Standards are a part of life for a teacher. Just about every state has developed curriculum standards, and in South Carolina these form the basis of the PACT test. The standards change on a regular basis, and it seems that about the time correlations with materials are completed, they change again.
Technology standards are even harder to pin down. The National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) from ISTE have been around for several years now. However, the TSA has also released its standards for students, and some of these conflict with the ISTE standards. One focuses on computer technology, and the other tries to include many forms of technology. Among my South Carolina colleagues, over the past couple of months there has been increased discussion of developing our own set of standards for students, probably adopted from the ISTE standards.
My first reaction is, "Why?" I think it’s a good idea to have a general set of guidelines such as NETS, but I don’t think we need a separate set of standards for technology, especially true if we’re talking about testing students and holding districts responsible for meeting these standards. If we want technology to be truly seamless, and truly integrated into the curriculum, then any technology standards should be meshed with the existing standards. These integrated standards should not be anywhere near as detailed as the NETS standards – they should be very broad, and adaptable to changing technologies.
This is not such a far-fetched idea. We don’t have a separate body of standards for research or writing skills. These are often found in the SC standards as "Process Skills." I believe that it is more important for students to develop media process skills, rather than standards that will specify that a third grader should be able to create a simple spreadsheet. However, this level of integration is never going to occur as long as there is such a huge divide between "Instructional Technology Specialists" and "Curriculum Specialists."
In an ideal setting, there would only be curriculum specialists. These specialists would have a broad knowledge in all areas of curriculum standards, including technology. This isn’t going to happen. Each person has their strengths and levels of expertise – science, arts, and, yes, technology. The best compromise is to make sure that people who are well-versed in instructional technology are included as part of a curriculum team. This is true for school level teams, district level, and all the way to state level.
States impose technology imperatives on schools via student technology standards, technology competency standards for teachers and technology tests for students. Districts must demonstrate that they are loading all teachers onto the technology bandwagon.
National educational organizations pile on the pressure with documents and products all pushing technologies upon teachers like some kind of religion. Their publications – jammed with ads – help vendors roll out "The Next Big Thing" in technology.
And yet we have no credible evidence that all of this technology sound and fury signifies anything worthy…
…It is time that schools stick to their knitting and stop doing technology for the sake of technology. It is time for state leaders and politicians to back down from the pressure to "do technology." Schools and teachers should be using new technologies only when they serve the primary mission of schools – teaching students to think, solve problems, make smart decisions, read with understanding, interpret information and communicate effectively.
Technology standards should focus on process skills such as media literacy, and should be developed in conjunction with curriculum standards. I think back to a set of standards I developed in the early 80’s, which included things such as DOS prompt commands. That set of standards would be completely useless with today’s technology. If a student wants to delve into the inner workings of computers or other technology, courses should be available, but that should not be forced on all students. Integration should be the overall goal, and a separate body of standards for technology only work to defeat that goal.