American universities do a great job teaching the educators of the future. New teachers are prepared for most contingencies, and do their absolute best in a flawed system. But they have not been formally prepared for how advances in technology affect education. Computer and tablet technology is swiftly invading classrooms across the country, but it is moving too fast for schools to adjust their curriculum and teach the teachers how best to take advantage of those changes. Because technology alone doesn’t positively impact education; it’s how those resources are actually applied in the classroom that makes the difference.
Some universities are scrambling to find ways to help prepare educators for the challenge of integrating technology. There is a course available to pre-service teachers that zeroes in on applications for technology in the classroom. Other schools are splitting the information up by subject, and trying to focus in on how technology affects teaching a specific discipline. According to proponents of teaching technology to future educators, the idea of tying it in with subjects is a better fit, and will more effectively integrate the changes. For example, if a future teacher is studying with a focus on special education, the ways that technology can assist special needs children would be much more important than a generalized overview of all available technology.
While these classes have popped onto the curriculums of schools around the country, the majority of education programs still leave it up to the students to find the information they need. In one case, education students are given an assignment, with a requirement that it be presented through the use of technology. One example would be an informational website, where the student must research both the facts to be presented, and how to design and build the website itself. Other universities offer supplementary courses focused on technology, but a student can only enroll after he has finished his teaching certification. In those cases, the school will often put together a workshop focused on helping working teachers integrate technology into their curricula. These are generally summer courses, with the school also contributing some resources for practical application.
Technology is integrated within the classroom in so many ways that go far beyond social media. Teachers can use remote devices during multiple-choice tests, so students can more easily go back and adjust their answers if need be. This also gives teachers digital feedback on the testing process, so they can see what problems students struggled with the most, based on data about how long each question took to answer.
As technology is invited more deeply into the class setting, even the way the room is organized can change. Most classrooms are still set up with traditional desks in rows and columns. But technological devices in the classroom make for more student-to-student integration, and a collaborative environment would surely help. Some teachers are taking that community feeling and rearranging the desks in a more interconnected manner. It is too expensive for every student to have a dedicated computer, so for group research projects, people need to be able to gather around work stations. Having the internet in the classroom helps students access information and situations they would never have been able to experience before. A student may not care that you can get an online masters nursing through that computer, but showing him a complicated lab experiment in action, one that the school system would never be able to afford to do in person, could make a long-lasting difference in his life.
Evan Fischer is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.