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Volume 8, Number 2: October 17, 2001

Telling the Story:
How UW Schools of Education Prepare Students to Use Technology

by Hal Schlais
Coordinator for Learning Technology Development,
University of Wisconsin System Administration

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Quite often, I hear complaints about how poorly schools of education around the country prepare their students to use technology. We in higher education have all heard this critique, as have our legislators. And, clearly, we are not perfect here in the UW System. Along with other esteemed national institutions, we have been victims of inertia, with federal and private studies reporting that many teacher training programs have not adequately incorporated instructional technology into their curricula (Basinger 2000).

However, as I have become more closely associated with our evolving teacher training enterprises, it strikes me that we have made great progress towards helping our teacher education students become effective and contemporary educators, as well as savvy users of technology. Somehow, I think this story has not been entirely told--or, if told, not heard by many.

The story I want to tell begins with UW Schools of Education, System Administration, and the Board of Regents. As a result of a February 2001 report, Technology in Teacher Education in the University of Wisconsin System, the Board of Regents unanimously directed System Administration to establish a list of best practices in instructional technology training and to disseminate that list to UW institutions. In turn, institutions would be required to report, as part of the IT Plan in October 2001, how they are incorporating these best practices into their teacher training programs.

The resulting report comes from UW School of Education teams--the Best Practices Task Force--who worked for more than a year to identify the most effective processes, programs, and curricula across the System. To follow up on this activity and implement the Board resolution, another group of schools of education representatives, chief information officers, and System Administration members convened to develop a best practices framework based on the information collected by the task force. The framework was intended to identify structural and functional areas our teacher training programs might need to address. It will be published in the UW System IT plan and presented at the November Board of Regents meeting, after which it will become available online.

Next comes the second and what I think is the really important part of the story--what has already been accomplished and how we have met so many objectives in teacher education, both for in-service and pre-service teachers. As part of the system-wide IT planning process, we identified a short list of "best practice" models now in effect at our institutions, three of which you can read about in more depth in this issue of TTT (View the list of best practice models.)

This is by no means a complete list, but it is a fair representation of teacher education projects across the System that, taken in toto, provide a reference for effectively:

  • Providing technology training for teacher education students;
  • Providing technical support and training for in-service teachers;
  • Disseminating best practices through inter-institutional collaborative programs and inter-agency collaborative models;
  • Creating a model for portfolio development and assessment, and addressing PI 34;
  • Encouraging collaboration between UW Schools of Education and Arts and Sciences departments;
  • Integrating Wisconsin Model Academic Standards in the curriculum;
  • Addressing distance learning for the delivery of certificate programs.

Further, if we compare this short list to the framework, it becomes immediately apparent that we are addressing many of the areas of concern with best practice processes already in place at our institutions.

Finally, the action-oriented part of the story: clearly, we have to find ways to support and disseminate these practices, in the teeth of a very probable shrinking budget. How do we move this agenda forward? Avenues for advancing the models will come from UW System PK-16 Initiative funding, in consort with a recently received Department of Education Catalyst Grant for Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology (PT3).

The PT3 grant, for over $625,000, supports a collaboration between UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh, UW-River Falls, and UW System. In particular, the grant focuses on the areas of portfolio assessment, technology training for pre-service teacher education students, and thoughtful planning and assessment.

By dispersing the PT3 grant across the UW System through a Request for Proposals, and by allotting some of our PK-16 Initiative resources (totally, about $850,000 in grant monies available last year), we can focus more directly on the best practices indicated in Figure 1 (below).

A major goal will be to identify substantial funding to enhance and promulgate these and other best practices, as well as a process to support their effective dissemination. An inventory of these projects will be maintained at http://VITAL.Wisconsin.edu.

To me, it is clear that we already have the basis necessary for moving our agenda forward--even in the face of declining budgets--perhaps as no other state has yet accomplished. I invite you to read on and learn about three fine models well underway at UW System. We think you'll agree that ours is a story worth telling.


Sources

Basinger, J. 2000. Standards Released on How Colleges Should Prepare Teachers to Use Technology. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 14 July, A43. Available online.



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Best Practice Projects at UW System Schools

Portfolio assessment.
Colleges of Education within Wisconsin are at the initial stages of implementing portfolio assessments of their undergraduate and graduate students. Several institutions, including UW-Green Bay, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-River Falls and UW-Stout, have begun have begun working on portfolio assessments to address a wide variety of teacher education standards and licensure issues.


Technology training for teacher education students /technical support and training for in-service teachers.
The Technology Leadership Cadre (TLC) at UW-River Falls, featured in this issue of TTT, is group of university pre-service teachers led by teacher education faculty who work together with the Instructional Technology staff of the university to provide workshops and individual assistance to students in teacher education. This model will be replicated at several other institutions under guidance of UW-River Falls faculty and students.

Inter-institutional/inter agency collaborative programs.
The Wisconsin Regional Instructional Technology Assistance initiative is a collaborative, multi-year program that, in its final two years, expects to offer the project-based workshops it has developed to some 600 teachers in CESA 6. CESA 10, UW-Eau Claire, WiscNet, and UW System will pursue an inter-agency model for delivery of distance courses that provide students and teachers access to courses and professional development not currently being offered at their school or area. Working with school administrators in the CESA 10 service area, the collaborators will examine the logistics of such a program.

Technical support and training for in-service teachers.
A collaboration between UWRF and CESA 11 provides 19 UWRF teacher interns to 6 project districts and one private school in western Wisconsin. These interns provide release for in-service teacher leader interns to develop technology-related professional development skills. (Read about this program in the current issue of TTT.) A collaboration between the UW-Colleges, UW-Stevens Point, CESAs 1,2,6,7,11 and the Appleton School District focuses on incorporating GIS technology into the curriculum for grades 6-12 social studies and science teachers. By the end of its second year, the program will have developed a core group of about 75 teachers from across Wisconsin who will serve as resources in their districts.

On-line programs addressing needs for teacher certification.
School library media preparation programs in Wisconsin System institutions (Eau Claire, Madison, Oshkosh, Superior and Whitewater) have collaborated to design the University of Wisconsin System School Library Education Consortium (UWS SLEC) a virtual program for licensure and degrees in school library media and technology. Participants from educational administration programs, UWS SLEC, the Department of Public Instruction and the schools will develop a collaborative distance program to meet needs of schools for personnel with the core administrative competencies, required for licensure. (Read about this program in the current issue of TTT.)

Collaborations between Schools of Education and Arts and Sciences.
At UW-Milwaukee there is a Center for Science Education (CSE); at UW-Madison a Center for Biology Education (CBE); and UW-Parkside and UW-Platteville have created similar centers. Directors from these centers, along with representatives from other institutions, have created a collaboration focused on the creation high quality materials and profession development opportunities for PK-12 science educators. (Read about Milwaukee's CSE in the current issue of TTT.)

Developing online resources.
IDEAS (IDEAS.Wisconsin.edu,) currently supported by TEACH Wiscsonsin, is a repository of curricula, content, lesson plans, professional development and other selected resources linked to the State standards for curriculum. BioLEARN (Linking Educators As a Resource Network, http://www.wisc.edu/cbe/biolearn/) is a resource for Wisconsin life science educators. Finally the UW System has supported BioWeb, a set of biology resources created by faculty and staff of UW institutions and the MERLOT Project (http://www.merlot.org/Home.po) a national repository project whose mission is to create accessible, high quality resources in a variety of disciplines including teacher education.

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