Should there be ‘Technology Standards’ and outcome assessments similar to other core subject contents? Or, should technology skills be integrated into everything that takes place in a learning environment and thus be ‘invisible’ expectations?”
Though I don’t have K-12 experience, I have experienced a phenomenon in higher education that I think is relevant to this discussion. As a librarian, I work closely with the promotion of information literacy. At UAA information literacy is one the core student outcomes for all undergraduates regardless of their program. And yet, every day students of all levels come to the library for research and demonstrate that they lack even basic information literacy skills. They come to the reference desk with their assignments in hand, assignments that require information literacy skills, and they simply aren’t equipped to take them on. Conversations with faculty often reveal that they expect the students to have obtained the skills and knowledge in another course. Information literacy is an invisible expectation. Faculty see the skills as ubiquitous — nearly all courses require them and all students are supposed to have them — and assume that students get them in their first semester at UAA with freshman English. The reality is that students don’t. They may not take freshman English until later in their academic careers and even if they do, a brief look at research skills in one course is woefully inadequate for giving students what they need to succeed with information. I view the remedy of this situation to be two-pronged. First, students must be required to learn basic information literacy skills very early in their college careers, through a required course or a required information literacy test (students could choose to take a course to learn it, complete modules to learn, learn it on their own, or just give the test a shot to see if they already know their stuff). Second, information literacy learning and skill practice needs to be built into key courses in a student’s program so they are able to develop their information literacy skills over time.
If technology literacy is left as an invisible expectation in K-12 education, I feel it will suffer a similar fate. Some teachers will always think it’s some other teacher’s responsibility to teach this stuff and students will be left behind. Similar to my example above, I feel that technology literacy should be intentionally incorporated into key parts of the curriculum and there should be set levels of progress that should be assessed at set intervals. I see a false dichotomy in the prompt. It need not and should not be one or the other. Rather, technology should be incorporated in the overall curriculum in explicit ways. There may be a technology-specific class here and there but most of a student’s learning of and practice with technology should be embedded in a variety of classes throughout their education.
Just like information literacy, technology skills are absolutely essential skills for (present and) future adults to have. A haphazard approach to teaching these concepts, or relying on a single class to teach them, is simply irresponsible.