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« Just how should educators be held responsible? | Main | The disconnect »
Saturday
Sep252010

BFTP: Do we need national technology standards?

A Saturday Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. Original post, Sept 26, 2005Given the proposed changes in E-rate in the new lately ...

The original goals of E-Rate – that all schools be connected to the Internet has by and large been accomplished nationally. But as we all know, connectivity alone does not an effective school make.

It will be up to ISTE or similar national organization to create new national infrastructure goals if they are going to be created at all. The chance for creating a strong vision by the federal government was fumbled by the Department of Education with its National Education Technology Plan – a largely worthless document. See my ”Directionless Dictates” column from the May 2005 Teacher Magazine.

Well written national standards are both useful and necessary for a number of reasons, and given ISTE’s success with its student, teacher and administrative NETS standards, it is the logical organization to tackle this job.

We have used ISTE’s NETS Standards for Students as a guide to writing both our state information literacy and technology student guidelines and our own local guidelines. In other words, good national standards for technology infrastructure would do more than simply provide a rationale for continued E-rate funding.

My experience is that few districts:

  • Know how they compare to other districts in their technology implementation efforts;
  • Can determine the direction they should be moving to improve technology utilization;
  • Can visualize a technology infrastructure that fully supports learning, teaching and managing.

A good set of technology standards - simple, quantitative, and research-supported - could be an authoritative voice that would help remedy these shortcomings.

The standards I most appreciate tend to take a rubric-like approach. In multiple categories, a district might judge itself as minimum, standard or exemplary in each category. And if the rubrics are concretely written, it would be readily apparent how a district could move from, say, a minimum to standard level in any category.

I would find standards in the following areas extremely helpful as I try to evaluate our district’s technology infrastructure and plan for improvement :

  1. Connectivity (LAN, WAN, and Internet I & II capacities)
  2. Security (firewalls, filters, policies)
  3. Tech support (technicians per computer, tech support response time, reliability rates, policies about technology replacement,)
  4. Administrative applications (student information systems, transportation, personnel systems, payroll systems, data mining systems, home-school communication systems, online testing)
  5. Information resources (e-mail, mailing lists, blogging software, online learning software, commercial databases, library automation systems)
  6. Staff training resources, requirements and opportunities
  7. Staff/computer rations and student/computer ratios (exemplary here might be the one-to-one initiatives)
  8. Technology/content area curricula integration (articulated student technology skills embedded in the content areas, assessments)

Each rubric, of course, would need to be accompanied by the research/rationale that supports its inclusion.

What do you think ISTE? Are you up to the challenge? In what other areas might standards be written to help guide districts and power the argument for continued E-rate funding?

Note: After five years, I have seen nothing written that is concrete, measurable or useful. I believe it stems from schools really not wanting to answer the uncomfortable questions that arise from being compared to other schools.

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Reader Comments (3)

This may sound like a cop-out, but I think standards are a scary thing when it's hard to see what is around the corner. Tech moves so fast. What is comfortable today is outdated tomorrow and then something new takes its place. Hard to nail down just where we should all be. Not an excuse, but I think it's an aspect that may make it difficult to make a concrete plan. Taking into account that the standards may have to be rewritten fairly often, or vague enough to allow for change would be a challenge.
Also, we all know that "having" the technology is not the same as "using" the technology. Availability of equipment, etc. is just the first step. We could all be on the same level, having the same equipment, but using it effectively to increase student success is another. What some districts accomplish with minimal technology is amazing while there are districts with mega-tech budgets that have smartboards still sitting in boxes in the corner because nobody wants/takes the time to learn how to use them. I'm not sure how to compare those situations. I think standards would have to address that. But I agree, something to follow and work toward would be a help in planning and in presenting to the school board!!

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

Great note, Doug. I believe the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan is a good general approach and should not be over-politicized. It seems to be moving the ball in the right direction. The educational community should use it for the good parts and reconsider anything that doesn't seem to work. Far better to keep the dialog going than to throw stones as so many seem to do.

I concur that a rubric is a good approach. KISS and Keep It Positive, Productive, and Collaborative. Rubrics are good at pointing the way toward increasing improvement.

I also believe, with Shelly perhaps, that we can't lose sight of what the technology is supporting, i.e., learning and development. If we keep that in mind, I don't believe any technology will come along that we can't handle by first considering how it will affect learning, and student/teacher engagement, motivation, and collaboration.

Finally, technology goes well beyond the classroom and standards should be set for administrative use, as well as parental, community, and industry/academic use in support of K-12 learning. We're only scratching the surface on the ways that technology can work to support our nation's next leaders.

September 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Butt, School Director

Hi Shelly,

I would agree that such standards would need to be re-visited, revised often. Does this mean we shouldn't have them, though?

Doug

Hi Jim,

I agree with all you write. I need to go back and look at the 2010 plan. But without metrics, I don't think such plans help much.

Doug

September 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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