Box 4.1 K-12 and FITness

Although the implementational focus of this report is primarily college and university education, a few comments about K-12 and FITness are appropriate.

First, the committee has described FITness as a continuum. The notion of a continuum is quite consistent with a powerful pedagogical approach in which an individual learns or covers the "same" material repeatedly, but from increasingly sophisticated perspectives that build on what has previously been learned. Thus, what a fourth grader learns in developing FITness is consistent with what he or she will learn in eighth grade, but in eighth grade the individual can bring to bear on his or her FITness efforts a broader range of experience and interests, as well as greater maturity, intellectual sophistication, and ability to abstract.

Second, what students can or should learn in college naturally depends on what they have learned prior to college. As efforts to promote FITness begin to take hold in the K-12 domain, colleges and universities will be able to make increasingly stronger assumptions about the level of preparation that entering students bring to such courses, in the form of information technology concepts and skills learned in secondary school or at home. Indeed, it may be that over time, some degree of FITness will become prerequisite knowledge required on entrance to college, like knowledge of algebra or a foreign language.

Third, the committee hopes that although it has produced a report that communicates most successfully to college and university faculty in disciplines other than those that traditionally make great use of information technology, the report will prove useful as a point of departure for the other audiences it would eventually wish to influence. It may well be that grade-appropriate efforts promoting FITness will be necessary (though not sufficient) for the success of efforts of K-12 educators to integrate information technology into K-12 education. Many of the issues faced in colleges and universities are similar to those faced in K-12 education as well. These include decisions about allocation of scarce technological resources, replacement cycles for machines, disposition of outmoded technology, rapid redesign of courses to incorporate new technological tools, and reassessment of instructional priorities based on technological innovation. In tackling the relatively simpler problems of content and pedagogy, the committee hopes that its work will provide an intellectually sound foundation upon which these other audiences can build their efforts.

Fourth, educational standards that focus on the acquisition of specific skills or recitation of specific concepts promote learning in isolation without any realizable connection to anything of interest to most individuals. Standards related to information technology revised to better reflect the integration of intellectual capabilities, fundamental concepts, and contemporary skills described in this report suggest a more holistic consideration based on the use of portfolios and other similar techniques.

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