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‘Awareness…is improving’

To learn more about how pre-service programs are preparing future teachers for the rigors of the 21st-century classroom, we spoke with Sharon P. Robinson, president and chief executive of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, which represents about 800 public and private teacher-education programs.

Q: What is your assessment of how well pre-service programs are preparing future K-12 teachers to teach with technology?

A: I’m aware that pre-service programs are now doing more follow-up work to survey their graduates and those who hire their graduates. One of the questions has to do with the graduates’ comfort level in dealing with technology in classrooms and the ability to use and integrate technology. Every survey I’m aware of has found that those responses have been getting increasingly more positive over the past four years. So I would say that the awareness of the colleges of education of the need to support their candidates in developing mastery in the use of state of the art technology is improving.

Q: Is technology finding its way into all aspects of the pre-service curriculum, or at this point is it mostly its own specific course of study?

A: I’m not going to say the technology is absolutely ubiquitous as an instructional tool [in schools of education], but it is highly integrated into all the administrative functions associated with learning, from communication to record-keeping, research, and analysis of student data. That transition has been made. There’s absolutely no going back. On the instructional side, there isn’t a new classroom being built or a remodeling project that doesn’t include an installation of interactive whiteboards in the colleges, universities, and other education schools. So we’re seeing, at the universities, all the things the pre-service teachers would expect to find in the arenas of practice. But the innovation is being driven by the demands of the field.

Q: What are the gaps in 21st-century teacher education that still need to be addressed?

A: One is in the area of assessment. We need to upgrade that. We’re trying to keep our ear to ground for changes being discussed in K-12 to make sure the teacher education community is making accommodations for those changes in real time. We’re not going to wait until folks are banging on the door. There’s a real symbiotic relationship going on between what’s happening with K-12 and what’s happening in teacher education.

Q: What teacher education schools are doing a good job of addressing the need for technology training in particular?

A: Off the top of my head: Bank Street College in New York, Salisbury State in Maryland, the University of Virginia, Colorado State University, Old Dominion. I was just at the University of Texas in Arlington, and these teacher educators and researchers from various disciplines are using interactive whiteboards like it’s no big thing. They use these tools now as part of what they do. There’s also George Mason, the College of William and Mary, Hunter College, Iowa State. It’s pretty widespread. You can find some really amazing things happening where the university is working with the K-12 school to support the instruction of the students and the candidates, so that they really bring a much richer learning process to both parties. Schools of education are making sure teacher candidates are developed in whatever the state of the art is, as it is made known to them. 

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