Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Technology Standards and a call for more resource teachers

I have to apologize for not posting sooner but with the birth of twins in my household I have had my hand full.

I have recently applied to be part of a team that is developing Educational Technology Grade Level Equivalencies (GLEs) for our state (Washington). I am not sure how many other states have GLEs for Ed Tech, but I for one am excited that we are finally doing this. I have worked in two school districts in my short time teaching and I have found that there are varying opinions when it comes to the standards movement in education. One could say there is almost one opinion for every teacher.

As I stated earlier I believe they are a good thing. Personally they have helped improve my teaching as well as given me spring boards to start from when I have been asked to teach subjects that are new to me. I have also found that with standards like the ones that the International Society of Technology Educators (ISTE) they help illustrate what needs to be taught. When I first started working in the Ed Tech field I had very little (as there was very little) experience in what students needed to know. The district I was working in had its district standards (or what they called standards) but these were more of a curriculum map for a curriculum that wasn't there. They talked about what students should be able to do at various grade levels (ex. Kindergarten-understand and use a mouse, basic understanding of keyboard layout). They were helpful to me in my role as a technology resource teacher but were of little help to the general ed teachers, if anything they served to further frustrate teachers with just one more thing that needed to be taught. As I began to read and understand the ISTE NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) for all levels (Students, Teachers, Administrators) I found that there was more than just basic computer operation to technology. The ISTE NETS also helped me to see that Ed Tech was not, and should not be a separate curriculum but should be integrated. They also helped me see how easily one could integrate (and in most cases already is) into what they are already doing. The NETs were and are very broad in what they ask of students which is good, but they also come with examples of technology integrated lessons. These example lessons show that integration is more than just plopping kids in-front of a computer and letting them research or type up a paper there is problem solving, data collection, and much much more. There is the use of digital calculators, probe-ware, MP3 players, GPS devices, presentation devices you name it. Our students are just salivating at the chance to utilize their technology (MP3 Players, Cell Phones, Gaming systems) in an academic way; they are just waiting for teachers to integrate it. However, with all the other things we must teach (and biases) technology often goes to the way side. Technology use and instruction is often times put into its own class (especially at the upper levels) where both students and teacher are forced to use technology in a stand-alone environment. I propose that continuing down this educational path will spell the death of technology integration.

Students need more than just a class on how to use technology, they need to see how technology can be and is interwoven into everything they do. This is where standards and technology resource teachers become crucial. With standards teachers will know what needs to be taught when. The basic structure will be in place to allow teachers to mold and adapt lessons that help students meet the standards that are set forth. Resource teachers (both building and district level) are needed to make this happen. I fully agree that regular classroom teachers have very little time in their day to modify or rework lessons they are using to meet state and district standards in reading, writing, math, science, etc. Having a resource teacher available to look at their lessons and assessments and make suggestions at where technology can be infused or integrated will eliminate the lack of time issue.

Resource teachers eliminate the lack of time issue regular ed teachers give in several ways. They provide a just in time training style for when students need to learn more about a specific program or hardware. The resource teacher would schedule time to teach how to utilize the technology in the context of the lesson that is being done in the regular classroom. They also serve as a support for the regular ed teacher that wants to teach certain aspects of technology on their own. The resource teacher would have the time to research best practices of technology use as well as assess and maintain records of how students are meeting the standards set by the state and federal government.

Well I think I have given enough for people to chew on for awhile and also I am hearing the call of my infant twins. I can't wait to read comments and get feedback.

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