ED awards $44 million in Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology funding

In June, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued more than $44 million in grants to 127 consortia through its Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) program. Grant winners are partnerships consisting of K-12 schools and teacher’s colleges or schools of education, and the grants support programs to train preservice teachers in using technology in the classroom.

Having issued this second round of PT3 grants, the program’s director told School Technology Funding Bulletin that he can detect some commonality in the projects that have been funded and that he is encouraged by the positive early response to the program.

“We’re seeing a very strong approach to building K-16 partnerships in which higher-education teacher preparation programs are very active with school districts and state education agencies,” said PT3 Director Tom Carroll. “The collaborative strategy is engaging university faculty, teaching [candidates], and schools to develop new instructional technologies. All these parties have a great deal of expertise, but each is learning from the other, too.”

PT3 was initiated in 1998 to help train future educators to incorporate technology effectively into their teaching. In its first two funding rounds, the program has awarded nearly 350 grants totaling more than $100 million to partnerships across the country. It is estimated that the programs now being supported will assist technology education for approximately 600,000 new teachers. For the 2001 fiscal year, President Clinton has requested doubling the program to $150 million.

Several characteristics have emerged as common among many of the programs PT3 is funding, and Carroll said his department’s selection committee will continue to look for programs that propose these types of strategies.

The first trend he noted is the depth and breadth of the partnerships. PT3 applicants must be consortia that involve both educators of incoming teachers and schools that will be hiring educational staff. This requirement helps encourage the real-world implementation of pedagogical techniques and feedback about what is working in the classroom.

“Some of these are new consortia developed for PT3, and this makes sense because support for this type of new practice hasn’t been available in the past,” Carroll said. “However, we also are seeing some situations in which an existing partnership seeks funds to expand and change a current program. Both models are eligible.”

In a typical consortium, a college or university with a teacher-ed program is the lead organization. Other participants include any or all of the following groups: school districts, individual schools, state and local education agencies, professional associations, foundations, museums, libraries, private-sector businesses, public or private nonprofit organizations, and community-based organizations. However, any nonprofit party can take the lead in organizing a consortium, and Carroll praised school districts in metropolitan Houston, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee for initiating programs that PT3 is supporting.

The second trend is that technology becomes an intimate part of the education of the new teachers, Carroll said. “Teachers-in-training are being exposed to multimedia, and many are being asked to create multimedia portfolios that they can use as documents when applying to schools and can use in their classrooms,” he said.

As various grantees experiment with ways to incorporate multimedia into teaching, Carroll predicts that new teaching methods will develop, to the benefit of new teachers and their K-12 students. “People used to treat technology as something to be addressed in a teaching methods course or as an educational tool, but with these projects, we are seeing grantees move past that idea,” he said. Programs at Pepperdine University and Northern Iowa University are doing exceptional work with video case studies as part of their teacher education experience, he added.

A third trend found in a significant number of successful early applicants is the strong participation of state education agencies, Carroll said. “State agencies have seen that this program fits with their state- and local-level initiatives,” he said. “We’ve got well over a dozen very strong programs with substantial state partnerships.” He singled out Maryland’s and Nebraska’s state education agencies for being particularly adept at creating attractive consortia with promising proposals.

Having strong state interest in the program was not assured at the outset, as states often are more concerned with in-service training of current teachers instead of preservice education for incoming staff. But information that has emerged in the last couple of years about the dire need for teachers in the next decade—two million, according to some estimates—seems to have spurred interest in the program.

“We know that only 20 percent or maybe 30 percent of current teachers are comfortable with technology, and states are trying to address this with support from the [Education Department’s] Technology Literacy Challenge Fund,” Carroll said. “But we also know that we have to assure that the teachers coming into the system to replace those who are retiring in the next 10 years are trained to use technology. That’s where PT3 fits in.”

Although President Clinton’s attempt to double the program’s budget may not be successful, it does seem likely that PT3 will receive substantial support next year, given the current political interest in supporting education programs. The next round of applications most likely will be due around the end of the year, and grants will be announced in May or June 2001. Typically, catalyst grants are $580,000 to 600,000 per year for three years, and implementation grants are $380,000 per year for three years.

Carroll also noted that school districts or individual schools (public or private) that are not part of a consortium can still contact existing consortia to see if they can join the program. “There are more than 200 consortia operating today, and I encourage educators to go to the [program’s] web site and see what is available,” he said. n

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