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Developing Technology Excellence in Teachers Requires Lots of Practice

This article originally appeared on the ISTE blog and is reprinted with permission.

Two women working on computer

If teacher candidates are to learn how to integrate technology, teacher educators and PK-12 mentor teachers must value, promote and demand that technology be an essential element to good teaching. Furthermore, teacher candidates and novice teachers must have ample opportunities to practice teaching with technology during their field experiences and student teaching.

A new paradigm for practice

In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the connection between practice and success. Experts, he writes, do not “float effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did.” Gladwell believes dedicating an enormous amount of time to practice is one of the most important factors in developing excellence. As such, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

Educators concerned with developing expertise remind us that not all practice is created equal. In a recent blog post, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits (2018), writes, “…at any level of skill, (if you) practice in the same way you always have you’ll get the same results you always have.” Applying a more purposeful and powerful conception of practice to educational technology calls for teacher educators and PK–12 mentor teachers to distinguish between time spent in repetitive activities to integrate research-based teaching from how time practicing is actually spent as a way to improve teaching with technology.

We developed the table below based on inspiration and ideas from researchers and visionaries to support cooperating/mentor teachers, university supervisors, and teacher-education faculty in thinking about how to make field experiences more powerful. Our synthesis of current thinking about practice led us to create a list of “practice types” that we think might help those who support teacher candidates be more intentional about how they work with teacher candidates to not only adopt basic teaching techniques, but also to become proficient, competent, and confident teachers who learn to leverage technology as a teaching asset.

Practice Types in Teacher Preparation

     Click on image to see the entire table.

We are curious how teacher educators, mentor teachers, and technology coordinators might use an outcome-oriented approach to designing more powerful practice experiences for teacher candidates and novice teachers. Are the outcomes depicted in the table evident in your work with preservice and in-service teachers? Are they all appropriate for teacher candidates? How might they be helpful as you work to transition teacher candidates from students to professional educators who know how to leverage technological affordances as assets?

Faculty within preparation programs who want to help teacher candidates excel with technology must support candidates in becoming passionate about applying technology in their teaching. If faculty want teacher candidates to fully leverage technology once they graduate and thereafter, preparation programs must engage teacher candidates in an abundance of opportunities to practice teaching with technology in PK–12 classrooms, provide them with useful feedback, and engage them in continual and ongoing learning about technology throughout their program.

How PK-12 educators can play a stronger role

Below are ways educators in a PK–12 classroom can help fulfill the need for teacher preparation programs and PK–12 school systems to work together in establishing contexts for teacher candidates that are asset-based:

Join the discussion.

Participate in ISTE PLN discussions about the use of technologies for teaching and learning. ISTE members who are PK–12 educators can share their experiences using technologies to support the remote and hybrid learning that has been necessitated by the pandemic. It will be important for PK–12 teachers to continue to share emerging innovative ideas with teacher educators, including the application of emerging technologies, strategies for successful 1:1 initiatives, etc.

Remove barriers.

Get involved in district and school conversations to help avoid, expose, lessen or resolve barriers to teacher candidates developing an asset-based practice at your school. Consult with teacher candidates about their perceptions of barriers and involve teacher candidates themselves in school-level conversations about resolving obstacles.

Share insight.

Share the trends and shifts in the PK–12 landscape with university faculty, including new learning models, assistive technologies, and collaborative and connected learning. Teachers can provide valuable updates on what’s happening in PK–12. Include your current concerns about cybersecurity, advancing 1:1 access, how to think about computational thinking for PK–12 students and new understandings about parent expectations.

Seek out local webinars.

Participate in webinars, like this series hosted by National Louis University, through your local college or university, which may include grade-level panels or panels of principals, superintendents, teachers of English language learners, and special educators.

Engage with teacher educators.

This may involve working with preparation programs to envision new roles and responsibilities for teacher educators as well as to revisit the roles of mentor teachers in developing authentic preservice technology curriculum, making sure technology is a part of induction programs, and strengthening school-university partnerships so new teachers are prepared to teach with technology.

Partnering for teacher preparation

All educational stakeholders can help strengthen partnerships between PK–12 schools and preparation programs. Preparation programs and PK-12 schools must work together to establish strong university-school collaboration where developmentally appropriate field experiences happen every term to allow teacher candidates to become increasingly adept at using technology in their teaching. The intersection of PK–12 and preparation programs is where teacher educators, mentor teachers, and teacher candidates come together. We invite PK–12 teachers, tech coordinators, librarians, administrators, mentor/cooperating teachers, and others to reflect about other opportunities to strengthen school-university partnerships.

 

Teresa S. Foulger is an associate professor of educational technology and program coordinator for educational studies in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Teresa has served as the president of the Teacher Education Network for the International Society for Technology in Education and serves as the co-chair of the TPACK Special Interest Group for the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education. She is co-author of the Teacher Educator Technology Competencies (TETCs) (2017). She is co-editor of Championing Technology Infusion in Teacher Preparation: A Framework for Supporting Future Educators, published by ISTE. 

Kevin J. Graziano is a professor of teacher education in the School of Education at Nevada State College. He is the chair of the Consultative Council for the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE), the former chair of AACTE’s Committee on Innovation and Technology, and the former co-chair of the SITE’s mobile learning SIG. He is co-author of the Teacher Educator Technology Competencies (TETCs) (2017). He is co-editor of Championing Technology Infusion in Teacher Preparation: A Framework for Supporting Future Educators, published by ISTE.

Arlene C. Borthwick is professor emeritus, National College of Education, National Louis University in Chicago, where she served as associate dean from 2010-18. She has served as the chair of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education’s Committee on Innovation and Technology, member of the ISTE Board of Directors, and past president of ISTE’s SIG (PLN) for Teacher Educators. She received the ISTE Making IT Happen award in 2008. She is co-editor of Championing Technology Infusion in Teacher Preparation: A Framework for Supporting Future Educators, published by ISTE


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Teresa Foulger

Arizona State University

Arlene Borthwick

National Louis University

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