Have to Have to

A subset of my tech team met today to work on the implementation of the Technology Academic Content Standards. These standards have been adopted by the Ohio Department of Education. While school districts are not technically required to use them, it is strongly recommended that we do so. In fact, the tool that school districts are required to use to develop our technology plans forces the districts to explain how and when (not if) they’re going to implement the tech standards. The rumor that a test is on the horizon also makes it imporant for us to at least start working on this.

For the uninitiated, there are seven tech standards. Each standard has multiple benchmarks at each grade level, and each benchmark has one or more indicators. In all, there are 1151 indicators for technology for grades K-12.  Our initial intention was to indentify where we’re currently meeting the standards with projects the teachers are already teaching. After all, technology is supposed to be integrated into the other subject areas. Surely, ODE had this in mind when they wrote the standards. So all we really need to do is locate where these standards are in the other curricular areas, and we’ll be home free.

The problem is that some of the indicators don’t really fit into the current curriculum. In fourth grade, for example, Standard 6, Benchmark A, Indicator 2, it says "Generate solutions for solving a problem using the design process using information collected about everyday technological problems." That’s kind of science, but not really. We’ll have to find somewhere to put it. How about Standard 7, Benchmark C, Indicator 1, also for fourth grade: "Describe technological advances that have made it possible to create new devices, repair or replace certain parts of the body, and provide a means for mobility." Clearly, we’re going to have to do more than we’ve been doing. I can’t say that this really surprised us — if technology were truely integrated with the curriculum, it wouldn’t be in a different book.

So, our next approach was to build a knowlegebase to help the teachers. If they could search by standard, benchmark, indicator, and grade level, and find lesson plans to meet those indicators, they’d be able to teach the standards without having to individually re-invent the wheel. We can start by documenting what we’re doing now. Then, we can incorporate some of the resources from ODE and other sources. Our teachers can add and annotate resources to build the knowlegebase, and we can get other districts involved, too (three different organizations have already expressed interest, and we’ve only been talking about it for a week). The result would be a database of ready-to-use teaching resources, available to everyone, to help address the content standards. In the spirit of educational collaboration, the resource would be publically available, and teachers from all over the state would be welcome to participate.

So, I talked to my team about it today. "If we put this together," I asked, "would our teachers contribute to it?" The consensus of the group — which consisted of three K-5 teachers and a computer lab manager, was that they wouldn’t. If prodded, they might provide a general sense of the kinds of things they do with technology, but they certainly wouldn’t be willing to actually document it and provide a ready-to-use resource for other teachers. I backtracked a bit. "Well, if we were to build this, and pay people to put it together, would our teachers at least use it?" Not unless they have to.

So where does that leave us? We have to make them have to. That’s going to take buy-in from the upper administration, the principals, and the teacher’s union. It’s going to be a long road. In the meantime, we’ve started taking another approach to the content standards. We’re going to classify each indicator as (A) already or easily met through existing classroom instruction, (B) valuable, but needing a project or unit to teach, or (C) not practical to address at this time. We’ll weed out the (C)s, provide some tips for teachers on the (A)s, and then focus on the (B)s. This year, we’ll focus on providing opportunities and resources to help teachers. It’ll be a while before we can force it, though, and until that happens we won’t be totally successful.