The Call To Action: Refining Educational Technology’s Place in Teacher Preparation Programs

In our innovative classrooms across America, students are using technology in ways that were unheard of just ten short years ago. In a small elementary school in Northwest Baltimore, students use their Makerspace to create 3D printed materials, learn to code and engage in other making activities. In another school in Philadelphia, a student fulfills his senior capstone project requirement by creating a “Smart Beehive” that uses sensors and a camera to track the health of a bee colony.

While there are some schools of education that prepare pre-service teachers to excel in these types of technology-rich environments on their first day of in-service teaching, there is still room for growth in our teacher preparation programs as a whole, particularly as more schools shift towards digital learning.

Education-Creative Commons” by NEC Corporation of America licensed under CC BY 2.0"

This is why the 2016 National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) asks us to refine educational technology’s place in teacher preparation programs. It makes the bold statement that “no new teacher exiting a preparation program should require remediation by his or her hiring district.”¹

How do we get there? In June 2016, a group of educational technology leaders met to address this question. From their work at the Teacher Prep Innovators’ Summit held in Washington, D.C., came the four guiding principles for the use of technology in pre-service teacher preparation:

1. Focus on the active use of technology to enable learning and teaching through creation, production, and problem-solving.

Pre-service teacher coursework should include learning activities that allow them to gain experience in engaging with learning content through the meaningful use of technology. In other words, the technology experience of pre-service teachers should go beyond simply viewing presentations or slides and provide them opportunities to engage with the content through the meaningful use of technology. For example, pre-service teachers enrolled in a University of Michigan’s School of Education course participated in a simulation activity that allowed them to use virtual tools to review primary sources and explore houses on the grounds of Greenfield Village, an outdoor museum in Dearborn, Michigan, as a way to support their learning of history. Related, faculty need their own experiences with the meaningful use of technology in order for them to model best practices in their courses.

2. Build sustainable, program-wide systems of professional learning for higher education instructors to strengthen and continually refresh their capacity to use technological tools to enable transformative learning and teaching.

We cannot ask educators at any level to transform the way they prepare students without providing the supports necessary for them to do so. Educators who prepare our pre-service teachers should be provided with ongoing, job-embedded opportunities designed to maintain as well as grow their ability to use technology to transform the learning of pre-service educators. To create expert teachers, preparation programs need to embrace a combination of skills and knowledge often referred to as TPACK: Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Essentially graduates should be able to incorporate a solid knowledge of content matter, a deep understanding of how students learn, and a practical facility with technology.

3. Ensure pre-service teachers’ experiences with educational technology are program-deep and program-wide rather than one-off courses separate from their methods courses.

Research has shown that providing pre-service educators with a single educational technology course does not sufficiently prepare them for the current technology-rich classrooms that are so common throughout our nation.² To better prepare our pre-service teachers to be ready to use technology effectively to support student learning on their first day of in-service employment, we must move toward a model in which the use of educational technology is embedded throughout preparation programs. For example, pre-service teachers in science education courses can gain experience in creating science investigation learning experiences that allow students to use digital probeware to collect real-time data. Pre-service history teachers enrolled in methods coursework can gain experience in creating learning experiences that use primary sources from digital collections available from various libraries and museums worldwide. Pre-service teachers of all potential grades could build websites as an assignment to increase communication with families.

4. Align efforts with research-based standards, frameworks, and credentials recognized across the field.

A common language is needed nationwide that highlights what good technology integration in teacher preparation programs looks like. Every pre-service teacher nationwide should be assured that the professors who prepare them to educate our nation’s children are equipped to provide them with the skills necessary to successfully use technology to support student learning, no matter what college or university they choose to attend.

A number of educational technology leaders have made strides to move toward refining educational technology preparation for pre-service educators. At the June summit, Teresa Foulger, an Arizona State University professor, shared the work she and a group of higher education professors who have joined forces to create a uniform set of competencies for teaching with and about technology. Brigham Young University professor Rick West also presented on work he and a separate group of higher education faculty, are doing to create a set of micro-credentials that will allow pre-service educators and higher education personnel to demonstrate what they know, can do, and can teach others as it relates to the use of educational technology.

More work still needs to be done. The Office of Educational Technology is calling on schools of education nationwide to make a public commitment to working toward fully implementing the four principles of educational technology into their teacher preparation programs. In addition, schools of education should consider strengthening their partnerships with area K-12 districts in order to better understand the skills that teacher graduates need to succeed in effectively using technology to support student learning, and to continue bridging the gap between theory and practice.

The Office of Educational Technology will host a workshop and a summit which will allow representatives from schools of education nationwide to learn from innovators in the field and begin crafting a plan to better prepare their pre-service teachers to use technology effectively in their future classrooms.

It is our hope that our schools of education nationwide answer this call to action to transform the way we prepare our pre-service teachers to use educational technology in their future classrooms. By ensuring they graduate with a solid understanding of how to use technology to transform student learning, we can be sure that we are preparing a teaching force that is ready to lead a 21st century classroom on Day One.


Christine Stokes-Beverley is a ConnectED Teacher Fellow in the Office of Educational Technology at the United States Department of Education.


Footnotes

1 National Education Technology Plan, U.S. Department of Education. (2015). Retrieved November 7, 2016, from the National Education Technology Plan Web site: http://tech.ed.gov/netp/

2 Bakir, N. (2015). An exploration of contemporary realities of technology and teacher education: lessons learned. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 31(3), 117–130.