Transforming Teacher Education

Preparing Education Majors for 21st Century Teaching

By Tawn Hauptli
Faculty Education Studies Department
Mesa Community College
Mesa, Ariz.

On Nov. 9, 2010, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released the national educational technology plan.

“The plan,” the document says, “recognizes that technology is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work, and we must leverage it to provide engaging and powerful learning experiences and content, as well as resources and assessments that measure student achievement in more complete, authentic, and meaningful ways” It lays out a comprehensive vision for how to improve teaching and learning via technology in America’s schools. While the plan was created with the input of multiple stakeholders from public and private industry, and educators of all stripes, it will be the primary responsibility of K-12 educators to bring this plan to life.

Why is the use of technology for education getting so much attention? It is because we live in the digital age, a time characterized by the concept of immediacy. Virtually any task can be accomplished faster or more efficiently using computer technology.

Invitations to a party can be delivered, videos can be viewed and text-based synchronous conversations can be had via computer. Today’s generation of young people, who were born between 1979 and 1994 and are variously referred to as Generation Y, Generation Next, Echo Boomers or the Millennium Generation, have grown up in this time of instant access. They have had a tremendous impact on business and industry marketing patterns. They are accustomed to instant gratification in their leisure activities. Schools must find ways to effectively respond to the educational needs of these digital natives.

Those of us involved in education recognize that teaching is a complex endeavor encompassing multiple components of lesson design, lesson delivery and lesson evaluation. These aspects of teaching can be expedited by computing technology. But despite the general consensus that technology can simplify many facets of the teaching process, many current teachers resist the use of it in their classrooms. Numerous studies have documented that the lack of time to develop technological competency is one of the biggest barriers in-service teachers cite for not using technology; other studies found additional barriers of the “lack of ….tools, training, and support.”

Developing the requisite technology skills for most in-service teachers can be daunting. In 2003, a survey done by the National Center for Education Statistics found that only 20 percent of the nation’s 2.5 million public teachers felt comfortable using technology in their classrooms.

Skill alone, however, is not enough to change practice. In-service teachers must want to use technology and must believe it will improve teaching and learning in their classrooms. Research shows that even when the barriers of lack of time, support, and access were removed, some teachers simply did not care to use technology or view it is an effective instructional method.

An obvious solution to these barriers is for teachers to enter the profession with general technology skills and experience using technology in teaching and learning contexts. Many researchers have concluded the best place for teachers to develop the requisite skills to use technology effectively is in their teacher preparation program. Those skills developed when pre-service teachers were required to use technology for research and teaching. My findings suggest that there is a strong correlation between faculty modeling and pre-service teacher use of technology, and in-service teacher intent to use complex technologies and their acquisition of technologies for assessment and evaluation.

Prior to entering the classroom, prospective teachers should receive thorough training and experience with technology in their undergraduate courses, and should specifically have technology integrated throughout their education coursework. Fortunately, there is an abundance of accessible technologies that teacher educators can tap to assist their pre-service students to develop these skills. In particular, Google Applications has a suite of productivity tools that faculty and students can use for a variety of tasks.

For the last three years, students in my foundations courses have used Google Documents to create and present group projects about current issues in education. The project guidelines require them to define their topics, research their topics and present their findings. They are able to work collaboratively using the tools. The experience of having to use technology for an authentic purpose provides them with valuable lessons as students, which they will be able to build upon as teachers.

Before they become teachers, the vast majority of public school educators obtain their degrees from a formal college of education. Knowing that they will be required to use technology effectively for teaching and learning, it is the responsibility of teacher educators to ensure that education majors are provided with every opportunity to develop those skills.

While K-12 teachers must bring the goals of the national technology plan to life, teacher educators must first provide the opportunity for pre-service teachers to give birth to their technology skills, and then nurture them through the process of using those skills for authentic teaching and learning purposes. 

Q: Should teacher educators be responsible for teaching tech skills?
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