Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Providing Authentic Contexts for Learning Information Technology in Teacher Preparation

Academic journal article Journal of Technology and Teacher Education

Providing Authentic Contexts for Learning Information Technology in Teacher Preparation

Article excerpt

This article describes how we engaged teacher candidates in an authentic professional learning activity using information technologies as tools, to support both learning to teach and learning to use technology. The assignments in two courses generally achieved the desired authenticity to teaching, and plausibly accounted for the candidates' favorable ratings of the value of the activities. The distributions of the candidates' self-assessments of their technological skills both rose substantially and narrowed appreciably in the two courses, particularly for skills that the courses most demanded and supported. While the study design precludes strong arguments about the efficacy of the course designs for learning technology, it appears that those course designs effectively reconciled learning technology with other aims in a crowded teacher preparation curriculum.

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Today's teacher educators face greatly increased expectations for the preparation of new teachers (Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium [INTASC], 1992; National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education [NCATE], 1996). Those expectations include preparing teacher candidates to understand technology operations and concepts, to use technology personally and professionally, and to be able to use technologies appropriately to support student learning in classroom instruction (ISTE, 1999; Michigan State Board of Education, 1998; NCATE, 1997). When our teacher preparation program adopted information technology requirements several years ago, our faculty decided not to offer a separate course, but to support teacher candidates' learning by infusing work toward the technology requirements into the existing sequence of professional courses. Like many teacher educators, the faculty wanted to integrate learning of information technology into the substance of our program (Brush et al., 2001; Dawson & Norris, 2000; Gillingham & Topper, 1999; Morrow, Barnhart, & Rooyakkers, 2002; Rademacher, Tyler-Wood, Doclar, & Pemberton, 2001; Thomas & Cooper, 2000).

MAKING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SERVE PROFESSIONAL LEARNING

While we agreed with the decision to infuse information technology, that decision presented us and our colleagues with substantial problems, which included the extent of our own command of information technology. More important, given the substantial and refined practices of standards-oriented teaching and teacher education called for these days, we had far more to teach than time to teach it. One initial response to the challenge to infuse information technology was to wonder what part of existing materials and practices might have to be sacrificed in order to explore benefits from information technology.

As for other content of teacher preparation, research suggested that teacher candidates would need consistent opportunities to learn to use information technology over time in multiple and authentic contexts, or little meaningful learning would take place (Reeves, 1996). Moreover, candidates' confidence level, attitudes, and beliefs about technology; their responses to challenges; and their own skills and expertise in using technology probably would strongly influence their interaction with any work that instructors might assign (Keiffer, Hale, & Templeton, 1998; McKinney, 1998; Winsor, Butt, & Reeves, 1999). Finally, the candidates' learning probably would depend heavily on their goal orientation--mastery versus performance. That orientation in turn, would largely depend on the authenticity of course tasks to teaching, the candidates' opportunities for choice and influence in the course, and the emphasis placed on student evaluation in the course (Pintrich, Marx, & Boyle, 1993).

Many teacher educators have discussed the potential of teaching portfolios for fostering authentic, goal-directed professional learning (Cambridge, 2001; Georgi & Crowe, 1998; Johnson, 1999; McKinney, 1998; McLaughlin & Vogt, 1996; McLaughlin et al. …

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