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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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ISTE Unveils New National Educational-Technology Standards: Beefed Up and Better

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger

The International Society for Technology in Education has unveiled the report "National Educational Technology Standards for Students: The Next Generation," which covers six key areas: creativity and innovation; communication and collaboration; research and information fluency; critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making; digital citizenship; and technology operations and concepts.

When the original NETS was published in 1998 -- it's hard to believe the standards are almost ten years old -- I recall viewing them as a nice set of benchmarks toward which many of us worked. At the time, I taught middle school and can still remember the challenge of teaching those concepts. I had barely enough equipment and little support, and I spent a lot of time teaching students how to click and drag. The mechanics far overshadowed true integration.

Fast forward ten years: Now I'm the father of an eleven-year-old daughter who, I swear, came out clicking! Thinking back to the original standards and knowing what Chloe is capable of now, I realize the importance of updating these standards. Technology is so much faster, smoother, and more reliable than it's ever been.

Our collective educator group is much more savvy as well, now that we've mastered clicking, dragging, and publishing to the world, as well as integrating more higher-order uses of technology into our learning environments. The new standards speak beyond the actual technology; just look at the topics listed above. The standards are not about pushing buttons -- they're about pushing our minds.

I think beefing up the standards was the best thing to do. Over the last few years, I've read some great books, done a lot of research, and worked in technology-rich schools all over the world, and I think we can all agree that these types of environments make for a more intellectually healthy student.

We all have high expectations for technology, so it makes sense to also raise our expectations of students' abilities with technology -- both in and out of the classroom. I'm still concerned that in a high percentage of classrooms, the original standards are barely addressed. (That percentage may be shrinking, but not fast enough; see my post "The Digital Divide Within.") In addition, this country still has not found solutions to the issues of home-based access and the digital divide, which quietly fester in the background. But if we don't raise these standards and our expectations of students' capabilities in technology, we won't have a common ground from which to advance.

I love the new standards. However, I don't want them to become a checklist or a fill-in-the-bubble sheet of isolated skills -- that goes against the grain of what they are about. I want to see classrooms where students thrive in the midst of rich content and in a flat world. I want to see classrooms in which teachers maximize the knowledge of all these born clickers and MySpace minds, and learning environments in which we share the excitement of these technologies while learning together. (See my post "Help Desks: Teenagers as Classroom Support.")

I'm going to follow these standards in a new Learner 2.0 class I'm teaching this fall, and I will encourage my peers to adhere to them as well. I'll post the syllabus here soon, and my fellow teachers and I will blog about our experiences as we incorporate these new lessons into our classrooms. Let me know what impact these standards have on you. Do you already have ideas about how to enrich projects with these standards in mind?

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former Edutopia.org blogger
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