The Challenges Inherent to the Standardization of Technology Education in America

Mark Stanislav <mstanisl@emich.edu>

Standardization isn’t merely a ‘good idea’ but a requirement for efficiency and breadth of capacity in any stable industry. Much like standardization occurs in general technology (protocols, interfaces, media formats, etc.) it also occurs within the realm of education. Every day students attend classes that have been composed, reviewed, and determined to be informative and useful by governing bodies of school system, large and small. The ability for students to be able to learn content, no matter how seemingly trivial, is a true goal of education. “The dramatic differences in what states believe should be taught are not so much in what should be taught but in how they much expect students to learn.” (Musick, 1997) Without a sense of what is being taught across states or even countries, can we really glean a sense of where education is taking any one generation. Now more than ever, technology education is a key factor in the lively-hood of modern day adults but more so, the next generation who is being taught now. “Computers and Internet access in schools are products of governmental policies that demand them (Department of Education, 1996, 2000), corporations that produce them, and numerous people who are often misinformed or ignorant about their purpose in education.” (Amiel, 2008) It’s no wonder with statements such as this that education is rooted in a sense of an almost monkey-see, monkey-do attitude for curriculum. Standardizing the scope of what education offers any student demands a sense of bias on the part of the educator due to constraints in both available teaching time as well as managing sizable content areas in short semesters. Purcell noted in 2004 that, “The academic world's perspective on standards education, however, may be about to change--and well it should.” (Purcell, 2004). Whether the education is focused on standards, or we are standardizing education, the sentiment remains that without

concentrated effort on evolution, content will stagnate and those being educated will ultimately lose out. Education is almost at an impasse regarding technology and having to standardized around it’s very nature. For generations ‘technology’ could simply relate to a farm machine or a television. Today, technology’s reach is almost insurmountable. Education is expected due to increasing reliance on technology to enable school children to understand concepts of the Internet, cellular communication, presentation design, spreadsheets, social media, instant messaging, and more. The days of a simple diorama and poster-board collage are nearly over. The “National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers” document I was able to find is over a dizzying 300 pages long. To expect a teacher to integrate that kind of breadth of content into a already standardized curriculum of math, science, and literacy is overwhelming. In my personal experience as an adjunct lecturer at Eastern Michigan University, I’ve found the goal of adequate curriculum creation daunting. My speciality is the Linux operating system, to which I have had over 10 years of hands-on experience, many of those professional. Despite my knowledge and time with the operating system, it’s still extremely hard to convey what information is crucial and what information is just ‘good to know’. “If international standards are so important, you'd think that they would be the focus of extensive analysis at schools of engineering in the United States.” (Purcell, 2004) The difficulty in Purcell’s earnest but slightly snarky comment is that relevance in curriculum isn’t necessarily driven by standardization from any one end. Curriculum at the end of the day is still architected by a collection of people whose viewpoints may be myopic to the topic at hand. In regard to this a struggle isn’t whether or not to teach my students standardized Linux curriculum, but which

standardized topics are of most importance! The true problem lies in the fact that standardization isn’t always exclusive in regard to any one topic. “Developing a set of standards that has a broad base of consensus has never been touted as an easy task.” (Kelly, 2002) The implementation of a standardized format for education may be done at a state level but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s being taught with a focus on relevance or actual content retainment. Indeed, with technology the scope of what should be taught is often impossible to refine for most topics and even then, a governing body on subject matter may not be the de facto standard. Take for example the organization ISC^2 which handles the Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP). They are a well-known, respected, and important certification group for information security world-wide. Even then, many other organizations such as the SANS Institute with their GIAC certification are equally or closely matched in respect and governance over a subject matter. To what end then is one professor right or wrong in teaching the course material for either examination as a ‘standard’? One statement that I can personally attest to which is defined eloquently by Siebert is “students learn best by active participation in the learning process” (Siebert, 2001) The lab sessions my students engage in are the cornerstone of everything I want a student to take away from my class. Technology education is about the interaction with the technology more so than the theory. A notion that should be on the top of every technology educators mind is ensuring that students have a healthy judgement of what technologies they are being told matter or are positive. “Educational technologists are frequently more concerned with the possibilities of using a new technology (means), such as a newer course management system or the hottest wireless device, than seriously considering the ultimate aims of its use and its consequences.” (Amiel,

2008) The focus of what is being taught cannot simply be that a given technology is all important and without flaw. Students shouldn’t be expected to walk blindly into using technology anymore than they should be expected to agree with the statements of a political science professor. Education and standardization should have a healthy checks and balances system where the students can engage their educators and occasionally call-out a topic’s merit or relevance to their lives. An important aspect of trying to gauge effectiveness and the relationship that standardization has is to quantitatively evaluate a given set of circumstances. “Some states will have high expectations [for education], others will have low ones, and the public will be justifiably confused and cynical.” (Musick, 1996) Without communication between standardizing bodies of a general nature or with specific focus on education, there’s little chance that the proper metrics will be set for what is really a standard. The first to a topic does not make them an authority on the subject and nor should the first people to compose a book or write a course necessarily be the authoritative entity. It’s only through community of excellence that truly usable and note-worthy standards will arrive to any given industry. In the sense of “Cloud Computing” two governing technology bodies worked together to create the first “Cloud Computing Security Knowledge” certification available to help separate potential subject matter experts from everyone else. Either organization (CSA or ENISA) could have on their own deemed themselves a standardizing body of knowledge of this given subject but rather worked together to find a common ground. I feel that Amiel’s focus on design-based research is simply a focused component of what Purcell is trying to convey regarding standardization. “Design-based research calls for iterative

cycles of study that lead to a better understanding of the process of intervention (process oriented).” (Amiel, 2008) To this point, Purcell notes that “Nevertheless, the economic implications for international standards are huge. Nations and organizations such as associations must remain involved in the development of international standards to guarantee their respective futures.” (Purcell, 2004) The standardization of something as ever-changing as the broad scope of any technology requires iterative change that Amiel speaks to and is at the heart of Purcell’s note towards remained involvement to standardization. For instance, NIST is up to version 15 of their “Cloud Computing” definition. As the technology changes, so must the relevant definition to which standards are created for does as well. Without the adequate evolution of standards, technology would be pulled-down, as the general masses have to try and re-define for themselves what now constitutes a standard. To these ends and many more, a common goal for any sort of education should be a distinct focus on adhering standards to the way we learn and teach. By unifying topics around sound basis and collective esteem, we further allow students and followers of research to engage with an almost alive stream of consciousness regarding a given topic. Because technology moves so quickly our only chance to keep education from stagnating is to contribute back the research we as individuals or educators do to the very topics we are so focused on. Without the insight from those who have to interact with topics on a daily basis, content will transform from current and exciting to historical and dull. “A central tenet of the National Science Education Standards is teaching science as inquiry...” (Siebert, 2001) Indeed, our education should be thorough and inquisitive. Through a stedfast dedication to education as more than just recitation but as molding the landscape of a generation’s understanding of a technology we can help to evolve

both the very standards being taught as well as ensure that the cross-section of lives touched are more apt to contribute to the next chapter of evolution its self.

Bibiography Amiel, T., & Reeves, T C (Oct 2008). Design-based research and educational technology: rethinking technology and the research agenda. Educational Technology & Society, 11, 4. p.29 (12). Retrieved October 14, 2010, from Academic OneFile via Gale: http://find.galegroup.com.ezproxy.emich.edu/gtx/start.do? prodId=AONE&userGroupName=lom_emichu Kelly, M.G. (Ed.). (2002). National educational technology standards for teachers: Preparing teachers to use technology (1st ed.). Eugene, OR: International Society for Technolgoy in Education. Musick, M. D. (1996, July). Setting education standards high enough. Atlanta, GA: Southern Regional Education Board. Purcell, D. (2004). Strategic Standard Setting on the Global Stage. Association Management, 56 (8), 97-102. Retrieved from OmniFile Full Text Select database Siebert, E.D., and McIntosh, W.J., 2001, College pathways to the science education standards, National Science Teachers Association Press, 192p.

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