The Future of Instruction: Teacher as 'Co-Learner'


The expectations of students and the demands of the education community are changing radically in the 21st century. Necessarily, the role of the teacher is changing along with those. But what will that role be? The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is attempting to answer that question with the release this week of the long-anticipated update to its National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T) framework.

Introduced in 2000, NETS-T originally focused heavily on the transition from static learning content to electronic, interactive tools to enhance teaching and learning. While it did emphasize collaboration to a certain degree, the role of teachers themselves remained largely transmitter/facilitator of textual materials, albeit electronic ones, and the primary emphasis of the framework was on technology knowledge and skills--something that seems fairly remedial by today's standards.

But NETS-T 2008 (also known as NETS-T Second Edition), which launched this week at the NECC 2008 conference, takes a decidedly different approach, casting teachers into the role of facilitator, collaborator, and, significantly, "co-learner," rather than information regurgitator.

According to the explanatory materials in the new framework document, "Now and in the future, effective teachers of digital-age learners will be challenged to move away from models of teaching and learning as isolated endeavors. As they model work and learning that reflects inventive thinking and creativity, teachers must become comfortable as co-learners with their students and with colleagues around the world. Today it is less about staying ahead and more about moving ahead as members of dynamic learning communities. The Digital Age teaching professional must demonstrate a vision of technology infusion and develop the technology skills of others. These are the hallmarks of the new education leader."

NETS-T 2008 expresses these concepts through a new set of imperatives and standards for teachers, along with rubrics for these standards. It also sets "essential conditions" for effectively leveraging technology for education, such as a "shared vision" for ed tech among stakeholders, granting leaders the ability to effect change, systemic planning, and several others.

Among the changes in NETS-T 2008 are five major new performance indicators for teachers. (You can contrast these new indicators with the old ones by clicking here.) These include (as paraphrased from the latest NETS-T document):

  • Learning and creativity: Teachers use subject matter expertise to facilitate and inspire creativity in students, including inventiveness, problem solving, and reflecting, through the use of digital tools, collaborative tools, and co-learning experiences (i.e., teachers learning along with their students);
  • Assessment: Teachers couple "authentic learning experiences" with assessments for evaluations so that students set their own goals for learning, engage in personalized learning, and are evaluated based on "multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards";
  • "Digital Age" skills: Teachers exhibit fluency in digital tools, engage regularly in technology-based collaboration and communication, and "use information resources to support research and learning";
  • Digital citizenship: Teachers promote "safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information and technology," promote etiquette, and work to foster a global perspective in students; and
  • Professional development: Educators adopt a model of lifelong learning and exhibit professional leadership through participation in learning communities, evaluation of research into the latest digital tools for education, contributions to the "effectiveness, vitality, and self-renewal of the teaching profession," and demonstration of leadership in education technology.

All of these take into consideration that teachers are "modeling and applying" concepts from the most recent National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S 2007).

NETS-T 2008 also includes an expansive list of rubrics for these performance indicators and scenarios for the various indicators delineated by proficiency level: beginning, developing, proficient, and transformative.

We'll have further coverage of NETS-T 2008 later in the week. In the meantime, more information can be found here.

In related news, online education technology provider ePals launched a new treacher resource focused on NETS-T 2008, challenging educators to "move beyond solely a discussion of 21st century skills or technology integration, and toward constructing a framework for evaluating solutions that build 21st century skills."

ePals has invited educators to join the discussion at its NECC blog, which can be acessed here.

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About the author: David Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's online education technology publications, including THE Journal and Campus Technology. He can be reached at [email protected].

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at [email protected].

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .