National Educational Technology Standards: Raising the Bar by Degrees

By Bennett, Jerry | Multimedia Schools, May-June 2000 | Go to article overview

National Educational Technology Standards: Raising the Bar by Degrees


Bennett, Jerry, Multimedia Schools


Why have technology standards for teachers?

I visited a classroom not long ago to set up for a professional development session. The teacher directed me to a computer and said he would be right with me. I sat down next to a seventh grader who was doodling on a piece of paper, obviously bored. The teacher was laying out a writing assignment much as I was given in elementary school many years ago. The student was watching me check out the computer then get online. He asked what browser I preferred. We discussed the strengths and weaknesses of various browsers. He said that his dad had an ISDN line installed at his house. He described his computer and favorite sites. I asked about the assignment and he promptly got online and showed me several excellent sites that included a variety of photographs, sound clips, and other multimedia resources that related directly to the assignment. I mentioned the material to the teacher who informed me that the students were not allowed online for assignments--only for "free time."

There is a growing gap between the educational experience of a child who has access to various forms of technology with a tech-savvy teacher and children who have the gadgets and a teacher who doesn't know how to use them or has no gadgets. Most teachers have had access to some form of technology for years, but still do not incorporate its use into instruction. This nation has spent millions of dollars on training, yet many computers, multimedia workstations, digital cameras, and other electronic devices sit unused or as bookshelves with the copying machine as the only modern device in constant operation. Why? I believe that our teachers are so overwhelmed with the day-to-day work of teaching that they are unwilling or unable to make the transition to new forms of instructional delivery. Teachers will not change until they are required and trained to do so. Professors who teach our college students will not change until they are required and trained to do so.

We have two emerging crises in this country. One is the lack of teachers who can effectively teach our children what they need to know to survive in a technological/information age world. The other is a lack of teachers to fill our classrooms. Herein lies an inherent, paradoxical danger: NETS (National Education Technology Standards) can act as impetus to bring technologically illiterate teachers forward, but if it is used nationally as a requirement for teacher licensure, it may further restrict the number of licensed teachers.

Nationally, we need to figure out how to bring more qualified teachers to the classroom and we must do it quickly! One estimate is that California will need 15,000 more teachers than all colleges in California will produce next year. Large class sizes will drive more teachers out of education. I believe that NETS can be a standard of minimal knowledge. I believe that we must rethink how we train teachers (and perhaps who trains teachers), and we must do it quickly.

What Kind of Lever?

How do you move a large mass? Archimedes said he could move the world with a lever. What kind of lever is needed to move the large numbers of teachers into the information age? Many levers have been tried, with little success.

The "purchase the levers and they will use it" approach was used. Millions, perhaps billions, of dollars worth of hardware and software was pushed into teaching arenas with little effect on classroom practices.

A much smaller dollar amount, millions, has been spent on "staff development" that leaves participants knowing more about technology. The problem is that teachers return to old practices in the classroom. Teachers are writing better letters, doing better garage sale signs, and better birthday banners but, in general, kids are not seeing a change in instruction.

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