In the spirit of full disclosure, and like most people in information technology at colleges and universities, I am not an educator. I am an IT professional serving the needs of students and faculty in a university setting. In my last article (Podcasting, PDAs, and Paradigms), I made a reference to the technology-gap which exists between students and their teachers, their instructors, and their professors. Nowhere is this gap more pronounced than in a university setting.
Unlike teachers in primary and secondary education, college faculty are very often immersed in their own fields of study. Younger faculty are facing pressures to "publish or perish" and their mentors are publishing their own work to advance their fields of study. In other words, taking the time to learn new technology in order to more effectively reach those nameless and faceless undergraduate students, who are being taught by their graduate assistants anyway, is often not a high priority.
Not to disparage my colleagues, many of whom are dedicated educators -- they must make difficult choices when setting priorities for themselves, their graduate students, and their universities. And I'd be beating a dead horse to reiterate once again that insufficient funding of IT remains as serious a problem for many colleges and universities as it is for most K-12 school districts. No, the problem lies elsewhere. It lies with the institutions which are preparing our educators to teach in a high-tech world.
We've all heard that worn old adage "Those who can DO, those who can't TEACH!" and it irks anyone who has chosen (or knows someone who has chosen) to be an educator because they know it simply isn't true! Unfortunately, the adage persists, in large part because our schools of education which, while often offering exceptional graduate programs, are not adequately preparing their undergraduate students to go out into the primary and secondary schools and teach using the latest technologies available to them -- and to their students!
When I was a graduate student, I was for a time an assistant instructor for a course called "Astronomy for Teachers". From the title, one might (correctly) conclude that this course was tailored to undergraduates majoring in education -- specifically, elementary education. Sadly, this junior-level course was not geared toward teaching future teachers how to teach astronomy (or even science in general). No -- the sole purpose of this course was to give these undergraduate students their required science elective in order to earn a Bachelor's degree in education. Seems reasonable, you say? On the face of it, maybe -- until I realized that this junior-level course set lower expectations for these future educators than those set for the entry-level freshman introductory astronomy course that was available to all other students as their science elective!
So what does this have to do with preparing our future educators to address the technology-gap I spoke about? Well, perhaps nothing -- or perhaps everything! It seems to me that our schools of education may be perpetuating the myth expressed in the adage, first by not sufficiently challenging our future educators to excel. And second, by not providing these students with the tools needed to leverage today's technology -- the very technology their students will bring to class.
It's time for our schools of education to get on board and help our educators use the technology available to them.