P-12 schools see a wide variety of technology in use, from overhead projectors and transparencies, to wired computer labs, mobile learning devices such as iPads and other tablets, and the more recently burgeoning use of Chromebooks with Google Apps for Education (GAFE).
In such an era where rapid technology change, both in the use of the old and the development of the new is the norm, providing adequate tech training to teacher candidates faces previously unanticipated challenges. Great diversity and multiplicity of options creates dilemma for many, college technology instructors being at the forefront.
Such situation elicits some basic questions: what kind of technology training do we provide for our teacher candidates and how do we do it? What about the relationship between tools and mindset? What about ethical issues? These are big questions to which the answers beg for systematic research and in-depth discussion.
What We Teach Teachers
My inquiries to these questions start from redesigning and refocusing “EDU315 Critical Media Literacy: Values, Education and Society.” EDU 315 is a general education (GE 12) requirement for the childhood/early childhood education majors, and a major goal of this course is to help pre-service teachers develop understanding of and competence in meaningful integration of technology into P-12 curriculum.
In redesigning and refocusing EDU315, we focused on the following aspects:
• Mindset: candidates’ conceptual understanding towards appropriate and meaningful use of technology – critical medial literacy;
• Tools: candidates’ competency using tools and in integrating technology tools into the content areas, and
• Lifelong Learners: candidates’ development of lifelong learning skills which will be transferred to and extended during their future experiences as teachers or other personal or professional endeavors.
Below are a few teaching and learning examples, as part of the inquiries by my students and myself:
Skill #1: Learning How to Learn
With the exponential increase in the number of Web 2.0 technologies and other teaching tools, it has become impossible to teach students every tool or online learning resource. Learning how to learn is, then, the essential skill for both pre-service and in-service teachers.
Sir Ken Roberson in “learn, unlearn, relearn” suggest that what is most important for modern students is for them to know how to learn, unlearn, and relearn (Toffler, 1973). In other words, students should be coming to class to learn how to fish instead of getting a fish (after the aphorism, “Give a man a fish and you have fed him for today; teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime”). The students are given an adequate amount of preparation work to lay the foundation for learning how to learn; the main focus in class is learning by doing, in a learning community where a positive climate is nurtured and learners are encouraged to explore and experiment with new tools and gadgets through trial and error from the very beginning of the semester.
While most of the course projects are well defined with specific requirements, there are also loosely defined projects provided in the course, such as the project “Come to the Edge.”
Instead of teaching individual tools, the students are given a pool of tools to explore and tinker with. They are expected to explore as many tools as they can, and create some minimum number of products using the tools.
As a result, students receive exposure to different tools. They are encouraged to make sense of the tool in their individual way, and apply them to appropriate content areas.
At this point in the students’ progress, their examples may not yet constitute meaningful integration, since they have yet to teach in real classrooms. Instead, the focus is on knowing the tools that they have picked out and practicing their application, which is a necessary step on the way to meaningful integration of tools into content areas, the mindset.
Shared below are screenshots of the “Come to the Edge” project completed by two students (See Figure 1 & Figure 2).