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ISTE Unveils New National Educational-Technology Standards: Beefed Up and Better

Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former blogger
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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?

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Chris O'Neal

Educational consultant and former blogger

Comments (7) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Bonnie Bracey-Sutton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Standards many

Think about participatory culture and ways in which you make decisions based on YOUR purposes

I am looking more at Henry Jenkins, white paper, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Free on the Internet
Henry Jenkins, Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published this white paper that explores new frameworks and models for media literacy.
Download the white paper.

Media Education for the 21st Century. They speak more to me of what I think should be done. Take a look and see.. some of the ideas are similar but many are not the same.

Tell me what you think? This is all of his work, and it is free to help us think deeply about collaborative uses of media, not just the Internet.

From his paper....

Forms of participatory culture include:
Affiliations-- memberships,formal and informal,in online communities centered around various forms of media,such as Friendster,Facebook,message boards, metagaming,game clans,or MySpace).

Expressions-- producing new creative forms,such as digital sampling,skinning and modding,fan videomaking,fan fiction writing,zines,mash-ups).

Collaborative Problem-solving-- working together in teams,formal and informal, to complete tasks and develop new knowledge (such as through Wikipedia,alternative reality gaming,spoiling).

Circulations -- Shaping the flow of media (such as podcasting,blogging).

A growing body of scholarship suggests potential benefits of these forms of participatory cul-
ture,including opportunities for peer-to-peer learning,a changed attitude toward intellectual
property,the diversification of cultural expression,the development of skills valued in the modern workplace,and a more empowered conception of citizenship.

Access to this participatory culture functions as a new form of the hidden curriculum,shaping which youth will succeed and which will be left behind as they enter school and the workplace.

Some have argued that children and youth acquire these key skills and competencies on their own by interacting with popular culture.

Three concerns,however,suggest the need for policy and pedagogical interventions:

The Participation Gap-- the unequal access to the opportunities,experiences,skills,and knowledge that will prepare youth for full participation in the world of tomorrow.

The Transparency Problem-- The challenges young people face in learning to see clearly the ways that media shape perceptions of the world.

The Ethics Challenge-- The breakdown of traditional forms of professional training and socialization that might prepare young people for their increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants.

Educators must work together to ensure that every American young person has access to the skills and experiences needed to become a full participant,can articulate their understanding ofow media shapes perceptions,and has been socialized into the emerging ethical standards that should shape their practices as media makers and participants in online communities.

A central goal of the report is to shift the focus of the conversation about the digital divide from questions of technological access to those of opportunities to participate and to develop
the cultural competencies and social skills needed for full involvement.

Schools as institutions have been slow to react to the emergence of this new participatory culture;the greatest opportunity for change is currently found in afterschool programs and informal learning communities.

Schools and afterschool programs must devote more attention to fostering what we call the new media literacies:a set of cultural competencies and social skills that young people need
in the new media landscape.

Participatory culture shifts the focus of literacy from one of individual expression to community involvement.

The new literacies almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking.These skills build on the foundation of traditional literacy,research skills,technical skills,and critical analysis skills taught in the classroom.

The new skills include:

Play-- the capacity to experiment with one's surroundings as a form of problem-solving

Performance-- the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation
and discovery

Simulation-- the ability t interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes

Appropriation-- the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content

Multitasking-- the ability to scan one's environment and shift focus as needed to salient details.

Distributed Cognition-- the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities

Collective Intelligence-- the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with
others toward a common goal

Judgment-- the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information

Transmedia Navigation-- the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities

Networking-- the ability to search for,synthesize,and disseminate information

Negotiation-- the ability to travel across diverse communities,discerning and respecting multiple perspectives,and grasping and following alternative norms.

It is a lot more work. But I think necessary.
The ISTE Standards are a start.

Bonnie Bracey-Sutton

Abdullah Sujee's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I really agree with the article but, in South Africa we see things developing more slowly. The fact that new technologies will not invalidate the reasons to learn how read and write, the disparity between policy and practice is getting bigger. Therefore, we are now witness to the vast digital divide that is overlayed by the issues of poverty, lack of basic resources and the lack of teacher roll out i.e. from Higher Education institutions. In effect, when we implement the six key areas we need to know that children are more aware and mechanical with the available hardware and software and the integration of these technologies into the classroom must as natutal as possible - I mean think about it, the pen is a word processor and its use is so natural. When I went to the Innovation Teachers Awards in the USA (2006 November) organised by Micrsoft I realised that teachers across the world are using technology but, the bulk are not and for many of us who use ICT, it is not natural. As Trevor Smith, Frankston High School Australia, would say that we give our children 'Death by PowerPoint' therefore, we need to see how we can train teachers to be innovative and creative to implement the six key areas in the most natural way by keeping the context in mind.

Erik Rich's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have to agree, I think these changes are definitely a step in the right direction but my biggest concern about International Standards is the amount of time it will take individual states to adopt these standards and make a conscious effort in educating students about the new technologies and using problem solving and critical thinking skills. These organizations are great at coming up with innovative ideas but I live and work in education where things are slow.

Aya's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

With the new technology standards on the horizon I created a new blog aimed at helping classroom teachers integrate technology into their existing curriculum. I hope that it is helpful!

David Carpenter's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Your description of where we are today with our digital children compared to 10 years ago along with the higher order learning we teach for is a nice introduction to the new ought to send this piece over to ISTE :)

The next step is to paint the picture of what the new benchmarks might look like in our classrooms. I believe the folks at Learning and Leading with Technology are going to do this. Your students should have fun this Fall coming up with real classroom instructional strategies and assessments connecting the Learner 2.0 students to the NETS.

MDLopez's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

These new standards are awesome, and are going to make it clear to many old-school teachers that they need to get out of the rote, worksheets, drill and kill way of teaching and into more cooperative, critical thinking ways of teaching.

Technology is a neutral canvas, a tool, that can be used for both continuing the old ways, but more importantly, by disrupting this model and infusing classrooms with more livell, engaging and rewarding teaching and learning.

Good luck to all of us that are looking into, dabbling in and are still new to this new way of teaching!

K. Berry's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach a middle school pre-engineering and technology careers (tech ed) class and these new standards are exactly what I have been pushing. We cannot teach the students the answers to questions they don't even know to ask because the jobs they will have in 10 years do not currently exist - but we can teach them how to find the answers when they need them by using these new standards. I have printed them out and intend to share them with as many of my collegues as possible and post them in my classroom for the students to see. This is exciting stuff!

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