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Innovative Use of Technology at Saint Leo: Tech Integration, Digital Backpacks

Jeffrey Carpenter is a member of AACTE’s Committee on Innovation and Technology, which selects winners for the Association’s Best Practice Award for the Innovative Use of Technology. This post highlights the work of a runner-up for the 2014 award, Saint Leo University (FL).

Last year’s submissions for the AACTE Best Practice Award for the Innovative Use of Technology included many outstanding entries that linked to the committee’s focus on technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK)-based approaches to teacher preparation. Although the committee was only able to recognize one institution with an award, it is our pleasure to share information about the effective, innovative practices described in another highly rated application.

When 2006 surveys revealed that alumni in their first year of teaching were satisfied with their teacher preparation except in the area of technology, the Saint Leo University Education Department established a long-term goal of making technology integration and innovation a keystone of its program. Saint Leo faculty took a multipronged approach to improving candidate preparation to integrate content, pedagogical, and technological knowledge in their PK-12 instruction.

In addition to ramping up faculty expertise with different technologies, Saint Leo focused on putting technology in teacher candidates’ hands. This goal was realized through the construction of an educational technology lab and “21st-century classrooms,” used by all education faculty members, that include multiple interactive whiteboards, document cameras, sets of iPads, iTouches, Macbooks, and classroom response systems. The lab is available on a walk-in basis and is staffed with a student worker to support teacher candidates in their assignments and explorations.

Faculty are committed to modeling pedagogically sound ways of integrating technology into their own courses, operating under the theoretical underpinnings of the TPACK model. Every education course integrates technology with teaching and learning in at least one major assignment. Not only are preservice teachers expected to use technology proficiently both in courses and in their field placements, but they are regularly asked to reflect on the value of using technology to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

Saint Leo University teacher candidates learn about their digital backpacks.

Previously, preservice teachers often arrived at their field placements prepared to deliver the technology-infused lessons, but without the necessary hardware at the school. Now, “digital backpacks” help students at rural centers to bridge this gap by providing necessary teacher technology tools including an iPad 3, portable projector, portable speakers, and a portable interactive whiteboard. A student response system is also available for preservice teachers to check out for use in their field placements.

Learn more about the AACTE Best Practice Award for Innovative Use of Technology here.

To learn more about Saint Leo University Education Department programs, contact department chair Candace Roberts at candace.roberts@saintleo.edu or visit the School of Education & Social Services web site at http://www.saintleo.edu/academics/schools/school-of-education-social-services.aspx.

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Jeffrey Carpenter

Director of the Teaching Fellows Program, Elon University

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