A 2005 interview with Susan Patrick on the National Educational Technology Plan taught me that our government has at least the philosophical tools to support the curricular transformation of our schools. What strikes me as odd is the fact that I am just now reading the NETP for the first time. I hope to explain a bit about why I think this is odd in my particular instance. Though the article is now three years old, it contains more than enough fuel for action even to this day. Speaking from a Midwestern school district near the geographical center of our country, I can say that the number of people I could find tomorrow who have even read this now-aging document would be frighteningly small.
Still, what concerns me even more is the fact that our current national administration seems to be quite good at marketing when it wants to. There are a million examples evident if only in snapshots of our boss speaking. It is so common to be hit over the head with messages that we are expected to see as important that this strategy is frequently spoofed on the web. If kickoff speeches warrant this much attention to detail in crafting a message we can all swallow, surely those in the Department of Education could do a little more to push this very solid piece of work (NETP) to the forefront. Perhaps I am making the silly assumption that all branches of our current governmental tree are similar in girth.
For the past year or so, I have been relying on the NETS from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). This framework sets out technology proficiency standards for students, teachers and administrators. I have long enjoyed looks on the faces of teachers when they first get a look at these standards. In my little corner of the world, it is pretty standard for high school teachers to have little technological proficiency.
It is almost an accepted joke to hear teachers throw out the, “I’m so technologically illiterate” line. You really can hear laughter about that one. I wonder why it isn’t acceptable to hear statements from math teachers like, “I am so arithmetically illiterate.” Or perhaps just simple comments from any teacher along the lines of, “Wow- I know little to nothing about sound instructional strategies.” I doubt those comments would garner much laughter in an even remotely professional setting. And yet- the one that has always, and in many circles still is acceptable, is the one about technological literacy. I was certainly influenced by one of Karl Fisch’s award-winning blog posts from this past September entitled: “Is It Okay To Be A Technologically Illiterate Teacher?”
I know it’s not okay. I know that adding technology to the lives of teachers is not generally a positive thing for kids. In fact, it is usually a negative when it negatively impact the morale of their teachers. I know that it is better when teachers are integrating technology into their lessons by informed self-choice. What I believe in most of all is an approach that blends technology and best practices in constructivist theory, thereby transforming the curriculum into something that approximates the needs of our students graduating today.
So what we have at hand today is a document released by the U.S. Department of Education in 2004, that sits on a website at ed.gov. We have a continually-revised set of technology proficiency standards (NETS) that move with the times and are unveiled anew at NECC conferences. We also have teachers and technology specialists like Karl Fisch and others who are beginning to make this happen on the ground floor through grassroots efforts and the blood and sweat of the many inspired teachers they influence.
In my opinion, there is only one way we will successfully transform the national high school curriculum. I’d rather not go on any further about who might be able to accomplish this feat. Isn’t it obvious who is getting this done?