Friday, July 12, 2013

Just get rid of it...

So we were at our team retreat this week in Storm Lake, and Scott (@mcleod) asked us to dream big. What would we do if we could do anything? After some initial fear on my part, not really knowing what "big" was, I decided that I would love to rethink ed tech in teacher prep. What if we get rid of it? Yep. You read that right. Can we get rid of the ed tech specific courses for undergrad?

Think about it. What's the problem? New teachers are graduating with a modeled perception that technology is an add-on - technology is a separate piece that they could think about adding in later. We model in our K-12 classrooms (I hope), so why don't we model in the post-secondary classroom? If we want new teachers to really grasp the idea that technology is something to use to extend teaching and content (not replace it), to offer new opportunities, to create unique and otherwise unavailable experiences, then we need to see that seamless integration into the methods classes, the assessment classes, and the principles classes.

Now I know what you're thinking. Then don't we have to teach the professors how to use these things and to be able to do this in their specific areas? Yep. Probably. But here's a better question. Why aren't professors already doing these things? EVERY kid comes to their class with a laptop, smart phone, tablet, something. Why not get them off of Facebook (yes, I was in college once too) and doing powerful things with technology in ALL their teacher ed classes instead of just the one labeled "Instructional Technology"?

I took classes in special education (where we did everything on paper - how many teachers today do ALL IEPs and interventions using strictly pencil and paper?), methods (where we looked at design in textbooks - the district I taught in wasn't even buying textbooks anymore), assessment (where we learned how to write a proper multiple choice question - the issues I have with that are for a whole different blog post), and more. And then I graduated, got a job, and between my own curiosity, my colleagues, and my Twitter feed, I re-taught myself how to do these things more efficiently, more effectively, and with a much deeper impact on student learning via technology than anything I learned in class.

I don't care how amazing your ed tech course is, teacher prep students aren't being exposed to the true impact of technology in the classroom soon enough or often enough. "Instructional technology" isn't app specific or tool specific - it's a pedagogy in itself (think TPACK here, people), and one that seems to be largely ignored until you get to the appropriately numbered course to address it.

So you've heard my proposal. We don't want reading to be just something done in the English classroom, we do it across the curriculum. We don't have a 1:1 class for students and then ask them to put their devices away for the real content (again, I hope). Let's help future teachers focus on the learning and understand how to use technology to make their best practices and powerful lessons even better. Technology isn't a "quick fix" for education, but you can't fight the idea of "technology as an extra add on" if that's the way it's taught.

*Disclaimer 1: I'm sure there are superb teacher prep programs somewhere that follow models closer to what I'm asking for, so I would love to hear about those.

**Disclaimer 2: I know that my own examples at the end seem to negate my argument - we do have reading specific classes and computer specific classes. So you're thinking, "well, do people argue for getting rid of those in order to promote their implementation in other classes? No, because that would be stupid." You're right. Getting rid of reading class would be stupid. Oh wait... how many general ed high school students take a reading specific class? I'm pretty sure it's integrated into their ELA class. And on the flip side, aren't ALL content teachers offered training in reading strategies or writing strategies (We got CRISS training in my district) to implement those things more effectively in all classes? As far as a computer class, I'd say get rid of that one too, in its current form.

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