In Pursuit of Tech Standards

The Ohio Department of Education is soliciting feedback through December 31 on their new Technology Learning Standards. [Update (1/12/16): many of the links are now broken, but the new standards are here.]

This is frustrating. And, largely, meaningless.

The new standards are a revision of the 2003 Academic Content Standards for Technology (another link here, since the ODE one is going to break soon). The 2003 standards were a monumental exercise in compromise. They were essentially based on the original ISTE Standards from 1998. But because “technology” has many different definitions, and a8720604364_85c5931a14_zt the time, there was a lot of money available to schools wanting to improve the ways they use technology in schools, everyone wanted in on the action. The industrial technology folks pushed to include more standards related to CAD, CNC, robotics, and manufacturing. The digital arts proponents wanted standards for digital and graphic design. The business department saw technology through the productivity lens, and lobbied for so-called computer literacy and productivity standards. The media folks saw the information literacy train coming, and jumped on board. The result was a 360-page behemoth that was impossible to implement.

It was interesting, at the time, that we had technology standards at all. Beginning with the SchoolNet Plus program in 1995, the state’s goal was to integrate technology into the classroom. Every conversation focused on instructional integration. Funding was provided for CLASSROOM technology, and schools were emphatically discouraged from building computer labs and other structures that separated the technology from classroom instruction. So it was odd that these technology standards came along at the end of the Academic Content Standards era. Tech hadn’t been included in the Language Arts standards or Math standards or Science standards. Despite the stated objective of integrating tech, they didn’t actually do it when writing the standards.

digifest-digital-screenSo while we were unwrapping standards and mapping assessments and trying to come to terms with the idea that all schools should be teaching the same thing in fifth grade math, technology was added on. These standards were tied to funding through the e-rate process. Schools were forced to explain in their technology plans how technology integration was being accomplished at every grade grade level in every subject area. Our district may have included some snarky responses in this area, especially when explaining how we were integrating technology into middle school physical education (we weren’t) and elementary foreign language (a subject we don’t teach).

To say the least, it was an uphill battle. Schools were rated based on reading and math scores. Those tests measured student achievement of the standards in those areas, which did not include technology. We were assured that technology would be fully integrated into the next generation of academic content standards. In the meantime, we would do what we could to prepare our students for success in our technology-rich culture without actually requiring anyone to use any technology anywhere.

So when the new content standards came along in 2010, they should have finally included the technology components that we’ve been talking about integrating into the core subject areas for a generation now. Finally, we’re going to make sure our students have the technology skills they need. We’re going to embed them in the core subjects, and we’re going to use them to help differentiate instruction, improve student collaboration and communication skills, and increase the academic rigor of our academic programs. Our students will increasingly analyze and synthesize content from multiple sources, and will use their critical thinking skills to combine knowledge in new ways to solve complex problems.

Except that they may have forgotten to include technology in the new standards. Again.

So, here we are. We’re developing new tech standards. We’re basing those standards on Ohio’s ridiculous 2003 standards, instead of building on the national and international work that’s been done in the last 20 years. We reduced the number of standards to make it easier to implement them. We are making them intentionally vague so schools can claim to be implementing them without actually having to change anything they’re already doing. We will push these standards out to the schools with no support and no directive to use them. And we’ll wonder why there’s not a common set of technology standards implemented across the state with fidelity. We’ll complain that our students don’t have the skills they need to compete internationally. We’ll talk about how irrelevant our schools are. All of the kids in school now will grow up and graduate and they’ll be replaced with a new set of students looking to us to prepare them for their future.

Then, we’ll do it again.

Photo Credit: Lupuca on Flickr.
Photo Credit: JISC and Matt Lincoln.