4
Perspectives on High Schools

  • What information and communications technology (ICT)-related out-comes are needed from K–12 education?

  • Why is it important to distinguish between literacy and fluency?

  • What is the relationship between ICT fluency and today’s most valued job skills?

This session’s speakers agreed that while learning particular technical skills associated with contemporary technology is essential at any time, much more important over the long run is learning how to learn. Given that technologies and their applications change rapidly, and sometimes radically, students need to be prepared for lifelong learning. Teachers must encourage and guide them so that they acquire the foundations of such competencies by the time they leave high school.

Similarly, participants in the session emphasized the need to acquire broad skills that not only are obsolescence-proof but also happen to be perennially desired by employers. The ability to communicate, collaborate, think critically, deal with ambiguity, and solve problems—to possess, that is, the elements of fluency—were repeatedly cited as essentials for the workplace. Nuts-and-bolts technical skills are never unimportant, of course, but given possession of the broader capacities, they are relatively easy to acquire—and to relearn as situations inevitably change.

Presenters were Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation; Thomas N. Applegate, executive dean of Austin Community Col-



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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary 4 Perspectives on High Schools What information and communications technology (ICT)-related out-comes are needed from K–12 education? Why is it important to distinguish between literacy and fluency? What is the relationship between ICT fluency and today’s most valued job skills? This session’s speakers agreed that while learning particular technical skills associated with contemporary technology is essential at any time, much more important over the long run is learning how to learn. Given that technologies and their applications change rapidly, and sometimes radically, students need to be prepared for lifelong learning. Teachers must encourage and guide them so that they acquire the foundations of such competencies by the time they leave high school. Similarly, participants in the session emphasized the need to acquire broad skills that not only are obsolescence-proof but also happen to be perennially desired by employers. The ability to communicate, collaborate, think critically, deal with ambiguity, and solve problems—to possess, that is, the elements of fluency—were repeatedly cited as essentials for the workplace. Nuts-and-bolts technical skills are never unimportant, of course, but given possession of the broader capacities, they are relatively easy to acquire—and to relearn as situations inevitably change. Presenters were Wendy Hawkins, executive director of the Intel Foundation; Thomas N. Applegate, executive dean of Austin Community Col-

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary lege, Texas; and Karen Bruett, director of education and community initiatives at Dell, Inc. Respondents were Daniel Gohl, principal of McKinley Technical High School, Washington, DC, and Julia Fallon, program developer for technical education, Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington State. ALL THAT THEY CAN BE High school students often have more familiarity with current computer and information technology—a greater literacy—than do their teachers, Wendy Hawkins noted. Thus, if they are to help young people acquire ICT fluency, teachers and those in the business of educating teachers must adjust their attitudes and approaches. As an analogy, Hawkins described her recent quest to correct an omission from childhood—to learn to play the piano. She took piano lessons and diligently applied herself, playing two hours a day for some five years. “But it became increasingly clear to me,” she said, “that I was never going to be able to play the piano the way that eight-year-olds would. There are things that get into your ‘muscle memory’—that are programmed into your brain in those early years—that an adult will never be able to catch up with.” Similarly, she suggested, “the notion that we are going to retrain our teaching workforce to be able to keep up with kids who were born to this technology, who were immersed in it practically from day one, is non-sense.” We’ve got to make our teachers feel comfortable with that “fact of life,” she said, and direct them instead to motivate and guide students to build on their ICT foundations so that they may become as effective they can be. An effort in that pedagogical direction, according to Hawkins, is Intel’s Teach to the Future Program for providing teacher professional development. This hands-on, face-to-face, 40-hour course, she said, trains teachers to apply the tools of technology in classrooms in meaningful ways and to transform their teaching roles from central source of knowledge to enabler of students in their own individualized quests for knowledge. The idea is to place students at the center and encourage them to become lifelong learners, not only for keeping up with technology but also for using it as creatively and effectively as possible. This “quite transformative” training program, she said, has now been offered in 47 countries, and 3 million teachers have completed it.

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary Another fact of life, said Hawkins, is that schools in the United States will never have the money to keep up with the business world, technologically speaking. Schools will not, at any time, boast state-of-the-art, cutting-edge systems in its classrooms. But “that does not excuse us,” she said, “from requiring that kids understand how to use the technology or from requiring of ourselves that we give them as much opportunity as we can.” A third fact of life, she said, is that the education community must not aim too low—say, by gearing its ICT programs to kids who can’t afford computers in their homes. Higher standards will raise expectations and inspire better performance by schools and students alike. “We who are in this room today,” said Hawkins, “are obligated to set the bar so that it makes them successful, not at a place where it’s easy for them to step over it. This isn’t a limbo game. It’s the high hurdles.” She cited another Intel program called Computer Clubhouse that aims to help students respond to higher ICT standards. These computer labs, designed in collaboration with Boston’s Museum of Science and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, typically offer underserved inner-city youth “the opportunity to put their hands on the best technology around,” said Hawkins. “It turns them loose to dive in, become immersed in the technology, and do in-depth work in the kinds of things that really grab kids,” such as the arts—making their own music and burning CDs— and graphic design and video. A broader goal for the program, she added, is that this informal education route will help pull kids back into the formal education environment. And that goal, according to Hawkins, is being met: “It has been as successful in the slums of New Delhi as in inner-city Chicago as in the Soweto townships of South Africa.” Intel is investing some $100 million each year in programs of this sort, Hawkins said, because “we are really, really concerned about the state of education and whether our children and grandchildren are going to be prepared” for the demanding, productive, and high-paying jobs of the not-so-distant future. For example, she lamented that while engineers in the United States are being trained in fewer and fewer numbers, schools around the world—whether in China, Nigeria, or Brazil; whether in countries with fully mature economies, as in Western Europe; or whether in countries in the early stages of development, as in sub-Saharan Africa—are absorbing technology as fast as they can. “Technology is moving in, and their expectations for their kids are moving sky high,” said Hawkins. “They are going to eat our lunch unless we keep ahead.”

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary CONTINUALLY LEARNING AND ADAPTING Thomas Applegate noted that in his field of career and technical education, formerly called “vocational education,” programs are based on standards set by business and industry. In the licensed occupations, such as nursing, standards are straightforwardly prescribed by law or board policy. Outside the licensed occupations, however, answering the question of “What are the correct standards?” becomes more abstract and subject to shifting needs. Educating young people for business and industry thus obliges teachers to take a broad view by imparting to their students not only contemporary skills but also the ability to learn new ones later on. The primacy of being skilled (as opposed to unskilled) may be seen by the changes, over the past 55 years, in the composition of the U.S. workforce, Applegate said. In 1950, the U.S. Department of Labor said that 20 percent of the country’s jobs required a baccalaureate degree, 5 percent required technical training, and 75 percent were basically unskilled manual labor kinds of jobs. But in 2005, while the percentage of jobs requiring a baccalaureate degree remained at 20 percent, 70 percent of the jobs demanded technical preparation, and only 10 percent were unskilled. And it’s not only skills that are important, Applegate maintained, but their relevance. “In earlier times, students could take one of three courses of study: college prep, which prepared them for college; vocational education, which prepared them for a job; or general education, which essentially prepared them for nothing,” he said. “But the thinking in career and technical education today is that it’s all about job preparation and further education, not job preparation or further education.” Given how quickly the world is changing, with the requisite skills changing along with it, “truly the 20 percent and the 70 percent of the jobs that require technical skills also require education beyond high school.” For that reason, Applegate said, employers want people who not only have the technical skills needed for the job but also the foundational skills, which include ICT fluency, for continually learning and adapting. As most teachers know, education systems are slow to respond to such realities, he observed. For example, biology, chemistry, and physics began being taught in that sequence, some 100 years ago, simply because it was alphabetic, and they are still taught that way. Nevertheless, he suggested, teachers do have options with respect to preparing students for careers and the ever-changing requirements they will face. In current technical education, “when you teach a concept, you must

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary teach it in context and with rigor. It’s the combination of concept, context, and rigor that will move our students from the skills in use today to the skills they will need tomorrow, many of which are currently unknown.” DOING IT BETTER, CHEAPER, AND FASTER Karen Bruett, a past chair and long-time member of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (and of its predecessor organization, the CEO Forum on Education Technology), covered three basic topics in her talk: the staffing needs of corporations today, how companies tend to measure and evaluate their human resources, and the Partnership’s view of how to prepare young people accordingly. The contemporary workplace, said Bruett, is really different from what it was during most of the 20th century. For example, in the 1950s the organizational structure of the corporation, and of most other institutions, was very hierarchical. People at the top would not just give direction but tell employees what to do, virtually to the level of daily individual tasks. “That world doesn’t exist anymore,” said Bruett. “Direction at a corporation today is no longer task-specific but instead is very broad. So you need employees who can understand how to take an end-game objective and figure out for themselves the best way and the best tasks for achieving that objective. Companies are not counting on managers to figure this out. This is a world where the front-line employee more and more is empowered—and expected—to make those decisions.” Thus, Dell recently opened a new manufacturing facility—its largest worldwide—in North Carolina, she said, mainly because of the sophistication and versatility of local workers. The state has an outstanding K–12 education system, numerous universities that the company can draw on, and a population that understands manufacturing from its experience with the textile industry. “The ability to attract a skilled workforce was very important to us,” she said. “We need people who are flexible, adaptable, know how to adjust to change, find their own work, and do process improvement. Employees on our manufacturing floor not only have to be able to build anywhere from 15 to 20 different products but, because they are closest to where the job is being done, help us figure out how to do it better, cheaper, and faster.” In evaluating people for hiring or promotion, Bruett said, companies essentially ask three main questions: Are you able to set directions? Are you able to align and motivate others? And are you able to deliver results? If so,

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary the person is likely to have “strategic agility”—the capacity to build effective teams and especially to deal with ambiguity. The latter, she said, is “our number-one core competency at Dell, and probably in any technology organization, because what you learned yesterday is likely to be obsolete three months from now.” In terms of educating people to enter such a working world, the priorities of even just a few years ago are way off, Bruett noted. In the past it was all about the computer-to-student ratio—the purported need for x computers in every classroom. “But after the schools got connected accordingly, we realized that we were missing the boat—even though some of the kids were learning how to use the computers, we hadn’t even begun to tap the potential of what technology can do. And that is its ability to improve collaboration, cooperation, and teamwork and help develop people who are analytical thinkers and problem solvers.” Bruett indicated that the kind of abilities that Dell as a corporation values do not automatically happen by having every student learn how to use Excel and PowerPoint. While it is important to understand how to use technology, its real power is in helping students become more collaborative, better critical thinkers, and more global in their perspective. Thus, in promoting the use of ICT in the classroom, Bruett said, “you never hear the Partnership for 21st Century Skills talk about technology in general or computers in particular. What you do hear us talk about are things like ICT literacy, thinking and problem-solving, interpersonal and self-direction skills, and the ability to be a lifelong learner. And we believe technology is a wonderful tool to promote those characteristics.” In a related point, the Concord Consortium’s Paul Horwitz identifies in his paper (see Appendix B) an element of communications literacy by contrasting the reading of a book, a scholarly article, or even a newspaper with reading text on a computer. He indicates that to “read” a computer, students need to learn how to follow hypertext links without getting lost or forgetting what their original intent was: they need to master a certain form of nonlinear thinking. Horwitz also suggests that 21st-century students need to know something about computer-based modeling in applications ranging from global climate change to the behavior of airfoils. He believes that they do not need to know how to build such models or even how to employ them, but they should know that they exist, how they are used, and what their limitations are. Moreover, Horwitz makes the case that ICT fluency for students has to

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary include developing their awareness of the potential misuse of databases involving personal information. GETTING MORE POINTS OF VIEW The acquisition of ICT fluency, as opposed to ICT literacy, is very much in the spirit of what employers are asking of employees, said respondent Daniel Gohl. “Literacy is functional,” he said, while “fluency is expressive, adaptive, and can deal with ambiguity.” He cited two major points related to the goal of cultivating such fluency. One is that just as colleges and businesses have certain requirements or expectations for high school graduates, it is also important—especially regarding ICT, to which exposure often begins at a very young age—to articulate what students need to have when entering high school. This is actually the law, he said, as the No Child Left Behind Act requires local jurisdictions to make explicit what eighth-graders can do in technology. Gohl’s second point was that to help assure the relevance stressed by Applegate, teaching of ICT fluency must be embedded in the core curriculum. “It must be tied to the four years of English, the three years of math, the three years of social studies, the three units of science, and foreign languages.” he said. “If we are expecting separate courses to do it, they will always be optional.” Transcending the issue of the context in which ICT is taught is the basic purpose of that learning, Gohl said. While schools are often criticized for changing from what they were in the past, for him they have not been changing enough. The important question today, said Gohl, is why schools do not more closely resemble workplaces. Moreover, he maintained, the traditional dichotomy between college preparation and work preparation no longer applies. He also agreed with the panel’s speakers that all who enter the workforce will have to know how to keep learning throughout their careers, given the idiosyncrasy of skills in any particular field, along with the inevitable need to soon acquire new ones. And learning how to learn must necessary be rigorous—that is, intense. Defining intensity as “repeated iterations at increasing complexity,” Gohl said “we must state what it is students are expected to get, how teachers are to teach it, and then use assessments that are aligned with the fluency frameworks.” He added that in recognition of the working world’s dynamism, “we must also change what students

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary do from year to year to train them to be used to change. It is not a static script.” Gohl concluded with a recommendation posed as a question, which he invited the panel and audience to answer, regarding assessment. “I’ve done calculations showing that some 1,500 forms of assessment are done during four years of high school, and almost every time they are submitted to one person for review. But we know that performance in the world of work, and academic success, are in fact collectively appraised. How can we use ICT to ensure multiple forms of assessment in high school so that feedback is more refined?” He suggested such collective evaluation would increase the degree of relevance because feedback on students’ work would no longer be determined by the response or lack of it, of a single teacher; and students would be less likely to conclude that they are engaged in meaningless tasks. Collective evaluation in high school would also be more akin to future assessments on the job. “When people enter the workforce,” Gohl said, “they know that if they don’t perform they will fail and lose their job. We need schools to have a similar kind of public performance. And technology allows us to communicate what is going on.” Applegate agreed, noting that “when one person is the sole evaluator or is the content expert, then everything in a classroom depends on how that person teaches.” As an example, he cited his experience with the Pythagorean theorem (in a right triangle, the three sides a, b, and c have the relationship a2 + b2 = c2). “I learned it in high school, I memorized it, I didn’t know what the heck it was good for, and I never used it—until, years later, I was in a construction-trades class one day with a teacher who showed how it could determine whether a wall is square to the floor. That teacher was creative and taught in context,” Applegate said. “But if only one teacher evaluates the work, how do we know that this teacher is being creative and teaching contextually?” With multiple people looking at a student’s work, disseminated through technology, the probability is considerably higher that at least some of the evaluators will have that gift. Bruett cited just such a technology-based process at Dell, called “360,” that not only provides collective evaluation to employees from managers but is multidirectional—“well rounded”—as its name implies. It enables peers to evaluate employees and employees to evaluate managers. Such feedback is currently being done in some schools in the context of project-based learning, she added. “I also think it becomes especially interesting when the students provide evaluation feedback to the teachers, because too

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary often the students are only on the receiving end. But this way they come to understand that they have a responsibility for helping the teacher improve and that they actually have something valuable to say about it. We need to get more points of view, and technology can make it possible in a low-risk, safe environment for all concerned.” Paul Horwitz pointed out that although collective assessments are desirable they are not necessarily practical. What with all the students in a class (or employees in a workplace) and all their evaluators, the evaluation process itself—especially when it involves numerous and often subtle traits such as those involved in collaboration and problem-solving—becomes complex and not usually based on direct observation. So his organization has been “experimenting over the last several years with automated analyses of these kinds of data,” Horwitz said, “as an example of how technology can help solve the problems that it raises.” Such evaluations, moreover, are available in real time as people are working. Ralph Coppola of the Parametric Technology Corporation cited a similar, Web-based tool, called Precision Learning that his company uses in its training programs. “What happens,” he said, “is that people get immediate feedback about their progress in the various aspects of a course. They learn which things they need to devote more attention to, and they can reallocate resources and time very rapidly, precisely, and effectively.” With regard to collective assessments, Diane Baxter of the San Diego Supercomputer Center noted that at the middle and elementary school levels, more and more teachers are asking kids to review each other’s work, with the teachers often evaluating the comments to see how well the students are reviewing. This process is greatly facilitated by technology, she pointed out. For example, the “track changes” function avoids any confusion resulting from young people’s sometimes hard-to-read handwriting. Mary Downs of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (an independent federal agency) stressed “the continuum of development of technology skills” from K–12 to colleges to the workplace, which highlights the need for lifelong learning. She pointed out as well the important complementary role of “informal learning environments” such as libraries, museums, and community centers. “If corporations assume responsibility to assist” in developing ICT fluency, she said, “their collaboration with community centers will help assure that this sort of learning can take place.” J. Linda Williams, director of library media services for Anne Arundel County (Maryland) Public Schools, noted that assessments of students’ work, especially with respect to problem solving and critical thinking, could

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary derive as well from these informal learning environments—particularly libraries. In seeking collective evaluations, she said, “don’t forget about your library media specialist, teacher-librarian, or whatever they are called in your area. They teach problem solving, both to students and teachers, and they are important collaborators in teaching students how to think and how to learn.” Philip Sumida of Maine Township (Illinois) High School West agreed with Downs on the importance of informal learning environments, and he referred participants to the paper by Karen Pittman (see Appendix A), which developed that idea. He also underscored Williams’s advocacy of librarians as worthy collaborators. In that spirit, he quoted Michael Eisenberg’s earlier remark, “We are all slowly becoming librarians.” TURNING TEACHERS ON “You don’t teach fluency; rather, students become fluent,” said respondent Julia Fallon. She recounted how one professor in college “pulled me across the line” from mere literacy with spreadsheets, word processing, and the like into the beginnings of ICT fluency. The difference, she said, was in encouraging exploration and self-learning. “By being allowed to tinker, I was motivated to ask myself ‘How do I make this work for me?’” Similarly, she said, “kids don’t go around saying ‘technology, technology, technology’ or tell themselves ‘Omigosh, I’m doing math.’ It’s all together, and we need to show students how it works all together. We teach them foundational skills, and then they are able to tinker and use those tools. They may use them in ways we don’t even envision, which is the idea. And they may ask for help from peers or collaborate on a school project. We want to give them enough of a skill set so that they can craft and innovate for themselves in the future.” But a confounding factor for teachers at present, she noted, is that they must grapple with a multiplicity of standards and requirements at the state and national levels. “It gets confusing,” she said, “and I want to know if there will be a unifying framework so that we can see it and know where it all comes together, or if there will at least be a place for common definitions.” Essentially, Fallon said, we need to be using the same language when we are talking about ICT, literacy, and fluency. Bruett agreed on the desirability of “a common language and a framework broad enough to be an umbrella for many different initiatives,” and she referred to past, but unsuccessful, efforts to do just that. There are just

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary too many different organizations in the education community, she said, “to get words that would work for everybody.” But there is no reason why, in the interest of high school reform, we can’t get all stakeholders together to agree on the “end product,” said Bruett. “We are all interested, after all, in what this kid should look like when coming out of school and what he or she should be ready to do. This is perhaps the kind of universal framework on which we can all agree. On exactly how to get there, agreement is rarely possible. But by focusing on the end game we have a much better chance of commonality and driving toward the same thing.” With respect to “end game,” Jean Moon, director of the National Academies’ Board on Science Education, observed that although there are multiple standards in multiple subjects, Bruett’s recommendations referred not to the discrete levels that standards usually address. She instead spoke in more holistic terms around competencies. Thus, Moon asked her to pick the top five or so competencies that seem to cut across the work environment and could bridge back to high schools and middle schools. “What might those competencies be?” Moon asked. “And how might you get us started down this path of looking at things more broadly?” Bruett put communication at the top of her list. “That’s the one thing that is always evaluated,” she said. “In every interview and in every job, communication skills are critical, and that’s never going to change.” She also cited problem solving and critical thinking: “We are looking for people who can figure out the next big thing, the way to do what we do better, the way to do what we do less expensively”. Next is the ability to deal with ambiguity: “When there is no one road to the answer, it is so important to focus on what you want to accomplish at the end and then pick your right path for getting there”. Also on the list are global awareness and global literacy: “Many organizations today function in collaborative global networks of teams of people working across the world to solve problems.” Hawkins elaborated on qualities that comprise problem-solving. It is not just finding solutions per se, she said, but also a facility to address the right problem and to ask the right question in the first place. It is as important to look at data and understand them, she said, as well as evaluate them. Diane Baxter of the San Diego Supercomputer Center and Jennifer Coughlin of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science raised the issue of teacher education and teacher leadership for implementing such goals. Teachers are not much accustomed to change, she observed, even

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary though restructuring is fast becoming endemic to so many organizations, and teachers are not necessarily comfortable with ICT to begin with. Hawkins noted that Intel has provided teachers with training “that gives them confidence and gets them over the hurdle of being afraid to use technology for fear of looking dumb in front of their students.” The idea, she said, is to motivate teachers not only to effect change in their own classrooms but also to become advocates for inspiring other teachers, as well as administrators, in their school. Fallon said that she tries to do much the same thing in her own job, where she sometimes refers to herself as a “technology drug dealer” because she turns teachers on to some exhilarating revelations—that they can allow themselves to look human in front of their class and that they actually have a lot more facility with technology and comfort with change than they thought they had. “We try to demystify,” she said. “‘We are not asking you to do rocket science,’ I tell teachers. ‘We are asking you do to some very simple things with some tools that convey the content you are trying to get across.’” And more often than not, Fallon added, “all of a sudden you start to see this little light bulb in their head turn on, and it’s very exciting for me.” Susan Yoon from the University of Pennsylvania cited the need to bridge the traditional separation between formal classroom-learning environments and informal learning places, where students grow increasingly proficient in their knowledge and use of technology. We should be taking a look at what students do outside of school, she said, and trying to apply those lessons to classrooms. Yoon’s remarks were consistent with the observation by Philip Bell, in his paper for this meeting (see Appendix C), that ICT has become fully integrated into the texture of young people’s routine daily activities. But in his paper (see Appendix B), Horwitz maintained that while kids’ learning of ICT competencies outside of school is inevitable and desirable, this important niche is unlikely to be duplicated in the more formal school environments. Learning the fundamentals of operating technology is not likely to ever be part of the core curriculum of school he suggested, nor should it be.