As a school leader who recently sold my community on the importance of moving to a one-to-one environment where every student has access to a web-based device, I believe strongly that our students will be more literate than students in other schools who do not have access to web-enabled devices. A look at the world outside of our schools and the technological resources being accessed in so many professions that allow people to work “smarter” is a clear indication of the track that our students need to be on in order to be able to function in the “real world.”
The biggest stumbling block in schools even if we can get the devices is the proficiency level of the adults in the building in utilizing the technology resources effectively. This is not meant to be an indictment of educators, but it is a critical question that we all have to look at, assess, and then move forward. Technological tools/resources can assist educators in some of our biggest undertakings (i.e. common core standards integration, teacher evaluation, providing relevant professional development, etc.). However, because so many educators in schools are not comfortable with the most modern literacy skills we are not able to make better progress.
Are these your literacy standards?
From an educator’s perspective there are a few places that we can turn for a concrete look at the standards. The best resources for modern literacy standards are the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Let’s start with NCTE. The Definition of 21st Century Literacies listed below was adopted by NCTE in 2008. While you look at the list below, think about how many educators in your community are comfortable in these areas.
- Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
- Build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally
- Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes
- Manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
- Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
- Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments
As educators, we need to be able to start to list concrete examples of how we meet each of these standards and then assist our students in doing the same.
What about the ISTE standards?
Like NCTE, ISTE also provides us clear standards to help schools better prepare students in the digital age. Unfortunately, the vast majority of educators look at the ISTE standards as technology standards when in reality they are learning standards. As the introduction to the standards states on the ISTE website, “Technology has forever changed not only what we need to learn, but the way we learn.”
Like the NCTE standards, ISTE’s contain six focal points:
- Creativity and Innovation
- Communication and Collaboration
- Research and Information Fluency
- Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
- Digital Citizenship
- Technology Operations and Concepts
As with the NCTE standards, I question how many of these our staff members are comfortable with at this point.
Is this even on our radar?
So as we look towards the new things on the agenda for schools throughout our country like common core implementation and new teacher evaluation methods, I am worried that the integration of technology is still looked upon as a detached task that will have to be kept on the back burner. The reality of the situation, however, is that if we understand how to utilize the vast array of collaborative resources out there that we can accomplish our tasks more effectively. But we cannot even start down this road if we do not provide access.
There is a great quote about technology in Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”: “Technology alone is not going to move an organization or an individual from Good to Great. However, technology that is thoughtfully deployed can help us move a bit faster. ”
In closing, I have to mention the seven survival skills that Tony Wagner discusses in his book “The Global Achievement Gap,” skills that our students need whether they are going on to college or the workplace.
- Critical thinking/problem solving
- Collaboration/leading by influence
- Agility and adaptability
- Initiative and entrepreneurialism
- Effective oral and written communication
- Accessing and analyzing information
- Curiosity and imagination
We cannot get where we need to go, if we as educators do not model these skills and we cannot model these skills if we do not provide learning environments where staff and students have access to digital resources that allow them to experiment and discover the power of being a connected learner. We are at a point where we have to consider whether or not those who are learning in “disconnected” environments can be called literate by today’s standards.
So as you are thinking about whether or not a BYOT or one-to-one initiative is right for your school, you need to ask yourself the following question: Is it important that students in our school are literate?
Patrick Larkin (@patrickmlarkin) is the assistant superintendent for learning for Burlington Public Schools in Massachusetts. He is a former high school principal and former commission member of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.