The Gap Between Preparation and Reality in Training Teachers to Use Technology 

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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 technology. 

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 unprepared.  

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 policies:

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 educator.


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