There have been some recent conversations about technology and teacher education in my reader lately.  I have a ton of admiration for the education programs in BC but I, too, have been a bit critical of universities and colleges for not offering more education technology courses for their future graduates but I also wonder what role we play in supporting/hindering pre-service teachers using edtech.

In a recent post, Chris Kennedy wrote:

As a profession, we need to take a critical look at the structure and content of teacher training programs. It is simply no longer acceptable for someone to enter our profession without some degree of digital literacy. Teachers entering our system need to know the how of using the tools and also the why. They need to apply their reflective and critical thinking skills to the digital space. I expect that the new teachers we hire into our schools will understand the suite of tools available to them, know how to model their use and be able to choose the appropriate tools to match learning objectives.

Also, in a post on the teaching interview process, Lyn Hilt is critical of some teacher applicants when she writes one of the lows of the interview process was “A general ‘Technology is so important for kids today‘ notion, but not being able to articulate meaningful uses for technology in the classroom.”

I completely agree with Chris and Lyn in that we should have an expectation that teachers should be able to use technology not as a separate course but as a way in which students learn.  Technology should not be something that stops in teacher training programs.

I have recently been inspired by the work done at my alma mater, University of Victoria, by Dr. Valerie Irvine and a few of her students at the Technology Integration and Evaluation Research Lab in the Faculty of Education.   I have connected with a number of these students and was able to meet Valerie and her colleague Jillianne Code in the past few weeks.

I received a message from one of their students on Twitter asking, “Have you ever had a practicum student effectively integrate technology into the classroom?”.  I responded that I had not… nor had I interviewed any potential teachers that had.  He then asked a question that lead to this post:

“What would happen if a student teacher was passionate about technology in education but had a sponsor teacher and/or school that was opposed?”

As a principal, I would always do my best to match up the strengths of practicum students and sponsor teachers.  Having said this, I know this is not always possible and I know of a few student teachers that did not bond well with their sponsor teacher.

So… although I agree with Chris and Lyn’s posts, I am wondering what role schools have in supporting/hindering the development in future teachers that want to integrate education technology.  I am hoping you can leave your thoughts to these questions or others that come to mind:

  1. We often discuss autonomy with professional development and autonomy with student learning as a key part of motivation.  How can we work to increase the autonomy in teacher training in schools? (If we do not provide pre-service teachers with the autonomy to try innovative ideas, do we really know what they are capable of?)
  2. Do we, as educators, LEAD and encourage our student-teachers to take risks or do we force them to comply (ie. jump through hoops) and teach like the culture of the classroom/school dictates.
  3. How can we improve the teacher training programs in schools so student teachers are matched up with teachers that not only align with their areas of interest but also challenge them in areas outside of their interest.
  4. What if a student-teacher passionate about edtech ends up in a classroom/school that is not supportive of technology integration?  What can he/she do?
  5. How can we support our sponsor teachers/teacher mentors (and parents) so they feel enough trust to provide pre-service teachers with more autonomy?
Our pre-service teaching programs seem to be over in the blink of an eye (in BC, they are often only 16-20 weeks).  This is a critical time as this is often the only experience they will have prior to applying for teaching positions.  Providing more autonomy for our future teachers is key to their development so I hope you can add your thoughts to this conversation to see if we can help move our programs forward.
Note: Since writing the draft of this post, I was invited to work with pre-service teachers at the University of the Fraser Valley.  I thoroughly enjoyed that opportunity and I look forward to enhancing this relationship in the future.