Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Strengthening Educational Technology in K-8 Urban Schools and in Preservice Teacher Education: A Practitioner-Faculty Collaborative Process

Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Strengthening Educational Technology in K-8 Urban Schools and in Preservice Teacher Education: A Practitioner-Faculty Collaborative Process

Article excerpt

If classroom teachers are to meet the need for meaningful integration of technology in educational settings, there must be a restructuring of both teacher preparation programs and current classroom practice. The purpose of this article is to share the experiences of a collaborative partnership between an urban school district and a college of education to support practitioners' ongoing professional development and to inform teacher education practices around technology at the college. A Teacher Inquiry Group (TIG) consisting of a group of classroom teachers and other school and district personnel, along with teacher education faculty members, met over a two year period to study, share, and expand best practices for integrating technology into K-8 and college classrooms. Documentation of the process from the perspective of TIG participants and others from the school district and college indicate that this collaboration has had a significant impact on both partner institutions and has great potential to widen that impact in the coming years.

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The need for educational technology as an integral part of the preparation of teachers has been well established. The international perception that a crisis exists in the widening gap between teacher preparation programs and children in the 21st century (Greening, 1998) is voiced over and over again. In the United States the articulation of this need has become part of the national agenda. In the five years proceeding the turn of the century, educational organizations, federal programs, and government committees have all offered strong position statements. The common thread is the need for ALL children to have access to the power of this tool. Over a decade of research has documented the effect of appropriate use of technology in educational settings and these studies provide compelling evidence that computer use can have a major, positive impact on children's social, emotional, language, and cognitive development (Slade, 1996). The preponderance of evidence of the potential benefits of technology enriched curriculum has led the National Association for the Education of Young Children to conclude that "there is considerable research that points to the positive effects of technology on children's learning and development" (NAEYC, 1996, p. 1). The full potential of these tools is only realized, however, when they are used effectively and in ways which connect meaningfully to the ongoing curriculum of the classroom and that support creativity and critical thinking (Haugland, 2000).

The use of technology as an educational tool is solidly grounded in a constructivist view of learning. "Whether technology is essential or marginal to a project, one of the central issues in all of our research is the relationship that triggers and sustains learning" (Whitla, 2003, p. 3). The inclusion of technology has dramatically redefined the way we define interactivity (Greening, 1998). The inclusion of computers in the classroom is not an "end unto itself." As Fletcher (1996) (1) noted, "When you go to the hardware store to buy a drill, you don't actually want a drill, you want a hole. They don't sell holes at the hardware store, but they do sell drills, which are the technology used to make holes. We must not lose sight that technology, for the most part, is a tool and it should be used in applications which address educational concerns" (p. 87). It is only through the interaction of children in inquiry-based learning environments that the enabling power of the tool is realized. Identifying both on-screen and hands-on activities is the substance of designing a technology rich environment (Haugland, 1995).

For more than 20 years, the Offices of Special Education Programs has been committed to using technology as an enabling tool for persons with disabilities (Hauser & Malouf, 1996). This commitment was echoed in the content of the 1998 hearings of the subcommittee on technology under the House Science Committee, and in the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (Panel Chair, 1998). …

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