Wednesday, June 27, 2007

8th Grade Technological Literacy?

I'm at the NECC (National Education Computing Conference) in Atlanta and just attended a panel on the NCLB requirement that all students be technologically literate by the end of 8th grade, the subject of my May Technology Toolkit column in Voices from the Middle. As I had fearfully expected, the panelists did not have any better answers for this requirement than I did. But it did make me consider more deeply the irony of mandating an evaluation of an undefined skill.

What is technological literacy?

I was most disappointed that the speaker from one state spoke glowingly about their assessment, a computer-based test in which students showed they could bold words in word processing, work with a spreadsheet and database, and send an email. This state, to my way of thinking, is confusing technological proficiency with technological literacy. And not even assessing the proficiencies very well, since these would be the basic skills we might have expected in 1995.

Another panelist, a chief state education officer, spoke of a more encouraging approach: they have used teacher technological literacy as a starting point and hope to use the student technology assessments to leverage more funding for technology in the future. However, the student assessments are still knowledge-based and one reason she gave for the importance of technologically literacy was that their state testing would be computer-based in the next few years so students will need to be able to use the technology.

I was most encouraged by the third panelist who represented Generation Yes, a company, which, ironically, had the most student-centered, literacy-based approach. It "began as a federal Technology Innovation Challenge Grant in the Olympia school district in Washington State in 1996. The vision was to include students in the effort to infuse technology into curriculum in every K-12 classroom." Including students in their own literacy? What a novel idea!

Now a question to you. How did your school or district assess the technology literacy of your 8th graders this year?


Teri Lesesne said...

I, too, am distressed about the assessment end of things right now. As the parent of a now nonth grader, I see the lack of technical knowledge as detrimental. These are kids who IM and text and use PP with ease and yet do not know enough about technology itself. and the big bugaboo for me is ETHICS. These kids are not being taught about using technology ethically. They copy files and songs with nary a thought about copyright. They think PP is the appropriate product for every project.

I have learned a lot about technology in a short time and know how it can assist me and what its limitations are as well. I teach my own kids about internet use and misuse. However, I see assignments come home that ask them to go online for information. Not everyone allows kids to go online freely (me) and not all kids have access at home. So, how can we even the playing field before we begin to worry about assessment.


Richard said...

I think our legislators have misread the market for technology. As a former IT developer and manager, the high-paying jobs in IT are migrating rapidly to India and China. That is part of the reason I am teach middle school English. The personality traits for successful IT people are present in only 8% of the population, but legislators and politicians feel that if everyone can use Microsoft Office, they can get those high paying jobs. False. My 3+ years in the classroom, tells me ETHICS and the ability to relate ideas and facts is not present. But of course if you can be elected based on a single iatrogenic sound bite, that is what you will do. Technology changes, but thoughts and ideas are forever.