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KSU Profiles its AACTE Award-Winning Innovative Use of Technology

In March 2023, AACTE awarded the 2024 Best Practice Award for the Innovative Use of Technology to Kansas State University. In this article, Debbie Mercer, dean, provides a summary of the university’s award-winning body of work.

AACTE is currently accepting nominations for the 2024 Best Practice Award for the Innovative Use of Technology The deadline is September 1. Learn more and submit an entry. 

Kansas State University’s College of Education (COE) has developed a significant body of work leveraging technologies for innovative remote learning opportunities. Through the use of telepresence robots in conjunction with more conventional remote communications platforms, the COE has developed an integrated body of teaching, research, and service activities that engage teacher education candidates, teachers, faculty, and students in bold new initiatives that build a vision for 21st-century learning and engagement on the traditional strengths of the institution. From remote field experiences that bring teacher education candidates to high-need rural schools, to international service-learning opportunities, to fully remote teaching internships, these initiatives are both sustainable and scalable.

To take one example, our pre-service teacher candidates have provided instructional support through telepresence robots for middle school English language students in Ecuador. This service-learning initiative highlights the dual purpose of the initiative — the purposeful integration of technology and cultural experiences within the existing standards-based licensure preparation program. Our students have the opportunity both to explore potential instructional applications of powerful technologies, and they also benefit from cross-cultural interactions as they engage directly with international students, an activity that would otherwise be unavailable to them without study abroad programs that are not easily practical for teacher licensure students.

Educational policy tends to function within boundaries, be they building, district, state, or national. Our efforts to harness the power of remote communication technologies in service of teacher preparation led us to the conclusion that when those tools are skillfully applied, our teacher candidates and the P-12 students we ultimately serve are empowered to disrupt those traditional boundaries. When we can bring powerful practice experiences in rural, urban, and international contexts to our candidates in the middle of America, many of the assumptions of educational policy are challenged. The easy response is to simply mandate experiences with technology, and those are certainly important. We believe, however, the cultural opportunities made possible by the technologies are ultimately more important.

Among other initiatives, we have over the last year, taken steps to move our initial Ecuadorian service-learning opportunity to scale across our program. Beginning this fall, all of our students in the initial phase of our P-12 preparation program will have the opportunity to participate in this initiative. Moving forward, we incorporate continuing growth in these opportunities to infuse technologically mediated distance field experiences leveraging both domes8c and international sites.

Debbie K. Mercer has served as dean of the College of Education at Kansas State University since 2012. Mercer holds a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in reading and English as a second language; an M.S. in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in reading and language Arts; and two bachelor’s degrees — in elementary education and family and child development — all from Kansas State University. She can be reached at dmercer@ksu.edu.

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