Teaching the teachers the ways of technology 

carrie burdick

Technically speaking, it's all about the teachers.

There’s hardly a vocation that has not been affected and continues to be changed by technology.  And there’s hardly a student who does not arrive in kindergarten without having been exposed to, or who may even be proficient in, numerous technologies.

As those students travel the educational route over the next 13-17 years, it is the teachers/instructors/professors who will not only be imparting knowledge in a particular subject but who will also be required to do it using the latest technologies.

So who’s teaching the teachers? Other teachers. That is, the faculty in education departments throughout the United States, including those in the Division of Education at Alfred University. The responsibility of teaching student teachers in the use of technology is vital says Ann Monroe-Baillargeon, chairman of the division and associate professor of education. Keeping pace is a division priority.

The task of teaching with technology began in earnest at AU three years ago when the Teacher Education Accreditation Council made student outcomes a priority. AU faculty, administration, and students began using LiveText, a Web-based tool for developing, assessing, and measuring student learning, as part of the preparation for the upcoming reaccreditation of the education program.

The first main advance was using LiveText. Student teachers use LiveText to build their portfolios; faculty/administrators use the program to collect, analyze, and store data.

The LiveText portfolios express to potential employers that “our students are tech savvy,” said Corrie Burdick, education instructor who teaches a course in technology.  Take a look at first-year education graduate student from Hornell Lisa Pistilli’s, LiveText blog: http://lisapostilli.blogspot.com/

“When we’re out in the public schools our student teachers” are exposed to Smart (“white” formerly “black”) Boards, teleconferencing, Skype, podcasts, etc. If we don’t give our students at the University the same exposure” to these technologies, “they will be underprepared for student teaching” and ultimately a teaching job, said Monroe-Baillargeon. “The world of education cannot be without technology. We cannot send our students into classrooms without these experiences.” 

“We need to give them enough of an introduction for them to be familiar with it,” said Burdick, adding that the technology is ever changing.  “Little bits of technology can go a long way if we make it accessible to our students.”

The Alfred University Education Division has a Curriculum Lab where students learn to use interactive, electronic whiteboards which can enhance instruction and learning; the video cameras; projectors; and Panopto, a Web broadcasting tool. Panopto is a flexible, easy-to-use presentation platform that lets users capture, edit, stream, archive, and share recordings that preserve critical knowledge. Using Panopto allows student teachers assigned some distance from Alfred to participate, in real-time, in classes taught on campus while they are away.

“We have a great faculty willing to embrace (technology), have fun with it, and take risks. They are committed to lifelong learning,” added Monroe-Baillargeon.

Faculty are also using technology in their daily routines; keyboarding devices and laptops in filling out forms for student teacher supervision; video cameras to capture student teaching techniques; podcasts and video conferencing to present valuable material from off-campus sites. 

In addition to the accreditation process, student teaching experiences and the increase in student requests for online/distance learning jump-started Alfred’s foray into use of the technology in education, said Monroe-Baillargeon. Distance learning is becoming more popular in graduate courses, in high school classrooms, and even at the elementary school level, she said.

Burdick noted that in some cases distance learning has become a “bridge” for home-schooled students. In addition, in some districts distance learning is being used for traditional students as districts find ways to decrease busing and energy costs, reduce dropout rates, and provide better ways to reach special needs students such as those with autism.

Despite being surrounded by all the technology, “We have to keep a balance” between tradition and technology training, said. Monroe-Baillargeon.  For example, a traditional approach to a new book is to have the student scan the pages, looking at headings, etc. “How do you do that with an electronic reader? We have to think about it but it can be done.”

“In education, we don’t want to swing 100 percent toward technology. We want to keep a balance. Technology is only as good as the teacher.  On the other hand,  “technology is only as good as the teacher, the caring, thoughtful, creative teacher.

How has technology benefited student teachers?

“It strengthens and empowers their professional preparation,” said Monroe-Baillargeon.

“They come to know the best way to be an effective teacher.  Technology helps them with new ways to teach that weren’t possible before.

The downside?

Right now there is a “faculty learning curve” and finding the resources to provide “the necessary technology on campus and continually updating it,” are the issues, she said.

Monroe-Baillargeon earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Southern Maine, Portland, and a doctorate in teaching and curriculum from Syracuse University.

Burdick earned bachelor fine arts and master of fine arts degrees in art education, and is completing a doctorate in teaching and curriculum/art education, all from Syracuse University.



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