Whose job is it, anyway? NETS implementation proposal

ISTE NETS-S. All rights reserved by ISTE

So you’ve decided your school is into 21st century learning. You want specific, measurable, and achievable goals for your students; you want them to have a skillset that will enable them to be successful in the decades to come. In other words, you’ve decided to implements NETS.

So now what?

The fact is, NETS is not a set of standards for computer competency. They are a holistic set of habits and skills for the development of critical thinkers and independent learners that uses technology as a framework to develop the requisite traits. This means that implementing them is a shared Р though not necessarily equally distributed Рresponsiblity in a school.

Step one: scaffold for thinking skills, not technology ones

NETS is great, but it’s up to the individual school to figure out when to implement each skill. Curriculum 21is probably a good place to start, but you also need to account for the individual needs of your student body, which could be influenced by both cultural (home environment, religious values, etc) and material (socio-economic status) factors. A school might want to emphasize some standards more than others. For example, four of the standards (Research & Info, Creativity & Innovation, Critical Thinking, and Communication & Collaboration) can be emphasized without vast technology resources. My own school might want to focus on critical thinking to challenge our students’ backgrounds of entitlement and privilege. Digital Citizenship might be emphasized at schools with problems with cyberbullying or ones that are especially concerned about intellectual property issues. Only Technology Operations and Concepts has an inseperable relationship with a school’s access to technology resources.

ISTE’s example of how to scaffold NETS-S. Infographic courtesy yours truly.

The second implementation requirement is for a school to create a scope and sequence for the standards – just like in any content area. There should be a clear progression of skills from elementary to high school with strong vertical alignment. Teachers should have a clear idea of what skills students will have by what grade level. For example, a history teacher (such as myself) wanting students to create a propaganda video should have a good idea of his students’ competence and familiarity with video editing before assigning the task. Good vertical alignment reduces the incidence of teaching duplication and (hopefully) maximizes the skill transfer between subject areas, especially importance with cross-curricular standards like NETS.

(PS: NETS offers its own sample practices that you might extrapolate to build your own scaffolding model.)

Step two: compile best practices for each track and level

Scaffolding skills and vertical alignment is all well and good, but teachers need concrete examples if they’re going to teach and model the skills for students. Once the vertical alignment has been compiled, teachers need to be given the support they need to learn these skills. If a school has dedicated tech coaches, they should take the lead in offering pre-school year, after-school, pull-out day, and in-service trainings. However, the school should also identify exemplary teachers to share their practices – this could be voluntary, peer-nominated, or identified by the admin. ISTE tells us that “ongoing professional development” is important and that teachers need time to both practice and share their ideas, and teachers (who ultimately determine the success of NETS implementation) need to feel they are competent before they ask their students to dive in.

Step three: find overlap and effiencies

Although NETS implementation is a shared responsibility, some standards will naturally align better with some subjects areas’ curricula than others. This depends, of course, on a school’s individual curriculum. But at my school, the Social Studies department might focus more on knowing how to “locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media” (NETS-S 3b) since this dovetails so nicely with DBQs. Or the English Department might take the lead in helping students to “create original works as a means of personal or group expression” (NETS 1b) since it fits well with creative writing. You get the idea.

When to toss this out the window…

If your school doesn’t have tight vertical and horizantal alignment, there’s no reason to try to fit NETS into your existing structure – in the long run, it’s more efficient to build something new from the ground up. This might mean delaying NETS implementation until your next curriculum review – or bumping up your curriculum review so that you can implement NETS more quickly.

5 thoughts on “Whose job is it, anyway? NETS implementation proposal”

  1. I keep wondering why schools do reinvent the wheel when the NETs exist and as you point to there are so many resources out there to help a school implement them.

    1. Part of the issue is that finding information on the web isn’t as easy as people think. You tacitly (or explicitly) acknowledge this when you recommend people to take Google’s search refresher courses. My take on it is that educators still rely a lot of word of mouth – that’s why we’re building PLNs in COETAIL. In a nutshell, the democratization of information has also led to a fragmentation and there are relatively few central resources that act as an encyclopedia.

      Perhaps a good COETAIL assignment might be for us to form into groups and collaboratively make our own wiki for a given topic (such as Digital Storytelling) that could serve as a central repository. It would help us learn collaborative skills and tools while giving us a resource to apply outside of the course. And the instructors could use the resources we find as potential course readings =)

  2. Your post answers the questions I pose in mine (about the same topic) about when and how. I veered a bit in my response – thanks for sharing these resources.

    1. Hmnn…interesting that my blog post is titled exactly the same as yours – I swear I did not plagiarize yours! I guess it isn’t very original…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *