On Nov. 9, advancing education with technology will take center stage at the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) Education Forum being held in Prince George’s County, Md.
At the forum, the National Education Technology Plan (NETP) will be unveiled. Penn Graduate School of Education (GSE) professor and learning scientist Yasmin Kafai is one of 15 scholars and K-12 practitioners who collaborated to draft the document. An expert in children's learning with digital media, Kafai teaches in GSE’s Learning Science and Technologies program.
While previous plans have focused on computer and internet access, Kafai says the new NETP plan presents a model for 21st century learning by suggesting the implementation of a universal design that increases access to learning both inside and outside the classroom.
Kafai compares universal design in education with a similar concept in architecture. Universal design in architecture, she says, focuses on creating easy access for all into modern buildings. From the outset, she explains, architects pay attention to the needs of individuals—including the physically disabled—who may face barriers in entering poorly-designed buildings.
“Ironically, almost every contemporary school building is universally designed, but the curricula and learning materials within them are not,” Kafai explains.
By making educational materials available in multiple formats and not just text alone, Kafai says technology increases access to a wider population of learners.
“For example, people with learning or cognitive disabilities, English language learners, individuals from different backgrounds or cultures, and many others,” she explains. “Technology is particularly well suited to accomplish this task.”
Kafai joined the GSE faculty in 2008 and has received international recognition for her research in computer science education.
Originally published on November 4, 2010