Redefining Edtech’s Place in Teacher Preparation Programs
In many teacher preparation programs, the curriculum was set years if not decades ago and is not frequently changed due to the realities of institutional requirements and bureaucratic inertia. But a new teacher who is not aware of best practices for integrating edtech into his or her new classroom is likely to be at a significant disadvantage when it comes to classroom management, assessment, and student learning outcomes—in other words, in the most significant aspects of his or her practice. This is why the US Department of Education has taken the position that all preservice teachers need a strong grounding in educational technology.
It might be argued that, given that preservice teachers are “digital natives,” they don’t need more exposure to technology. But this is not true. For example, in the wider culture, most people view Twitter as a frivolous wasteland of celebrities and shallow political arguments. But teachers have turned Twitter into a powerful tool for professional development. A solid teacher preparation program will introduce teachers to this and other edtech tools for professional development that are largely unknown to the larger culture—even to digital natives.
A related issue is that the world of edtech is currently a bit overwhelming: there are so many tools out there, and there is precious little vetting of their quality. One of the greatest contributions that a teacher preparation program could make is to show teachers how to vet edtech in order to ensure that new teachers are able to select those tools that will be of most benefit to their students.
Every company promises stunning results—but the research shows that only a subset of those can actually deliver. The issue of vetting also extends to the digital literacy of students. Research shows that K12 students have few skills with which to ferret out “fake news,” suggesting a crucial role for teacher preparation in equipping teachers to teach these skills to their future students.
Some teacher preparation programs may want to take the approach of requiring coursework in edtech specifically. This would create space for instructional activities designed to get future teachers thinking not only about what is available to use, but also about how to evaluate it both before and after its use. Or, programs may prefer to integrate a strong edtech component into their existing classes.
There is a case to be made that “it’s all edtech now,” and that isolating edtech doesn’t make sense given the reality that edtech is going to infuse everything teachers do in the classroom. This will require a committed effort to substantially alter existing courses—it isn’t enough to stop with cosmetic or superficial changes.