Using the Internet: Are Prospective Elementary Teachers Prepared to Teach with Technology?

Article excerpt

The 1998 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) survey on technology use in teacher education reported that one computer exists for every five students in K-12 schools in the United States. To be ready to enter these technological classrooms, prospective teachers need course experiences that incorporate educational technology for classroom teaching in meaningful ways. In teacher education programs, however, the task of integrating the use of educational technology with reform-oriented learning theories and pedagogy is not trivial (Nieder-hauser, Salem, and Fields 1999; Willis 1998). Different uses of educational technology lead to multiple views of learning, which affect how topics are taught and learned. Transforming curricula and pedagogy to take advantage of technology is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process. The Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA 1995) reported that only 3 percent of teacher education graduates indicated they were "very well prepared" to teach with technology. More recently, the ISTE (1999) survey on technology use in teacher education documented that taking separate information technology courses had no significant effect on prospective teachers' integration of technology in teaching or their technological skills.

To counter this reported lack of preparation, teacher educators must study and examine models of effective technology integration in teacher education programs. This article describes the design and implementation of a course assignment in a mathematics methods course that was intended to enhance prospective elementary teachers' understanding of planning and teaching mathematics with the use of the Internet. I also share an example of one prospective teacher's work for the assignment and what I have learned about this form of assessment in the methods course.

The Mathematics Methods Course

"Teaching Mathematics in Elementary Schools" is a three-credit, fifteen-week methods course designed to help prospective elementary teachers understand mathematics content and pedagogy based on a constructivist theory of how children learn in pre-K-6 classrooms. The prospective teachers become actively engaged in the processes of mathematical inquiry within different content strands such as number and operations and measurement, which Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM 2000) articulates. As they solve problem-based tasks, the prospective teachers begin to examine how children learn mathematics and develop challenging tasks for student-centered learning environments. The prospective teachers work both collaboratively in small groups and individually with a variety of manipulative materials to facilitate their learning in ways that most prospective teachers have not experienced prior to the course. Problem-based tasks and research articles often illuminate mathematical misconceptions, and many prospective teachers begin to see mathematics teaching as a process that allows learners to make sense of their world.


Learning to Teach with Technology

Early in the semester, I introduced the prospective teachers to a selected collection of Internet mathematics education resources for gathering information, learning about professional development opportunities, and using technology to develop a more in-depth understanding of geometric thinking (see fig. 1). Prior to this computer laboratory session, the prospective teachers had participated in problem-solving tasks with pentominoes. They analyzed the properties of shapes intended to develop children's geometric thinking according to the Van Hiele levels of geometric thinking (Van de Walle 2001). Thirty-three students worked at computer stations in pairs and some trios.

The computer laboratory session began with each small group accessing the Math Forum Web site at to search for mathematics education resources. …