Back to the Future: Traditional Teacher Education Embracing Cutting Edge Approaches

Article excerpt

For those who were around in 1985, one of the top movies of the year was Back to the Future. In the story, Michael J. Fox plays a high school student with a nerdy father, lovely mother, strict principal, and larger-than-life bully. The story's hero (Marty McFly) meets up with a mad scientist who builds a time machine out of a DeLorean (for those who weren't around in 1985; an automobile) and travels back to the 1950s where modern technology clashes with a period of Americana that many appreciate for traditional values and simpler lifestyles. The movie's theme has been duplicated many times in many theaters. At the heart of the story: how does a modern character survive in a different time, situation and culture?

As with other teacher educators around the nation, Agricultural Education faculty members at Tarleton State University continue to face the same question. How do we deliver the time-tested teacher education model to a modern agricultural education student? One recent issue that highlighted this question of delivering the traditional model to a modern student is that of the Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) record keeping system. Decades ago, our entire teacher education faculty kept their SAE records in hardcopy books. We recall our vocational agriculture teachers advising us to record all expenses and income using a pencil so we could correct any mistakes. None of our students can relate to paperbased record books and the completing of award and degree applications with a typewriter! However, we still seek to instill the importance of record-keeping, project management, budgeting, and other important timetested goals of the SAE program.

Tarleton's Agricultural Education "traditional" teacher preparation program is embracing the technology used by our students. After enrolling in our Agricultural Education program students become familiar with the Agricultural Experience Tracker (AET) programs. As found on the AET website:

The Agricultural Experience Tracker is the premiere personalized online system for tracking experiences in agricultural education. Like other systems, the AET summarizes those experiences into standard FFA award applications. The AET can also aggregate those experiences across programs to produce local reports for school administrators and overall economic impact reports for interested stakeholders and legislative representatives. (The AET, 2012, "Agricultural Education Online Recordkeeping System")

Tarleton students are being supplied passwords enabling them to develop electronic records of their collegiate agricultural experiences. This will provide students with official documentation of their extra-curricular collegiate agricultural activities and experiences. The experiences will be more accurately documented due to the accessibility of the electronic format; thus providing more timely entries before details related to dates, times, and activities are forgotten. This will be valuable when it is time to produce a resume. Advantages of an electronic collegiate record service include:

* The academic department may use this record for active students when selecting honors, scholarships, team leaders, and other individual awards. Students are further motivated to accurately record activities in a timely fashion.

* The student will be provided with a participation record after the completion of their entire collegiate career. Reflection of this record will enhance the students' intrinsic value placed on the university experience and inspire confidence in their ability to transition into the teaching profession. …