Improving Teacher Preparation for the Use of Technology

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The variety and number of professional development opportunities to assist teachers in the use of technology in their teaching activities are increasing substantially. For example, in October 1998, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the fiscal year 1999 appropriations bill for the U.S. Dept. of Education. A key initiative includes $75 million for technology teacher training to help train new teachers to use technology in the classrooms. The new initiative is intended to provide grants to enable teacher education institutions to make investments in technology, provide support for faculty development, create technology-based teaching tools and resources and create expanded opportunities for internships in technology-rich environments.

Schools of education are redesigning courses or adding new courses to include topics such as: Web-based design, database management, wireless communication, leadership and technological change. According to Dr. Helen Green, Dean of the School of Education, New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), use of technology is integrated into every classroom. Students are interacting with their peers and experts from around the world. Teaching paradigms of the past are inadequate. Professional development needs to bring about a systemic change and improved student outcomes.

On-going staff development is considered an essential component of reform in education. It is recognized as a long-term effort, involving school/community partnerships. For example, the CEO Forum on Education and Training, an organization whose members include leaders in business and education was founded "to help ensure that every child in the United States is equipped with the essential technological, critical thinking, and communication skills necessary to compete in the 21st century." To reach that goal, "Four Pillars" have been identified as critical to the process of teaching and learning. These are: hardware, connectivity, digital content and professional development." (www.ceo forum.org)

A recent meeting (January 28, 1999) held in Washington, D.C. was convened by the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET) and reported on a number of federal and private initiatives on Teacher Training and professional Development. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend but Ronnie Lowenstein, a member of the T.H.E. Editorial Board, was present. She relayed some information that may be interesting to our readers.

• In a report issued by the U.S. Dept of Education, based on a 1998 survey of over 4,000 teachers, only one in five teachers felt prepared to teach in a "modern classroom." Also, while virtually all teachers reported participating in some professional activities, those involved in short-term sessions (less than 8 hours) gave these experiences low marks. Teachers who were involved in frequent planning with other teachers reported that was most helpful. (http://nces.ed.gov/)

• Teacher preparation grants (Title III-Elementary and Secondary Education) will be awarded in August, 1999. The $75 million is for grants "to prepare tomorrow's teachers to use modern learning technologies." Three kinds of grants will be available:

1. Capacity Building Grants. Approximately 200 to 250 one-year grants will be awarded for activities such as faculty development, curriculum redesign (including the creation of new courses), and the formation of cross-disciplinary partnerships among departments and between institutions of higher learning and the K-12 educational community.

2. Implementation Grants. Approximately 75 three-year Implementation Grants will be awarded to applicants who are ready to begin a full-scale program improvement initiation this year. An additional 75 two-year Implementation Grants will be awarded in the Summer of 2000 to Capacity Building Grants and others who have demonstrated successful capacity building during a competition that will occur during Spring 2000.

3. Catalyst Grants. During August, 1999, approximately 30 Catalyst Grants will be awarded to support the year's work by regional or national consortia showing promising strategies for systemic improvements in the preparation of tomorrow's teachers to use technology. (Ray_Myers@ed.gov)

• Quality Enhancement Grants. This new Title II initiative will provide grants to partnerships among teacher preparation institutions and high-need school districts. It will support the efforts of states and school/university partnerships to reduce shortages of qualified teachers in high-need areas by providing scholarships, and support services to prospective teachers who agree to teach in the high-need schools. (teacherquality@ed.gov)

The increasing amounts of monies available and the continued emphasis on the need for professional development are most welcome. The cry for a more technologically knowledgeable and sophisticated workforce is challenging schools and teachers to better prepare our students. Demands for accountability are forcing educators to examine their curriculum and teaching methods and how to best prepare the teachers. (See the April Supplement of T.H.E. on assessment and accountability). So that we get full value from our increased investments and obtain measurable improvements in student achievement, we must continue to increase the time, money and priority we accord to professional development.

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.

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