I recently highlighted the organization known as ISTE, the organization that has led the way in establishing standards for technology integration. Many states, including Michigan, have officially adopted these standards. In fact, Michigan has incorporated the ISTE Standards for Students ad pedem litterae, but has rebranded them as competencies instead of standards, calling them the MITECS, which stands for Michigan Integrated Technology Competencies for Students.
I think the distinction between standards and competencies is an important one. For one, standards tend to evoke a sense of expectation that certain things be “covered”. Typically, standards define the curriculum of a particular course. The term competency, on the other hand, properly places these expectations with regard to technology in a cross-curricular context. As the Michigan Department of Education states, “The MITECS support learning in all content areas.” This rightly acknowledges that skill in technology is more of an essential literacy than an elective course of study; they are to be developed and nurtured continuously. It also places the responsibility of supporting student growth in these competencies on all teachers. Furthermore, framed as competencies, the MITECS not only are cross-curricular, but they acknowledge that technology is how students can actually apply and transfer their learning across the curriculum and in different contexts.
In much the same way that we learned that all teachers are teachers of reading, we need to start to recognize that all teachers are also teachers of technological competency. We need to know what these competencies are. We need to model best practices within these contexts. And we need to be intentional about how we and students use technology in the classroom. But it all starts with our own development. We need to begin to learn the MITECS and seek our own growth in each of these competencies, as we prepare 21st century kids for life in the current century.