Standards-Based Technology Teacher Education Online: An Innovative New Program at Valley City State University

By Mugan, Donald; Boe, James et al. | The Technology Teacher, September 2004 | Go to article overview

Standards-Based Technology Teacher Education Online: An Innovative New Program at Valley City State University


Mugan, Donald, Boe, James, Edland, Matt, The Technology Teacher


Valley City State University in Valley City, ND, has developed an undergraduate technology education program over the past five years that is being delivered completely online.

What are you doing in technology education and how did it come about?

The current effort was really set in motion in 1990 when the campus was given a mission by the university system to exercise a leadership role in enhancing the teaching and learning process through technology. After a number of significant accomplishments, including universal computer access through notebook computers and universal digital portfolio assessment, the university was ready to explore a possible role in online learning as a means to accomplish its mission. In 1998 the campus secured a $1.7 million DOE grant, which was used to develop an infrastructure to support online learning, to build faculty expertise, and to create a complete model online program.

Technology Education was chosen as the first online program because it represented an opportunity to revitalize a long-standing program, and because of the clearly defined critical need for technology teachers. Other factors influencing the decision were the Standards for Technological Literacy (STL) project, and ITEA's creation of the Center to Advance the Teaching of Technology and Science (CATTS) Consortium, which engaged in development of curriculum materials for STL implementation. Taken together, these factors presented an opportunity to make a clean break with the past and develop a program of national reach and significance.

On what is your curriculum based and how does it line up with what is going on in K-12 schools?

STL represents the clearest consensus to date of what technology education can and should do for America. Therefore, the greatest assurance of success for an online program would be found in building on these standards, and it meant starting from scratch with all new content--no compromises. Working within the constraints of a 36-credit major, it became clear that the traditional model of capping skills courses with 9 methods course would not work. If new standards-based materials were added, something must be deleted. It also became clear that if higher education is to foster change, it must model the curriculum it seeks to create in schools. Valley City State University decided to adopt the curriculum framework proposed by the CATTS Consortium, complete with course titles. This meant that activities must be grade-level appropriate, and traditional skills must be taught on a just-in-time, as-needed basis. For example, if a prospective teacher must know how to solder in order to supervise a design challenge, a soldering tutorial is provided if needed, when needed. When a decision is made to set a single factor as the top priority, in this case STL, the ramifications are endless. Everything must be scrutinized, including facility. STL is K-12 in scope; therefore, highly specialized labs filled with industrial-age equipment are inappropriate. Labs must be flexible, clean, exciting, and non-intimidating to teachers and students alike. A new facility to address these needs was completed at VCSU in 2001.

The program enjoys considerable support in K-12 schools for a variety of reasons. First, the grant funded the creation of a Curriculum Development Team made up of a dozen of the most respected K-12 teachers in the state. It is unusual for K-12 teachers to be given a voice in the creation of university curriculum, but the resulting ownership among teachers is gratifying. The team was selected for geographic and grade level balance, including elementary teachers. Another factor in acceptance of the program is that the State Board for Career and Technical Education was a partner in the project from its conception. The CTE board and staff provide leadership and support for technology education and play a role in teacher certification as well as Grades 7-12 course approval. …

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