Pre-Service teachers or any teacher for that matter

On David Warlick’s blog the past couple of days there has been a great discussion about pre-service teachers and what skills should they be taught before being thrown into the lions den. 🙂

A follow up to David’s discussion was also posted on Christopher Harri’s Imfomency blog a great post from someone teaching pre-service teachers.

There are a couple points on both of these blogs that I have been thinking about and would like to comment on.

Dave writes:

However, I fear that if we take college students into these tools, without some specific and relevant questions to answer or problems to solve, then they may seem cool to them, but the skills will be strictly academic. I think these students should be presented with a problem.

Spot on Dave! Without a problem who needs an answer? I can walk into any classroom, give someone a great tool like blogs and if it does not solve a problem for them they will not use it. There is no need for it. But if teachers are trying to come up with a way to have their students write for an authentic audience, then you can introduce the tool as a way to solve the problem. The tool is then used, as the teacher can see how it helps them overcome a problem they were facing. This is how I approach the teachers in my building. I can go in, talk about RSS, Blogs, Wikipedias, etc but unless the teacher sees those tools as solving a problem in their classroom they will not use them.

For pre-service teachers I believe the same is true as Christopher writes on his blog the tools pre-service teacher know how to use and haven’t even heard of:

What did they know?
-Basic computer operations (how to turn it on)
-The “internt” (read IM and e-mail)
Not so sure?
-Searching on the internet
When asked what search engines they used, the room rumbled with “googlegooglegoogle” then one brave soul spoke up and said “sometimes Ask Jeeves.”
Never heard of it?
-Blogging (one had heard of LiveJournal but never did it)
-NOVEL (the set of databases New York provides for free to all schools/libraries/colleges)
-LII (Librarians’ Internet Index – and newly redesigned!!!)
These answers don’t surprise me a bit, because these pre-service teachers never had a problem that needed them to learn RSS, blogging, more then basic Excel skills, etc. I would be interested though how many of them use a chat room or text on their mobiles. These two tools help students solve the problem of communicating with people and therefore they spend the time needed to learn how to use them.

For both pre-service teachers and teachers already in the field, there needs to be a reason to use the tools, a problem that needs to be solved that technology can help solve. After all, that is the beauty of technology, it is here to make our lives easier, not frustrate us and make us feel as though we ‘have to’ use it.

If (and maybe someday I will) I ever get the opportunity to teach pre-service teachers I will teach the class in a problem-based learning (PBL) format (Lots of stuff out there on PBL take a look). PBL in its simplest form is learning how to learn. For one, it allows learners to be faced with problems that they have to find the answers, tools, and lessons best suitable to overcome the problem. Two, because: ‘teachers teach how they were taught.’ Some break away from the mode but most do not. We need to teach teachers how to incorporate PBL into their classrooms and use authentic audiences with their students before we can worry about what technology tools they might use.

Final Thought:
Dave writes:

I think that kids these ages are technology literate, but not necessarily information literate.

I must admit that I had never thought about it that way, but Dave is right, kids these days are technology literate, they know technology and how to use it in all its forms, but are not necessarily information literate, and the tools like RSS, Blogs, Podcasts, wikipedias, etc are information tools not technology tools. As teachers, it’s our job to teach students information, and I believe these information tools can help us do that. Again there has to be a reason to incorporate these information tools into the classroom. Without the reason or the problem, students will continue to not know these tools exist.