NETS — A Wake-Up Call for Our Profession
by Ferdi Serim, Editor, MultiMedia Schools

Technology is the Big Bang that has propelled literacy into an expanding universe. Scientists, no longer able to keep up through printed journals, now understand each other’s work online, through sophisticated visualizations and simulations made possible by supercomputing. Economists, unable to process the volume and complexity of financial transactions, employ armies of programmers to deploy powerful tools for real-time visualization of the flow of wealth. Visualization extends literacy by enabling people to perceive relationships hidden below the surface of vast amounts of data and to synthesize meaning from these relationships.

Literacy has always been at the heart of the education enterprise. From the time of the three R’s to now, being literate has been a consistent yet evolving foundation for citizenship in each cultural era. Literacy has also been used as a wedge, from the times of slavery (when teaching slaves to read was a felony) until the civil rights era, when literacy tests relied upon the inequality of schools to recreate a disenfranchised population by proxy. If the “digital divide” is the civil rights issue of the new millennium, our response must be to ensure that every classroom and every school is staffed with people who know how to provide their students with the full range of contemporary literacy skills.

In the past 2 decades, educators have progressed through media literacy to computer literacy to information literacy as goals to prepare students to take their place in a transforming world. Yet the aspects of visualization that are approaching survival skills in the ranks of educated professionals are absent from the preparation of teacher educators or their preservice students. Too often, educators use new tools to accomplish the same old tasks and evade the risks of change.

Some Folks Can Sleep Through Anything
The dream of anytime, anywhere learning, with telecommunications access providing a way to connect our young people with the accumulated wisdom of all cultures, is compelling. The reality of being required to demonstrate the skills required to do this is for some, quite frankly, a nightmare. As long as using technology to enhance learning remained optional, taking up the challenge of learning the required skills motivated many to press the “snooze alarm” and move them into what we affectionately call in my home state “Mañana Standard Time.”

Our Wake-Up Call Is Here: National Educational Technology Standards (NETS)
As Jerry Bennett eloquently demonstrates in our cover story, we now have a formidable lever to move our profession forward. For the first time in history, schools of education will be forced to demonstrate that their graduates can meet the NETS standards for teachers, or the schools will not have their accreditation renewed by NCATE. Lajeane Thomas, project director for the International Society of Technology in Education’s (ISTE) NETS project, predicts that states will adopt these standards for licensure requirements as well.

It would be absurd to leave to chance whether a student’s teacher could read or write. It is similarly absurd to allow technological and information literacy to be an optional attribute for professional educators. NETS specifies the extension of literacy to embrace the effective and appropriate pedagogical uses of technology for education professionals. The U.S. Department of Education has created the “Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology” (PT3) grant program to help colleges of education integrate technology across their operations, so that the 2.2 million new teachers who will be required to take the place of retiring educators by 2007 will start their careers ready, willing, and able to enhance learning through technology.

What Can We Do?
Out of 1,700 total institutions in our nation, there are 300 colleges of education presently participating in the PT3 grant program. If only a small portion of us, i.e., MMS readers, make ourselves known to these colleges and share our expertise, we can accelerate the process of integrating technology into the experiences that will shape the preparation of those who will teach our children and grandchildren. To do so is to awaken to the possibilities that our profession can renew itself, from the inside out, just in time to take advantage of the most powerful extensions of the human mind we’ve ever conceived. Arise, step out of bed, stretch, and greet the wondrous days that lie ahead!

Communications to the author may be addressed to: Ferdi Serim, MultiMedia Schools, 11 Palacio Road, Santa Fe, NM 87505; 505/466-1901; fax: 505/466-1901; ferdi@infotoday.com.

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