Encouraging Technological Literacy in the Richmond City Schools: The Standards Have Provided Legitimacy for the Teaching of Elementary Technology

Article excerpt

Getting Started

Richmond City Schools provided elementary teachers the opportunity to take Project UPDATE 1, an outreach graduate course from The College of New Jersey, in the summer of 1998. We began to implement elementary technology into our classrooms that fall. Some of the teachers from this core group continued with UPDATE 2 in the summer of 1999 while a new group of teachers took UPDATE 1. During the 2000-01 school year, Richmond continued to provide Project UPDATE 1 classes, using two of its teachers from the original core group as trainers in cooperation with The College of New Jersey.

Supporting Good Teaching with STL

Teachers in Richmond are in the process of beginning to grasp the essential elements presented in ITEA's Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (STL). As supporters of elementary technology education, they realize STL has been published at an opportune time. The standards have provided legitimacy for the teaching of elementary technology, the methods teachers use to implement technology instruction, and the ways technology projects are linked with the state-required Standards of Learning objectives. This year, teachers in Richmond have begun to link ITEA's Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology with our technology activities. We have discovered that it is relatively natural to integrate Technology and Society standards 4, 5, 6, and 7 from STL with our History/Social Science SOL objectives. Standards 8, 9, and 10 from STL deal with Design and are facilitated through the project approach that we use with our design briefs. Abilities of a Technological World standard 11: "Students will develop abilities to apply the design process," is also supported with our project design briefs. Some of the standards from the strand titled The Designed World fall under the projects that require the children to design and build shelters, bridging structures, and vehicles.

Planning for Technology Education

In Richmond, technology projects are usually developed using a design brief. Children are provided a project description that provides some background about the problem, the challenge itself (design and build ...), limitations that must be met, and what materials can be used. This is referred to as a design brief. The children then follow the design process, which encourages them to work together to make sure they understand the problem, brainstorm many varied solutions, create the solution they think is best, test the solution, and then evaluate the solution they created. As they move through this process when dealing with more complex projects, such as Storm Proof Homes, they are often directed by a guided portfolio. Since the curriculum in Virginia is driven by the state Standards of Learning (SOL), it is necessary to integrate the study of elementary technology with the state curriculum while trying to avoid adding additional content for teachers to cover. To make it work, the teachers continually identify ways to blend technology into the curriculum that the city is implementing. As teachers look for ways to link technology with the SOL in their classrooms, they look at the generic activities that many elementary school teachers use. Things like making name tags, seasonal greeting cards, invitations, seasonal gifts, art projects, and social studies and science projects immediately spring to mind. Teachers recognize an abundance of activities that can be done without adding to the already demanding state Standards of Learning objectives. Also, teachers are encouraged to adapt that which already works into technology design projects.

Implementing Technology Education

Teachers usually begin with a simple project the first week of school. September presents the opportunity for the children to make name cards to identify their desks for each other and for parents on "Meet the Teacher" night. …