|Issues Challenging Education|
Teachers and Technology For The 21st Century
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Redesigning the model
schools must prepare students to meet the challenges of higher
education or the workplace. Part of this preparation must include
competence in technological productivity tools. In order for schools
to prepare students to use productivity tools, teachers within
the schools must incorporate technology into their teaching. A
redesign of the current teacher training model is necessary for
education to lead the charge into the 21st century. Teachers today
receive similar training that teachers did fifty years ago. Generally,
teaching methodology courses focus primarily on serving the needs
of the traditional student. Teachers learn to utilize resources
that are often obsolete and rarely effective. Novice teachers
enter the educational arena with few tools and little armor, decreasing
their chances of survival. Education must infuse teacher training
with the enabling factors of technology. We need immediate change
to a model that will adequately prepare teachers for the 21st
Several factors contribute to the probability of educational excellence. Three of these factors, if redefined and properly implemented into a new teacher training model, could revolutionize education: the educational infrastructure, the misuse and underuse of technology, and the access to learning ecosystems.
are aware of public schools' shortcomings and acknowledge that
change and restructuring must occur to rescue them from further
decline, many refuse to disavow themselves from the archaic practices
that are strangling our schools. According to the North Carolina
Education Standards and Accountability Commission (1995), public
schools still cling to the antiquated paradigm of thirteen years
of schooling, 180 days a year, five days a week, and six hours
every day. The sage on the stage is still the predominant instructional
strategy with very little enriching, mind-stretching learning
occurring. In order to improve educational practice, we must as
Smith (1995) states in Reinventing Schools,
"Instead of being the repository of knowledge, teachers will
be guides who help students navigate through electronically accessible
Misuse and underuse of technology
Original computer programs introduced during the 1970s and 1980s such as BASIC and FORTRAN did not enhance instruction. Students took elective computer courses that demoted the computer to the role of a glori fied typewriter. Not much has changed in twenty years. Tom Loveless (1996) argues that computers are capable of improving schools, but the underuse of the computer is a serious problem. Computers generally remain in labs removed from the classrooms, and therefore are not an integral part of instruction; students merely use them as word processors and powerful Atari's.
According to the Office of Technology Assessment there are 5.8 million computers in the public schools (one computer for every nine students). In spite of the abundance of computers in public schools, 70 percent of eighth graders have never used a computer in the schools (Loveless, 1996). The reason that students use the computer so rarely is because most teachers do not possess the training and skills to integrate computers into the everyday happenings of the classroom. Instead teachers restrict themselves to the once-a-month visit to the computer lab. Teachers use the computer as an add-on instead of truly integrating its use into the curriculum.
This trend can be extremely dangerous. So much of funding for schools has a strong link to performance and progress. The current role of computers has not improved scores and student achievement significantly (Loveless, 1996). This failure of the computer to produce results can lead to drastic cuts in technology budgets in the near future. While current methods courses are encouraging future teachers to use the computer more, our future classroom leaders are still not being taught how to integrate the computer into students' lives in a meaningful fashion.
Technology has become the main force driving our society. "Technology is empowering the individual" (Bechtol & Sorenson, 1993, p.4). Radios, televisions, telephones, video cassette recorders, computers, the Internet, e-mail, fax modems, and so forth are becoming accessible to the masses. This same technology is now available to let us instruct students as individuals. "Instead of moving students in lock step through the grade-level system, they can go through on a knowledge-level ladder at their own speed (Bechtol & Sorenson, 1993, p.4)."
The belief that significant learning occurs
only within the classroom ignores the wealth of opportunities
that the global classroom provides. Acknowledging that learning
occurs at school, home and in between plants the seeds of learning
ecosystems. This concept capitalizes on the belief that instruction
and learning can no longer be trapped within the school walls.
Progressive teacher training equips students with the necessary
tools and experiences to be creative thinkers, self-motivated,
innovative, and cooperative team workers regardless of the environment
they are in. Teachers must possess the skills to provide learning
experiences that stretch beyond the school walls and spill over
past the traditional six hour school day. The chiming of the school
bell or the monthly calendar cannot continue to dictate the boundaries
of the learning ecosystems. Through integrating technology in
their instruction, educators can begin to make learning resources,
information, and materials accessible to their students regardless
of whether the teacher is on duty or not (Smith, 1995).
The force driving teacher training for the 21st century:
Several factors such as a rapidly changing student population, an expanding global community, and greater competition for funds and resources will impact the course of teacher training for the next century. None however will compare with the effect that technology will have in redesigning the roles, purpose, effectiveness, and scope of teacher training. Advancements in technolo gy are already infiltrating all areas of society, and will continue to do so at an even more rapid pace during the next millennia. The use, availability, power, and applicability of technology will increase while its cost will decrease. The global community is demanding that its citizenry and especially its work force possess advanced skills. These skills soar above the basics of reading, writing, and computation. To compete effectively, businesses will require that employees access information, resources, and markets in the most effective, efficient, and instantaneous format.
Given these forces, the teacher training model for the next century must utilize technology to carve a new direction. Technology weaves the strands that impact instruction: student diversity, ability discrepancies, special needs, accountability pressures, cultural background, and political forces.
Integrating technology into all areas of instruction affords schools the opportunity to develop the ideal learning environment of individualized instruction for all children. Technology should never be the curriculum, but rather a mechanism that bridges the child with the content. Technology allows students to progress at their own pace while corresponding to their individual learning style.
Technology must become a tool used to build
skills needed to function productively in the future. It allows
for the transformation of our current school model. This transformation
calls for restructuring the roles and responsibilities of students,
teachers, administrators, and the school itself. Teachers can
no longer remain the circus trainers of drill and practice. Instead
of viewing themselves as having the sole responsibility of imparting
knowledge and enforcing discipline, teachers must learn to mentor
students in their instructional and social development. They must
learn strategies needed to guide and support students through
learning experiences and opportunities that allow individuals
to deepen their understanding of new and different concepts. Ultimately
the goal of education is to instill the characteristics needed
for life-long learning.
North Carolina stands at the forefront of teacher training reform. "Preparing for 21st Century Schools" ("Preparing for," 1996) is North Carolina's effort to revamp the current teacher training model. This commission, chaired by Governor James B. Hunt, lists five basic recommendations. Two of these recommendations strike at the very core of what we see as vital for a truly effective educational system of the future. First, schools must "reinvent teacher preparation and professional development" and secondly, create a learning ecosystem that is "organized for student and teacher success," ("Preparing for," 1996, p. iii) that prepares students to be productive members of a highly fluid society.
All areas of teacher training must incorporate technology training. Just as books and journals were previously considered the "fountain of knowledge," now computers, the Internet, telecommunications, satellite learning, cellular communications, and so forth are the convenient, mobile , and disposable textbooks and encyclopedias of the new millennia. These machines are the keys to current, accurate, and updated information. Since information is easily accessible, learning is more individualized, holistic, and pertinent. Only when the use of technology provides a meaningful and applicable opportunity for users will it become integrated into the pattern of learning and working (O'Neil, 1995).
Universities must provide teacher training using the latest technology. Te achers can learn information accessing skills that will make them more effective. Resources in cyberspace catapult the ability of the teacher to the global realm. In the 21st century technology will reach beyond the current confines of the universe. The charge of universities is to expose, prompt, stretch, and provide emerging teachers with the most advanced resources to be better, more efficient teachers. Technological advancements also help eliminate many restrictions such as time and distance. The use of real-time on-line teleconferencing, observation and discussion of real classroom situations is possible without actually visiting the site. Education students will benefit from observing experienced teachers and by interacting in authentic educational situations throughout the globe. Professors will reap rewards as well. By being able to enhance student teacher observations through teleconference observations, the educational methods instructor can create a more accurate, in depth, and realistic assessment than one restricted by the traditional and infrequent on-site visits. Student teachers (and even seasoned veterans) could request a professor to observe a small segment of a lesson to provide feedback. This would allow them to "observe their colleagues' classrooms and talk with them so that they can unlearn old practices and build new ones" (Smith, 1995).
Currently public education stands at the brink of a new century faced with a plethora of research pointing at the inadequacy of both their graduates and teachers. The 21st century will flood society with information and resources. A metamorphosis of novice teachers will occur when they learn how to access and effectively utilize technology. When teachers eradicate the limitations imposed by traditional methodologies, the possibility for learning increases exponentially. Our emerging educators need to not only respond to constant societal change, but more importantly to become agents of progressive change. Redesigning the current teacher training model by allowing technology to stretch, enhance, reaffirm, and catapult our emerging teachers will help develop a society prepared to successfully meet the challenges of the 21st century. Technology can help make this a reality!
the current paradigm of teacher training to incorporate technology
into all areas of instruction will allow us to access the learning
ecosystem that keeps up with rapid societal advances. Restructuring
the current teacher training model will empower educators to do
If universities continue to promote and use the traditional canon of teacher training , schools will become obsolete institutions of society. We will fail to meet the needs of our students, businesses, and both the micro and macro communities that we belong to. Students will enter the job handicapped by useless knowledge and skills, and incompetent to perform expected skills. Generations of children and young adults will be unable to maneuver successfully in a rapidly changing and demanding society.
Maintaining the status quo will have the
following negative implications:
The teacher training model for the 21st century
The teacher training model needed to shatter
the current outdated paradigm develops student teachers into educators
capable of becoming change agents. It capitalizes on the most
effective, accurate, and up-to-date expertise. Technology orchestrates
the currently scattered and counter effective components of education.
Recommendations of specific machines, models, or name brands make
any model obsolete. The specific technology (lap tops, teleconferencing
capabilities, Internet, and so forth) is not included in the teacher
training model for the 21st century. Of essence is the benefits
technology will bring to instruction and ultimately the improvements
or by products students will reap from improved instruction.
The following are components of the teacher training model that
will result in improvements in instruction and improvements in
Improvements in instruction:
Improvements in student learning:
A new teacher training model that addresses improvement in instruction and student learning must capitalize on the attributes and convenience of technology. The challenges faced by education in the next century are numerous. Teachers must acquire the skills needed to prepare students to utilize creative avenues needed to access information and resources. Reinventing and enhancing teachers' roles must occur if children are going to surpass the basics of drill and practice. As educational leaders, our role must include stressing the urgency needed to revamp the current teacher training model. The future of public education lies in the hands of educational leaders. If educators continue to ignore the seriousness of the current situation, public schools will cease to prepare children to be productive students, but more importantly our society will begin to deteriorate. Technology can help change the current path of education; instead of destruction, technology can help in the rebirth of public education!
Writer Daniel Kinnaman (1995) sums it
up quite aptly: "If empowered with today's technology.....
it is sensible and reasonable to think that good teachers will
be able to help every student excel. Together, good teachers
and good technology form the basis for substantial, lasting education
improvement" (p. 98). If we don't recognize and utilize the
benefits of technology in education today, we will be guilty of
shackling future generations of American citizens to a less-than-optimal
lifestyle while the rest of the world rockets into the future.
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