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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary Afterword Jean Moon and Heidi Schweingruber The Workshop on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Fluency and High School Graduation Outcomes provided a useful forum for surveying the current status of information and communication technology within the school landscape, charting future directions, and exploring new terrain. Discussions across the day and a half revealed that young people have great interest in ICT but also that educators are not at all clear about the best way to meaningfully bring it into the process of K– 12 education. Workshop participants repeatedly stressed that while Being Fluent (National Research Council, 1999) was a major step forward in specifying outcomes through its framework of “FITness” (fluency in information technology, now called “ICT fluency”), the challenge has been in trying to institutionalize those kinds of outcomes within the schools’ practices and curricula, even its institutional culture. Repeated calls from the corporate and higher-education communities for high school graduates to come to the workplace or postsecondary institutions as problem-solvers, adaptive and self-motivated learners, collaborators, and critical thinkers have not been enough (AeA, 2005; Partnership for the 21st Century, 2004). Planning committee member Dan Gohl has a vision of our schools looking more like the workplaces of the 21st century than the schools of the 20th century, but the transformative institutional efforts to move us closer to that goal have been, at best, disappointing. Workshop participants attributed the lack of progress both to inherent obstacles in the institution of K–12 schooling and the lack of agreement about
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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary what aspects of ICT fluency the schools should be responsible for fostering in the first place. Being Fluent articulates, through its FITness framework, an important continuum of skills, concepts, and intellectual capabilities. ICT is not only a “thing” like an integrated circuit or the World Wide Web; it is also an application of hardware and software in the service of cognitive and professional growth. The result is a revolutionary new space for knowledge-generation and its digital representation (Horwitz, see Appendix B). It is a space that can link a wide community of learners and thinkers, where our capacities can advance through the intersection of people’s social and individual inclinations. John Seely Brown (2002, p. 6) describes this very real phenomenon as follows: It’s interesting to watch how new systems get absorbed by society; with the Web, this absorption, or learning process, by young people has been quite different from the process in times past. My generation tends not to want to try things unless or until we already know how to use them. If we don’t know how to use some appliance or software, our instinct is to reach for a manual or take a course or call up an expert. Believe me, hand a manual or suggest a course to 15 year olds and they think you are a dinosaur. They want to turn the thing on, get in there, muck around, see what works. Today’s kids get on the Web and link, lurk, and watch how other people are doing things, then try it themselves…. Learning becomes situated in action; it becomes as much social as cognitive, it is concrete rather than abstract. Yet as Bell points out (see Appendix C), the existing FITness framework described in Being Fluent is predominantly based on an individual construct of ICT fluency. It notes, for example, that “FITness is a body of knowledge and understanding that enables individuals to use information technology effectively in a variety of different contexts” (National Research Council 1999, p. 40). But Bell, like Brown, suggests that expertise and ultimate solutions mediated through ICT are often to be found in distributed groups or communities and not just in the mind of the individual. “Generally, individuals routinely leverage their social networks to identify useful knowledge and relevant learning resources as part of their day-to-day dealings,” Bell writes. “For those immersed within what could be characterized as an ICT learning community, they may learn about new technological systems and approaches from others in their social network.” Vera Michalchik emphasizes the social and cultural dimensions associated with information and communication technology, stressing how difficult it is to separate the technology from the social context of the user (V.
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ICT Fluency and High Schools: A Workshop Summary Michalchik, personal communication, ICT Workshop on October 26, 2005, Washington, DC.). Results of ethnographic studies reveal that ICT is adopted and adapted differently, depending on one’s social situation and the ways in which the technology will be used. Moreover, ICT creates new social spaces as people learn about, negotiate, communicate with, and apply new technologies, thereby connecting with each other in interdependent and generative ways that are deeply social in their own right. Thus, both Bell and Michalchik appear to be calling up a picture of interdependent learning as a core feature of information and communication technology. But this image stands in contrast to the existing culture of formal schooling, which is based on a system of individual accomplishment. This contrast raises questions about the degree to which, or whether, the inherently complex, pervasive, and social ICT can fit into the present K–12 system. Future inquiries into how information and communication technology can become successfully established in formal learning institutions would do well to first explore how high-school-aged youth are engaging with ICT outside school and then to determine the implications for such learning processes inside school. As workshop participants noted, the social dimensions of learning and applying ICT are a critical and frequently overlooked dimension of understanding how ICT fits in high schools or in K– 12 schools in general. In particular, we need to understand more fully what kinds of ICT skills, competencies, and capabilities high school students are now acquiring in their daily, informal, and highly social uses of ICT and whether these pursuits give them fluency as defined in Being Fluent. Only then can we chart a path toward high schools that advance students’ ICT fluency at the same time as they enrich them with knowledge and skills in literature, history, mathematics, science, and other core subjects. REFERENCES AeA. (2005). Losing the competitive advantage? The challenge for science and technology in the United States. Available: http://www.aeanet.org/publications/IDJJ_AeA_Competitiveness.asp [accessed March 1, 2006]. Brown, J.S. (2002). Growing up digital: How the web changes work, education, and the ways people learn. USDLA Journal, 16(2). Available: http:///www.usdla.org/html/journalFEB02_Issues/article01.html. [March 1, 2006]. National Research Council. (1999). Being fluent with information technology. Washington, DC.: National Academy Press. Partnership for the 21st Century. (2004). Learning for the 21st century. Available: http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/downloads/P21_Report.pdf. [accessed March 1, 2006].
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