The Gap Between Preparation and Reality in Training Teachers to Use
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In reaction to the proliferation of technology in schools in the mid-1990s,
the United States Department of Education (1996)
has formulated a five year, two billion dollar program called the Technology
Literacy Challenge Fund (TLCF) to facilitate technology literacy for all
teachers by the year 2000. The program has four major goals: to make modern
computers accessible to all children, to connect classrooms will be connected to
the Internet, to integrate educational software into the curriculum, and to
prepare teachers teach with technology (USDOE, "Edtech goals," 1999). Since the issuing of this challenge, United States schools
have increased access to technology and many states have developed technology
competency standards for both teachers and students.
Status of Technology Access in American Public Education
Since 1991, the United States has spent more than nineteen billion dollars on
developing the information technology (IT) infrastructure in local districts,
schools, and classrooms. In 1999 alone, district level technology expenditures
surpassed five billion dollars, and more than ninety percent of schools are now
connected to the Internet (Market Data Retrieval, 1999a). In addition, the ratio
of students per computer has reached an all time low of 5.7, revealing a
significant improvement from five years ago (10.8) and a decade ago (26.7)
(Market Data Retrieval, 1999a).
Yet with all the emphasis on providing access, teachers reporting the
utilization of technology in the teaching and learning process remains limited.
In 1998, only fourteen percent of schools reported that the majority of their
teachers were using the World Wide Web for instructional purposes (Market Data
Retrieval, 1998). Although this improved in 1999, with fifty-four percent of
schools reporting more than half of teachers using the Internet daily for
instruction, United States education is far from achieving its goal. Through a
program called Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology, the United
States Department of Education (1999)
has attempted to respond to this challenge by offering seventy-five million
dollars in grants over a three year period to facilitate use of instructional
In my opinion, however, isolated federal initiatives will yield little change in practice; rather, wide scale improvement requires increased attention to this issue by teacher training institutions. This raises serious questions about the role of universities in preparing teachers to utilize technology in the twenty-first century classroom.
Technology Training for Preservice Teachers
What is apparent from survey data and federal initiatives is the fact that
preservice institutions are not adequately preparing teachers for the
information age. A recent national survey of preservice students and faculty
members at 416 teacher training institutions revealed that teacher training
students are not receiving systematic and prolonged technology training
opportunities (Milken Exchange on Education Technology, 1999b). For example,
sixty-seven percent of schools of education report that fewer than half of their
faculty members or mentor teachers model the integration of IT in their
teaching. Field supervision experiences are also suspect. Nearly sixty percent
of schools of education report that less than half of field supervision faculty
possess relevant skills to provide professional instructional technology advice
(Milken Exchange on Educational Technology, 1999b; CEO Forum on Education &
Technology, 1999). Furthermore, less than half of K-12 classrooms in schools
providing field experiences are equipped with IT. In a recent survey, only forty
percent of first-year teachers felt adequately prepared to meaningfully
integrate technology into their classroom (Market Data Retrieval, 1999b).
Without policy changes in teacher education, K-12 teachers will remain
According to the USDOE's recent survey of 4,049 elementary, junior high, and
high school teachers, less than twenty percent view themselves as very well
prepared to integrate technology into instruction (Archer, 1999). Ravitz et al
(1999), in another national survey, found that approximately forty percent of
teachers require monthly assistance in integrating technology into a lesson. At
the same time that teachers are not using technology or feel unprepared to
utilize technology effectively in the classroom, states have been enacting
mandates and legislation that require both teachers and students to demonstrate
technology skills. Teacher training institutions must be more aware of these
evolving trends that will change state licensure and certification requirements
within the same state.
Recent State Educational Technology Policy Trends
From fiscal year 19 95 to fiscal year 1999, the fifty state legislatures
appropriated nearly four billion dollars to education related instructional
technology (Milken Exchange on Education Technology, 1999a). With this financial
investment, state legislatures have passed policy mandates associated with
technology competence in an effort to guarantee a return on this investment. As
the integration of technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous, state policies
have been introduced to regulate the quality of utility. According to the Milken
Exchange on Education Technology (1999a), forty-five states have or are in the
process of creating standards for state technology competencies, and nine of
these states require a technology- related exit exam for graduation. Having
achieved a proliferation of technology access, states are now interested in a
teacher's ability to use and integrate technology in teaching.
Beginning in 2001, the state of Idaho will require that ninety percent of all
district staff members demonstrate technology proficiency (Idaho Department of
Public Instruction, 1999).
Teachers can demonstrate competence using any of three assessment tools: (1) the
Idaho Technology Competency Examination (ITCE); (2) the Idaho Technology
Portfolio assessment; and (3) a district written exam or portfolio (Idaho
Department of Education, 1999).
Demonstrated proficiency will become even more important in Idaho as well as in
other states adopting similar policies for both teachers and students at the
turn of the century (e.g., North Carolina). Schools that do not meet the level
of competency set by the new criteria will potentially lose accreditation. This
mandate will hopefully motivate teacher training institutions to align teacher
preparation curricula with state standards. Furthermore, with increased emphasis
on student technology standards, teachers must be skilled in instructional
technology in order to provide students with the potential to acquire relevant
skills that will be included on state technology competency examinations.
As states begin to increasingly require demonstrated technology competence of
new teachers, preparatory institutions will assume more responsibility in
providing technology skills. Although many would argue that training our present
aging teacher population is the most critical factor in the present lack of
preparation and utility, I contend that all levels of the teacher education
system need refining in this area. First and foremost, technology training
should be ubiquitously integrated into the entire preparation phase from first
year courses in schools of education to induction year integration.
Consequently, schools of education should investigate instituting systemic
Through the enlightened introduction of these policies addressing technology
integration at all levels of the system, appropriate utilization of technology
will be introduced and modeled throughout the training and growth of a new
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