Thursday, March 29, 2007

Combating students' lack of technology skills

I recently read an article that summarizes my concerns with regards to the lack of technology instruction in our schools.

Highlights of the article:

  • "Starting next February, federal law requires every school district nationwide to grade the technological literacy of its eighth-graders."
I feel like this is news to me! But also like it's something I should have known about.... how did I not realize this??
  • Unlike No Child Left Behind’s academic expectations — a cornerstone of the accountability movement that penalizes shortfalls with sanctions — falling short on technology will not have consequences.
Ahhh, this may explain why I didn't realize the federal mandate for technology skills--- it's not being enforced. I know that Maryland has been hard at work on defining the technology standards for students, teachers and administrators. I'm excited to see the goals they have established... and curious to see how they will be implemented in schools.
  • "This may be the millennial generation that texts, IMs and blogs with ease. Yet teaching today’s tech-savvy kids to search and scrutinize information in an academic way — skills they will need to survive in an increasingly technical work force — is another matter entirely, experts said."
BINGO! Kids know how to use technology socially. That's extremely different than using it to do research, being able to evaluate sources, and to create documents/presentations/products.

With such a strong emphasis on testing and achievement in math and reading, technology just doesn't seem to rank high enough to warrant a class of it's own. However, in a previous post, I mentioned that students are REQUESTING these classes--- they want to learn how to use the internet correctly (and safely), how to create good presentations, how to work with multimedia, etc.... Furthermore, our students NEED these skills. Once they enter college they will be required to create presentations, to sift through knowledge and determine what's valid and what's false, etc.... Technology is a significant part of our student's lives, so we need to train them while they are with us in school how to use it appropriately and effectively.

One local school system has started to do just this. At the e-Communities Summit I attended this week, I sat in on a session called Impacting Student Achievement and learned of a course that Prince George's County has been implementing with their middle school students. Get this... they teach them how to type, the course is a hybrid that exposes them to Blackboard and online learning, students learn word processing and Power Point in the context of content! I was so impressed by this initiative that I emailed Barbara Liedahl, the presenter, and requested e-copies of the documents she shared in her workshop so you could see them too (but you'll have to email me if you want to see them because my free blogger account doesn't seem to let me upload docs)! In our email exchanges, I was fascinated to learn that this is step one... they plan to continue with a Year 2 and even 3 Course where they hope to touch on more advanced topics like wikis, blogs and podcasting!!! How exciting! Hopefully other school systems are developing similar courses so that this education becomes part of the expected educational experience for every American student.

Way to go PGCPS and Barbara Liedahl for paving this path of technology education for students!!

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