COVID, Technology, and the Future of Educator Preparation
As we head toward the one year mark of the onset of the pandemic, there are many lessons learned in how we prepare candidates to use technology in education, however, there is still much to discover. At AACTE 2021 Annual Meeting, the AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology will be presenting a Deeper Dive session, “Applying Technology-enhanced Teaching Strategies to the New Normal in 2021 and Beyond” on Thursday, February 25, 11:15 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., that looks back at the past year and how teacher education programs have responded to preparing candidates during this time. The session will also focus on how programs are moving beyond the current health crisis and how they are preparing candidates to use technology in ways that support teaching and learning to enter face-to-face, remote, and hybrid classroom environments.
In the spring of last year, when school doors closed and learning went online due to the pandemic, many school districts were left flatfooted in trying to tackle this new emergency instructional situation. Not only did they face infrastructure, access, equity, and professional development challenges, but perhaps more importantly, student engagement in the learning process was lost or disrupted in significant ways.
When teachers return to the classroom, the ability to successfully deliver virtual instruction will still be required as some school districts are embedding digital learning days into their yearly calendar or utilizing digital learning days to make up for weather related cancellations. While some teacher preparation programs throughout the United States were already preparing candidates to teach at a distance prior to the pandemic, it has become an expectation that new teachers will be able to enter classrooms ready to teach in face-to-face, remote, and in blended contexts. Regardless of the teaching platform, teacher candidates need to be prepared to transform traditional lessons into learning experiences that go beyond just content delivery, and that requires additional planning, critical thinking, and the exploration of different technologies.
Enhancing the learning experience through technology
Through the use of technology, teachers can provide students with the opportunity to enhance their learning experience, to dig deeper into content, to collaborate with each other, and to reach beyond the traditional classroom walls to make connections into the larger world. As teacher educators, it’s not only important for us to integrate a technology strategy into our programs, but to also work with pre-service teachers to help them understand pedagogical decision-making around technology adoption. This can support candidates in creating learning environments that promote K12 student knowledge construction, voice, and agency.
Technology also opens the door for school districts to create new opportunities to engage students and their families so they may improve communication, address inequities, and develop personalized learning experiences to help close learning gaps that might occur if a student is unable to attend school due to their health or other reasons. More than ever, it is important for schools and teachers to have open lines of communication with students and their families. There is a real opportunity for school districts to rethink how they communicate and engage with parents and families. In the past, schools may have called, tweeted, or sent home a newsletter, but the communication was typically one directional. The new technologies that schools have implemented during the pandemic provide the opportunity to envision more culturally relevant and community engaged experiences between families, schools, and teachers.
As teacher educators, this past year has presented many challenges. However, there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. As we move past this unprecedented time and back into classrooms, we need to reflect back on the lessons we learned and move forward in preparing pre-service teachers with the technology tools they need to provide their students with deep educational opportunities in class, remotely, and in a blended context.
By Jon M. Clausen, is associate professor of educational technology & secondary education at Ball State University.