Distance Education Technologies in Preservice Methods Courses

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to investigate the integration of distance education technologies into a preservice teachers' science methodology course. Specifically, this study (a) explored a model for integrating distance education into the curriculum experiences of preservice science methodology courses, and (b) examined pedagogical issues involved with integrating distance education technologies into a methodology course.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

School restructuring efforts nationwide emphasize technology as a learning tool in the delivery and assessment of high-quality curriculum to promote pupils' inquiry, interpretation and sustained engagement (Behrmann, 1988; Collins, 1991; Lockard, Abrams, & Manny, 1997; Sheingold & Hadley, 1990; Zehr, 1998). A growing number of local and state educational units are mandating that teachers use technology and that they help pupils become proficient users of technology to find, synthesize, and apply information (NCATE, 1997). For technology to impact the educational process in K-12 classrooms, however, teacher preparation programs need to produce graduates who are comfortable with and competent in higher level applications of technology tools. Beginning teachers should enter classrooms ready to use technology to enhance pupil learning (Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, 1986; Ellery, 1997; Parkay & Stanford, 1992; Simonson & Thompson, 1994; Soloman, 1992). The International Society for Technology in Edu cation (ISTE) has established Foundation standards to address the technology needs of teachers, and in 1995 NCATE modified its general unit guidelines requiring preservice teachers to develop an understanding of and use of technology for teaching and learning (NCATE, 1997).

Unfortunately, there seems to be uneven technology expertise among new teachers. Some reports indicate that new teachers have limited knowledge of how to work in a technology-enriched classroom or how to use varied technologies in their professional practice (Jerald, 1998; U.S. Congress, 1995; Willis & Mehlinger, 1994). Preservice teachers themselves report feeling ill-prepared to integrate technology into their instruction (Becker & Ravitz, 1999; Fratianni, Decker, & Korver-Baum, 1990; Heinich, 1991; Topp, 1996).

It is imperative that varied technologies become a natural part of preservice teachers' total learning environment. Wetzel's technology model advocated a core computer course followed by technology integrated into later education courses (Wetzel, 1993). Thompson (1999) agreed that a single course in technology is only a first step, and does not meet the technology needs of preservice teachers. There seems to be overwhelming agreement that the "required technology course" needs to be complemented by faculty modeling of technology for instructional and administrative tasks throughout the teacher preparation coursework (Becker & Ravitz, 1999; Espinoza & Justice, 1994-5; Handler & Marshall, 1992; Kendall-Mitchell, 1991; Novak & Berger, 1991; Strudler, 1992; Widmer, 1994). White (1995) suggested integration of technology into meaningful classroom activities and application of technology into class projects as forms of instructional modeling. Haile and Payne (1999) enhanced the technology integration model by advoc ating infused technology coupled with a collaborative approach to the learning process of preservice teachers. This has the potential of preparing new graduates for Carney's (1998) "communities" of practice in which collegial interaction among practicing teachers is enhanced by technological innovations.

The evaluators looked for answers to the following questions.

1. How have the attitudes of students concerning the use of distance education technology changed as a result of this experience?

2. What are the relationships between perceived skill and confidence with technology?

3. …