For students to use computers effectively, they must be taught different processes for learning. They also will need to take a more active role in the learning process: for example, learning how to search for basic information and then how to interpret it. In short, the old model of teacher-as-lecturer is not appropriate in the computer age.
The problem is that teacher preparation programs at universities have not yet adjusted to this paradigm shift. The basic curricula of liberal-arts education and education courses stand virtually unchanged.
These courses, while valuable, must be supplemented with specific training in the use of computers and in techniques for bringing computers into the classroom. In other words, the training of educators must model the instruction that educators provide to their students.
One program that is designed around this model is the Integrated Secondary Teacher Education Program (I-STEP), developed at the Center for Excellence in Education at Northern Arizona University in 1995.
The program is forward-looking and infuses technology throughout the curriculum. It recognizes that America’s student population is growing more ethnically diverse, that teachers must reach out to all students, and that computers are integral to this mission.
In its most radical innovation, I-STEP devotes the entire final semester of a student’s degree program to an integrated, 13-credit-hour block of professional study and student teaching experiences. It is taught by an interdisciplinary team of faculty members from secondary education. Students meet on campus three days per week, and once each week they meet at a high school or middle school.
The course has been devised to challenge students to think about the issues they will face as teachers. For example, one course titled “Diversity, Technology, and Literacy in Secondary Education” encourages students to consider the diversity of a potential class, the various levels of standard and computer literacy, and how to set goals to help all the students in the class.
In I-STEP, all students conduct internet-based research about issues they may face (special-needs students, for example) and create PowerPoint and multimedia reports. They also must create a WebQuest to use with middle- or high-school students.