University Teacher Preparation – A Responsibility to Explore What is Possible in the Best of All Possible Worlds
by Sheri Vasinda
Four years ago, after describing a revisioned and revised assignment that required students to begin to curate their teaching strategies in a digital format, I overheard one of my 20-something-year old students remark on her way out of the classroom, “I just want a classroom with an old-fashioned chalkboard.” I chucked a bit as I thought, “That classroom no longer exists.” While I do know that globally there are classrooms that long for a chalkboard and there may be chalkboard attached to some US school walls, I’m speaking metaphorically about change. I thought about the third-grade classroom I recently left where chalkboards had been replaced ten or more years previously with white boards and dry-erase markers and where I piloted the newer interactive whiteboard two years previous and that were in the process of being installed. (Not my favorite way to spend tech dollars- but more on that for another post.)
As I continue to explore technology-rich learning environments that mobile technologies afford and that many students access in their lives outside of school, there is often some pushback by both faculty and our preservice teachers such as the one I mentioned above. Faculty argues that many schools districts where we sent our newly minted teachers don’t have the technology devices some of us propose or are using in our university classrooms. We might also hear that if we provide them a good foundation of content and pedagogy, the schools will support their technology integration development. The rub here is that principals expect, or hope, that we will send them new teachers that are comfortable and competent not only with technology tools and applications, but also with pedagogically sound practices in the implementation of technology. Additionally, practicing teachers say they are given devices with little to no instruction as to how to support high levels of student learning and engagement, and, as always, little time to explore and figure it out. And there is little to no talk about transforming learning. So, what is our responsibility as faculty who prepares future teachers?
I want to challenge those of us involved in teacher preparation to transform what we do into a model of what’s possible that includes technology integration. We already do this in terms of promoting practices grounded in research from the 1980s, such as workshop teaching and learning, that still has yet to appear in 21st century in some classrooms, but we can’t stop there. And we can’t leave it all up to our ed tech courses. It continues to look like an add-on if we leave it to someone else.
We live in a transitory time in which we strive to prepare teachers for classrooms neither they nor we experienced. We straddle the 20th and 21st century preparing teachers for learning environments we can’t clearly see. The Internet alone has transformed how we access and consider new information, and Web 2.0 tools are transforming how we create and communicate our understanding and construct new learning. How are we leveraging these tools to demonstrate what’s possible for 21st century learners? How is our thinking about teaching and learning changing in light of these new tools? Do we see it as an add-on and siloed- reserved as an event for the computer lab. Mobile means anywhere and anytime. What are we doing to rethink what we do in this type of environment?
One of the strategies I’ve employed is including frameworks for thinking about technology-rich learning environments. This includes models such as TPACK and RAT or SAMR as well as considering the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards. Preservice teachers report that what they see and experience with their university professors in their preparation coursework and mentor teachers in the field have the most influence on their practice (Blackboard, 2013). We have a responsibility to them to model an explorative, responsive, and inquiry-based stance of teaching while supporting them in content knowledge and concept attainment- just as they will do in their classrooms.