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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education
ccarney@indiana.edu
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Last modified: Monday, November 19, 2007

National study by School of Education to examine best ways to prepare teachers to use technology

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 19, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Center for Evaluation and Education Policy in the Indiana University School of Education will partner with a Washington, D.C.-area company for a first-of-its kind, $3.1 million project examining how current and emerging technologies are being used in classrooms and how to prepare new teachers to best use these tools.

The "Leveraging Education Technology to Keep America Competitive" study has just begun with a contract through the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology.

Jonathan Plucker

Jonathan Plucker

Print-Quality Photo

"To our knowledge the federal government and the U.S. Department of Education have never really funded a comprehensive study of how cutting-edge technologies are being used in pre-service education," said Jonathan Plucker, director of the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) in the IU School of Education, and deputy project manager of the study.

Plucker said technological advances have made this a vastly different society. "But a common criticism is that that's not really changing the way that we teach," he said. "It's not changing the way we deliver education. It's not changing the way that students learn. This study gives us the resources to go out and do a very comprehensive and careful study to figure out if those things are happening."

Curt Bonk, professor of Instructional Systems Technology, is one of the key personnel in the project, serving as a subject matter expert. Other School of Education researchers working on the study are Associate Professor Thomas Brush and Assistant Professor Anne Ottenbreit-Leftwich -- both in the Instructional Systems Technology program at the IU School of Education -- Patricia Muller, associate director and senior research scientist at CEEP, and Courtney Brown, a research scientist at CEEP. IU will be working with the Granato Group to complete the 18-month project.

Over a technical plan that breaks down into seven "task" areas, the project will produce an overall assessment of technology use in the classroom by April 2009. While that final work will help direct federal policy towards technology in education, a series of white papers issued throughout the length of the project will give immediate insight into the issues the work is tackling.

A large portion of the School of Education's involvement will be in the third task, a national study of how teacher preparation programs instruct future teachers on how to best integrate technology for enhanced student learning. Another task involves finding the best ways to get such information out to teachers, often using some of those cutting-edge methods the program will study. The project began with a kickoff meeting last month, and IU researchers are now preparing teams to gather data.

Creativity is a key portion of the study, according to Bonk. He said the study will give him and other professors "stories to tell" in backing up best practices for using technology in the classroom.

"We have really unique opportunities here, not just reiterating what's been done in the past," Bonk said. "Not just summarizing, but really thinking innovatively about where we're going."

Brush said the study should provide something more structured for professors to follow when teaching instructional technology. He said professors now only get to compare notes at conferences and in other informal conversations.

"We can use that information both to inform the Department of Education and help them in examining more broadly what teacher preparation programs are doing," he said, "but also to inform our program at IU and how we can improve the way that we specifically prepare our future teachers in Indiana to effectively use technology."

The broad scope of the study will also provide insight for new and current teachers. "I think that one of the most important things for me is looking at in-service teachers and what they find really meaningful," Ottenbreit-Leftwich said.

The backing of federal money will allow a large-scale perspective that wouldn't otherwise be possible, Ottenbreit-Leftwich added. "It means a great deal, how responsible we feel in order to make sure technology is implemented in the schools to make an impact on student learning," Ottenbreit-Leftwich said.

CEEP promotes and supports rigorous program evaluation and policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for education, human services and non-profit organizations. Its research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. To learn more about CEEP, go to http://ceep.indiana.edu.

The department of Instructional Systems Technology program in the IU School of Education prepares practitioners and researchers to build and test processes, products, systems and services for use in education and training settings.

Media Outlets: the following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at http://site.educ.indiana.edu/news/tabid/5663/Default.aspx. Look for the story headline under "Podcasts."

Plucker explains how the white paper reports could take on the latest issues regarding new technologies in the classroom:

"At least a dozen different white papers by the best people out there are fairly short and concise, and highly, highly readable on where we could go with these things. What do we really know? For example, the topic of gaming is really hot right now; 'If we could find ways to make games better learning tools, that's going to be great.' Well, is it going to be great? Do we really know? What does the research say about that? Is there much research? What research needs to be done? There are so many questions out there, which is to be expected. These are cutting-edge areas. They're cutting-edge because we don't know where the horizon is. So those Task 5 white papers are going to be a really big vehicle for us to explore: What's going on out there? We have a great opportunity to really steer the direction of where those white papers go. "

Bonk says the mention of creativity in the study parameters immediately grabbed his interest:

"It came across my desk and the first paragraph said 'creativity.' The second paragraph said 'innovative uses of technology.' Third paragraph said we're interested in the vision of where we're going with technology. Creativity is not often written into an education grant, or any grant for that matter. How are we going to creatively move forward and create new visions for the uses of technology? So we have really unique opportunities here, not just reiterating what's been done in the past, not just summarizing, but really thinking innovatively about where we're going."

Brush explains how IU researchers will be looking at how schools of education are preparing teachers to use technology, and how they'll examine the best ways teachers are using it:

"Our task is to examine broadly different universities across the country and how they're doing that, how they are preparing future teachers to effectively use technology in their classrooms, as well as examine the innovative and unique ways that different programs are doing that in order to get a holistic picture of what are some of the kind of wise practices for doing these kinds of activities for preparing pre-service teachers to use technology. The other aspect of the research is to examine the gap between how students are prepared to use technology in their programs as they're becoming teachers and how current teachers are using technology and how current teachers feel are the best ways to leverage technology in their classroom. To see if there is a gap there and if so, what is that gap? And what can we do to address that gap in improving our teacher education programs and improving how we prepare future teachers to use technology within these programs?"

Ottenbreit-Leftwich describes how the IU researchers will undertake their tasks:

"We'll be doing a lot of site visits, so looking first we have three basic target audiences: pre-service, in the pre-service real, induction teachers which is five years and under and then, more experienced teachers with five years and above of experience in teaching. So we're going to be looking at conducting site visits of the pre-service programs to see how they use technology, talking with pre-service teachers, talking with faculty. Then with our induction and experienced teachers we'll be also doing site visits to see what kind of technology, how they use technology, what they have available to them, what they find meaningful. So a lot of qualitative data and then hopefully taking our initial qualitative data and designing some kind of survey so that we can do more of a nationwide study."