines technology in SEC. 8101. [20 U.S.C. 7801] as “modern information, computer and communication technology products, services, or tools, including, the Internet and other communications networks, computer devices and other computer and communications hardware, software applications, data systems, and other electronic content (including multimedia content) and data storage.”
New York state’s 1997 Technology Law defines technology as “a good, service, or good and service that results in a digital, electronic or similar technical method of achieving a practical purpose or in improvements in productivity, including but not limited to information management, equipment, software, operating systems, interface systems, interconnected systems, telecommunications, data management, networks, and network management, consulting, supplies, facilities, maintenance and training.” New York’s Education code, section 753 defines Technology equipment as “equipment with a useful life used in conjunction with or in support of educational programs including but not limited to video, solar energy, robotic, satellite, laser and such other equipment as the commissioner shall approve.”
Assistive technology is defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) [(20 U.S.C.1401(1)] as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities.”
Digital learning is defined in section 4012 [20 U.S.C. 7112] of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act as “any instructional practice that effectively uses technology to strengthen a student’s learning experience and encompasses a broad spectrum of tools and practices, including—
(A) interactive learning resources, digital learning content (which may include openly licensed content), software, or simulations, that engage students in academic content;
(B) access to online databases and other primary source documents;
(C) the use of data and information to personalize learning and provide targeted supplementary instruction;
(D) online and computer-based assessments;
(E) learning environments that allow for rich collaboration and communication, which may include student collaboration with content experts and peers;
(F) hybrid or blended learning, which occurs under direct instructor supervision at a school or other location away from home and, at least in part, through online delivery of instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace; and
(G) access to online course opportunities for students in rural or remote areas.”
SEC. 8101. [20 U.S.C. 7801] of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act defines distance learning as “the transmission of educational or instructional programming to geographically dispersed individuals and groups via telecommunications.”
California, in its Distance Learning Considerations document, defines distance learning as, “instruction in which the student and instructor are in different locations. This may include interacting through the use of computer and communications technology, as well as delivering instruction and check-in time with their teacher. Distance learning may include video or audio instruction in which the primary mode of communication between the student and instructor is online interaction, instructional television, video, telecourses, or other instruction that relies on computer or communications technology. It may also include the use of print materials incorporating assignments that are the subject of written or oral feedback.”
Washington State’s 2021 House Bill 1365, amended the 2016 Education Technology (2A.650) Act by replacing the term “education technology, the effective use of electronic and optical tools, including telephones, and electronic and optical pathways in helping students learn” with “Learning device” which is then defined as “internet-accessible computer, tablet, or other device, with an appropriate operating system, software applications, and data security, that can be used to access curricula, educational web applications and websites, and learning management systems, and with telecommunications capabilities sufficient for videoconferencing.” While New York’s Commissioner’s Regulations Part 100.4 (a)(1) defines technology education as “a program of instruction designed to assist all students in meeting state intermediate standards for technology. Technology education uses concepts of science, mathematics, social science, and language arts in a hands-on, systems-based approach to problem-solving that guides students in the understanding, design, and development of systems, devices, and products to serve human needs and wants.”
Constitution and laws: The 1789 Constitution of the United States of America (henceforth referred to as the United States or the US) does not mention education or technology. However, the 10th amendment, which states, “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”, provides the basis which gives states the power to determine their own education system, laws, and policies. States and local governments are responsible for establishing schools and colleges, developing curricula, and determining the requirements for enrollment and graduation.
On the federal level, the education system is predominantly governed by the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, as amended by the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act). The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act encourages the use of technology in the classroom as a tool for students with disabilities, as an assessment tool, and as a coordination and communication tool. States are expected to integrate information technology into educational and related programs, fully utilizing it in their classrooms. States must also create teacher certification programs for the technology area as well as train existing teachers on how to effectively integrate technology into the curricula and classroom instruction.
Much of the federal government’s role in education is through the operation and use of federal grant programs, which states may apply for and distribute among their local districts. Title IV- 21st Century Schools (in the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act) lays out the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program. The purpose of this grant program is to encourage states to improve and increase the use of technology in schools in order to improve the academic achievement and digital literacy of all students. State educational agencies (SEAs) must increase access to personalized, rigorous learning experiences supported by technology. They assist local educational agencies (LEAs) to identify and address technology readiness needs, such as computer devices, access to school libraries, Internet connectivity, operating systems, software, related network infrastructure, and data security. Funds may be used to procure devices, equipment, and software applications as needed. LEAs are also expected to use technology for individual learner needs and build capacity among teachers and leaders to use data and technology to improve instruction and personalize learning. SEAs must work to expand access to high-quality digital learning opportunities in rural and remote areas. Each state will also develop strategies for specialized or challenging academic courses and curricula using technology, including digital learning technologies and assistive technologies. SEAs must provide all school staff members with technology training. Finally, the grant program encourages making instructional content widely available through the use of open educational resources. Section 4109 “Activities to Support the Effective Use of Technology” further details various ways to use funds to improve students’ academic achievement, academic growth and digital literacy using technology. A subgrant is also available to help community learning centers carry out telecommunications and technology education programmes, STEM programmes and acquire new technology.
Section 1474 of the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) instructs the secretary of education with supporting the technology development, demonstration, and utilization; media services; and instructional materials of schools in the United States. Under IDEA, school districts must evaluate students’ technological needs, acquire the necessary assistive technology, coordinate technology use with other therapies and interventions, and provide technology training for staff members, the students, and their families. The 2002 Educational Technical Assistance Act (ETAA, Title II of P.L. 107-279) and the 2002 Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA, Title I of P.L. 107-279) also called for the implementation and use of a federal grant programs that contributed to the initial purpose of supporting varied technical assistance activities in states.
More recently, grants are awarded through the 2021 Digital Equity Act (DEA), as part of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Public Law 117–58), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The DEA instructs the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to establish grant programs for “promoting digital equity, supporting digital inclusion activities, and building capacity for state-led efforts to increase adoption of broadband by their residents”. States who wish to participate in the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program should develop a State Digital Equity Plan which seeks to improve “the availability of, and affordability of access to, broadband technology; the online accessibility and inclusivity of public resources and services; digital literacy; awareness of, and the use of, measures to secure the online privacy of, and cybersecurity with respect to, an individual; and the availability and affordability of consumer devices and technical support for those devices.” The 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) provided emergency funding grants for public and private educational institutions through the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF). Other grants were also available via the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), which contained the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which contained the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. States who receive money through the American Rescue Plan Act were expected to use the funds to address learning loss caused by the pandemic, purchase educational technology, provide mental health services, provide teacher training, improve school infrastructure, and more.
Florida’s 2022 Digital Learning Now Act under Section 1002.321 of Title XLVIII mandates that all districts provide students with a high-quality digital learning environment that provides: access to digital learning; access to high-quality digital content and online courses; individualized lessons for each student using digital content; a means for the student to demonstrate competency in completed coursework; high-quality digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses; high-quality digital instruction and teachers; content and instruction that are evaluated on the metric of student learning; use of funding as an incentive for performance, options, and innovation; infrastructure that supports digital learning; and online administration of state assessments.
Washington’s 2011 Basic Education Act (28A.150.211) requires schools to “integrate technology literacy and fluency” into their curriculum. Online Learning (2A.250) and Education Technology (2A.650) are other related acts within the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), the compilation of all permanent laws in Washington state. The state seeks to improve oversight and quality assurance of online learning programs in the state through the development of an Online Learning Office and online learning advisory committees. The Education Technology (2A.650) law instructs the superintendent with developing and sharing best practices and recommendations for instruction in digital citizenship, internet safety, and media literacy.
The 2021 Texas Education Code Chapter 32 “Computers, Computer-Related Equipment, and Student Information Protection” discusses the use of technology in the education system. EDUC § 32.031 states that in order “to prepare students for the 21st century... public education must use, in a comprehensive manner, appropriate, accessible technology in all aspects of instruction, administration, and communication.” Under EDUC § 32.001, the state is expected to develop a plan every five years that detail how the State Board of Education intends to “acquire and use technology in the public school system; foster professional development opportunities related to the use of technology for educators; foster computer literacy among public school students; and identify and distribute information on emerging technology for use in public schools”. The chapter also improves the telecommunications capabilities of school districts and promises to devote education resources to the maximum extent possible to improve the instruction of students. The most recent educational technology plan to result from this education code chapter is the 2018–2023 Long-Range Plan for Technology.
Policies, plans and strategies: One of the three strategic goals in the 2018 STEM Education Strategic Plan is to Build Strong Foundations for STEM Literacy, including digital literacy. The pathway of building computational literacy aims to promote computational thinking as a vital skill for the contemporary world. Computational thinking encompasses computer science and involves utilizing data to solve complex problems. Young students should be taught skills such as computational thinking, digital literacy, and cyber security. The pathway also aims to increase the utilization of digital platforms for education as they offer opportunities for anytime/anywhere learning, personalized instruction, and engaging experiences through simulations or virtual reality.
The 2017 National Educational Technology Plan sets a national vision and plan for learning enabled by technology. The plan is split into five sections: Learning, Engaging and Empowering Learning through Technology; Teaching, Teaching With Technology; Leadership, Creating a Culture and Conditions for Innovation and Change; Assessment, Measuring for Learning; and Infrastructure, Enabling Access and Effective Use. The plan provides recommendations for states and local school districts to improve their educational technology. The newest 2022 version of the plan has not yet been officially released.
North Carolina’s Digital Learning Plan was initially developed in 2016 as a response to North Carolina Session Law 2016-94 (Section 8.23). The law proposes that a Digital Learning Plan would coordinate professional learning programs for teachers and school administrators to help with the transition to digital‑age learning and create assessments to measure technological and pedagogical skills. The plan would also help to manage statewide cooperative purchasing of content, and shared resources for lesson planning and student assessments as well as develop infrastructure maintenance and support protocols. The most recent version 2022 North Carolina Digital Learning Plan includes a framework with five categories aimed at improving the student learning experience. The categories include Leadership and Vision; Human Capacity; Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment; Data Privacy and Cybersecurity; and Technology, Infrastructure, and Devices.
School districts and individual schools determine their strategies regarding education technology. For more than seven out of ten schools, technology is a strategic priority. States also have the power to influence local education policies through grants. In New York, local education agencies (LEAs) can apply for the 2021-24 New York State Learning Technology Grant or the Smart Start Grant Program. The aim of the first program is to promote collaboration among all schools in the state to “develop, implement, and share programs, activities, and resources to facilitate the delivery of quality instruction, increase equitable access to high-quality learning experiences, and promote culturally- and linguistically-responsive learning environments for all students through the effective use of educational technology.” The second grant program assists in the professional development necessary to build the knowledge and expertise of K-8 teachers in the NYS Computer Science and Digital Fluency Learning Standards.
Texas’ 2018–2023 Long-Range Plan for Technology outlines specific strategic priorities for technology use in and outside the classroom to improve education. These goals are: 1) personalized, flexible, empowered learning; 2) equitable access; 3) digital citizenship; 4) safety and security; 5) collaborative leadership; 6) and reliable infrastructure. The plan details action steps for each goal. Under safety and security, one action point is to “develop and adhere to a software currency policy.” The plan also showcases local education agencies as examples of innovation. For example, under digital citizenship, one region was showcased for a program which “trains students on digital citizenship using customizable Open Educational Resources.”
Digital competency frameworks: There is no federally recognized digital competency framework. States are expected to aggregate and collect data locally. Each state may choose to use different assessment methods. For example, in 2021, Hawaii’s Digital Literacy and Readiness Study (DLRS) measured the state’s digital readiness using previous studies in Hawaii as well as a national benchmark survey conducted in 2015 by the Pew Research Center, an independent fact tank. There are four digital skills which are investigated: Basic/Operational Skills; Social Skills; Creative Skills; and Information/Navigation Skills. Oklahoma assigns a digital score based on a previous analysis of the Occupation Information Network (O*NET) database. In Seattle, Washington, different digital literacy frameworks were analyzed and used to create the Seattle Digital Equity Initiative Digital Skills Framework. Seattle’s framework is comprised of ten categories: communication, creation, device ownership, essential foundations (gateway skills), information skills, lifelong learning, mobile skills, online life, privacy and security, and workplace. Other possible digital competency frameworks utilized include the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Student Standards, Mozilla Web Literacy Framework, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: The 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) funding was primarily to be used for education technology including purchases of hardware, software, or connectivity products. The ESF was used to fund two grants, the Rethink K12 Education Models Grants (ESF-REM Grants) and the Reimagine Workforce Preparation Grants (ESF-RWP Grants). States who applied for the REM grant were to propose projects that: (1) provide funding through microgrants so parents can meet the educational needs of their school-age children through increased access to high-quality remote learning; (2) develop and/or expand high-quality course-access programs or statewide virtual school; or (3) demonstrates a rationale to address the specific educational needs of their States, as related to remote learning.
Several states have enacted new laws and policies following the COVID-19 pandemic, while others have amended existing laws. In 2021, Washington State passed 2021 House Bill 1365, which amended the Education Technology (2A.650) Act. The bill sought to provide technology consultation, procurement, and training for all school districts. To do this, it improved the existing Technology grant program which helped districts buy more digital devices and train school staff in using technology. The bill also added a new grant program to support media literacy and digital citizenship.
After the COVID-19 pandemic led to distance learning scenarios across the nation, thirty-eight states have since approved permanent virtual learning schools. This follows the trend over the past several years as measured by the National Education Policy Center. Other changes include improving teacher training in educational technology and revamping or developing new standards for digital literacy. New York developed the Quality Remote/Hybrid Teaching: The Flexible Futures Instructional Framework in 2022. The Framework’s main goals include building the capacity of teachers, implementing remote/hybrid learning for all students effectively and adapting and responding to evolving educational environments. Alongside the new framework for teachers, New York has also adopted new Computer Science and Digital Fluency Learning Standards. Meanwhile, Hawaii passed 2021 Act 158 (SB 242), which requires all public and charter elementary and middle schools to offer Computer Science. This followed Act 51 (HB 2607), in which a statewide Computer Science curricula plan was established; each public high school was mandated to offer at least one Computer Science course each school year.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: The Department of Energy is responsible for implementing federal energy policies. Universal access to electricity was achieved after the Rural Electrification Act was passed in 1936 which helped connect the entire country to the electric grid. States often have jurisdiction over local distribution and sale of electricity within the state. Only Texas’ electric grid is separate from the rest of the country. Currently, there is a shift towards renewable energies with the federal government funding programs that incentivize use through tax credits and cash grants. According to the Department of Energy, 100,000 public K-12 schools represent 5% of commercial building energy consumption. Under Local Law 97, New York City has begun a new initiative, dubbed “Leading the Charge,” in which the construction of all new city schools will be all-electric. The existing schools are also to be converted to all-electric heating by 2030.
The Efficient and Healthy Schools campaign is an interagency effort between the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Education. The campaign “provides recognition and technical assistance to school districts seeking to implement high-impact indoor air quality and efficiency improvements that will reduce energy bills and improve student and teacher health.” Funding was provided to states via the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), and 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
Computers and devices: The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides federal funding for schools to acquire educational technology for English learners. The 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act (also known as the COVID-19 Relief Bill) and the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (Sec. 7402) both included funding for devices for schools and families. The federal Affordable Connectivity Program by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides eligible households with a “one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.”
Many states have digital plans developed through the 2021 Digital Equity Act (DEA), which includes objectives involving student access to devices. For example, Washington State’s Technology Grant Program (RCW 28A.650.065) allows for school districts to apply for funding to further the state’s objectives in education technology. Objectives include, “attain a universal 1:1 student to learning device ratio”. North Carolina’s 2022 Digital Learning Plan also plans to provide each school unit with the ability to give every student to take home a digital learning device that meets their learning needs. Texas, through the Education Code - EDUC § 32.301 provides grants to school districts for the development of a technology lending program which provides students access to devices. Plans to deliver a 1:1 device policy was further detailed in the 2018–2023 Long-Range Plan for Technology.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all schools (96%) reported providing digital devices to students who needed them. In indigenous schools run by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), funds were allocated by congress in the 2020 CARES act to help with the purchasing of computers and other equipment necessary for distance education. However, there were many delays in the BIE’s ability to distribute the funding and sign off on school orders for computer equipment.
Internet connectivity: Broadband access is governed under the 1934 Communications Act (47 U.S.C. 254) amended by the 1996 Telecommunications Act, in which states are expected to preserve and advance universal broadband service in all regions of the Nation. The E-Rate program, under 254 of the 1934 Communications Act (47 U.S.C. 254), states that “elementary and secondary schools and classrooms, health care providers, and libraries should have access to advanced telecommunications services”. It then mandates that these services must be provided at a discounted rate and gives funding to schools which may be used to purchase computers used to access the internet, or to pay for direct costs associated with accessing the internet. Discounts range from 20-90% and are based on the school’s poverty level. Schools or libraries submit their request for competitive bids on the goods and services they need to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which posts them on their website. Companies can then offer their services and schools choose which product they believe fits them best. This program has been in effect since 1996.
The 2013 ConnectED initiative sought to connect 99% of American students to high-speed internet in schools and libraries. The recent federal Internet For All Initiative seeks to improve broadband access across the United States through multiple grant programs, the most recent being the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program and the three grant programs within the Digital Equity Act. The BEAD program aims to get all Americans online through partnerships between states, territories, communities, and stakeholders to build high-speed internet infrastructure. The grant prioritizes underserved locations. For example, Massachusetts will receive about 5 billion USD through the BEAD program and 1 billion through the Digital Equity Act. The 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act (also known as the COVID-19 Relief Bill) and the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act both included funding to provide internet services for schools and families. Seventy percent of public schools provided internet access at home to students who needed it during COVID-19 distance learning measures.
The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, under the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Division N, Title IX, Section 905, Public Law 116-260, 134 Stat. 1182), provided grants to expand access to and adoption of broadband service on Tribal land; or remote learning, telework, or telehealth resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. The BroadbandUSA’s Federal Funding site has compiled a list of all the funding opportunities the government provides which support broadband planning, digital inclusion, and deployment projects.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
Distance Education was mainly structured and planned at the district level, with states providing guidance documents and learning directives that were flexible. Only half of the states required districts to turn in their continuous learning plans for review. This led to a large variation of plans. In Michigan, many school districts didn’t even have a continuous learning plan until the governor required it by executive order. The plan must “provide alternative modes of instruction other than in-person instruction” and describes alternative modes of instruction as “modes of pupil instruction, other than in-person instruction, that may include, without limitation, partnerships with other districts or intermediate districts or community colleges or institutions of higher education, use of vendors, use of online learning, telephone communications, email, virtual instruction, videos, slideshows, project-based learning, use of instructional packets, or a hybrid of multiple modes of learning that still promote recommended practices for social distancing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” The executive order also provides guiding principles, such as “plan and deliver content in multiple ways so all students can access learning” and then expected districts to plan for how they would practice these principles. The Office of Educational Technology developed a distance learning guide for School Leaders, Teachers, and Parents and Families. The guides are intended to help schools make efficient use of technology to address the impact of any learning loss. It contains digital learning principles and practices that enable and empower students and teachers. The Teacher’s Distance Learning Guide follows four key goals, “Access, Digital Citizenship & Safety, and Privacy & Security; Personalize Learning for Students; Collaborate with Parents and Families to Support Students; and Teacher Professional Learning and Well-Being".
Every state provides online resources for districts, schools, teachers, and parents. Hawaii has a collection of EdTech tools on its STEM: Tech Tools page. South Carolina’s SC Remote Learning website contains many resources, such as at-home enrichment activities, lesson plans for younger grades, teacher toolkits, and other learning resources. In at least 37 states, public broadcasting networks help to provide some or all students with distance learning. Kansas organized the Continuous Learning page which contained the continuous learning framework, implementation model, and guidance document for districts to use when making their own response plans. The page also had resources for parents, teachers, and students. In the guidance documents, Kansas was one of the first states to provide suggested required learning time for different grades. The state recommended several platforms for local districts to choose from and encouraged teachers to use alternative resources outside of technology such as “continuous learning kits” that could be picked up and dropped off. California’s Distance Learning Consideration guidance document asks the local school districts to provide a variety of content delivery options such as “teacher interaction and assistance through online learning platform; online curriculum for students to work on independently at home; online curriculum in a computer lab or classroom, consistent with social distancing guidelines; paper packets of instructional materials for students to work on at home; or in-person settings, consistent with social distancing guidelines.”
As of the 2019-2020 school year, 40 states had virtual charter schools, which are defined in Wisconsin Statute § 115.001 (16) as “a charter school under contract with a school board in which all or a portion of the instruction is provided through means of the Internet, and the pupils enrolled in, and instructional staff employed by the school are geographically remote from each other.” Florida has the most; a third of all the virtual charter schools in the nation (222) are located in Florida as of the 2019-2020 school year. This may be in part due to Florida’s 2022 Digital Learning Now Act under Section 1002.321 of Title XLVIII, which requires the state districts to provide multiple opportunities for student participation in part-time and full-time kindergarten through grade 12 virtual instruction. The number of virtual schools are expected to increase as thirty-eight states have since approved them. Tennessee approved 29 new online schools for the 2021-22 academic year following the Tennessee Code Annotated §§49-16-201 through 216, the “2021 Virtual Schools Act” which allows local education agencies to establish virtual schools. According to this law, virtual schools must provide access to a sequential curriculum that meets or exceeds the academic standards adopted by the state board of education. The learning time must be the same and assessments should be given.
All 50 states are required to report to the U.S. Department of Education on technology literacy, using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) standards. States differ in their choices of digital literacy standards. Many have their own standards. For example, the New York State K-12 Computer Science and Digital Fluency Standards are used only in the state of New York and comprise five concepts: Impacts of Computing, Computational Thinking, Networks and Systems Design, Cybersecurity, and Digital Literacy. It will begin to be rolled out in the 2023-2024 school year. Others use the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for students. Previously, states also used the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which included Information, Media and Technology Skills as one of its main themes. Effective citizens were expected to have Information Literacy, Media Literacy, and ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) Literacy. National standards such as the Standards for Technological and Engineering Literacy (STEL), developed by the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA), may be also used by states to measure student digital literacy. The standards present the knowledge and skills that students have to achieve a high level of technological and engineering literacy. The eight core disciplinary standards are: Nature and Characteristics of Technology and Engineering; Core Concepts of Technology and Engineering; Integration of Knowledge, Technologies, and Practices; Impacts of Technology; Influence of Society on Technological Development; History of Technology; Design in Technology and Engineering Education; and Applying, Maintaining, and Assessing Technological Products and Systems. Benchmarks are provided at the grade levels PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Finally, there is a National K-12 Computer Science (CS) Framework which states can use to determine their own Computer Science courses. The framework consists of five core concepts of what students should learn that make up the key focus areas for CS education. There are seven core practices that describe how computationally-literate students should behave and their ways of thinking to fully engage in today’s data-rich and interconnected world.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a yearly assessment administered in schools throughout the US in grades 4, 8, and 12. As of 2014, Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) has been included in the tests. The assessment framework defines technological and engineering literacy as the ability to utilize, comprehend, and evaluate technology, as well as understanding the principles and strategies needed to create solutions and attain goals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The TEL assessment aims to evaluate three related areas of technology and engineering experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom: the impact of technology on society, design and systems, and information and communication technology. The 2018 NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy Framework further specifies the knowledge and skills related to TEL that students should possess in order to reach different levels of achievement, such as NAEP Basic, NAEP Proficient, and NAEP Advanced.
States differ on how they educate on technology. While some states integrate technology within the core curriculum, others have technology education as a standalone subject. In Florida, statute 1003.41 (TITLE XLVIII, Chapter 1003, Part IV), which sets the core content of the curricula to be taught in the state, mandates that curricula content must incorporate technology-literacy skills. However, technology is not a standalone subject. To graduate from the high school level, students are required to take one online course (online learning) or one blended learning course in the IT subject. The online course does not have to be related to technology. In January 2023, New Jersey (Bill S588) became the first state to require the skill “Information Literacy” to be incorporated into the state Student Learning Standards. Information literacy includes digital, visual, media, textual and technological literacy. Under this learning area, students are expected to “develop critical thinking skills while learning how to find, produce, and spread information online”. They must also learn to differentiate between facts and opinions. Technology is integrated throughout all other courses. The state of Washington developed its own K-12 Educational Technology Learning Standards based on the 2016 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Student Standards. The seven standards are Empowered Learner, Digital Citizen, Knowledge Constructor, Innovative Designer, Computational Thinker, Creative Communicator, and Global Collaborator. The assessments for educational technology are integrated into the core content areas.
Under the Texas Education Code (Sec. 28.002 Required Curriculum), the enrichment curriculum “technology applications” is for kindergarten through grade eight, and contains essential knowledge and skills such as “coding, computer programming, computational thinking, and cybersecurity”. According to Section 100.4 in the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, in New York, technology education was previously a standalone program of study. As of 2019, it has been placed within the career and technical education curriculum. The New York State Technology Education Learning Standards is made up of seven standards one of which is for students to be able to “apply technological knowledge and skills to design, construct, use, and evaluate products and systems to satisfy human and environmental needs.”
Almost all states have the curriculum called “career and technology education” or “career technical education” (CTE) which provides secondary education students with courses and programs designed to prepare them for careers in current or emerging professions. For example, California’s Career Technical Education Framework contains 15 industry sectors with 58 career pathways. Information Technology industry is one of the main sectors which is further split into four pathways: Information Support and Services, Media Support and Services, Network Communications, Programming and Systems Development.
The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act requires states to provide pre-service training and in-service professional development training on technology. Teachers, principals, and other school leaders must receive training on how to effectively integrate technology into curricula and instruction (including education about the harms of copyright piracy). They should also be able to deliver high-quality instruction and instructional leadership in technology and computer science topics. The 2002 Educational Technical Assistance Act (Title II of P.L. 107-279) authorized the Secretary of Education to award grants that would help states to “develop teacher and school leader in-service and pre-service training models that reflect best practices in the use of technology.”
The 2017 National Education Technology Plan recommends that all pre-service and in-service teacher training programs prepare teachers to “effectively select, evaluate, and use appropriate technologies and resources to create experiences that advance student engagement”. Teacher preparation programs, school systems, state and local policymakers, and educators should work together to provide teacher training opportunities which align with the state’s technology standards and are reflective of the increased connectivity of and access to devices in schools. The 2016 Advancing Educational Technology in Teacher Preparation policy brief contains four guiding principles for the use of technology in pre-service teacher preparation programs: 1) Focus on the active use of technology to enable learning and teaching through creation, production, and problem-solving; 2) Build sustainable, program-wide systems of professional learning and teaching; 3) Ensure pre-service teachers’ experiences with educational technology are program-deep and program-wide; and 4) Align efforts with research-based standards, frameworks, and credentials recognized across the field.
Each state determines its own standards for accrediting teacher preparation programs for teacher certification in accordance with their own individual needs and policies. Thirty-three states have partnered with the accreditation agency, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), which has its own standards for teacher candidates. The most recent 2022 CAEP Standards incorporated more specific standards for technology. For example, as part of Standard 1: Content and Pedagogical Knowledge, candidates are expected to “model and apply national or state approved technology standards to engage and improve learning for all students”.
The University of Michigan’s Educator Preparation Program, which is approved for the state teaching certification, has a curriculum which addresses each of the five ISTE Standards for Teachers and aligns with skills from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. The University of Rhode Island (URI) offers a Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy. In the category of “Human Capacity” of the 2022 North Carolina Digital Learning Plan, the Department of Public Instruction is given several objectives to ensure that “all staff have continuous access to quality professional learning that is utilized and accessed on a regular basis for continuous growth.” This includes providing professional development opportunities on digital teaching and learning for all staff and assessing state-wide and regional data to improve and personalize professional learning. While the state of North Carolina has adopted the ISTE Standards for Students, it has developed its own NC Digital Learning Competencies for Classroom Teachers based on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), and the NC Professional Teaching Standards.
Some states also require teachers who teach technology education to be appropriately certified. New York makes this requirement as part of Section 100.4 in the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. Using the funding provided by the Rethink K12 Education Models Grants (ESF-REM Grants), New York recently developed the Quality Remote/Hybrid Teaching: The Flexible Futures Instructional Framework which will help familiarize all educators with online teaching and learning. The Framework is comprised of four focus areas: planning & preparation, learning environment & delivery, assessment & reflection, and collaboration & communication. The focus areas are then described using four promising practices: encouraging global thinking, learning using multiple modalities, providing equity and access to rigorous instruction, and personalizing instruction using technology. Each focus area and promising practice combo is provided with various elements to guide teacher implementation and performance indicators. For example, in planning & preparation + learning using multiple modalities, “teachers plan to use technology to provide actionable, instructive feedback in multiple modes such as video and audio recordings”.
2.4.1. Data privacy
Student and family educational data is protected by section 444 of the 2020 General Education Provisions Act (commonly known as the ‘‘Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act’’ or FERPA) and the 1984 Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232h; 34 CFR Part 98). The 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) (15 U.S.C. § 6501–6505) protects the online personal information of children under age 13 and prevents developers from collecting information from a child without parental consent. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for enforcing this law. In response to emerging technologies and concerns about business models that depend on the online collection and monetization of consumers’ personal information, COPPA was revised to “hold third parties such as advertising networks liable for the collection of children’s personal information from child-directed Sites". It expanded the definition of personal information to include persistent identifiers used to target advertising to children. Under COPPA, mandatory data collection is prohibited, and companies must have strong security to protect children’s personal information. The information which is collected is limited in its use and retention.
The 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act requires that states train teachers on “the appropriate use of student data to ensure that individual student privacy is protected as required by FERPA and in accordance with State student privacy laws and local educational agency student privacy and technology use policies.” The act requires that all participating schools must have internet safety policies and technology protection measures in place. U.S. Department of Education, recognizing the importance of cybersecurity, provides various technical assistance and resources for both K-12 and higher education. This includes resources for students, parents, and school leadership staff.
The 2000 Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) aims to protect children from obscene or harmful content on the Internet. To receive E-rate discounts for Internet access, schools and libraries should have set appropriate safety policy including technology protection measures as set in the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The Readiness and Emergency Management for schools’ technical assistance center provides also guidance on the most common online threats facing students and what schools can do before, during, and after an incident
Most states have in place some laws or policies regarding the protection of student data. California was the first state to pass SOPIPA in 2014. SOPIPA applies to operators of websites, online services, or mobile applications who know that the Service is being used for K-12 school purposes or was designed and marketed for K-12 purposes. The law protects private information and prohibits targeted advertising, selling data, disclosing information, or the creation of profiles based on student data. Twenty-six states have since also passed a state Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA). Texas’ SOPIPA, under Texas Education Code - EDUC § 32, protects student information and prohibits it from being shared or used for advertising purposes.
Currently, a bill titled the “2022 Kids Online Safety Act” is being considered in the Senate. If passed, this bill would become the first online safety law at the federal level. The Act states that online platforms have a duty to act in the best interest of minors, ensuring that it has in place safeguards to protect minors and limit features that increase, sustain, or extend use of the covered platform by a minor. The act also includes statues on protecting the personal data of minors from other users or the public
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
According to the Pew Research Center, almost half of adolescents in the US report experiencing cyber bullying. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) under Section requires each school and library to adopt and implement an Internet safety policy. Students must not be able to access inappropriate online content or conduct illegal behaviors online. Part of this policy also includes educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including “interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms and cyberbullying awareness and response.” The federal government also has a Stop Bullying program and website, which provides resources for teachers, parents, and children. The website includes a list of state laws which apply to bullying. The government defines cyberbullying as “bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets”.
Every state in the US has a law in place which addresses bullying, though not all specifically include cyberbullying. Most of them require districts and individual schools to implement an anti-bullying policy and have in place procedures to report, investigate, and respond to bullying. For example, the Texas Education Code (Sec. 37.0832: Bullying Prevention Policies and Procedures) defines cyberbullying as “bullying that is done through the use of any electronic communication device, including through the use of a cellular or other type of telephone, a computer, a camera, electronic mail, instant messaging, text messaging, a social media application, an Internet website, or any other Internet-based communication tool.” The law mandates that school districts have in place a policy that prohibits bullying, establishes a reporting mechanism, and provides counseling services to the victim. Hawaii's Administrative Rules, title 8 chapter 19, which governs student misconduct and discipline, categorizes cyberbullying as a Class A offense for grades 9-12 and a Class B offense for grades K-8. Failing to report a Class A or Class B offense may also lead to disciplinary measures. The disciplinary measures may be decided on a case-by-case bases and depends on each school. In Maryland, the Education Code §7-424 details the state’s anti-bullying measures, including requirements for schools to develop reporting procedures and consequences for persons committing the act of bullying. Grace’s Law 2.0 (Criminal Law – Electronic Harassment and Bullying, 2019); (Maryland SB103/HB181), which updated the previous law passed in 2013, prohibits electronic communications or conduct that may cause physical or emotional distress to minors and makes the malicious use of internet-based communications a criminal offense. The crime is punishable by up to three years of imprisonment or a fine of up to $10,000, one of the harshest penalties in the US.
Louisiana and Minnesota both have in place screen time restrictions at the early childhood education level. Louisiana’s 2023 Early Learning Center Licensing Regulations Policy (§1509) states that “electronic device activities for children under age two are prohibited; and time allowed for electronic device activities for children ages two and above may not exceed two hours per day.” Similarly, Minnesota’s 2022 Prekindergarten and Kindergarten Screen Time Legislation states that “a child in a publicly funded preschool or kindergarten program may not use an individual-use screen, such as a tablet, smartphone, or other digital media, without engagement from a teacher or other students. This section does not apply to a child for whom the school has an individualized family service plan, an individualized education program, or a 504 plan in effect.”
The United States federal government is limited in its decision-making power. The US Department of Education administers federal level policies and laws in regard to education through federal grants. States must apply for the grant and administer state level policies that align with the federal one in order to receive the funds. States function similarly. Each state has a State Board of Education (SBE) and a State Department of Education (SDE) which governs their respective education systems. The states are then comprised of local districts which look over the local schools. The State Education Agencies (SEAs) publish guidelines and plans which the Local Education Agencies (LEAs) may use when designing their own strategic policies.
U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology (OET) develops educational technology policy on a national level and establishes the vision for how technology can be used to transform teaching and learning. Some states also have specialized offices specifically for Online Learning. For example, the Code of Washington, in the Online Learning section (28A.250.030), calls for the creation of an office of online learning. The office is responsible for coordinating between online providers and school districts as well as providing information and resources for students, parents, and educators. Texas, through the 2021 Education Code EDUC § 32.034, has developed a Center for Educational Technology, which conducts research, development, or site evaluation on existing and new applications of technology for educational purposes. A technology preview center and training program are also available for each local district. The Office of Educational Design and Technology in New York coordinates programs and initiatives that promote the effective integration of technology in order to improve teaching and learning in the state education system.
Whether or not students may bring a telecommunications device to school often depends on local school district policy or rules. For example, in Texas, under Education Code Sec. 37.082, “Possession of Paging Devices”, a school district may adopt a policy prohibiting a student from possessing a telecommunications device at school. The federal Office of Educational Technology has posted two examples of local districts which had previously implemented Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) policies; however, the current education technology trend is for 1:1 devices for students which are all provided by the district. For example, in 2009, a school district in Ohio implemented the Power Up Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program. Students in grades 6-12 were required to bring their own device from home. Students without their own devices were able to receive one from the district. The district now has a 1-to-1 Chromebook program where all students in grades five and nine receive a Chromebook which is theirs to use for the next four years. A district in Virginia allows families to opt out of the district provided device lending program and have their students use a family-owned device for learning instead. The district has an onboarding process for BYOD devices.