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Background

Margaret Honey


This report summarizes a workshop held at the National Academies in October 2005 to explore how high schools should respond to calls for increasing fluency with information and communications technology (ICT) among American adolescents. The workshop was designed to extend the work begun in the report Being Fluent with Information Technology (National Research Council, 1999), which identified key components of ICT fluency and discussed their implications for undergraduate education. A focus on ICT fluency is particularly timely today, with renewed national attention being paid to global competitiveness of the U.S. workforce, especially in science and technology (NRC, 2006). However, the need for supporting high school students’ ICT competencies has been recognized since the 1980s.

In 1983, the federal report A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) included a recommendation that high school graduation requirements include coverage of the “five new basics”— English, mathematics, science, social studies, and computer science. The report also specified that all high school graduates should “understand the computer as an information, computation and communication device; [be able to] use the computer in the study of the other Basics and for personal and work-related purposes; and understand the world of computers, electronics, and related technologies” (p. 26).

Nearly 20 years later, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 included a recommendation that by the eighth grade all students be technologically



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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary 1 Background Margaret Honey This report summarizes a workshop held at the National Academies in October 2005 to explore how high schools should respond to calls for increasing fluency with information and communications technology (ICT) among American adolescents. The workshop was designed to extend the work begun in the report Being Fluent with Information Technology (National Research Council, 1999), which identified key components of ICT fluency and discussed their implications for undergraduate education. A focus on ICT fluency is particularly timely today, with renewed national attention being paid to global competitiveness of the U.S. workforce, especially in science and technology (NRC, 2006). However, the need for supporting high school students’ ICT competencies has been recognized since the 1980s. In 1983, the federal report A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) included a recommendation that high school graduation requirements include coverage of the “five new basics”— English, mathematics, science, social studies, and computer science. The report also specified that all high school graduates should “understand the computer as an information, computation and communication device; [be able to] use the computer in the study of the other Basics and for personal and work-related purposes; and understand the world of computers, electronics, and related technologies” (p. 26). Nearly 20 years later, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 included a recommendation that by the eighth grade all students be technologically

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary literate, and it repeatedly referenced technology as an important source of support for teaching and learning across the curriculum. Pushing the bar a bit higher, America’s corporate leaders have been saying for some time that technology must not only be used effectively and creatively by students but also be understood in ways that move students beyond basic levels of competency. In recent years, technology fluency has become a focal point for education ministries worldwide. They and their nongovernmental counterparts have issued white papers, for instance, that connect technological fluency with the critical-reasoning abilities required in the information age (de Ricjke, 2004; Korean Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, 2003). Educational leaders and policy makers have also responded to the growing importance of technology in the global marketplace, and in classrooms, with programs designed to prepare young people to compete in the international information community. China, for example, has made information technology part of the compulsory coursework for all of its high school students, who are now expected to be able to collect, analyze, and communicate information (Feicheng and Cuihua, 2002). Singapore, recognizing the vital role that education will play in the country’s planned transformation to a center of technological innovation, has established instruction in creativity and innovation as part of its centralized curriculum (Kozma, 2005). Australia has promoted throughout its states and territories ICT in Schools, a program to foster ICT training and use in the classroom (Woods, 2004). South Korea’s national curriculum has identified within its top-level goals for high school students their need to prepare for the global setting (Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation, 2005). That nation’s underlying technological infrastructure further supports this educational push; South Korea has become a world leader in the number of households with access to broadband Internet connections (Herz, 2002). In Europe, Finland has created programs to support teachers and students in developing knowledge-building skills through student-centered approaches to teaching and learning linked to communities and local businesses. At the same time, the United Kingdom has drawn considerable attention from its European and Asian counterparts with an innovative assessment, the Key Stage ICT Literacy Assessment for children ages 12– 13. Created by the British government’s Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Key Stage 3 test is designed both to gauge students’ ability to apply critical thinking skills—using technology to solve complex problems

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary within a novel testing environment—and to support educators in teaching these skills to their students (Kozma, 2005; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2005; Walton, 2005). Ministries in other countries have expressed interest in adapting this assessment and associated strategies to their own school systems1 The United States, meanwhile, faces a curricular challenge, despite its early recognition of the need for ICT education. While we attempt to ensure that every American child has a quality education in the traditional basic subjects, other countries have recalibrated their educational institutions to respond differently to the challenge of learning for the 21st century. The argument can be made that if we continue to limit our educational focus to traditional core subjects, our students may lack the skills that are critical to succeeding in the new global marketplace that places technology and communications at the center of work and learning. The need to change this situation has not gone unattended, however. Seven years ago, the NRC’s forward-thinking Being Fluent with Information Technology spelled out the three major components—with 10 specific competencies under each component—that comprise what is needed in the ICT domain by young people today (National Research Council, 1999, pp. 2–3): contemporary ICT skills: the ability to use current computer applications; foundational ICT concepts: the basic principles and ideas of computing, networking, and information science; and intellectual capabilities: the ability to apply ICT in complex and sustained situations and to practice higher-level thinking in ICT contexts. The 1999 NRC report struck a chord with U.S. colleges and universities. It was quickly adopted in course curricula, while college textbooks were modified to explain the components and competencies outlined in the report and expand on them (Snyder, 2006). Yet the report has attracted 1 Personal communications in November 2004: S.C. Leong. Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board, N. Law. Director, Centre for Information Technology in Education, O. Erstad, Head of Research, Network for IT Research and Competence in Education. Norway, and M. Ripley, Head of e-Strategy Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary modest attention and a more measured response from K–12 educators, particularly from the nation’s high schools. At present, the curricula of most U.S. high schools are limited to such current ICT tools or skills as word processing or facility with using Internet search engines. While tool and skill acquisition is important, it is just one component of ICT fluency as defined in Being Fluent with Information Technology. Indeed, the underlying concepts and intellectual capabilities—which can be developed through the application of technology tools to manage and represent complexity, solve problems, and think critically, creatively, and systematically about solutions—remain woefully underdeveloped across the high school years. While educators and policy makers have come to view ICT literacy as a critical part of the requirements for high school graduates, little progress has been made in establishing a trajectory of competencies to guide educators in incorporating ICT into academic content. The present report extends the work of Being Fluent with Information Technology in three ways: (1) examining the need for updates to the 1999 report’s ICT fluency framework; (2) identifying the most promising current efforts for developing high school students’ ICT competencies; and (3) presenting new information on leading-edge assessment practices that can be used to measure those competencies. In short, our hope is that this report sheds new light on the kinds of skills and habits of mind that should now be required of students for them to succeed as global citizens in the 21st century. REFERENCES de Rijcke, F. (2004, March). Assessing ICT and learning. Paper presented at the 2004 CoSN K-12 School Networking Conference, Arlington, VA. Feicheng, M., and Cuihua, H. (2002, July). Information literacy, education reform and the economy: China as a case study. White Paper prepared for UNESCO, the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, and the National Forum on Information Literacy, for use at the Information Literacy Meeting of Experts, Prague, Czech Republic. Available: http://www.nclis.gov/libinter/infolitconf&meet/papers/ma-fullpaper.pdf [accessed February 1, 2006]. Herz, J.C. (2002). The bandwidth capital of the world. Wired Magazine, 10(08), 1-4 . Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation. (2005). National curriculum. II. Educational goals by school level. 3. The goals of high school education. Available: http://www.kice.re.kr/kice/eng/info/info_2.jsp [accessed June 2006]. Korean Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development. (2003). Adapting education to the information age. Seoul, Korea: Korean Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development.

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary Kozma, R.B. (2005). National policies that connect ICT-based education reform to economic and social development. Human Technology, 1, 117–156. National Commission on Excellence in Education. (1983). A nation at risk. Available: http://www.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/risk.html [accessed February 1, 2006]. National Research Council. (1999). Being fluent with information technology. Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, Washington, DC: National Academy Press. National Research Council. (2006). Rising above the gathering storm: Energizing and employing America for a brighter economic future. Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2005). The assessment of 21st century skills: The current landscape. Available: http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=131&Itemid=103 [accessed February 1, 2006]. Snyder, L. (2006). Fluency with information technology: Skills, concepts and capabilities. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Pearson Education. Walton, S. (2005, January). Key stage 3 onscreen test pilot. London, England: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Woods, H. (2004). MCEETYA ICT in schools initiatives. Presented to the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) VIP delegation to Australia, 2004: Information Communications Technologies in Education Meeting, ICT in Schools Taskforce Secretariat. Australia: Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs.