“All teachers are writing teachers.”
“All teachers are language teachers.”
Throughout my teaching career I’ve heard these statements discussed and debated. As a social studies teacher, reading and writing naturally fit into my lessons as a way for students to access information and communicate their understanding. As an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, I shared strategies with other teachers to help their English language learners access content and develop language skills. Over time I realized the goal of all teachers should be to address communication and critical thinking skills in their classroom no matter the content area. This core belief of mine came to mind as I considered the topic for this section regarding who teaches the ‘technology’ standards.
What does Technology in Education mean?
I think we (educators) have to have important discussions about our view of ‘technology in education’. Although I am lucky enough to work in a school that is bringing the use of technology whole-heartedly into its classrooms (check out #sisrocks on Twitter), I know there are educators who are struggling with the idea that they believe they have to be ‘technology’ teachers. Another role added to an already full plate of responsibilities. I would hear similar concerns from teachers I worked with in the U.S. regarding reading and writing in the content area or addressing the needs of language learners in their classroom. Their concerns with trying to meet the expectations of the curriculum and content standards while also trying to learn more about integrating reading, writing and language skills and integrating them into everything else they were trying to accomplish…And now with the push for technology in the classroom, I can hear the “I can’t teach technology!” or “Will there be an technology elective for them?”
Shared Vision = Shared Understanding
Schools must have a clear vision and understanding of what they mean when they refer to ‘educational technology’ or ‘technology for learning’. ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) has a recommended list of Essential Conditions to ‘effectively leverage technology for learning’ in schools and the first one, shared vision, is critical. According to ISTE, this means, “Proactive leadership in developing a shared vision for educational technology among all education stakeholders, including teachers and support staff, school and district administrators, teacher educators, students, parents, and the community.”
I think that the shared vision should include a ‘shared understanding’ that the role of technology in education is not just about bringing in the latest devices and equipment but about developing and practicing the skills needed in the 21st century As I’ve read through various sets of standards including those from ISTE, AASL (American Association of School Librarians), Partnership for 21st Century Skills and ATC21S (Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills) and noticed that the focus is not entirely on technology. It is on critical thinking skills and communication.
According to the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learning
Learners use Skills, Resources and Tools to:
- Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.
- Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.
- Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society.
- Pursue personal and aesthetic growth.
According to ISTE’s NETS (National Educational Technology Standards) for Students
Simply being able to use technology is no longer enough. Today’s students need to be able to use technology to analyze, learn, and explore. Digital age skills are vital for preparing students to work, live, and contribute to the social and civic fabric of their communities.
People in the 21st century live in a technology and media-suffused environment, marked by various characteristics, including: 1) access to an abundance of information, 2) rapid changes in technology tools, and 3) the ability to collaborate and make individual contributions on an unprecedented scale. To be effective in the 21st century, citizens and workers must be able to exhibit a range of functional and critical thinking skills related to information, media and technology.
- Ways of thinking. Creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning
- Ways of working. Communication and collaboration
- Tools for working. Information and communications technology (ICT) and information literacy
- Skills for living in the world. Citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility
Schools must really look at their vision of 21st century learning as being driven by the changes related to technology but not solely focused on technology. Students must be prepared with the skills to deal with an ever-changing world. If a school systems’ vision is clear about focusing on those skills and there is a clear understanding by all involved, then there won’t be a question about “Who teaches technology?” because all teachers will be focused on preparing students for the real 21st century world. When you look at any set of the standards or guidelines for the ‘21st century’ (like those above), most teachers would see that they already incorporate these skills into their teaching. And the role of the technology is to support the development of those critical thinking and communication skills. A clear understanding of the relevance of these standards and what they mean for teachers and students is essential for any school to move forward in providing the best education for our students.
Side Note: My Connection
As I considered the topic for this post I was reminded of my blog post “Wandering” from Course 1. I discussed how my understanding of the role of technology in education shifted during Course 1 of COETAIL. My focus went from ‘how am I going to find time to teach technology’ to ‘what critical thinking skills are my students learning and using in this task’. That shift in thinking has also had an impact on my conversations with other teachers about the use of technology in the classroom, especially those that have some concerns about their confidence in using technology themselves. As a teacher, if I focus on the skills I want my students to develop and practice, and then I, or even my students, can find technology to complement their needs. The technology programs and software and applications will continue to evolve but the skills my students can develop in critical thinking and problem solving and communication will benefit them as they continue to navigate this 21st century world.