Dear Education Department at my Alma Mater

This is another result of ISTE reflection. When will colleges start preparing pre-service teachers to thrive in a technology rich classroom? I want to bring about change, so I am starting small, and writing a letter to the department of education at my alma mater. It will sound something like this …

Dear Education Department at my Alma Mater,

I am concerned with the passive attitude towards technology in education. Providing future teachers with technology practice in the safe environment of a college classroom is critical to their success. Teachers have to have the chance to play and fail to become better. Failure is inevitable, but resilience and adaptability can be taught to overcome the occasional technological hiccup.

Why should a teacher learn how to teach twice? Once traditionally and once in a classroom enhanced with technology. That does not seem like an effective use of their time training to be teachers. Not all districts are technologically advanced, but that is not an excuse to not prepare pre-service teachers. You can still use ActivInspire software without the Promethean Interactive Whiteboard to make a lesson engaging. You can still create review games using Quizlet and not have computers your classroom – Quizlet data sets work on a free app for an iPod Touch. You can give online quizzes without 1:1 computers-to-students. It is not about what you don’t have, but knowing how to maximize what you do have access to. Good teachers using best practice with technology have a great impact on their students. Good teachers who are unwilling to use technology will soon find themselves without a place in school. It goes back to a quote I found last year:

“Technology will never replace teachers.  However, teachers who know how to use technology effectively to help their students connect and collaborate together online will replace those who do not.” Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

The goal of going to college is increasing the odds of getting a good job once you graduate. By not preparing student teachers for a technology rich environment, everyone is failing the goal.

Based on the course catalog, there is still a single required class for educational technology: either Integrated Technology or Integrated Technology II. The course description is disappointing.

ED 162 – Integrated Technology II  2.00 credits.

A study of current and emerging instructional media and technologies used across the grades and curricula. Computer-mediated communications – including advanced multimedia presentation tools such as embedded video – are developed. Advanced classroom-related PowerPoint and webpage development techniques are practiced. Emphasis will be placed on use of SmartBoards, integration of K-12 student use of computers during instruction, use of handhelds, WebQuests and videostreaming.

Using the program titles Microsoft Word and/or PowerPoint in the course description shows rigid and an out-of-touch nature of the course. The same goes for Smartboards, one brand name for the multitude of Interactive Whiteboards that have been developed in recent years. The term WebQuest was coined when Internet pages were static. Now the entire learning experience is a journey, and no quest is necessary.

There are tools that would dramatically enhance the future teachers – not just as teachers, but in the rest of their time as college students too. The tools are not intimidating because they mesh with technology students would already be familiar with.

  • Purpose -> Old Example -> New Example
  • Researching -> Notecards -> Social Bookmarking, Diigo
  • Presentations -> PowerPoint or Poster -> Prezi, Voicethread, Present.me, Glogster
  • Review Games -> Jeopardy with Poster, Flashcards -> StudyStack, Classtools, Quizlet
  • Social Network -> Facebook (personal) -> Edmodo, Classology (for students)
  • Commenting -> Texting with Cell Phone -> Student Response Systems, ActivExpression

I was able to Audit my Integrated Technology course as a Sophomore. That should not have been an option; I knew how to type in Word and create a presentation in PowerPoint, but that did not mean I knew everything. College is the perfect opportunity for self-discovery of learning tools to meet their teaching and learning styles. Students who were advanced beyond Integrated Technology II could meet once a week to share resources they found. At the end of the semester they could jigsaw with all levels of the Integrated Technology courses. Everyone should benefit and see outside the boring box of traditional technology (pretty much an oxymoron).

The entire education program has strict expectations and courses are charted through all four years. However, students could still be provided with a choice outside the pre-planned 8 semesters in the form of an online summer class or additional professional development offerings. An asynchronous course would not get in the way of summer too much – but would allow a journey into the amazing world of educational technology. The online delivery would be perfect for the content. More should be done to share with students about local or state conferences. PETE&C was practically held in the college’s backyard, but I never heard of it until I started teaching full time. Attending as a pre-service teacher would have been an awesome opportunity. Many conferences have minimal student memberships or registration fees. I could be optimistic and believe that things have changed in the 6 years since I was a student. However, I have interacted with several student teachers from my alma mater in the past two years. They continue to be unaware of educational technology beyond PowerPoint. I wrote a blog post of advice for one of the student teachers who feel overwhelmed when in a district with high technology expectations for students and teachers. She asked for advice and for tips. The college should help prepare them better for a realistic classroom, one they will enter now or they will see transform into in the very near future.

Sincerely,

A concerned former student and current technology integrator

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About Lisa Butler

Middle school teacher of Social Studies and Spanish, tech trainer, Flocabulary MC, Nearpod PioNear, and Edcamp Hershey Founder. I have embraced the power of blogging and reviewing products. If I am not doing something with ed or tech, I am probably reading, baking, running, or traveling.
This entry was posted in Changes for Future, Forward Thinking and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dear Education Department at my Alma Mater

  1. educw200 says:

    Greetings concerned former student and current technology integrator,

    I was really happy to read your post. I’m an educational technology professor and we are certainly trying to prepare teachers to use technology. We try to personalize our course as much as possible, tying it into their future subject areas and grade levels, allowing them to select (or sometimes selecting for them) technologies that will make sense for them. Our future teachers have options to be as creative as possible – and as a rule of thumb, we don’t teach Word or even PowerPoint, because we assume our students know these. Instead we use Web 2.0 sites like Google Sites, Prezi, Xtranormal, podcasts, etc. (I’ve pasted our website below which has our weekly Google Presentations and information embedded in the site). Honestly, sometimes the most difficult task we have is convincing our future teachers that technology is relevant and possible in their future classrooms. Many of them voice opinions that either 1. their teachers/schools didn’t use technology so they shouldn’t have to in order to reach students or 2. their schools won’t have access to the kinds of technology we are proposing. We actually take the first three weeks of our course to try to show the possibilities associated with technology! If you ever want to come into one of our classes, we’d love to have your testimony! It might help persuade some of them 😉

  2. lgb06 says:

    My post was directed specifically towards the college I graduated from. I checked their Fall 2011 course catalog and it mentions teaching Word, PowerPoint, Smartboard, and Webquests. I respect colleges and universities that are making a difference, but I know not all have seen the future and embraced it. I hope your college is the rule and not the exception for the attitude towards teaching educational technology. I only interact with student teachers from three local colleges when they come to teach in the district – and all of them have minimal exposure to using technology in the classroom. No one took the time to show them the value in enhancing the lesson with technology; if someone did show them the value, they were a horrible salesperson and did not sell the idea.
    I guess I underestimated the skeptisim of the students in the class. I am lucky to work in a school where professional development and personal discovery are encouraged. I can’t image not striving to continously learn, it is exciting and addicting … but maybe I am the exception and not the rule.

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