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Radio Interview Highlights Emerging Technologies in Educator Preparation

AACTE members Vanessa Anton and Barbara Fuller of Northeastern State University’s (NSU) College of Education were recently featured on the EduTalk radio show to highlight their Robotics Academy of Critical Engagement (R.A.C.E.) program, which won the 2018 AACTE Best Practice Award for the Innovative Use of Technology. During the interview, Anton and Fuller shared that NSU’s R.A.C.E. program is the only one of its kind housed in a college of education in the U.S. and around the world.

After a successful pilot of the program, NSU opened its first robotics lab in 2012 on its Tahlequah campus, followed by a second lab on its Broken Arrow campus—which both have educator preparation programs. Every pre-service teacher at NSU is required to take an emerging technologies course that includes the robotics unit where the candidates build and program their own robot. The course prepares teacher candidates of every subject to enter the classroom ready to use robotics as part of their curriculum if they choose to do so. Most importantly, the process of learning how to work together well and improve critical thinking provides a gateway for the candidates to teach those same skills to their students.

“Our focus has always been on [more than] robotics. Robotics is just a tool. Our focus has always been, what [we can do] to enhance critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration,” said Fuller, director of the R.A.C.E program.  “On the back end [we] ask, how did you communicate with your team? What was involved in the collaboration?”

Another vital component of the R.A.C.E program is the immersion of teacher candidates in public schools, workshops, the business world, and special activities with in-service teachers and PK-12 students. For example, R.A.C. E. students have traveled to help teachers who work with indigenous populations in areas such as South Dakota and abroad to Austria and Haiti through its global initiative.

“A lot of times a school will just invite us and say, ‘We don’t know anything about this.

Could you come and train our teachers?’” said Fuller. “We think it’s so important that our students immerse themselves while they are in their undergraduate [program].”

Vanessa Anton, dean of NSU’s College of Education, emphasized that the R.A.C.E. program plays a large role in addressing the teacher shortage in Oklahoma. “We have been able to work with thousands of students, parents, and community members. They’re in our building all the time,” said Anton. “The emerging technology class, where we started, is just the tip of the iceberg. We do a lot more that also [assists] our recruitment and retention.”

According to Anton, NSU recently added a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) Maker lab for PK-12 students in conjunction with the robotics lab on the Tahlequah campus and will open the next STEAM Maker lab on its Broken Arrow campus in November 2018. “We continue to add and grow,” she said.

To learn more about the innovative R.A.C.E. program, listen to the show recording on the Education Talk Radio website.

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Katrina Norfleet

Content Strategist, AACTE