In the latest issue (v. 26, #4) of the Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education (JDLTE), this article title caught my eye: One-to-One Computing in Teacher Education: Faculty Concerns and Implications for Teacher Educators. The abstract reads, “This study examines initial faculty concerns during implementation of a one-to-one laptop teacher education pilot program” in hopes of “uncovering any hidden issues that might deter faculty from embracing the innovation.”
However, from the very beginning, it seems to me that the rationale is flawed. The introduction reads, “…with the influx of one-to-one laptop programs and the use of mobile laptop carts in K-12 schools and classrooms, there is an increasing need to better prepare teacher candidates for teaching in these technology-rich environments.”
I fully support the notion of preparing teachers to be competent and knowledgeable users of instructional technologies, but to me, that goal is secondary to helping shape teachers who are passionate learners – people who learn through creating, exploring, discussing, sharing, thinking, collaborating, connecting… who are curious and who are able to solve their own problems and pursue theoretical ideas because they are are relevant, important, and personally meaningful. It is on top of this context that educational technologies make sense. Too often, higher education experiences are not of this type.
The long hours of sitting through thousands of PowerPoint slides (and yes, transparencies) that repeat the thousands of pages of textbook reading that students may or may not have read, uploading documents to Blackboard, the practicum experiences that seem so far removed from these classroom lecture experiences, the isolation that students so often feel when in those practicum experiences, …
Today as I write this post and watch the ISTE 2010 Panel, Shawn Koh, a student from Singapore, said technology is just an enabler. He also states that he wished he would have learned how to learn. He wanted to learn things that were relevant and current and understand how to harness new tools and connections for doing so (beyond the standard Wikipedia). I think that is distinctly different from learning how to succeed at/in school.
A recent report suggests that “newer teachers aren’t any more likely to use technology in their lessons than veteran teachers, and a lack of access to technology does not appear to be the main reason why teachers do not use it.” Don Knezek suggests that there could be two reasons for this: Either they are coming out of teacher preparation programs unprepared to integrate technology effectively, or they’re entering a school environment where they’re not encouraged to do so.
Many teacher education programs have added a single education technology course to better prepare their students, as this article notes. Often, this course is an introduction to various technologies and how to use them and is far removed from issues of teaching/learning. Students learn how to use a variety of tools but often never experience the pleasures and engagement that results from applying those tools for their own learning purposes – whether simply personal or professional. In the end, at best we have been creating new teachers who know how to use new tools to engage in traditional forms of learning (ie. use an interactive whiteboard to deliver a lecture). In programs where efforts have been made to integrate technology across methods courses rather than a stand-alone technology course, results can be quite varied, as many faculty have little experience learning with current technologies and even less experience in using these technologies for teaching in their content areas.
When the focus remains on “integrating technology”, one’s practice or pedagogy is rarely challenged (see prior post), yet this article states that “we must also consider that along with new technologies often comes new pedagogy”. This “new pedagogy” that is referred to is actually quite old pedagogy stemming from the progressives and constructivists of the likes of John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, and others.
Credit: luc legay
So, the assumption that “teacher candidates often teach the way they were taught, the use of laptop computers in teacher education programs allows for teacher candidates to more fully experience technology integration that can be naturally transferred to inservice teaching” is built upon the notion of fitting powerful new technologies into preexisting frameworks.
This study examines the concerns of faculty and staff as they implement a 1:1 laptop initiative with a cohort of 29 teacher education students. The problem as I see it that many of the instructional faculty do not use technology to a high degree to enhance and further their own learning, so they struggled with was to “integrate” them into traditional higher education contexts with their own students. One should not be surprised by this, and the authors of this study state that this “led to the conclusion that both tenured and non-tenured faculty concerns were dependent on their comfort with technology personally and in teacher education”.
As we talk about 21st century skills or learning dispositions or new literacies, what role are these laptops playing in the nurturing of these skills? If our teacher education students are not experiencing these things every day in all of their coursework, how will they be competent in providing the same for their own students? Sure, they may be skilled at operating their laptops and using software, but is that enough?
This study describes some of the faculty participants as not tech savvy and one not even comfortable with e-mail communication. How is it possible for such learning mentors to provide the types of new learning contexts and experiences that our students so desperately need?
Thankfully, this study finds that it is imperative “to provide opportunities for faculty to discuss the technology innovation to deal with any misconceptions” they might have and identify those who “are not ready to be part of the technology innovation”. But I fear that they are still examining the technology and not the learning climate and pedagogy. Is technology infusion even an innovation at all when divorced from systems/learning innovation?
Education at all levels has historically been consumed with students primarily as consumers of knowledge and teachers as authoritative providers of that knowledge. 1:1 initiatives can either play into that model or support a different approach to knowledge and model of learning. The higher education classroom is no different. A radical transformation is required at all levels. If we are simply “teaching technology” because kids are using it and schools want teachers who know how to use it, we are sorely missing the mark. If we want new teachers who are competent and able to provide learning opportunities that are powerful, relevant and supported by amazing new tools and possibilities, then they need to be immersed in this as part of their own preparation.
In his blog post titled “Dear Students: Don’t Let College Unplug Your Future“, Gideon Burton writes,
It’s [computer infrastructure] not there to bring the pursuit of knowledge (teaching) onto the same plane as The Pursuit of Knowledge (big people research). No, your college wants to dazzle you with spiffy computer labs and brag it up that the Internet is piped into the dorm rooms, but the whole structure of college works against the best educational uses of the web no matter how wired the buildings are. So much oversight and review has been worked into the hierarchy and politics of higher education that it has made itself incapable of valuing or accommodating the very media and methods that could accelerate your learning.”
The previously mentioned study concludes with this statement:
…most teachers do not believe their pre-service education programs prepared them well to integrate technology into their classrooms or teach 21st-century skills.”
So, what is the technology enabling for our new teachers? Something new, meaningful, exciting, empowering, powerful, and passion-based, the traditional delivery of knowledge, or… nothing it all? There is much work to be done.