Council on Basic Education, 1998.
The rapid increase in the availability of computers and other technology in schools represents a significant investment, and state leaders are concerned about results. To what extent does technology use result in improved student learning? Research has found that teacher skill in using technology is a major factor in improving student learning with technology. Teachers must know not only how to use technology but also when and why to use it.
Teacher technology standards identify essential skills teachers need for effective use of computers and other electronic equipment in schools today. State teacher licensure and certification has not kept pace with rapid changes in technology and teaching. Linking technology skills assessments to licensing requirements helps ensure that teachers have the skills to support and guide students and to increase student learning using technology.
Twelve SREB states have established teacher technology standards or guidelines that address several levels of competency:
Of these standards, the most difficult one for teachers is the requirement that they know how to integrate technology into instruction. For example, teachers should know what technology is appropriate for use with a particular lesson. At the same time they also must know how to manage the classroom to effectively guide students using the computer. The teacher's role changes to that of a coach or guide as well as an instructor. Technology creates opportunities for students to work together, such as on group projects in which students exchange ideas about the project and about how to use technology to answer their questions. The focus shifts toward more active student learning. A veteran teacher may not be prepared for these changes and may not be any more skilled than a novice in this area.
Concern about teacher preparation and standards for using technology is not new. In 1984 the Southern Regional Education Board concluded in its report "Computers in Education: Implications for Schools and Colleges" that colleges and universities should use their computer resources to assist with teacher training. Several states in the early 1980s proposed that courses in computer literacy be required for teachers who are to be certified.
Other early efforts in teacher technology standards include those developed by the International Society for Technology in Education, a professional organization of teachers who use technology. ISTE formed a committee in 1989 to address the need for standards because technology training was increasingly important to teachers of courses such as business communications or drafting. The organization then began developing technology standards that could be applied to teaching programs in every subject.
The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education adopted these teacher technology standards for use when accrediting teacher education programs after fall 1998. NCATE standards now expect accredited schools of education to provide adequate access to computers and other technologies; faculty and teacher education students are expected to be able to use it successfully. Accreditation standards are being revised, and NCATE will introduce new standards in 2000 that include technology use throughout accreditation requirements for all teacher education programs. SREB states also have used the ISTE teacher technology standards as a guide as they develop their own standards.
SREB states use teacher technology standards in a variety of ways. Some states, such as Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi, use teacher technology standards to guide professional development or technology planning. In other states, such as Texas and Florida, teachers are expected to incorporate technology use into classroom activities, but specific skills needed to do this are not spelled out. Maryland and West Virginia apply technology standards similar to those promoted by NCATE to the states' accreditation process for teacher training institutions. New teachers in North Carolina must master technology standards in order to receive their state teaching license. North Carolina's approach has been the most comprehensive and includes students and faculty in schools and colleges.
The North Carolina experience
North Carolina has been incorporating technology in education and teacher preparation for more than 15 years. In 1983, as technology began to be implemented in schools, the State Board of Education adopted standards called the Computer Competencies for All Educators in North Carolina Public Schools. These standards, which were revised in 1992, were developed to address the need for basic computer skills and listed technology competencies both in general computer use and in subject-area software and materials. In May 1991 the board adopted the North Carolina Computer Skills Test to ensure that students meet proficiencies based on the North Carolina Computer Skills Curriculum. The test assesses students' basic computer skills, such as spreadsheets and desktop publishing. Passing this test is a graduation requirement for students beginning with the class of 2001.
In March 1995 the North Carolina State Board of Education began the process of requiring assessment in technology skills before new teachers could receive licenses. At the same time, the president of the University of North Carolina, chairman of the State Board of Education and president of the Community College System announced an initiative to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for addressing current teachers' need for professional development in the use of technology. Representatives of these agencies made up a School Technology Users Task Force.
The task force recommended basic and advanced technology skills that should be required of all North Carolina educators, including faculty of schools of education, community colleges, and high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. The State Board of Education adopted these standards in March 1996, along with a requirement for assessing new teachers' technology knowledge and skills. Both public and independent colleges and universities are held accountable for these program standards.
In 1996, a one-time allotment of $1.5 million was appropriated to the University of North Carolina system to support technology training in teacher preparation programs. Money was used by public universities to purchase hardware and software needed to fully integrate technology into instruction. This allotment also provided ongoing support for an instructional technology position in each of those public universities to assist faculty in preparing future teachers to meet the new standards for technology skills necessary for licensure.
Technology competencies for initial licensure will be assessed at two levels: the Essential Technology Skills Inventory (ETSI) and portfolio assessments. The Essential Technology Skills Inventory has been developed, and those who expect to receive initial licensure in spring 1999 will be required to pass the test. Each prospective teacher also must prepare a portfolio that demonstrates use of advanced technology skills in selecting and creating classroom activities that fit curriculum goals and children's needs.
While these assessment efforts have been aimed at newly trained and licensed teachers in North Carolina, attention also is being paid to the technology skills of practicing teachers. Beginning in spring 1999, these teachers must complete at least 30 hours of technology training every five years to renew their licenses. Local education agencies must determine how teachers meet technology requirements. Some districts have developed their own assessments or are working with area community colleges to provide professional development.
Compiled by Jennifer Burke, SREB, from information provided by state departments of education, 1998.
Barriers to implementing teacher technology standards
If teachers are expected to meet standards of technology competency, quality professional development must be available to help them integrate technology into instruction. Rapid changes in technology are a challenge for schools and states trying to keep teachers up to date.
Another challenge is teachers' lack of access to adequate equipment and software. For example, a teacher who participates in an e-mail training session needs to have the chance to use that new skill upon returning to the classroom. Training without access to equipment is a waste of time and money.
Teachers also point to the lack of quality training in ways to integrate technology into the teaching process. There are few quality models demonstrating ways to integrate technology into the curriculum that can be used to build training programs for veteran teachers. As educators become more skilled with computer equipment, they need training in applying these skills in the classroom. Professional development in technology until recently has reflected "one size fits all" thinking, and training has focused on broad technical skills rather than specific uses for technology in the classroom. However, teachers of different grade levels or subjects have different needs for technology training. A first-grade teacher may use a computer to help reinforce students' reading skills. But a high school science teacher needs to use specialized equipment and software to conduct experiments in the classroom and spreadsheets to gather and analyze the data collected. Those who develop technology standards and assessments for teachers need to consider what skills are needed at different levels of instruction.
Since the early 1980s, recommendations to improve education have included improving teacher preparation and setting high standards. Recently there have been renewed calls to license teachers based on demonstrated performance, including tests of subject matter knowledge, teaching knowledge and teaching skills. SREB states are developing standards for what technology skills teachers should have. States also need clear guidelines for assessment and plans for helping teachers meet the standards if they apply technology standards to licensing requirements, as in North Carolina.
Can state technology standards for teachers help make a difference? Yes, if:
Lynn M. Cornett, "Computers in Schools: Implications for Schools and Colleges," Regional Spotlight vol. XIV n. 4. Atlanta, GA: SREB, January 1984.
Report on the Effectiveness of Technology in Schools '90-'97, Washington, D.C.: Software Publishers Association, 1997, pp. 2-3.
U.S. Department of Education, "Educational Technology: Preparing America for the 21st Century," meeting of education leaders and business representatives, April 24, 1998.
Sandra J. Wellens, "The Computer Hearth," Basic Education, vol. 42 n. 5. Washington, D.C.: Council on Basic Education, January 1998, p. 4-6.
Educational Benchmarks 1998, Atlanta: SREB 1998.
What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future, National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, September 1996. p. ix.
The Southern Regional Education Board is a partner in the SouthEast and Islands Regional Technology in Education Consortium, one of six U.S. Department of Education regional technology consortia. SEIR*TEC promotes the use of technology to improve teaching and learning, with emphasis on benefiting traditionally underserved populations.
This document is based on research supported in part by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under CFDA 84.302A, grant number R302A50010. Its contents do not necessarily reflect the views of OERI, the U.S. Department of Education or any other agency of the U.S. government.