Thursday, September 13, 2007

Technology Literacy - Whose building the roads?

Recently, I read Karl Fisch’s post on “Is it Okay to be a Technologically Illiterate Teacher?”. It got me thinking about this issue as well. Karl asks whether technology skills are the equivalent of reading and writing skills in the past. Does the success of our students depend on their ability to use technology? I think we could make an argument for this. Certainly our world is becoming increasingly technology-centric. Our businesses use technology for communication, research, data analysis, graphics, and so much more. That does not surprise people. I think what tends to surprise people is the way in which technology has wormed its way into other professions, as well as our personal lives. From farmers to auto mechanics, technology is becoming a larger and larger part of the jobs our students will do in the future.
In our personal lives, banking, shopping, communicating, and much more are becoming more dependent on technology. It seems to me that Karl may have a point. Look at how much technology has advanced and seeped into our daily lives in the last 15 years. 15 years ago, most of us weren’t using email, internet, digital cameras, ipods, and cell phones. Now these are the indispensable tools of daily interaction. There is a point on the horizon, and it is not far away, when not knowing how to use these tools leaves you completely on the sidelines of society. When you look at the changes in the last 15 years, it is easy to see that in another 15 years, the change will only be more pronounced. This is exactly when our students will be entering adulthood and needing to be productive members of society. How will they be able to do this without technological literacy?

My next question is how is making education technologically literate like going from horse and buggies to cars? (Thanks Sar for the analogy!) We can produce all the cars we want, but if we don’t invest in roads, gas stations, and driver instruction, we won’t get anywhere. Similarly, if we don’t invest in technology infrastructure and hardware, as well as quality, timely, ongoing staff development, we won’t get anywhere. Karl’s blog rails on the teacher who refuses to change. I don’t disagree, but what about the legislators, community members, and administrators who do not understand the need for this change or do not create a plan to undergo this change? I am not excusing teachers from the responsibility of learning the essential tools for learning and productivity for the immediate future. I am suggesting that we can accelerate this process by getting everyone on the same page about the importance of moving toward a curriculum that values technology tools as essential tools for participation in our society. Do our teacher preparation programs fully integrate technology so from the beginning new teachers associate technology to effective teaching? Do our state assessments test skills that are relevant to the jobs of the future so that districts craft their curricula to create success on these tests? Do the hiring practices and evaluation processes of our teachers consider technology literacy? All of these play a part in building technologically literate teachers.

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