Random Thoughts

New Teachers Won’t Save Us

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This is going to come as a shock I know…but pre-service education programs are not preparing teachers for a technology rich classroom teaching experience. Or to put that another way the classrooms of today.

According to a Project Tomorrow Report

…principals concluded that they want to hire new teachers with creative ideas about how technology can be leveraged to create authentic and differentiated learning experiences. But student-teachers report that their tech training focuses only on simple management tools. At the same time, the report concludes that those who have the biggest influence on new teachers — veteran educators –  don’t always embrace new ways of using technology to engage students. ~MindShift

Photo Credit: uoeducation via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: uoeducation via Compfight cc

This is an issue and one I have seen first hand. I have had the privilege of meeting with pre-service educators in both undergraduate programs and Master’s In Teaching programs…mostly here in the State of Washington. Now some of these programs are doing things different, trying to do things differently or bring a different approach. However, for the most part what I’m finding is technology is still an afterthought in these programs and not a true representation of what is happening in schools.

One of the main issues I see is that technology, in many programs, is a separate course and is not integrated into each of the subject/classes that a pre-service educator takes. History teachers….as part of their program should be required to know how to use all the amazing layers found in Google Earth. Math teachers should know about things like PhotoMath and how you could leverage this in the classroom. English teachers should study and understand how writing has changed over the years and have students practice writing in mediums that apply to 2014. Blogs, Tweets, Status Updates, images and videos. Those are the writing tools of today and of the future.

Or how about just on an professional level. I wonder how many pre-service program cover things like:

  • How to respond to an upset parent over email
  • How to respond to an upset student over email
  • How to respond to colleagues professionally over email
  • How to write a professional email that conveys your message and will be read
  • How to handle a situation in which a parents sends you a DM on Facebook about their child (yes they can…yes it happens)
  • How to handle yourself professionally when everyone has a camera in their pocket
  • How to update your “class website” in a manner that is appropriate, within school guidelines and gets your message across to your community

That’s a list that just rolls off my head in about 5 minutes…I’m sure you can add more to the list in the comments.

Teachers-in-training say coursework focuses on technologies that help a teacher stay organized, rather than ways to engage students. In their methods courses, where teachers learn the mechanics of running a classroom, 71 percent report that they’re taught to use simple word processing, spreadsheets and database tools, 64 percent report learning how to create multimedia presentations and 55 percent say they’ve learned how to use interactive whiteboards. ~MindShift

It’s not just that technology is not being integrated into the course subjects and methods courses but that what is required to be produced is not good stuff typically. Sure 64% report learning how to create multimedia presentations but are they good presentations that take into account what we know about brain research? I’m going to guess not.

Are pre-service programs and methods courses looking at what skills need to be replaced for this generation? Are they studying new approaches to learning such as gamification and reverse instruction. Where they might work and where they might not. Are they studying new and emerging learning theories like Connectivism that was written and has been around since 2005 and is the foundation to what MOOCs are based on.

I shouldn’t be complaining I guess this is exactly what has made COETAIL so popular. We cover all these topics and so much more over the course of our program. BTW a new cohort is starting in February…feel free to spread the word!

We have work to do throughout education and preparing students for their future. We can’t rely on new teachers coming from pre-service programs to be the answer. Yes…they use a ton of tech in their own lives but have never been taught how to apply that to the classroom in a safe and learning focused way. Are they ahead of the game….sure….but without the focus on how and why learning changes when we have access to a connected classroom that tech life skill is wasted.

We can do better…..

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Sara Carter Reply

    Bravo, Jeff!

    If. Only if current teachers/administrators were fluent in the things on your list already.
    20 years ago I did workshops for principals on how to conduct themselves in the media — what not to say, what to say, how to say it…
    All I can say is that very little has changed.

    A basic understanding of public relations/publishing and a grasp on being involved today’s media should be a requirement for any educator.

    I think the upside is that educators have the propensity to wall themselves off from the outside and focus on education and lives of their students.

  2. Great post Jeff. To me it comes down to this – if we want our teachers integrating technology in their lessons, why aren’t they being taught in an integrated way? When technology is necessary, ubiquitous & invisible (Chris Lehmann) in pre-service, it makes education better for all of us. It is WAY harder to change current teachers’ perspectives/practice than to build on them.

  3. Nice thoughts. I think it goes beyond technology in the fact that teacher training programs tend to prepare teachers for a vacuum in which the laws of educational reality do not apply. Most everything I’ve learned from my teacher training has done nothing for me. It’s beautiful in theory, if we lived in a perfect world with all the time on our plate that one could hope for, but it’s not at all practical or realistic in many ways.

    Teacher training is predictable, it’s safe, it’s common, so it’s continued.

    More and more I’m realizing how hesitant individuals are to change. It’s threatening to their identity because their ideas form the content of who they believe they are. And if people are hesitant to change because it will make them reevaluate more than just their ideas (but who they are), institutions will follow suit. No one wants to have their self identity (thoughts) questioned, so no one wants to question why they are doing what they are doing. It’s too threatening to them.

    Break down the mind, and you can break down the system.
    How we begin to do that…I don’t know.

  4. Pingback: Learning to Read Digital Text | The Thinking Stick

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  6. Pingback: New Teachers Won’t Save Us | Eduro Learning

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