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May 17, 2000

Education
By REBECCA S. WEINER

Making Sure Brand-New Teachers Know Technology

Top executives from the technology industry are looking to improve technology training for teachers at the source: colleges and schools of education.

Four months into the effort, the organizers of the Washington-based CEO Forum -- made up of executives from Apple Computer, America Online, Discovery Communications, IBM and others -- say they are surprised at how quickly teacher educators are adopting their program.

"There were some people, when we started, who told us not to bother because schools of education are too intractable," said Ken Kay, the CEO Forum's executive director.

The group has created the Teacher Preparation School Technology and Readiness (STaR) Chart, a self-evaluation tool for institutions that train teachers. Nearly 250 of the nation's 1,500 schools and colleges of education have committed to using the chart to evaluate their ability to give teachers technology skills.

"Faculty and students should have as much technology as they need."


States with major concentrations of technology companies and researchers have the most colleges committed to using the self-evaluation tool. North Carolina leads with 18 institutions, California has 15, Texas has 13 and New York has 11.

"A line ought to be drawn in the sand, and no young person ought to graduate not knowing how to use technology," Kay said.

The STaR Chart rates each institution's ability to prepare technology savvy teachers by asking schools to rate themselves in such areas as the quality of computer facilities and technology use in the curriculum.

Edna Szymanski, dean of the University of Maryland at College Park's College of Education, said the STaR Chart is an integral part of a planning process the college started a year ago.

"By 2004, all of our graduates are going to be technically competent," she said, adding that the college is considering some type of technology exit exam for graduates.

Stan Bennett, director of technology and teaching research and outreach at the University of Maryland at College Park, said all of the college's department heads were given a copy of the STaR Chart to help develop plans for meeting technology training goals. The college is training faculty and student mentors to help each other learn how to use new technologies in a teaching environment. Research has shown that teachers whose professors use technology are more likely to use it in their own classrooms, Bennett said.

In the past, Bennett said, training has focused on separate pieces of software and hardware, rather than on how to integrate all of them into the curriculum. "The way we frequently teach technology is like teaching people how to build a house by taking Screwdriver 101 or Drilling 101, then testing in the end to see if they can build a house," he said.

Bennett said the college has used the STaR Chart to help identify and repair its weaknesses. Already, the college is creating mobile technology carts that professors can roll into a classroom for specific lessons, rather than having to depend on a static campus computer lab.

"Faculty and students should have as much technology as they need," he said. "If you have stationary labs, people aren't likely to use them and it's wasteful."

Gary Galluzzo, dean of George Mason University's Graduate School of Education in Fairfax, Va., helped test the chart before its introduction in January. He said the final result is indispensable for tracking the school's progress.


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"We plan to use it annually to see where we are," he said. "We prepare the people who prepare the work force. Our obligation is to make sure every teacher leaves here prepared."

Kay said colleges and schools have been eager to participate, in part because the chart does not aim to "grade" them. "When we started, we were going to do a report card or a grade, but the education groups were resistant to it," he said. "Part of it was to make it not threatening enough so they'll use it."

The other goal of the chart, Kay said, is to introduce business concepts into education. The chart is a way to guide the colleges and schools in their planning and rate the success of those plans, much as companies would.

"We were suggesting schools do no different than businesses do," he said.

One main difference between academia and the business world, however, is the rate of change. Bennett said he thinks it will take up to 10 years for faculty to buy fully into a technologically integrated curriculum, one in which the Internet and other technology is a crucial part of the education process. Galluzzo expects it to take his institution five to seven years to meet its goals. "The real key piece is moving all of us humans along," he said.

Galluzzo added that the current emphasis on teacher training at the White House, in Congress and in the technology industry would help speed along the process.


The EDUCATION column is published weekly, on Wednesdays. Click here for a list of links to other columns in the series.


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