Morristown School District (Lamoille South Supervisory Union)
When the Morristown Information Technology (IT) committee was charged by the School Board to develop an information technology curriculum during the 1998 - 1999 school year, technology was not new to the district. In fact, the Morristown Elementary School had been awarded with an Apple Classroom of Tomorrow (ACOT) grant in 1992, outfitting four classrooms with technology to see how it enhanced the learning process for children. The problem at this juncture was that there was nothing in place to ensure that ALL students had access to technology.
"Some classrooms were highly infused" with technology, says Bill Kimball, the information technology director of the Lamoille South Supervisory Union. "But there was still a chance that some students might go through his or her educational career with very limited exposure to integration of IT, whereas someone else might get more just by chance. We didn't want to leave it to chance."
Thus, the team set about determining what students needed to know. The Information Technology Committee is made up of nine teachers (each representing two grade levels), a media specialist, the high school principal, and the information technology director. The committee has met every two to three weeks over the past three years.
All curriculum committees in Morristown follow a process when developing and reviewing curriculum. Using this process, the IT committee determined to use the National Standards of Students from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Student Standards from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) as a framework to develop benchmarks for students throughout their time in the K-12 district.
Once the IT committee had a process and a framework to work from, they were able to survey how the teachers were currently using information technology to support student learning. As they collected the information, they looked at research to see what a high school graduate should have for skills and knowledge in this field. With that vision, they broke things into grade levels and developed benchmarks that considered curricula in other areas.
The committee developed two surveys that asked teachers how students use information technology to enhance their learning while in their class. The first survey was developed based on the ISTE Standards for Students. The survey was open-ended and asked what teachers where doing according to each standard. However, an important problem emerged as data was collected. The information was not reliable since most teachers did not understand the ISTE standards without professional development. Kimball says it's crucial to get everyone on board to understand and use the same language when talking about technology.
"The teachers weren't used to the ISTE language," he says. "So we had to develop another survey based on things that they knew. We asked about software, student products, and whether a student is able to produce a PowerPoint presentation, for example, Once we got the information, we linked it to the ISTE standards and then knew where teachers were with things and what students were doing. Then the curriculum we developed could point to where we wanted them to be and how to get there."
As part of the survey, the committee asked whether the teachers taught the skills and knowledge to use the items or whether the students needed prior knowledge to use the objects. They related the items on the list to the six standards and were able to see what the students were doing across the district.
To develop benchmarks and expectations for students in the Morristown School District, the IT committee felt that it needed to expand the number of teachers so they had representation from all the grade levels. Once this work was done, a sub-committee looked at the work. For the past 9 months, they have refined the document to have common categories within each standard. To see the completed matrix of benchmarks and expectations, visit the district's web site. Click on each standard to see the benchmark.
The 2001 - 2002 school year will be the district's pilot year to implement the integration of the IT standards and benchmarks into the curriculum to enhance student learning. The information technology director, teacher leaders, and the integration specialist will work with grade level groups that are the same as the division of benchmarks to develop the learning opportunities for the students. While working on this process, they want to make sure that students have multiple chances to achieve each of the benchmarks. Throughout the next school year, teachers will teach units that allow students to learn how to use information technology to support their own learning.
Kimball advises any school making such changes to ensure that administrators and teachers work together as the process moves forward. "If you have the grassroots without the leadership, it won't happen, and vice versa," he says. "You need leadership with vision. You need to have both to make it happen."