Sunday, August 3, 2008

What Do Future or New Teachers Need to Know about Technology

One of the fun things about teaching a class of undergraduates is to watch their excitement grow when thinking about their future classrooms. One of the challenges is, what do they NEED to know! How can I prepare them for an ever changing classroom and world. Expectations for teachers are always growing and seem to stifle the creativity of students and teachers alike. We are now sitting at Midterm of an eight week session, and I am looking at where we have been and where we are going.

The class is "Computers and Instructional Technology" and it is an undergraduate class for future teachers. So far this term, we have learned about learning theorists, software evaluation, CyberSafety, Assistive Technology, Blogs, and had countless conversations on what constitutes good classrooms. We created an educational video and used Web 2.0.

Here are some fundamentals for me --
1- I didn't 'teach' them Google Docs... I used Google Docs for part of a lesson, the students had to log on and complete a working definition of Constructivist and Behaviorist (which I think some of the blog commenters should perhaps take a refresher from). The students collaboratively came up a working definition and they "learned" how to use GoogleDocs in the process.

2- As has been documented several times, we brought in experts using Skype. In those experiences they learned from the best people in their field....and they also 'learned' Skype and the power of social networks because that is where I found my experts!

3- We evaluated software first using the rubric in the book and then through discussion and expert, Sylvia Martinez. The true power of this assignment came in an unexpected way! Because of a Twitter conversation, Dr. Gary Stager weighed in on my blog post which helped me to review my practice. When I had my students read all the comments, they also reviewed my practice. Honestly, have students reflect on practice is the BEST thing I think I can reinforce.

4- We made an educational movie. Did the students learn how to create professional video? No. What they did learn was the process of brainstorming (using Inspiration). They learned the importance of storyboarding as a means of organization and a MUST for students. Mostly I think they learned that creating visual representations is a very powerful learning tool.

5- Wednesday, my students learned the WebQuest strategy. They learned it by doing one I developed which asks if the Internet should be filtered. Then they are taught the six steps of a WebQuest through direct instruction. In my teaching career, the highest order of thinking skills have been developed through the WebQuest strategy and it is fun to share that.

6. Students created their own media for use in their classroom. It always interesting what students develop!

7- Still to come in the term is a "How to do PowerPoint well" component including a presentation from each student. The main criteria is that the students in the classroom must be engaged. We will try VoiceThread because it comes so highly recommended. We will develop lessons that incorporate technology. There is much more to come, that I won't mention.....

8- My biggest dream and struggle is that I want to create powerful teachers who effectively use technology to reach students. What I want most is to create a hunger for these future teachers to always reach for new strategies and tools to reach students. I want their classrooms to always be a place of discovery and creation! I have an undying passion for learning and I want to share that.

What do future teachers need to know to be successful?


diane said...


I love the fact that you continually emphasize the "what" and not the "how" in your class: content over tools.

What new teachers need to know about technology is that it is a complement to curriculum, that it is only effective when it advances understanding, and that it is NOT always there when you need it - so they should have a plan A, B, C "just in case"!

Kobus van Wyk said...

Good stuff! Teachers need to know the current tools of the trade. Of course, these tools change at a dizzy speed - do you include in your course an element of how the role of the teacher is shifting from that of mere teacher to that of facilitator of the learning process, in which technology can play a powerful role?

Dan Gross said...

Technology is irrelevant.

Applications will come and go, and there will always be something new around the corner. The industry will continue to innovate. What IS important is that you teach them how to communicate. Teach them how to think differently, to share, to collaborate...

It looks like you are doing these things. If Google Docs was down for a lesson, I'm sure you would have them use Word, or plain old paper and pencil - or maybe even microblogging!

These are the things that throw most new teachers. The lesson isn't ABOUT the technology - its about the human networking that the technology enables.

Thanks for the post!

Jesse P Luna said...

Teachers need to learn how not to be afraid of technology.

After teaching for a few years, teachers realize that if they repeat what works, things get easier for them. Same plans, same books, same lessons, same art, same experiments.

But technology is continually evolving and it's easy to become afraid of change and just avoid it.

So I say, let them experiment, let them play with technology just like a kid with building blocks. Then see what they build.

Heather said...

I didn't think I was going to agree with the "technology is irrelevant" comment. However; I definately agree that the idea is to facilitate kids learning how to communicate in our changing world. But to say that the technology is irrelevant is not true in my opinion.

TJ Shay said...

Diane - Content over tools is always my mantra... In fact, at least two of the "answers" on exams require the words, selection of media or purchasing media must be based on student learning or objectives.

Kobus van Wyk- Tools do change and that is why I try to get students to look at various tools. We talk about the the role of the instructor --but maybe we need to do that more.

Dan Gross- Much of this particular class has been about communicating and having a personal learning network.

Jesse Luna--Good ideas! Yes, this is time for play and for sharing. Always changing is what I HOPE for in the education world. I look in some classrooms today and wonder what has changed since I went to school. In many classrooms, not a lot!

Heather -- I was a little shocked by the comment also, but when I thought about the content of the comment, it made perfect sense. I believe, from reading the comment, that the intention was the SPECIFIC Technology is irrelevant. Good teachers can make almost any media into a teaching tool.

TJ Shay said...

Thanks for commenting!! PLEASE keep it going! I love the conversation.

mindelei said...

I will have the opportunity to take a technology course this fall during my methods classes. It will be interesting to see how how this course stacks up to your course. It should be interesting to see what the differences in the focus of the course will be. Thanks!

micsmith said...

I think how you're teaching these students is excellent.

Some of the previous comments have echoed many of my thoughts.

Technology changes so fast that colleges can't be expect to completely prepare new teachers for what is down the road- 18 months from now.

What they need to do (in my opinion) is teach the new teachers that while the applications may change- their ability to learn new things and then transfer that to students must never change.

Teachers seem to come in two types. The first type is up for new challenges and will soak up college courses, a Master's degree, workshops, shared information, and any other type of training like a sponge.

The other type wants to teach in the same way they were taught. Unfortunately, that works in the early part of their career but 10,20, or 30 years in- it is not as effective.

If you are helping to produce the first type- you are way ahead of the game.

When interviewing new hires I am looking for ambition, team players, and people open to new ideas.

Everything else seems to take care of itself.

Karlana said...

Being an undergrad moving forward into her senior year, I am really curious to what books, websites, and what not you use in this course! At my college, we take one class and it really wasn't all that to prepare us for integrating technology into the classroom. I knew more going in by following educators online!

I think the most important thing a pre-service teacher should be aware of is to be open to technology in the classroom and be willing to move with the fast flow of it all. In order to keep up with the media generation, we have to integrate it or we lose their attention a lot faster! I have learned this first hand as a substitute teacher. Luckily, most schools i visit, I have access to the computers and equipment in the classroom. I get to work early enough to complement the lesson plan left with something to add "pizazz" to keep them involved and attentive. They love it!

As long as one is open-minded, the tools, apps, and anything else will fall into place for any given teacher!

Farfisa said...

What we know about *how* students learn is growing rapidly. Teachers will always need to be learning about their craft and reflecting on what worked (or didn't). With the myriad combinations of teacher personality, student group personalities, subject matter, resources available - including technology - there is never "one right way" to teach anything. Be brave! Try! Share! Learn!

SMeech said...

They will want to know how to get a great job like yours!

TJ Shay said...

Mindelei- Please let me know how what I have described relates in your upcoming class. I am always looking for new ideas!

Micsmith- Thanks for taking the time to comment. I hope that I am teaching the students to always look for new ways to match content with tools!

Karlana- my class has a website, which you are welcome to check out.

Farfisa- "Teachers will always need to be learning about their craft and reflecting on what worked (or didn't). " Yes, you have hit on a common thread! Reflecting may be the most important thing we do. We all need to 'be brave!'

Smeech- How to get a great job like mine.... Hmmmm. I think it is the willingness to work a LOT more than 8 hours a day! Thanks for commenting, glad to have you here!

loonyhiker said...

I love how you teach them the tools by actually using them. I always wondered about how we lose students by concentrating too much on using the specific tool. I'm the kind of person that wants to see how it can actually be used and let me learn while I am doing. I also went to your website and it looks wonderful. I was glad to see Special Ed resources there!