In 1998 the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) released National Education Technology (NET) standards “for the purpose of leveraging the use of technology in K-12 education to enable students to learn effectively and live productively in an increasingly digital society.” Today the standards are widely accepted as the benchmark for educational technology. There are standards for students, teachers, administrators, coaches and computer science educators, which makes them very broad and encompassing. These standards are excellent for when you have a stand alone model of technology education, much the same as at my current school. I see every class from kindergarten to grade seven for their own technology lesson once a week. In this session, I can spend time creating learning experiences for my students that help them meet the NET standards. However, what happens if your school has an integration approach to technology education? Maybe your school has a coach and that person works with teachers to integrate technology into the class. So who is responsibility for the NET standards in a circumstance like that? Is it all the teachers of a specific grade? Is it the coaches role to make sure each class is meeting the standards?

A Swiss Army Knife, like a computer is a versatile tool for many applications. So should it have it's own learning standards? Or should we use this tool to helps us meet other goals?

To answer these questions, I think you have to think about the school and it’s philosophy regarding technology. If technology is seen as a set of skills that each student must learn before they progress onto the more complex skills, with each skill requiring the previous to succeed and progress, then I guess you will need to rely on a detailed map of where, how and when each skills is taught. This could be compared to a senior Mathematics class, you can’t learn algebra if you don’t know basic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This style of addressing technology education is much more suited to stand alone technology lessons as there is one teacher that is responsible for the teaching of the skills and standards. The problem I find with this model is that modern computer skills are rarely the type of ‘build upon’ skills that they used to be. Sometimes you need to know how to use a mouse and keyboard, but sometimes you don’t. You may have a trackpad or a touch screen device which makes the mouse lessons taught earlier on irrelevant. The same thing applies to software. One example is keyboard shortcuts, what you learn in one piece of software may not work in another. And these two examples, hardware and software, are constantly changing. Skills we learn are usually stand alone, or need to be modified significantly to be transferred over into other applications. Or these skills change with a new software update or the integration of a new tool. So I believe teaching specific ‘skills’ and not seeing technology as a tool make the use of technology irrelevant to the 21st century learner.

If, like many schools, technology is expect to be integrated and used as something to supplement lessons and the curriculum, then chances are you have a tech coach that helps teachers develop learning experiences that incorporate technology into their classrooms. Some would say this person should be responsible for students meeting the NET standards. However, I think if your philosophy is that technology is used as a tool, then possibly the idea of technology standards needs to be rethought. We don’t have curricular for other tools we use at school such as pencils, base ten blocks, books, etc. We use those tools to help us help the students meet other standards. Isn’t technology supposed to be a tool that we use to help students learn content in other areas of the education? Just because it is an expensive, sometimes daunting tool, highly sophisticated tool, doesn’t mean it should have it’s own curriculum does it? Or am I way off?

What are your thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.