What does it mean to be a 21st-century teacher and learner? According to the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan (NETP), "we are still evolving our understanding of what it means to be a 21st-century learner." One way to answer this question is provided by the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE), outlined in the 2010 NETP and based on the ISTE's National Educational Technology Standards for Students:
2. Communication and collaboration. Students should be able to work collaboratively, both in person and at a distance, and to communicate ideas effectively to multiple audiences using new media.
3. Research and information fluency. Students should be able to use a variety of digital media to locate, organize, analyze, and evaluate information from a variety of sources.
4. Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making. Students should be able to define problems, plan and conduct research, and identify solutions or appropriate decisions using digital tools and resources.
5. Digital citizenship. Students should take responsibility for their own lifelong learning and should practice safe, legal, and ethical use of information and digital tools.
6. Technology operations and concepts. Students should understand technology systems, select and use technology applications effectively, and be able to troubleshoot systems and applications." (NETP, 2010.)
As can be seen, there are quite high expectations for a 21st-century learner. It is highly unlikely that we can reach those objectives without careful planning, particularly when it comes to technology use and integration. But what exactly is Technology Use Planning?
As a teacher of ESL Reading and Writing courses, I found the definitions offered by Anderson particularly interesting. He states that the term "technology planning" can be viewed in both "noun" and "verb" forms. As a noun, the term implies the "document" that simply identifies the destination, compared to a road map, which shows a point A and a point B, as well as where they are in relation to each other. On the other hand, according to Anderson, the verb form of the term is "more important" and describes "...the kinds of actions, attitudes, and results that are involved in the process" (Anderson, 1999.) Continuing with his example with a road map, he states that just as the planning of the "future trip" is not the same as the actual travelling, "simply writing or reading a planning document is no substitute for the experience ...as a group of people move together through the meaningful process of planning" (Anderson, 1999.)Even though he recognizes the importance of the "directions", he places the key importance on maximizing the outcome of the process itself (Anderson, 1999). As he stated in the National Center for Technology Planning report, "Technology Planning is much more than computers" (Anderson, 1999).
Furthermore, Technology Use Planning is a crucial component of the 21th century education and John See, a Technology Integration specialist of the Department of Education in Minnesota, discusses major points for consideration. Some of the key points are:
First, "planning for short terms", not "long terms". According to See, since technology changes rapidly, one risks to "lock oneself into old technology" (See, 1992) only because it was planned so. Creating plans that are further than a year ahead will likely result with one being "stuck" with an outdated and, more than likely, more expensive equipment and applications, while less expensive yet more powerful technologies constantly become available (See, 1992).
Second, See recommends to make technology plans "output", rather than "input"- based, i.e., to specify the objectives for "students, staff, and administration" and "what they should be able to do with technology" (See, 1992). These objectives, See claims, should determine "the types and amount of technology..." (See, 1992.) Concentrating on the output, i.e., the student or staff performance and skills, will allow to make cost-effective investments and still meet the objectives.
Next, See advises to expand one's vision of technology and incorporate various types into the plan. He argues that "effective plans define technology as more than computers". He also argues that "to write a video is as important as to write a report in English" (See, 1992). It is hard to disagree with the statement, considering that today's world demands much more from young people - the way they locate, analyze, share, and present information. Therefore, developing skills that will allow one to produce a 21st century "report" using available (not necessarily most expensive) software and devices is absolutely crucial.
Finally, See points out that "effective technology plans are tied to staff development plan", and those that are not are "destined for failure" (See, 1992). Particularly, teachers should be "aware of" the available technology, "apply" and "integrate" them into daily lesson plans in order to teach "more efficiently and effectively", and, finally, be able to "refine" their use of technology, in order to be able to "change what they teach and how they teach" to meet the 21st century learning and teaching goals (See, 1992.)
To summarize, I find the points outlined by Anderson and See worthy of consideration. First, the technology indeed changes rapidly, which can be seen with our own personal devices - a new version of a more powerful yet less expensive software or application is available every day; therefore, one has to plan carefully in order not to "lock oneself into" an outdated yet very expensive equipment. Second, purchasing a piece of equipment without a prior consideration of what one wants to achieve with it might turn out out to be a simple waste of resources. Having clear goals and objectives for learning outcomes before purchasing equipment is an important step. Third, we should expand our visions of technology - a computer is not the only technology we can use. Fourth, considering professional development for teachers and staff is another key point - what good is about all that state-of-the-art equipment if it is never used to the fullest extent? Finally, it is important to be able to see both the similarity as well as the distinction between the "planning"-noun and the "planning"-verb, i.e., a simple road map showing the final destination and "the process" of actually "getting there", particularly that experience that is gained. Again, as Anderson reminded us, "...it's more than just computers."
In conclusion, as a teacher, and as a future technology integration specialist, I find this assignment very useful, stimulating thinking beyond "just computers", and identifying priorities in technology use planning. Just an expensive brand won't do the job; the people, teachers and staff, the knowledge, and the mindful approach will. At the end of the day, the lives of today's students, professionals, employees, managers, etc., revolve around technology of all sorts and capacities, and it is our job to empower our learners to use it creatively, productively, effectively, and with competence to achieve their personal and professional goals, which, in turn, will meet the objectives of the 2010 NETP as well.
Anderson, L. (1999). Technology Planning: It's More Than Computers. National Center for Technology Planning, 1999. Retrieved from: http://www.nctp.com/articles/tpmore.pdf
See, J. (1992). Developing effective technology plans. The Computing Teacher, 19(8). Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/html/john_see.cfm
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2010).
Transforming American education: Learning powered by technology.
Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010