Indiana University’s School of Education is embarking on a $3.1 million study of how current and emerging technologies are being used most effectively in classrooms—and how best to prepare new teachers to use these tools.

IU has teamed up with the Granato Group, a Vienna, Va.-based technology consulting firm, to complete the research. The project, called “Leveraging Education Technology to Keep America Competitive,” is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology.

Some ed-tech advocates believe the curriculum and pedagogy of many colleges of education have not kept pace with advancements in technology. The results of IU’s study could help change that.

“To our knowledge, the federal government … [has] never really funded a comprehensive study of how cutting-edge technologies are being used in pre-service education,” said Jonathan Plucker, director of the IU School of Education’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy and deputy project manager of the study.

Plucker said technological advances have made this a vastly different society. “But a common criticism is that that’s not really changing the way that we teach,” he said. “It’s not changing the way we deliver education. It’s not changing the way that students learn.”

He added: “This study gives us the resources to go out and do a very comprehensive and careful study to figure out if those things are happening.”

The project will produce an overall assessment of technology’s use in the classroom by April 2009. While these final results will help direct federal policy toward technology in education, officials said, a series of white papers issued throughout the length of the project will give educators immediate insight into the issues the work is tackling.

A key part of IU’s research is a national study of how teacher-preparation programs instruct future teachers on how best to integrate technology into their instruction. Another task involves finding the best ways to get such “best practices” information out to in-service teachers.

IU Associate Professor Thomas Brush said the study should provide more structured guidance for education professors to follow when teaching instructional technology. He said professors now only get to compare notes at conferences and in other informal conversations.

“We can use that information both to inform the Department of Education and help [federal officials] in examining more broadly what teacher-preparation programs are doing,” he said, “but also to inform our program at IU and how we can improve the way we prepare our future teachers in Indiana to use technology effectively.”

The study’s broad scope also should provide insights for existing teachers, project organizers said.

“One of the most important things for me is looking at in-service teachers and what they find really meaningful” about technology’s use in the classroom, said IU Assistant Professor Anne Ottenbreit-Leftwich.

The study marks the first real focus on helping to prepare pre-service teachers to use technology effectively during the Bush Administration. A multimillion-dollar federal program called “Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology” existed during the Clinton Administration, but Congress killed the program in 2003 at Bush’s request.

Links:

Center for Evaluation and Education Policy

The Granato Group