The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has awarded $135 million in grants to train 400,000 new teachers in the use of technology in the classroom through a new grant program called Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology. The grants were announced just days before a new report from Market Data Retrieval pointed to a lack of teacher training as the key factor hindering use of technology in K-12 classrooms.

“We’re making real progress in connecting our children to the future with computers and internet access,” said Vice President Al Gore, who announced the grants Aug. 25. “Now, we’re acting to ensure that new teachers entering the workforce are ready to use these powerful Information Age tools for teaching and learning.”

The Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology grants will build strong partnerships involving more than 1,350 entities, including universities, K-12 school districts, nonprofit organizations, and high-tech companies, to ensure that tomorrow’s teachers will be as comfortable with a computer as they are with a chalkboard when they enter the classroom.

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley held a roundtable with teachers and California State Superintendent Delaine Easton at James Logan High School in Union City, Calif. Participants discussed the importance of technology training. Schools in Union City are among those receiving the new grants.

“Training new teachers is particularly important because schools will need to hire 2.2 million new teachers over the next five years,” Riley said. “Teachers tell us they do not feel very well prepared for the challenges of the modern classroom. These grants will help teachers get the preparation they need to successfully integrate technology into their lesson plans at a time when it will be increasingly important.”

Research shows that classroom technology has little effect on student achievement unless teachers are technologically proficient, Riley said. That fact was underscored by the Market Data Retrieval (MDR) report, released Aug. 30, 1999.

The report, “New Teachers and Technology,” is based on a survey of new and experienced teachers and establishes a strong correlation between teacher training and the use of technology in the classroom.

Technology spending ($5.5 billion in public schools alone last year) has improved student-to-computer ratios to a nationwide average of 5.9 students per computer (compared to 6.4 students per computer in 1998). The investment also has connected 88 percent of schools to the internet. But in spite of these advances, the MDR study shows, less than 40 percent of K-12 teachers feel “very well prepared” or “well prepared” to use computers in the classroom.

The report also suggests that teacher colleges are not doing their part in educating future teachers in integrating technology into the classroom. Though an estimated 40 percent of teachers will retire or leave the profession by 2004, only slightly more than one-third of new teachers polled said their college experience left them “very well prepared” or “well prepared” to use technology in the classroom, and 62 percent said that only one or two of their college courses included instruction on how to use technology to teach.

Few school districts and accrediting organizations require technology proficiency, the report also suggests. The majority of new teachers recalled that technology proficiency was not required for them to become certified (67 percent) or to get their first teaching position (83 percent).

Time for a change

The new ED grants aim to change all that. Many of the grants focus on the needs of low-income communities and rural areas, and a number of the projects involve historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic institutions, and tribal colleges that will work to better prepare teachers for the modern classroom.

Examples of the grants include:

  • Mentoring for new teachers in six inner-city schools in Los Angeles.

  • Reform of the teacher education at four Georgia colleges and universities to include a new emphasis on technology-enhanced, standards-based curricula.

  • A new initiative in Maryland to base teacher certification in part on a demonstrated ability to use technology, as opposed to credit-hours or coursework.

  • A project led by Vanderbilt University in Tennessee to developed web-based resources to help integrate technology into teacher education programs.

The grants leverage an additional $195 million in private sector funds for a total investment of $330 million in new teacher training, ED said.

Most of the projects involve partnerships between teacher colleges and K-12 districts, pairing prospective teachers with classroom veterans who are comfortable using technology in their teaching.

For example, a consortium of California schools led by New Haven Unified School District will receive more than $1 million during the next three years to give teachers-in-training at California State University, Hayward access to current teachers who have incorporated technology into their classroom instruction.

Cal State, Hayward students will observe lessons being delivered over the internet, spend time in classrooms during multimedia instruction, and talk to teachers about how they use technological advances to bolster student learning.

Jim O’Laughlin, associate superintendent of personnel for the New Haven Unified School District, said the grant marks a direct investment in the district’s pool of future teachers: “Our goal is to impact the total teacher preparation [at Cal State, Hayward], and in turn impact the 600 teaching candidates that come through each year and that we have to choose from.”

The Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology program will conduct a second competition for grants next year. These will be two-year grants, with an average of $400,000 per year available for two years’ work in about 80 new Implementation grants, and an average of $650,000 per year available for two years’ work in about 14 new Catalyst grants.

The application guidelines will be available in January 2000, with an application deadline in March 2000. The new grant awards will be made by June of 2000. The guidance for Implementation and Catalyst grant applicants will be similar to the information found in the current version of the application guidelines, which can be found on the program’s web site. The selection criteria will be similar to those appearing in the current application guidelines.

Grant application workshops will be conducted this fall at regional and national conferences. A schedule of these workshops will be posted on the program’s web site and in the Federal Register.

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