Preparing new teachers to use technology

A while ago Lynne H asked on Classroom 2.0:

what are universities doing to make sure that their teacher candidates are prepared to use and teach their students to use technology?

Her conclusion was ‘not much’.

I read this at a time when I was beginning to plan a unit of work for postgraduate trainee teachers at a local University. So I turned Lynne’s question in on myself. What might I do to prepare these students to use technology?

I thought about what I have been doing with my own secondary students. (I teach English part-time, and this University work is new for me.) I don’t teach them about technology; I don’t know nearly as much as many of them do. Instead we use it; and I learn as I go. A year ago I didn’t know a wiki from a website. Now we use wikis in all my classes and in the new year we’re going to have a go at using Nings.

So how might I do something similar with these University students, so that they don’t just experience the thrill of Web 2.0 together but leave the University itching to use it in their classes?

I’d like some help here. I’m going to describe a proposal that I’m going to make to my co-teacher of this postgraduate course. So if you have any thoughts about what I’m about to propose (see below), your comments would be most welcome.

The unit

The students are training to be secondary teachers, and are from a variety of disciplines. The focus is on literacy across the secondary curriculum. We want to stimulate the students’ thinking about, and skill with, literacy.

A part of this is to give them opportunities to develop their own writing skills. Our first thought was to design a major project around a creative writing task to do with family. But I’ve been wondering if we might instead use this creative writing task to develop the students’ literacy skills more broadly, including the use of Web 2.0.

So I’m thinking of suggesting to my colleague that we shift the focus of this major task. Instead of asking them to present an extended piece about family, I’m thinking of suggesting that the students

  1. choose one of the following suggestions as their major task, and
  2. document their progress, from beginning to end, in a regularly written personal blog.

My suggestions for this creative task

  • Imagine yourself the possessor of a piece of knowledge and/or insight in your discipline that you urgently want to communicate to others in your field. Identify a professional journal or website for which you might write an article on this breakthrough knowledge, and write the article.
  • Increasingly students in schools are being required to be ‘Internet savvy’, and to communicate their ideas using the web. Here is an example from a student who decided to create a website on a topic which interested him, Postmodernism. Your task is to identify an educational issue that you would like to explore, and to create a website or blog which engagingly teaches an interested community about this topic.
  • Imagine that you are wanting to challenge a school staff about an educational issue dear to your heart. How might you communicate your thoughts on this issue to the staff? In a short film? In a podcast? Using VoiceThreads? With a talk supplemented by various media? In some other way? Create your presentation to an imagined school staff.

Any thoughts?

So what do you think? I’m relatively new to all this, and an old fogey as well, so your suggestions and challenges would be most helpful. Would such a task help address Lynne’s concern? How might it be extended, or adapted, or changed? I’d especially appreciate thoughts from trainee teachers or teachers who have just finished their training. Would this have been useful for you?

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One Response to Preparing new teachers to use technology

  1. Augustin says:

    Have a look at We Tell Stories, a web-site dedicated to “digital fiction”, as they call it. A few stories that incorporate the (Internet) technology into their making. For example, one of the stories is told through the use of Google Maps, another in a blog-style, yet another is “interactive”, asking the reader to make some choices that are then used in the storyline, and so on. There’s no way of telling these stories, in this format, without a thorough understanding of the technology used in presenting them.

    It’s probably not what you’re aiming for, but it might give you some ideas, anyway.

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