Friday, February 17, 2017

By Andy Goodell

As technology’s role in the classroom continues to evolve, the Linda R. Baker Teacher Leader Center encourages pre-service teachers to move ahead of the curve by requiring professional development focused on using technology in a K-12 classroom in a purposeful way.

This spring, thanks to the generosity of alumnus Linda R. Baker, approximately 100 newly-admitted Teacher Education Program students received Google Chromebooks. The Baker Digital Teacher Project is the first of its kind, giving Chromebooks to every teacher preparation student and requiring them to complete the Level 1 Google Educator Certification prior to their student teaching experience.

"This is amazing and totally unexpected," says Ivey Blinten, a first-year Teacher Education Program student from Greenwich, Connecticut, who is interested in elementary education. "I really think that technology is the future and so many classrooms have so much technology integrated into them. So, for us to be able to get these and be able to learn about them and use them, I think it's going to make a great impact for our classrooms someday." 

Kari Vogelgesang, director of professional development at the Linda R. Baker Teacher Leader Center, says the aim of the project is to equip pre-service teachers with opportunities to access whichever device is currently being used the most in K-12 schools. This best prepares them for the classrooms where they will teach and is based on research done into devices currently used in K-12 schools.

“Chromebooks make up well over half of U.S. classroom devices,” says Vogelgesang. “We have to be responsive to what’s happening right now in our schools.”

Will Coghill-Behrends, director of projects and partnerships at the Linda R. Baker Teacher Leader Center, added, “We are excited to put this technology in our teachers’ hands, and more excited to research the ways in which this will impact their development as teachers, and their experience in our programs.”

It is important for newly-admitted students in the Teacher Education Program to be immersed in technology that is being used in classrooms as soon as they enroll at the UI College of Education. This early immersion helps students become familiar with the technology, allows them to use it in their own studies, and helps them to incorporate it into their practicum and student teaching experiences later in their collegiate careers.

Teacher Education Program students using Chromebooks will participate in one required workshop introducing them to the device. In this workshop, students will learn how to use Chromebooks in their own classrooms. Students will also be able to access many more professional development opportunities focused on the Chromebook. More than 10 workshops related to the device are being offered at the UI College of Education during the Spring semester.

“Students from the University of Iowa College of Education have always been known for their abilities with respect to technology and we’re continuing that tradition with the next iteration of this project,” says Coghill-Behrends.