7
Revisiting the Being Fluent Framework

In the first part of this session, a panel of experts—authors of the workshop’s papers and an author’s representative—discussed the papers and their implications. In the second part of the session, the workshop participants met in seven small groups to discuss two assigned questions. Their responses, the organizing committee expected, would provide “actionable items” for updating the Being Fluent framework and, ultimately, for measuring its success in cultivating information and communications technology (ICT) fluency in high school students. The final part of the session was devoted to reports from the breakout groups.

EXPERTS’ REFLECTIONS

Useful Social Practices

Philip Bell a member of the Board on Science Education at the National Research Council began this session. He said that in rereading Being Fluent’s 30 characteristics of “FITness” (fluency with information technology) he noted some resonance with general aspects of problem solving. He also saw in those characteristics a tension between two poles: a “designer or builder view” and a “sophisticated-user view.” The latter, he said, being more tightly coupled to personal objectives, affects the use of information technologies on a day-to-day basis. Thus “there is much to be gained by



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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary 7 Revisiting the Being Fluent Framework In the first part of this session, a panel of experts—authors of the workshop’s papers and an author’s representative—discussed the papers and their implications. In the second part of the session, the workshop participants met in seven small groups to discuss two assigned questions. Their responses, the organizing committee expected, would provide “actionable items” for updating the Being Fluent framework and, ultimately, for measuring its success in cultivating information and communications technology (ICT) fluency in high school students. The final part of the session was devoted to reports from the breakout groups. EXPERTS’ REFLECTIONS Useful Social Practices Philip Bell a member of the Board on Science Education at the National Research Council began this session. He said that in rereading Being Fluent’s 30 characteristics of “FITness” (fluency with information technology) he noted some resonance with general aspects of problem solving. He also saw in those characteristics a tension between two poles: a “designer or builder view” and a “sophisticated-user view.” The latter, he said, being more tightly coupled to personal objectives, affects the use of information technologies on a day-to-day basis. Thus “there is much to be gained by

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary actually understanding some of these sophisticated everyday uses of ICT,” Bell said, and he pointed to studies that he and his colleagues are doing with respect to children’s ICT activities in and out of school. The researchers are observing several on-line spaces where kids, out of school, spend a good deal of time talking with each other about various topics—particularly those that are personally consequential, such as having to do with their understanding of health and their making of health-related decisions. “We are looking at the kinds of argumentation they do in those settings and how those particular technologies allow them to have particular kinds of discussions around data or ideas,” said Bell. The in-school part of his work has been around scaffolding students’ engagement with scientific evidence. The researchers are trying to see what kinds of supports kids need in order to acquire disciplinary understandings of information they find on the Internet and to create meaningful arguments from that information. Bell and his colleagues have also been spending time, he said, “following the trends of technology and popular culture. There we are seeing quite a bit of integrated, really tightly bound-up use of ICT in children’s everyday activities across all sorts of settings.” So, for example, with participants who are available on their “instant messenger” list 15 hours a day, “we are trying to understand how that shapes their experience differently from children who are not in that kind of contact with a distributed network of close peers.” Bell explained that there are two parts to this investigation. The first is focused on cognition and learning with the aid of ICT. Research in this area explores the degree to which learning is domain-specific or domain-general, how people navigate the Internet for information, and how the cognitive work that people do crosses different contexts and domains. The second part focuses on social practices, which he argued are very useful in ICT education activities because they help engage students in a much more concrete way. Bell has observed, for example, that in communities whose members have shared norms about how they cultivate information and share it with each other, individuals are socially obligated to be contributing valuable information to that community as much as they are taking information away. Such “very fit social practices” serve both the group and its individual members.

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary Authentic Contexts Paul Resta pointed out the need to be attentive to pedagogical challenges. Being Fluent, for example, maintained that, while lecturing is not the most powerful mode or even an effective mode for helping students develop ICT fluency, project-based learning could be a major asset. “We need to be providing a more authentic context for learning ICT fluency,” he said. “Students learn best when they are engaged in authentic tasks and using authentic technological tools. We really need to create those environments.” Resta thus agreed with other participants’ suggestions to make schools more like workplaces, and he would go even further. “A critical step toward making that happen is to formally connect the school with the workplace. We can look at service learning programs, apprenticeships, and internships,” he said, “and I think this is particularly important for low-income minority students.” Resta noted his work with Native American school communities. “If you can engage those students in tasks that are meaningful both to them personally and to their community,” he said, “it is a powerful tool for helping to direct ICT fluency.” In his center’s Four Directions Project, for example, students not only become technology experts in such settings but also act as partners with teachers and elders in helping to develop culturally responsive curricula. Meanwhile, Resta said, teacher education is critical. Colleges must not only prepare teachers with the skills they will need to foster ICT fluency but should also ensure that all graduates have been on the same page with respect to platforms, software, and basic approaches to creating fruitful environments for their students. Unpredictable Effects Paul Horwitz commented on the difficulty of predicting the future— how we tend to “get the innovation right but don’t realize what effect it’s going to have.” So, for example, when the telephone was invented some 125 years ago, it was seen as a better interface for the telegraph. The automobile was thought to be like a horse, only faster, and the printing press was merely a way to reduce the cost of books. Each of these technologies achieved those specific ends, he said, but they also went much further. Indeed, he suggested, they revolutionized the world.

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary Similarly, while Benjamin Franklin invented the public library so that everyone could have access to information, we now have it a lot faster, Horwitz said. “Nonlinearities happen when you make information available that much faster, when you no longer have to go to the library and look something up in a book.” Thus, Being Fluent, published in 1999, couldn’t possibly imagine, for example, the rise of blogs, he said. “Everybody can publish now, and the amazing thing is that people read them.” Another example is Webcams, whereby people give up their privacy, on purpose, so that others can watch them over the course of their regular day. Horwitz said, “There is a phenomenon here of the global village that is qualitatively different from what was going on before.” Not only are the effects of an innovation a lot greater than one would think, he noted, they are both good and bad. While the car has introduced a great many benefits to the world, it is also the leading cause of death of young people. And while useful information is available on the Internet, a lot of what is there may be useless or even harmful. For example, “it’s now very easy for rumors to get around very quickly and to be believed by a very large number of people without regard to whether they have any relation to the truth,” said Horwitz. “The key questions,” he concluded are, “What is the responsibility of the school to head off such problems?” and “What is the responsibility of society in general?” Rules of Engagement Vivian Guilfoy, senior vice president for Education, Employment, and Community Programs at the Education Development Center, represented author Karen Pittman, who was unable to attend. An important point made in the Pittman paper, Guilfoy said, is that “huge numbers of our young people are not in school. They are in homeless shelters, community-based agencies, facilities of the Department of Justice, or in jobs—sometimes good jobs, sometimes horrible jobs.” It is imperative, she said, that we reach them and work with them. A second point of the paper is that a great deal of ICT activity is occurring outside school in the “informal” sector. For example, Guilfoy said, “community-based organizations have for quite a long time been doing incredible work in ICT.” Volunteers from the business sector often are passionately involved, making valuable resources available. “We should be asking ourselves,” she said, “how we can improve and leverage the kinds of

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary activities that these people do in order to reach the FITness goals and protocols we have been talking about?” And a third point of Pittman’s paper is to be very careful with “laundry lists,” Guilfoy said. We can’t just check off the three designations of the Being Fluent framework but must establish hierarchies among components and show how they relate to each other. At the heart of all this, she said, “is something called engagement: How do we hook our young people, as well as those who are working with our young people, to get interested? And, whether the motivation is to get a job, answer a question they really care about, or to do good for somebody else, I think we underestimate what some of the motivators might be for our young people.” One important avenue for educators of FITness, she noted, is to show students how different sectors, different disciplines, and policy makers and practitioners alike can come together to achieve successful results. “We need to think as creatively as we can about how to honestly learn from one another,” said Guilfoy. “How can we make sure that we are talking about things that ‘say yes?’” Rather than stereotyping and compartmentalizing would-be participants, she said, the attitude should be “yes, we can do this together; and yes, we can find innovative ways to make this happen.” PARTICIPANTS’ VIEWS In the breakout sessions, participants were asked to consider two questions: Listening and participating in the conversations at this meeting, as well as drawing from your own experiences, what revisions would you recommend to the ICT fluency framework offered in Being Fluent with Information Technology? How would you know when this framework has been implemented well in the context of high schools? In the final plenary session, when each group reported on its responses to the questions, every group leader qualified his or her remarks in much the same way. A summary of the group’s discussion, they said, would miss the nuanced flavor of participants’ comments. Yet they agreed that their summaries would capture the main points of the discussions. Although

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary there was considerable overlap among the groups in these main points, there also were notable differences. The rest of this section covers that final session in the order of the questions. Should the Being Fluent Framework Be Revised? The groups discussed both the overall framework and its three areas: intellectual capabilities, foundational concepts, and contemporary skills. Overall Framework There was some agreement that the fluency framework (see Box 2-1 in Chapter 2) can be moved from the college level to high school, with minor revisions in each of its three areas. However, one group noted that the language used in the framework is often not clear enough for potential supporters, such as policy makers, to stand behind. For example, under intellectual capabilities, component 10 (“Think about information technology abstractly”) is itself too abstract. Thus there is a need to be more concrete. In this vein, another group suggested that a revision of Being Fluent, or perhaps a secondary document, should have examples specific to disciplines and provide some vision and practical suggestions to teachers. Yet another group noted that because many of the information technology concepts are related to each other, they might be more effectively described at the meta level. Two of the groups suggested that the framework be seriously revisited so that its components are made measurable in assessment-friendly ways. One group suggested that a single unified framework, in place of the three discrete areas, would be better. The other group observed that the notion of “generating useful content,” which is certainly essential to ICT fluency, is a straightforward process for students made unnecessarily complex by the framework: to describe that notion, one needs to invoke a skill, a concept, and a capability. An issue that the Being Fluent report is silent about is the need to provide a legal and safe operating environment for students. Just as everyone wants to make sure that students don’t have guns in school, an atmosphere must be established there that lets students pursue their intellectual activities lawfully. Similarly, there should be some guidance on mobilizing and organizing.

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary Intellectual Capabilities One group suggested that “collaborate” (component 6) be modified to “interact with others” at the high school level. This group also said that “think about information technology abstractly” (component 10) may be less complicated at the secondary level than at the college level, while another group recommended that this component be filled out by extending it or complementing it with something on the order of “think about practical applications.” One group noted that a missing idea in the framework is “creativity,” though it is not clear how to specify such a component. There were two suggestions for merging components. One was to merge “test a solution” (component 3) and “manage problems in faulty solutions” (component 4). The other was to merge “expect the unexpected” (component 8) and “anticipate changing technologies” (component 9) into something like “anticipate and adapt changing technologies to changing situations.” This formulation would lead to recognition, which could ultimately lead to a response. Another group suggested that one component should be expanded: “create information” should be added to “organize and navigate information structures and evaluate information” (component 5). Finally, one group expressed some concern about “ontological muddling”—components at different levels of abstraction. At the very least, there needs to be more detail about what the components mean. Foundational Concepts One group noted that as the ICT world has changed since Being Fluent was published, some of the components and terms in the framework need to change too. For example, components 1 and 3, “computers” and “networks,” should be collapsed, as they are collapsing in industry. When computers are no longer stand-alone devices but elements of distributed systems, what is a network and what is a computer? Several groups proposed additions to this area of the framework. One group offered “pervasive and ubiquitous computing” and another said “computational science” should be included in component 8. Another group said that issues of security, privacy, and ethics should be included. Also offered for inclusion was the issue of participating in communities, though the group that offered it said it is unclear whether it ought to be under concepts or skills.

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary Contemporary Skills The group discussions about this area of the framework covered both overall ideas and specific changes. One group noted that while the collections of components under intellectual capabilities and foundational concepts will largely hold their own over time, a mechanism needs to be in place for updating the components of ICT skills on a periodic basis. Another group observed that some of the ICT skills aim too low, applying in large measure to current elementary school students. These skills should be elevated for the high school level. More specifically, several groups suggested altering terms to reflect changes in the ICT environment. One proposal was to change “graphic” to “interactive media” in component 4 (“using a graphic and/or artwork package to create illustrations, slides, or other image-based expressions of ideas”). Another proposal was to change “a computer” to “digital devices” in component 7 (“using a computer to communicate with others”). One group proposed a complete rewording of component 3: from “using a word processor to create a text document” to “using application software to create useful documents.” Another group said that component 10 (“using instructional materials to learn how to use new applications or features”) needs to be broadened, as instructional materials are not always satisfactory. When revised, this item might refer, for example, to the kinds of technologies, systems, or general processes that students should look for. Lastly, one group suggested that there should be a component about being able to secure one’s computer. How Can ICT Fluency Be Assessed or Measured? Agreeing with the Being Fluent report that an effective way to integrate the different kinds of ICT-related knowledge is to be involved in projects— which are realistic instances of ICT application in daily life—one group focused on ways to judge students’ contributions. It suggested that students would have to create “artifacts” from their work that could be evaluated. Such evaluations would not be based on how many buttons the item has or on some other quantitative measure, but would be done in the way in which, for example, art is judged by a jury and books are reviewed. Given that such artifacts would be much more complex than students’ traditional products, they would be worthy of much more complex evaluation. Another possibility, assuming that ICT has been embedded across all high school learning experience, would be not to evaluate ICT fluency per

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary se. In this approach, students would not be expected to achieve fluency through a single class; rather, they would become fluent through exposure in all of their classes. For example, students would learn some components in physics, some in history, and some in writing. Another group talked about shared libraries of projects and plans, such as the Digital Library of Earth Science Education, that people would be able to sort through for ideas for lessons. The elements of such resources could be categorized by the degree to which they relate to ICT fluency. At the same time, the fluency framework as a whole could be used in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classes or applied to STEM materials that go beyond the typical content. This group suggested that one might see the framework justified by a research base and well implemented at local and state levels. The accompanying assessments, meanwhile, would have to be well integrated and systematic. The next group to report noted that because a single evaluation usually gives a misleading impression of what is going on, it is important to have multimodal evaluations—that is, a portfolio of assessments. This led the group to the basic question of whether formal assessments can actually reveal whether students are mastering the material. In graduate school, for example, thesis advisors know very well how their students are doing— what they know and don’t know—and they often don’t give them an exam at all. So, too, it may be desirable to teach high school teachers how to internalize—to understand, outside a formal structure of testing—the depth of students’ knowledge. In that spirit, the group discussed Bette Manchester’s comment (see Chapter 5) that she can go into a school and within minutes feel what is going on there. They would like her to sit her down “with bright lights,” they said, “to make her tell us what she knows about the things that evoke those feelings!” The next group proposed several ways in which success in cultivating ICT fluency among high school students could be measured. One would be if FITness were presented in a less jargon-like way so that everyone could understand it. Another measure of success would be if teachers had to know how to use technology effectively in learning. Another would be if there are buy-ins up and down the “food chain.” Success could also be measured if both the students and teachers were moved from being users to being creators—even innovators. And a final measure of success would be if, in assessing kids, the same technology were used that the students are using to learn.

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary The next group reported that it too had focused on the need for jargon-free presentation and seamless embeddedness. Its discussion emphasized the need for a revised Being Fluent or follow-up report to have clear and crisp examples that illustrate what ICT fluency looks like. Group members also talked about the idea of fluency as continuous, relevant, and adaptive: this would provide an interesting way to get a new lens on the kinds of skills and competencies that are needed both in the workplace and higher education. Such an approach would move assessment away from a focus on the usual laundry list. The next group started from the understanding that ICT literacy would be benchmarked at eighth grade, as required by the No Child Left Behind legislation. As a result, high school would not be a place for acquiring technological literacy skills but rather a place to become fluent with ICT. The group concluded that the focus at the secondary level should be on how you use the technology to learn—how you use it to deepen your knowledge, to work together, and to create. Given that focus, members discussed how to reach classroom teachers: What do we need to see in place to actually get a classroom teacher not only to know about technology but also be able to use it in the classroom? The group thus proposed several steps that members thought would be useful in achieving these goals: It would be important to align or develop a crosswalk of the Being Fluent framework with national standards, which are the legacy documents used by states to create the state standards around technology. In that way, there would be an overarching connection of all the things that states are using—such as the 21st Century Skills (see http://www.ncrel.org/engauge/skills/techlit.htm [accessed March 2006]) or the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) standards—to drive their own curricula. Alternative strategies for developing skills, such as librarians and teachers collaborating to create lessons for the classroom or to identify big projects that kids could work on together, would also need to be in place. There should be an alignment between ICT fluency and content standards as well. In that way, science teachers, for example, would be expected not only to teach youngsters how to develop databases but also to motivate them to analyze subject-related information from the many databases that exist. To align the capabilities, concepts, and skills in the Being Fluent framework with specific content standards and requirements that

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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary teachers are responsible for, a revised Being Fluent or its successor should be more specific. More layers are needed beneath the framework’s language for this report to be useful to teachers. In that way, teachers may be able to connect the capabilities, concepts, and skills to the competencies they are responsible for teaching in the classroom and also to be able to integrate ICT fluency into assessment. There is a need for dissemination—an intentional plan to reach classroom teachers and provide them with suggestions on how they can use the framework in the classroom. The final group to report on its discussions offered several examples of assessing outcomes. If remedial ICT programs in community colleges, four-year universities, or companies were to evaporate, they reported, that would be an observable example of success. If there were a universal expectation of a digital portfolio, above and beyond a transcript, for transferring artifacts of work—real products—from the high schools to whatever post-secondary experience people have, that would be another observable example. So too would be the embedding of such expectations into standards, because standards frame the discussion of assessment and professional practice. Another example: If computer-application classes disappeared because ICT was so fully embedded into real practice, that absence would demonstrate progress. So too would be the embedding of expectations for ICT in the standards that frame the discussion of assessment and professional practice. And if all members of a community, from students to parents to the school-board members to the business people, were using the same vocabulary for conversations like the one we have had over the last two days, that would be a measure of broad ICT fluency. In closing the workshop, Margaret Honey summarized three critical points that had emerged during the discussions. One was the changing requirements of the workplace and what it means to be successful in the world: very different qualities and skills are required today in comparison with those of previous decades. Second, participants repeatedly emphasized the importance of teaching these skills, notably by embedding them throughout the curriculum. Finally, participants discussed the importance of rigor, relevance, and social context and of the close links between curriculum and assessment. Assessment can be a dynamic and fluid process that is intimately tied to instruction and learning.

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