Technology outcomes pooh-poohed

By the time June 2000 rolls around, technology will be fully integrated into the Alberta curriculum. Programs like mathematics, language arts, science and social studies will be revised to ensure students acquire the technological knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to compete in an information-based economy.

Alberta Education took another step toward that goal November 7, when it released its learner outcomes in information and communication technology. "The learner outcomes focus on encouraging students to become knowledgeable technology users and lifelong learners. This will enhance their ability to compete in a world characterized by rapid change," said Education Minister Gary Mar.

The outcomes represent a "curriculum within a curriculum." Students will be expected to achieve the outcomes in existing programs although they can take specialized technology courses (for example, selected modules of Career and Technology Studies). School jurisdictions will be expected to determine where and how the outcomes can be integrated. For example, students in Grades 1 to 3 will be expected to learn how to use computer paint or draw programs like Corel Draw; those in Grades 10 to 12 will be expected to learn how to use multimedia presentation software like Microsoft Powerpoint. Where and how will not be specified by the department.

ATA president Bauni Mackay raised serious concerns with the learner outcomes. "There are many unanswered questions, and there are many things wrong," she noted. "The learner outcomes may be implemented without coordination, and that could be problematic. Who's left at central office to provide this kind of assistance and coordination?"

In addition, the president observed that the learner outcomes are really computer technology user skills. "These outcomes will add to the program of studies. What will be removed to make room, and how will these outcomes be measured?"she asked. "And where's the money to equip the schools with the technology required to meet the government's own learner outcomes? Where's a workable plan for equipment, inservice and curriculum implementation?"

The next step toward curriculum integration will involve the development of a draft integration guide and illustrative examples. The guide will identify technology outcomes that already exist in programs and suggest subjects and grades for specific outcomes. The illustrative examples will suggest tasks through which students can demonstrate their technological knowledge, skills and attitudes.