Does America Need Technology Education Standards?

Technology EducationIn order for America to compete in the global economy—or, perhaps, “participate” is more appropriate diction—we need to better educate our people about technology.  India and China are more populated and, more importantly, their people are more computer literate.  Thus, it is important to make sure that technology is part of our education system at all levels; and thus the US Department of Education has released its 2016 National Education Technology Plan (NETP).

The last time the US Department of Education updated the plan was 2010 so, as you can imagine, technology has grown by leaps and bounds since then. Two areas, in particular, have vastly improved:  mobile devices and [affordable] high speed internet access.  These technology sectors could have served as massive platforms for vast improvements in education but, unfortunately, not many gains have been made in this regard.

And so, the new 2016 National Education Technology Plan aims to, first of all, highlight the most crucial issues in education policy in order to quickly remedy, at least, some of the obstacles.  Of course, then, the plan recommends several strategies.  For one, the NETP suggests implementing the Universal Design for Learning education technology principles. Secondly, the NETP encourages training educators to be proficient and literate in the newest technology.  Also, NETP supports the development of new open teaching tools.

The latest report, though, also introduces the discussion over the difference between technology standards and education standards.  Education standards are more cut-and-dry; after all, they were defined a long time ago.  Education standards consist of two components:  a specific education competency associated with a specific grade level. Basically, by grade 1 a student should be able to read; by grade 9 a student should have, at least, an introduction to algebra, etc.  Teachers, then, are evaluated according to their ability to successful teach students the pre-determined curriculum for their grade level.

Technology standards, on the other hand,  are still forming.  For now, at least, these standards involve agreements between private firms who produce a particular product according to specialized specifications.  This, however, can act as a platform for even more technology and this platform can grow quickly.  More importantly, though, while we understand the benefit of technology—and the benefit of understanding technology—it is not always easy to adopt whatever the latest development may be.  Not only is there great uncertainty in new technology, but it is not always easy to anticipate the longevity of it.  This, of course, makes the process of developing technical education standards complicated.