Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education: A Model
P. Callahan and Thomas J. Switzer
College of Education, University of Northern
Note: The authors would like to thank the following graduate students for their work on the project: Alex Spatariu; Corina Cimpoeru; Simona Boroianu; Madalina Tincu; Marius Boboc; Michelle Matz; and Nadia Solukhina.
Few people would argue with the idea that information technologies have a major impact on how we view schooling, teaching, and learning. They may, however, argue about the kind of impact that we currently feel from the use of technology in our classrooms. Opinions range from those who see technology as the driving force for all that will be good about education in the future, to those who see information technology as a force that will destroy education as we now know it, driving us toward all of the negative aspects of consumerism.
Like most complicated technological developments and their associated social changes, the potential impact of information technology on education is somewhere between these two extreme positions. Decision making is, of course, still the key to the impact that technology will have on education. One would hope that informed human beings would find a way to capitalize on the best of what information technology has to offer, while preserving the core components of our educational system. This blending of the new with the old is most likely to serve us well in the future and provide us with a foundation for effective citizenship in a democratic society.
People who fear the consequences of developments in information technology frequently do so not out of ignorance, but from the realization that these technologies present the possibility of a fundamental shift in how we think about the nature of schooling, teaching, and learning. They question the consequences of such a shift. Unfortunately, those who advocate this shift have not developed a persuasive rationale for their position. In their rush to support technology, they have failed to show how the shift can actually promote the core values of education in a democratic society.
If technology is indeed a facilitator of quality education, how will it be used? How can developments in information technology facilitate an education appropriate for the 21st century, while enhancing student achievement in core areas deemed important to our democratic society? Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education (TFQE) is a model currently being developed at the University of Northern Iowa. It includes seven major dimensions:
1. Students at the center of their own learning
2. Principles of good learning
3. Aspects of information processing
4. Standards from content disciplines
5. Tenets of effective citizenship in a democratic society
6. Teacher knowledge and behavior
The seven dimensions of the model provide a way for educators to view the integration of technology-related tools into a robust educational environment and thus answer the hard questions regarding support for the shift in our educational activities toward technology. The model sets up a framework for this robust educational environment and identifies key points at which technology should be implemented and evaluated to determine its impact. It simultaneously allows for the integration of new research findings, while maintaining the structure to evaluate the impact of technology tools on these new findings as part of an ongoing evaluation process. In so doing, the model allows a variety of stakeholders to see the complex process that is education and how technology is affecting that process.
To understand how technology can facilitate quality education, we need to define the essential elements of quality education and the impact of technology on each of them.
Students at the Center of Their Own Learning
Student-centered learning (SCL) places the student (learner) in the center of the learning process. In student-centered learning, students are active participants in their learning rather than passive recipients; students are more intrinsically than extrinsically motivated; learning is more individualized than standardized. Student-centered learning develops “learning how to learn” skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and reflective thinking. Student-centered learning accounts for and adapts to different learning styles of students. Student-centered learning is distinguished from teacher-centered learning or instruction, which is characterized by the transmission of information from a knowledge expert (teacher) to a relatively passive recipient (student/learner) or consumer. When we put students at the center of their own learning, we blend these various components into a unique learning system, one that allows us to view the complicated process that encompasses learning and its individual parts.
Although the focus is on students at the center of their own learning, this does not mean learning by oneself. Learning and self-esteem are heightened when individuals are in respectful and caring relationships with others who see their potential, genuinely appreciate their unique talents, and accept them as individuals. The experience then challenges personal beliefs. Thoughts and understandings resulting from learning and interpretations become the individual' s basis for constructing reality and interpreting life experiences; this cannot occur when one is alone.
Learners must spend the larger part of their time in activities with others who ask them to do thought-provoking tasks such as explaining, making generalizations, and, ultimately, applying their understanding on their own. And they must do these things in a thoughtful way, with appropriate feedback to help them do better. (Blythe & Associates, 1998, p. 7)
In order for student-centered learning to occur, there needs to be high quality classroom management. According to Woolfolk (2001), there are at least, three reasons why this is important: to allocate more time for learning, to give more access to learning, and to help students develop self-management. “Students learn self-control by making choices and dealing with the consequences, setting goals and priorities, managing time, collaborating to learn, mediating disputes and making peace, and developing trusting relations with trustworthy teachers and classmates (Rogers & Frieberg, as cited in Woolfolk, 2001, p. 439). Encouraging self-management requires extra time, but teaching students how to take responsibility is an investment well worth the effort. When elementary and secondary teachers have very effective class management systems but neglect to set student self-management as a goal, their students often find that they have trouble working independently after they graduate from these well-managed classes (Woolfolk, 2001, p.17).
Principles of Good Learning
The second major dimension of the TFQE model is principles of good learning. The model focuses on the following eight principles:
1. Active involvement|
2. Patterns and connections
3. Informal learning
4. Direct experience
5. Compelling situation
7. Frequent feedback
8. Enjoyable setting
A decade of path-breaking research in the field of cognitive science suggests that major differences exist between knowledge based on recall and knowledge based on deeper forms of understanding. That research tells us that learning that is a product of the latter type of knowledge is rich, complex, and occasionally unpredictable. Building effective environments to foster it must rest on collective knowledge and active discussion of this complexity.
Drawn from research in cognitive science, the following eight insights about learning itself seem particularly compelling as starting points for our attention:
The learner is not a "receptacle" of knowledge, but rather creates his or her learning actively and uniquely (Ewell, 1997b, p. 6). Learning is an essentially creative act. Its proof lies in the learner’s ability to go beyond the simple "reproduction” of knowledge to engage in fundamentally new forms of understanding. Psychologist Jerome Bruner strikingly portrays learners as "epistemologists"--actively engaged in constructing unique ways of knowing and finding things out, even as they add to a particular stock of knowledge. This characterization of learning, of course, is quite at odds with our dominant instructional models, which stress additive content transmission (Ewell, 1997a, p. 2).
Patterns and Connections
Learning is about making meaning for learners as they establish and rework patterns, relationships, and connections. Cognitive science tells us that individual brains "learn to make themselves work" actively and individually by establishing new patterns of synaptic connection. The result is a unique set of "mental models" that each of us uses to make meaning out of specific situations.
“Every student learns all the time, both with us and despite us” (Ewell, 1997, p.2). Synaptic connection making occurs constantly and not just in formal learning situations. Most of the resulting learning, moreover, is implicit--arising out of direct interaction with complex environments and a range of cues given by peers and mentors. This insight helps explain the common research finding that college students learn a lot outside of class. It also admonishes us to take conscious advantage of every available setting as an opportunity for learning.
Direct experience decisively shapes individual understanding. Cognitive science also tells us that the brain’s activity is in direct proportion to its engagement with actively stimulating environments. In a debate sometimes cited as the “situated learning controversy,” disagreement remains about the extent to which individual learners can generalize what they learn from discrete and different environments. This insight regarding brain activity lends credence to our efforts to create active student engagement in any teaching situation (Ewell, 1997b, p. 8).
Learning occurs best in the context of a compelling "presenting problem." Maximum learning tends to occur when people are confronted with specific, identifiable problems that they want to and are able to solve. The first condition, the desire to solve, emphasizes the strong role of "thinking dispositions" that determine when students will actually invest energy in learning. The second, the ability to solve, compels attention to creating learning situations that carefully manage the levels of challenge provided: too much, and the brain simply "turns itself off" (Ewell, 1977a, p. 3).
Beyond stimulation, learning requires reflection. Brain research tells us that high challenge produces major surges in short-term neural activity (termed "beta-level" activity). But building lasting cognitive connections requires considerable periods of reflective ("alpha-level") activity as well. Absent reflection, solving "presenting problems" usually ends learning encounters at a point well short of the cognitive reorganization that deep learning requires. Effective learning situations thus need to encompass time for thinking (Ewell, 1997b, p. 9).
Frequent feedback provides opportunities for students to practice what they have previously learned. Because the brain wants to deal with the most pressing matters, it is necessary to practice those things that we wish to retain and to receive feedback that includes “explicit cues about how to do better, such as that provided deliberately (or unconsciously)” by a teacher or peer (Ewell, 1997b, p. 9). Feedback influences learning by virtue of its frequency (i.e., number of interactions with a particular environmental stimulus such as a person or a task) and its quality. Quality feedback would reveal “specific, readily-correctable, mistakes or discrepancies in current practices, or in the 'mental models' that lie behind them” (Ewell, 1997b, p. 9). Without frequent feedback and opportunities for practice, particularly in areas like mathematics and foreign language, “even well-learned abilities go away though recovery is not as difficult as initial acquisition” (Ewell, 1997b, p. 9).
Learning occurs best in a cultural context that provides both enjoyable interaction and substantial personal support. New insights into the ways traditional cultures gain and transmit knowledge (drawn from sociobiology and anthropology) remind us that effective learning is social and interactive. Key features of the necessary social milieu that we should be mindful of in creating new learning situations are direct personal support for manageable risk taking (and its occasional negative consequences) and frequent opportunities for peer interaction and feedback (Ewell, 1977a, p. 3).
Aspects of Information Processing
If modern classrooms focus on students at the center of their own learning and demonstrate the best principles of learning, those classrooms can develop the skills and dispositions necessary for students to process information. The TFQE model addresses the following dimensions of information processing:
As vast amounts of information become available to individual citizens, the ability of each person to intelligently process that information takes on increased importance. Developing the dispositions and skills necessary for informed information processing then becomes a necessary component of education in an information age. Although several information-processing models have been developed, the Pathways to Knowledge model developed by Marjorie L. Pappas and Ann E. Tepe is a well-conceived and well documented model. (Switzer, Callahan, & Quinn, 1999, p. 3)
The Pappas and Tepe model, described below, allows one not only to look at individual students and how contemporary technology influences them, but also to view them as a coherent part of the TFQE model.
According to the Pathways Model (Pappas & Tepe, 1997), appreciation is the first stage of information processing. Appreciation may take place through firsthand experience or through various media--print, visual media such as film or paintings, audio media such as recordings, etc. “Appreciation often fosters curiosity and imagination that can be a prelude to a discovery phase in an information seeking activity. As learners proceed through the stages of information seeking their appreciation grows and matures throughout the process.” A learner may not always engage in the appreciation stage, but it can greatly enhance stages of the process.
During the presearch stage learners make a connection between what they want to know and what they already know. Through exploratory searching, learners develop a broad overview of their topic as well as a general understanding of the relationships among subtopics. “Presearch provides searchers with strategies to narrow their focus and develop specific questions or define information needs" (Pappas & Tepe, 1997).
The search stage is comprised of identifying suitable information sources, developing a search plan, and carrying it out (Pappas & Tepe, 1997).
In the interpretation stage, learners assess and reflect on the data they have collected.
Instructional activities or units must first be designed to require students to engage in critical thinking or problem solving. If critical thinking is not a part of the learning plan, there is no need to interpret information and searchers are stuck at the knowledge level of learning (Pappas & Tepe, 1997).
This stage permits learners to organize and present their findings in an appropriate format. Pappas and Tepe (1997) recommend that teachers and school library media specialists allow learners to select the appropriate communication format rather than specifying the format. This process, they believe, will enable learners to become more critical viewers and users of multiple information formats.
Evaluation is an integral part of every stage of information processing. By continuously evaluating and revising, learners develop and improve their information-seeking techniques (Pappas & Tepe, 1997).
In recent years, content standards have been developed for almost all of the discipline areas, either by teams representing the disciplines or by agencies in various states. These content standards serve as a third dimension of our model (Switzer et al., 1999). Typical content areas include the arts; foreign language/ ESL; health/ P.E.; language arts; math; social studies; science; career technical education; other areas.
A content standard in education is a statement that can be used to judge the quality of curriculum content or as part of a method of evaluation. Content standards articulate an essential core of knowledge and skills that students should master. Standards clarify what students are expected to know and be able to do at various points in their K-12 academic career.
As content knowledge continues its unparalleled growth and as students continue to change, the standards must grow and change with them. Clearly, technology provides a means to manage, update, and distribute standards in a timely and useful fashion. Moreover, technology will enable us to accommodate for the wide variance in student ability and interest. We must be able to quickly and easily select appropriate content for students in both a horizontal (within a given level of knowledge and skill) and a vertical (across levels of knowledge and skills) fashion.
Tenets of Effective Citizenship in a
As we integrate the tenets of democracy into a coherent picture of a robust learning environment, we find similarities between what we know about good classrooms and what we know about democracy. The context in which these tenets will be applied in the future is rich in technology applications. And it is technology that can vividly portray the need for such skills and understandings, as we consider these five tenets: tolerance; critical thinking and decision making; thinking together and making meaning; power sharing and empowerment; individual responsibility and civil involvement with others
Tolerance is defined as the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others (The American Heritage Dictionary, 1982) or "sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own; the act of allowing something” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, 1991).
The following steps can help individuals develop tolerance:
1. Learning about the background of another individual by asking that individual to tell his/her story
2. Listening without making judgments
3. Asking questions to be sure of one’s understanding, comparing one’s own belief system to the
other individual's belief system
4. Identifying similarities and differences between the belief systems
5. Evaluating the differences
6. Determining through advocacy and inquiry if one belief or the other is open to change
7. Testing the legality and ethics of both positions
Critical Thinking and Decision Making
Widely agreed to be an important goal of education, critical thinking is closely associated with goals such as rationality, autonomy, and perhaps, creativity and intelligence. People who think critically proceed on the basis of careful evaluation of the premises and evidence and come to conclusions as objectively as possible by considering all pertinent factors and using valid logical procedures (Good, 1973). Siegel (as cited in Husen & Postlethwaite, 1994) proposed a justification of critical thinking in education in the following terms:
a) the ideal of respect for others requires respect for a student’s right to question, to seek reasons, explanations, and justification;
b) critical thinking is necessary to develop a student’s independent judgment required for self-sufficiency in adulthood;
c) critical thinking fosters in students these previously stated (a. and b.) dispositions, attitudes, and skills; and
d) critical thinking is central to the kind of intelligent judgment required by citizens in a democracy (pp. 1206-1207)
Citizens must gather necessary information to think critically. To do this, they must use inquiry skills (observation, description, comparison, identification, etc.). They must also think logically to use critical thinking, avoiding common problems in logic such as getting personal, making false comparisons, saying things everyone will like, arguing in circles, etc. (Callahan, 1998).
Students then must decide on the reliability of the information that they use as evidence to support their positions on complex social problems. From competing claims to truth, they must decide what to believe. They must learn to distinguish claims to truth that have validity from those that do not.
Decision making in a democracy is a process of reaching agreement in group situations through dialogue, discussion, debate, and analysis. In an open and dynamic society, individual citizens are privileged to play the deciding role in its governance. Citizens in a democracy make a host of decisions that affect their own welfare as well as the welfare of others. Common mistakes are made when simple rubrics (standard operating procedures, old sayings, using similar situations, etc.) are used to make complex decisions (Callahan, 1998). These problems get in the way when we try to tell ourselves the truth about the things we are doing and the decisions we are making. Citizens need to recognize these problems and be prepared to deal with them.
Thinking Together and Making Meaning
Citizens must decide how to deal with complex social problems: how to define the problem, what values should be pursued, what public policies should be supported, what candidates should be elected to office, what actions should be taken with respect to social concerns (Engle & Ochoa, 1988, p. 61). They can be assisted in doing this by the following actions:
Power Sharing and Empowerment
Education for power sharing and empowerment aims to provide young people with the understanding, abilities, and commitments with which they can identify and act upon their interests. Empowerment is "the opportunity and means to effectively participate and share authority" (Bastian, Fruchter, Gittell, Greer, & Haskins, as cited in Simon, 1987, p. 374). A pedagogy of empowerment is important in valuing and legitimizing the expression of student voice. "It recognizes that a student voice is a discourse that constitutes a necessary logic of identity--a cultural logic that anchors subjectivity" (Bastian et al., as cited in Simon, 1987, p. 377).
Empowerment can lead to rapid intellectual growth (Hill, 2000). Intellectual growth in the form of increased awareness, understanding, and ability to deal with complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity is more likely to occur, and to occur rapidly, in contexts that allow students to experience powerful emotional and intellectual challenges within a supportive context. These contexts must also allow students to engage in a continuing cycle in which meaningful practice is built upon theory and is reflected upon with peers and tutors within a critical framework. In such contexts, the combination of support and challenge is more likely to foster the conditions for conceptual change, leading to a valuing of the new ideas and manifested in improved practice (Hill, 2000, p. 61).
Individual Responsibility and Civil
Involvement with Others
Another key ingredient in this process is responsibility: the state or fact of being responsible for something or somebody, for doing something. Responsibility can encompass the following:
having the job or duty of doing something or caring for somebody/something so that you may be blamed if something goes wrong;
being capable of being trusted, reliable, and sensible (Oxford, 1996);
being liable in a legal sense for the normal legal consequences of the action;
being morally responsible for what you do which could result in praise or blame, whichever is appropriate to the action in question; and
being responsible for your actions through your ability to control what you do, being held to legal consequences or to moral blame. (Hart, 1967, p. 19)
Individual responsibility and civil involvement with others are traits that grow with the opportunities in a democracy to share mutual tasks for the orderliness and welfare of the group as well as for personal independence (Good, 1973). Individual, or personal, responsibility implies a sensitivity to group needs and group problems. Someone with personal responsibility calls the group’s attention to conditions and situations detrimental to group welfare. That person may propose changes in group procedures that promote the best interests of the group. Individual responsibility is a conscious and voluntary obedience to all procedures the group adopts that represent group attempts to solve group problems. "It is not passive submission to group demands prompted by a desire to escape group displeasure; it is rather active participation prompted by a desire to aid in promoting the best interests of the group" (Hollingshead, 1941, pp. 43-44).
Teacher Knowledge and Behavior
To be effective teachers must not only be knowledgeable about the content area. They must also have the skills and abilities to communicate that knowledge, which necessitates an understanding of student characteristics, pedagogy, and classroom management.
Research has revealed the importance of adjusting learning activities to the learner. The closer the match between students’ learning styles and their teachers’ teaching styles, the higher the grade point average (Dunn, Griggs, Olson, Gorman, & Beasley, 1995). According to Dunn and Griggs’ (1995) Learning Style Model, students are affected by five main factors:
1. Their immediate environment (sound, light, temperature and furniture/setting
2. Their own emotionality (motivation, persistence, responsibility, or the opportunity
to do things in their own way)
3. Their sociological preferences (learning alone or in different-sized groups)
4. Their physiological characteristics (perceptual strengths represented by auditory
visual, actual, kinesthetic, and sequenced characteristics)
5. Their processing inclination (global/analytical, right/left, impulsive/reflective)
Accommodating instruction to these styles is much easier with the rich resources available through various technologies.
Practitioners throughout the United States have reported statistically higher test scores or grade point averages for students who changed from traditional teaching to learning-style teaching at all levels--elementary, secondary, and college. For instance, the Frontier, NY, school district’s special education high school program applied the Learning Style Model. After the first year (1987-1988), the percentage of successful students increased to 66 %. During the second year (1988-1989), 91% of the district’s population was successful; in the third year (1989-1990) the results remained constant at 90% (Brunner & Majewski, 1990).
Finally, a U.S. Department of Education four-year investigation that included on-site visits, interviews, observations, and examinations of national test data concluded that attending to learning styles was one of the few strategies that had a positive impact on the achievement of special education students throughout the nation (Alberg, Cook, Fiore, Friend, & Sano, 1992).
In-Depth Content Knowledge
To teach all students according to today’s standards, teachers need to understand subject matter deeply and flexibly so they can help students create useful cognitive maps, relate one idea to another, and address misconceptions. Teachers need to see how ideas connect across fields and to everyday life and then assist their students in seeing these connections. This kind of understanding provides a foundation for pedagogical content knowledge that enables teachers to make ideas accessible to others (Shulman, 1987).
Shulman (1986) introduced the phrase pedagogical content knowledge and sparked a new wave of scholarly articles on teachers' knowledge of their subject matter and the importance of this knowledge for successful teaching. In Shulman' s theoretical framework, teachers need to master two types of knowledge: (a) content, also known as "deep" knowledge of the subject itself and (b) knowledge of curricular development. Content knowledge encompasses what Bruner (as cited in Shulman, 1992) called the "structure of knowledge" --the theories, principles, and concepts of a particular discipline. Especially important is content knowledge that deals with the child and with the teaching process, including the most useful forms of representing and communicating content and how students best learn the specific concepts and topics of a subject. "If beginning teachers are to be successful, they must wrestle simultaneously with issues of pedagogical content (or knowledge) as well as general pedagogy (or generic teaching principles)" (Grossman, as cited in Ornstein, Thomas, & Lasley, 2000, p. 508).
A skillful teacher figures out what students know and believe about a topic and how learners are likely to “hook into” new ideas. Teaching in ways that connect with students also requires an understanding of differences that may arise from culture, family experiences, developed intelligences, and approaches to learning. Teachers need to build a foundation of pedagogical learner knowledge (Grimmet & Mackinnon, 1992).
To help all students learn, teachers need several kinds of knowledge about learning. They need to think about what it means to learn different kinds of material for different purposes and how to decide which kinds of learning are most necessary in different contexts. Teachers must be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of different learners and must have the knowledge to work with students who have specific learning disabilities or needs. Teachers need to know about curriculum resources and technologies to connect their students with sources of information and knowledge that allow them to explore ideas, acquire and synthesize information, and frame and solve problems. And, teachers need to know about collaboration--how to structure interactions among students so that more powerful shared learning can occur; how to collaborate with other teachers; and how to work with parents to learn more about their children and to shape supportive experiences at school and home (Shulman, 1992).
Acquiring this sophisticated knowledge and developing a practice different from what teachers themselves experienced as students requires learning opportunities for teachers that are more powerful than simply reading and talking about new pedagogical ideas (Ball & Cohen, 1996). Teachers learn best by studying, by doing and reflecting, by collaborating with other teachers, by looking closely at students and their work, and by sharing what they see.
School and classroom management aims at encouraging and establishing student self-control through a process of promoting positive student achievement and behavior. Thus, academic achievement, teacher efficacy, and teacher and student behavior are directly linked with the concept of school and classroom management. Classroom management focuses on three major components: content management, conduct management, and covenant management.
Not surprisingly, a high incidence of classroom disciplinary problems has a significant impact on the effectiveness of teaching and learning. Teachers facing such issues often fail to plan and design appropriate instructional tasks. They also tend to neglect variety in lesson plans and rarely prompt students to discuss or evaluate the materials they are learning. In addition, student comprehension or seatwork is not monitored on a regular basis. In contrast, strong and consistent management and organizational skills have been identified as leading to fewer classroom discipline problems. In this light, content management "does not refer to skills peculiar to teaching a particular subject but rather to those skills that cut across subjects and activities" (Froyen & Iverson, 1999). Doyle (as cited in Froyen & Iverson, 1999) stressed the core of instructional management is gaining and maintaining student cooperation in learning activities.
Conduct management is centered on one’s beliefs about the nature of people. By integrating knowledge about human diversity (and individuality, at the same time) into a particular instructional philosophy, teachers manage their classrooms in a better, more effective way. Teachers need to assist students in learning and displaying positive behaviors. In planning classroom management, teachers should consider using an assertive communication style and behavior. In addition, they should always know what they want their students to do and involve them in the respective learning activities, under the general conditions of clearly and explicitly stated schoolwide and classroom rules. Iverson and Froyen (1999) describe conduct management as essential to the creation of a foundation for "an orderly, task-oriented approach to teaching and learning," thus leading to granting students greater independence and autonomy through socialization.
Covenant management stresses the classroom group as a social system. Teacher and student roles and expectations shape the classroom into an environment conducive to learning. In other words, the culture of any given school is particular. However, it is directly influenced by the culture of the larger community whose educational goals are to be met. A strong connection between school-community is to be constantly revised and modified according to the requirements of societal dynamism. As schools become very diverse, teachers and students should become aware of how to approach and integrate diversity into an effective school/classroom social group.
The professional teaching standards represent the teaching profession’s consensus on the critical aspects of the art and science of teaching (pedagogy) that characterize accomplished teachers in various fields. Cast in terms of actions that teachers take to advance student outcomes, these standards also incorporate the essential knowledge, skills, dispositions, and commitments that allow teachers to practice at a high level. The standards rest on a fundamental philosophical foundation comprised of five core propositions:
- Teachers are committed to their students and their learning.
- Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
- Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
- Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
- Teachers are members of learning communities.
Effective teachers display skills at creating curriculum designed to build on students' present knowledge and understanding and move them to more sophisticated and in-depth abilities, knowledge, concepts, and performances. They calibrate their responses to students, designing activities to the students' "proximal zone" for learning and development.
Teachers employ a range of instructional strategies and resources to match the variety of student skills and to provide each student several ways of exploring important ideas, skills, and concepts. They understand how to work as facilitators, coaches, models, evaluators, managers, and advocates. They know how to utilize various forms of play, different strategies for grouping students, and different types of media and materials.
Teachers observe and assess students in the context of ongoing classroom life. They are skilled in collecting and interpreting a variety of types of evidence to evaluate where each student is in a sequence or continuum of learning and development. They know how to move from assessment to decisions about curriculum, social support, and teaching strategies, to increase the prospects for successful learning.
Teachers understand and respect the diverse cultures, values, languages, and family backgrounds of their students, use community people and settings as resources for learning, and involve parents and families as active partners in the students' total development.
Technology is neither hardware nor software. It is a set of powerful tools that the teacher and learner can use to facilitate his/her own learning process. Technology resources can provide opportunities for learning and can create the "conditions that optimize learning" (Switzer et al., 1999). Technology provides the means for the teacher to re-examine the nature of the classroom environment. The teacher is no longer the fount of all knowledge because technology can provide access to sources beyond the classroom and textbooks. The teacher can become the facilitator of learning, incorporating a host of strategies to guide learners. Technology opens the door to the world, allowing learners to access libraries, other learners and experts, and a vast array of resources. Technology-related learning activities can range from operating a computer or other equipment, to understanding ethical issues associated with technology in society, to learning how technology can assist the disabled.
As the model "Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education" implies, technology plays an essential role in facilitating quality education. Technology can be used to develop information-processing skills and dispositions. Databases, simulations, and access to the Internet can provide rich experiences and information as students acquire the skills and knowledge represented by the content standards. Students can also practice the tenets of democracy while engaging in technology-mediated activities (Switzer et al., 1999, p. 8).
To ensure that technology is used to facilitate quality education, its key elements need to be matched with a set of standards for its appropriate uses. The University of Northern Iowa (UNI) Teacher Education Faculty has developed the Preservice Teacher Technology Competencies, which are performance-based competencies modeled on several national standards documents. These include the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Recommended Foundations in Technology for All Teachers, which have been adopted by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE); ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards for Students; and the American Association of School Librarians and Association for Educational Communications and Technology Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning. The competencies serve as a taxonomy to guide understanding of this area. They have three sections:
- Basic technology equipment operations and concepts
- Technology resources and tools for information literacy
- Technology resources and tools for content areas
The first section deals with basic operational skills that enable us to use technology to process information and solve problems. In the second section, the focus is on technology tools that are necessary to support information literacy (the ability to gather, analyze, and communicate information) for personal and professional reasons as well as for instructional purposes. Discipline-specific technology tools are taken up in the third section. For example, mathematics teachers need to know how to integrate the graphing calculator into instruction. The competencies help teachers assess where their strengths and weaknesses lie so that they can then address the weaknesses identified.
Each competency is written with five defined levels of proficiency: (a) pre-novice, (b) novice/awareness, (c) apprentice/professional skill, (d) practitioner/curricular integration, and (e) expert/reflection. In all cases, pre-novice means no experience; novice means minimal experience; apprentice means experience doing something on a personal level; practitioner means experience using these resources to create learning opportunities; and expert means reflection upon the use of these resources to create learning opportunities.
The TFQE model allows us to view the integration of technology as an essential set of tools being used appropriately in a robust educational environment, a democratic setting in which students are at the center of their own learning. Addressing deficiencies in the use of technology in K-12 education using the TFQE model, a consortium of schools have developed the INTIME project (Integrating New Technologies Into the Methods of Education, http://www.intime.uni.edu/), funded by a Catalyst grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
The purpose of the three-year project is to provide the necessary resources for methods faculty to revise their courses, model technology integration, and require preservice teachers to integrate technology, along with components of quality education, in their lessons and units. A consortium of five participating universities has come together in this project to create new learning resources and implement new standards for technology integration in preservice teacher preparation. Participating universities from the Renaissance Group, a consortium of universities dedicated to quality in teacher education, include Eastern Michigan University, Emporia State University, Longwood College, Norfolk State University, and Southeast Missouri State University.
Drawing on the TFQE model, this project is intended to produce change in teacher education programs in three ways. First, new learning resources on the Web will be generated to support new teaching and learning processes in education methods courses. These resources will include development of video scenarios of preK-12 teachers effectively integrating technology, along with components of quality education, in a variety of grade levels and content areas. The videos will be stored on a video server already in place at the University of Northern Iowa and made accessible on-line nationwide.
Second, methods faculty will revise their courses to model technology integration using the video scenarios and on-line discussion forum, require students to apply technology, and implement the Preservice Teacher Technology Competencies as exit criteria for their courses. Finally, methods faculty will share strategies for integrating technology and course revisions with other faculty involved in the grant through a variety of activities. Each participating university will ensure that faculty members have access to adequate resources that support the integration of technology into methods courses, providing one-on-one technical support to those faculty members who are revising their courses to integrate technology. Methods faculty members will also participate in faculty development programs to revise their methods courses to incorporate new learning resources and new standards. A professional evaluation team will assess the overall effects of the project on teaching and learning, as new learning resources are developed and implemented, along with new standards, into methods courses.
The Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education model within the context of the INTIME project is intended to provide teachers and instructors of teaching methods classes with a rich resource for integrating technology throughout the school curriculum. It is only through full integration and use throughout the curriculum that the full potential of technology will be realized.
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William Callahan is the Associate Dean of the College of Education at the University of Northern Iowa. He has served as Executive Director of the Renaissance Group and as a professor in the Department of Special Education. As a consultant, he has worked in both the public and private sector improving professional performance and organizational learning.
Thomas Switzer is a Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Dean of the College of Education at the University of Northern Iowa. As Dean of the College of Education at UNI, Switzer has served on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), as President of the Teacher Education Council of State Colleges and Universities (TECSCU), as Chair of the Technology Committee for AACTE, and on numerous state boards and commissions.
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