This is a topic that has been on my mind for several years but after spending some time with a new teacher over the Christmas break has pushed me to the point that I need to put my thoughts somewhere even if no one reads it.
What are universities doing to make sure that their teacher candidates are prepared to use and teach their students to use technology? Apparently not much. Case in point: my nephew's wife has been teaching in California under a provisional/temporary teaching certificate. This year she started taking coursework to get a permanent teaching license. One of the courses was an "advanced" technology in the classroom course offered online by the UC system. Her description of the course, "A total joke" They had to make a Powerpoint presentation, write a web scavenger hunt and find a website that can do customized puzzles. The syllabus dates hadn't been changed from the previous sememster and there was little communication. Do the work, submit it online , get the credit.
We sat down and talked about technology in the classroom and I mentioned terms like web 2.0, 21st century literacies and personal learning networks. It was as if I were speaking Greek. She had never heard of podcasting, wikis, nings, Classroom 2.0, or Twitter. The thing is that not only did she not know but she was confident that no one in the English department or any other department at the school where she currently works knows much about it either. It's never been brought up in any faculty meeting or offered for professional development. The biggest problem our teachers face today is that they don't know what they don't know! If they don't get any exposure while training to become a teacher and the schools don't offer professional development how can we expect them to prepare their students for life in the 21st century?
While it is clear that school administrators have got to do more to support technology in their schools (that is a topic for another day) I am more concerned about the colleges and universities that are credentialing teachers who have at best only the most basic technology skills. If you don't believe me do a little research. Look at the syllabuses of technology courses offered at any school of education. There are a few good ones but they are hidden among a sea of outdated terms and basic concepts. Some people will say well you have to look at the schools that are known for their ed/tech programs - my response is no, you have to look at all schools that produce teachers. The old cliche' holds true here: We are only as strong as out weakest link. The teaching profession deserves better. Our children deserve better.