What should we expect teachers to know and be able to do with technology?

We seem to ask that question every year as we plan for the opening of schools in the fall. And every year the answer doesn’t seem to change a whole lot.

About eight years ago, our state legislature passed a law requiring all educators to meet a minimum set of technology standards (very minimum!) in order to renew their teaching license.

The requirements boiled down to being able to use a basic list of productivity applications (word processor, email, browser, etc.), along with an extremely fundamental understanding of using technology in the classroom.

Basically, a skill set that today represents the minimum “standards” for any functioning adult in this country.

Although there are many teachers in our system who have advanced the use of technology in their teaching beyond the minimum, most have not really moved passed that basic list.

There are several reasons for this slow progress to true technology integration.

Let’s get the NCLB bashing out of the way. The kind of teaching required by high stakes tests just doesn’t necessitate the use of computers. Some educators find creative ways to get around this but most do not.

But beyond that is the way we’ve conducted technology-related staff development. We teach the mechanics of the software first, largely separated from the applications.

Since there didn’t seem to be any connection to the classroom, it’s no wonder most took part 1 and never came back for part 2.

And there are other oft mentioned causes you could add including the lack of reliable equipment in some schools, concerns about student safety on the web, and general fears of student use/abuse of the computers.

However, there is really only one overriding reason why we have not reached a tipping point in the number of teachers who progress past the basic skills level.

We don’t expect them to.

I know, I’ve ranted on this topic many times before. But it never seems to change.

Our instructional leaders talk about the need to use computers in the classroom but they don’t require it.

More importantly, they don’t foster the fundamental changes to teaching and learning demanded by total integration of instructional technology.

And any movement in that direction is far too slow, especially considering the pace of the world at large.

But having said all that, maybe I’ve got too narrow a view of the world. My observations really only apply to the overly-large school district for which I work.

Is it possible that superintendents, curriculum directors, and principals elsewhere understand what real technology integration looks like?

And that a large number of teachers in other systems have broken the minimum standards barrier and moved on?

basic skills, education, instructional technology