If you've ever wondered what kind of technology training teachers receive today, this article documents my own experience in a modern secondary education program and the technology courses and technological knowledge that most education programs expect their graduates to have.
Undergraduate Technology Training
Technology in undergraduate teacher training is going to vary from school to school, but the days are over when these programs can simply ignore the necessity for the next generation of primary and secondary teachers to 1) know how to use technology in their classrooms, and 2) know how to effectively teach technology use to their students. Many states require their colleges to require at least one specific technology course to be taken as a part of any education program. Students are learning on computers in primary school more now than ever and are being require, in later grades, to make use of technology such as electronic presentations, the use of Smart Boards, and office productivity software.
But how effective can these classes be? What, in fact, do they teach? With many education technology classes having 25 or so students in a room, how effective can this sort of technology training be?
My Technology Training
When I was at The University of Akron (B.A., 2008), in their Secondary Education: Integrated Language Arts (7-12) program, I was required to take only one course in technology. While other courses did require some use of technology, it was usually very minimal. Here are the basics of what we learned in the technology course that we took, and what you can expect to learn from most U.S. university education programs:
- Office Suite - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and FrontPage
- SmartBoart technology - these are the big white projector screens that are hooked up to a computer and projector. A teacher can write exactly on the screen, but it is all done electronically - no chalk or dry-erase markers. For students, this can be a fun way to interact with lessons, do research, take notes from, and give multimedia presentations.
- PDAs - we did a unit of PDAs, which I thought was a bit outdated, but there you have it. I suppose that some schools still use these, but I would guess that most schools would invest in computers and laptops before spending money on PDAs.
Those were the main facets of the technology course. It really is a basic introduction to technology. I must say that the focus was in the right spot. It wasn't a matter of simply learning the technology, but of learning how to use it effectively in the classroom. So, this learning for us took place in the context of "How can I use this in my lesson plans and assignments?"
Beyond Education Programs
If U.S. schools are serious about training teachers to use technology effectively, they need to integrate this education into more teacher education programs and classes. Also, since technology evolves so quickly, this education must not stop when a teacher graduates from college. Professional development seminars for teachers must become commonplace to orient more seasoned teachers to learn how to use the technology effectively while also keeping the younger generation of teachers up-to-date as well. While the technology training that teachers receive is better now than in the past, there is still a long way to go. If you are currently trying to choose an education program to commit to, be sure to ask the education department what kind of technology training they offer and how it is implemented. From my experience, this is a critical area of learning for teachers and one that often comes up in interviews for teaching positions as well. Technology in undergraduate teacher training prepares young teachers to use technology effectively in a variety of ways, which is also important because schools often differ greatly in what kinds of technology they have; therefore, a teacher well versed in using all sorts of technology will really be ahead of the game.