National Council for Accreditation of
Teacher Education : Technology and the New Professional Teacher:
Preparing for the 21st Century Classroom (199\7)
This report is the culmination of a year
of deliberations by NCATE's Task Force on Technology and Teacher
Education. NCATE commissioned the task force to help guide the
development and implementation of technology expectations for
teacher candidates and for accredited schools of education, and
to guide the organization's use of technology in the accreditation
It is impossible to deny the tremendous
effect rapid technological growth has had on our society. This
explosion of new technologies has changed the way we live - from
the way we do business to the way we communicate with each other.
Technological advancements are also affecting the way we teach
The business world demands that our schools
prepare educated workers who can use technology effectively in
the global marketplace. The president and vice president of the
United States, governors, state legislatures, and other policy-making
groups are increasingly convinced that technology is a central
element of educational reform and improved student learning.
New skills needed in the workplace are
catalysts that spur technology use in the classroom. Computer
to student ratios have declined steadily from 50:1 in 1985 to
20:1 in 1990 to an estimated 9:1 in 1997, affecting traditional
classroom practice and even the culture of the schools.
Student enrollment is growing at the same
time that the nation's experienced teaching staff is declining,
due to regular retirement. An estimated two million new teachers
will be hired during the next decade. Classroom teachers hold
the key to the effective use of technology to improve learning.
But if teachers don't understand how to employ technology effectively
to promote student learning, the billions of dollars being invested
in educational technology initiatives will be wasted.
The nation's teacher education institutions
must close the teaching and learning technology gap between where
we are now and where we need to be. Although progress has been
made and exemplary practices exist, recent research indicates
that most teacher education programs have a long way to go.
Teacher education institutions must prepare
their students to teach in tomorrow's classrooms. Rather than
wait to see what tomorrow's classrooms will be like, they must
experiment with the effective application of computer technology
for teaching and learning in their own campus practice. Today's
teacher candidates will teach tomorrow as they are taught today.
The NCATE Task Force on Technology and
Teacher Education, a group of educators from diverse institutions
and backgrounds, was assembled to consider ways that NCATE can
provide leadership and support initiatives to meet the technology
challenge facing teacher education institutions. The group met
three times during 1996-1997 to identify and discuss the issues
contained in this report. The first section of the report presents
the task force's vision of what teachers must be able to do in
order to take advantage of technology for instruction and student
learning, identifies current teacher education program deficiencies,
and suggests what teacher education programs need to do to correct
the deficiencies and bring vision into reality.
The second section advances three broad
recommendations regarding what NCATE can do to: (1) stimulate
more effective uses of technology in teacher education programs,
(2) use technology to improve the existing accreditation process
and to reconceptualize accreditation for the 21st century, and
(3) improve and expand its own operations through greater uses
of technology. Brief case illustrations that demonstrate innovative
technology use in a variety of teacher preparation programs appear
throughout the text to highlight and illustrate points made in
The task force finds that a watershed for
education and training has been created by rising costs for P-12
and higher education, by educational reform efforts at the state
and federal levels, and by developments in modern information
technology that have already affected the U.S. economy and society.
Marginal efforts to improve teacher education will not satisfy
the spirit of the times or the practical demands placed on education
by the nation. Vigorous action by NCATE and its member institutions
is necessary to effect substantial reform.
Impact of Technology on Teaching
From time to time, someone invents a product
or develops a practice which has an unforeseen and massive impact
on society. The printing press, created by Johann Gutenberg approximately
five and a half centuries ago, was such an invention. Who would
have predicted that a press initially devoted to publishing the
Bible and other religious texts would someday be seen as one
of the forces undermining church authority? Who would have imagined
that books, then owned by few and treasured as symbols of wealth
and power, would someday be accessible to nearly everyone? And
who could have foreseen a system of public schools organized
primarily for the purpose of teaching children to read and to
help them absorb the knowledge books contain?
The results of the printing press, and
all of its modern successors, are so much a part of our lives
it is difficult to imagine an existence without the ability to
read, and the books, journals, and newspapers that support a
reading public. It is also difficult to imagine how one could
organize instruction without textbooks and various associated
readings. For teachers and students alike, learning at all levels
of education has been primarily a process of reading what experts
have written, discussing what has been read, and listening to
teachers explain or expand upon textbooks. In most cases, schooling
has become a process for understanding, retaining, and reporting
what is found on the printed page.
Inventions of the twentieth century have
the potential to influence society as much as did the printing
press. The computer, video, and telecommunications of various
kinds are having an impact on every aspect of our society: work,
leisure, entertainment, household tasks. These inventions are
also transforming the way we approach knowledge and sources of
expertise. Today, people are no longer required to read about
an event; they can see media versions of it unfold before their
own eyes and make their own interpretation. Consequently, the
ability to obtain and interpret information quickly and accurately
is even more important than in the past.
There is no longer a question about whether
the new technology will be used in schools. Nearly everyone agrees
that students must have access to computers, video, and other
technology in the classroom. Many believe these technologies
are necessary because competency in their use is an important
feature of career preparation; others see equally important outcomes
for civic participation. Most importantly, a growing research
base confirms technology's potential for enhancing student achievement.
What is less
certain is how and when these technologies
will change the nature of schooling itself. For example, the
technologies are already providing an alternative curriculum
for students that is scarcely acknowledged by the formal school
curriculum. Nevertheless, they have been mainly employed as additions
to the existing curriculum. Teachers are employed who know how
to use them, but knowledge of and skill in the use of technology
has not been necessary for all teachers. These attitudes are
surely short-sighted if technology infusion is to take root.
The introduction of computers and other
technologies into schools is occurring at the same time that
three decades of research in the cognitive sciences, which has
deepened our understanding of how people learn, is prompting
a reappraisal of teaching practices. We know from this research
that knowledge is not passively received, but actively constructed
by learners from a base of prior knowledge, attitudes, and values.
Dependence on a single source of information, typically a textbook,
must give way to using a variety of information sources. As new
technologies become more readily available and less expensive,
they will likely serve as a catalyst for ensuring that new approaches
to teaching gain a firm foothold in schools.
Despite the technology changes in society,
being a teacher in American schools too often consists of helping
children and youth acquire information from textbooks and acting
as an additional source of expertise. Teachers are provided role
models of this approach to teaching from kindergarten through
graduate school; their teacher education courses provide hints
for making textbook-oriented instruction interesting and productive,
and as teaching interns, they both observe and practice instruction
based upon mastering information found in books.
Teachers may be forgiven if they cling
to old models of teaching that have served them well in the past.
All of their formal instruction and role models were driven by
traditional teaching practices. Breaking away from traditional
approaches to instruction means taking risks and venturing into
the unknown. But this is precisely what is needed at the present
How must teachers adapt to take advantage
of technology for instruction?
New Understandings: Teachers need to understand the deep impact technology
is having on society as a whole: how technology has changed the
nature of work, of communications, and our understanding of the
development of knowledge.
Today, teachers must recognize that information is available
from sources that go well beyond textbooks and teachers - mass
media, communities, etc. and help students understand and make
use of the many ways in which they can gain access to information.
Teachers must employ a wide range of technological tools and
software as part of their own instructional repertoire.
Teachers should help students pursue their own inquiries, making
use of technologies to find, organize, and interpret information,
and to become reflective and critical about information quality
New Forms of Professional Development: Teachers must participate in formal courses, some
of which may be delivered in non-traditional ways, e.g., via
telecommunications; they must also become part of ongoing, informal
learning communities with other professionals who share their
interests and concerns.
Finally, teachers need an "attitude" that is fearless
in the use of technology, encourages them to take risks, and
inspires them to become lifelong learners.
Once, a teacher who was well prepared in
the subject she taught, experienced in the design of interesting
classroom activities, and on top of information conveyed by the
textbook, could contemplate a long career in teaching without
having to change her style or practice very much. Those days
Future teachers take their cues from the
practices they observe in classrooms during teaching practica
and internships. If students are taught the latest technology
uses as part of their teacher education programs, but don't see
effective technology practices in the schools, they are unlikely
to incorporate technology use in their own teaching. Schools
are powerful socializing agencies that greatly affect new teachers'
perceptions about what does and what doesn't work in practice.
Recognizing this fact, the Curry School of Education at the University
of Virginia and local school divisions have been working together
for a number of years to ensure that preservice teachers encounter
best practices in P-12 schools.
The new technology will transform the role
of the teacher as thoroughly as did the introduction of printed
textbooks. More than in the past, teachers must become advisors
to student inquirers, helping them to frame questions for productive
investigation, directing them toward information and interpretive
sources, helping them to judge the quality of the information
they obtain, and coaching them in ways to present their findings
effectively to others. This will require teachers to become even
better prepared in the content of the subjects they teach, and
the means by which the content can be taught and learned.
Challenges to Teacher Education
Re-educating the existing teaching force
will not be easy and will require extensive professional development
over many years. The problem will be greatly compounded if those
teachers entering the profession now and in the future have not
been adequately prepared to use new technology.
Public attention has been focused on the
reform of elementary and secondary schools without attending
to the preservice preparation of teachers who will work in these
schools. However, with an estimated need for two million new
teachers over the next decade to replace retiring teachers and
to meet increased student enrollment, well-designed preservice
teacher education is a critical factor in reforming our schools.
Responsibility for preservice teacher education
is not limited to a college or department of education within
a university. In general, teachers take more courses in general
education and in their academic majors and minors than they do
in professional studies. Any effort to remake teacher education
must consider all of the undergraduate and graduate experience
of teachers, as case illustrations 4 and 5 demonstrate.
To what degree are higher education institutions
meeting their responsibility for preparing tomorrow's classroom
teachers? Bluntly, a majority of teacher preparation programs
are falling far short of what needs to be done. Not using technology
much in their own research and teaching, teacher education faculty
have insufficient understanding of the demands on classroom teachers
to incorporate technology into their teaching. Many do not fully
appreciate the impact technology is having on the way work is
accomplished. They undervalue the significance of technology
and treat it as merely another topic about which teachers should
be informed. As a result, colleges and universities are making
the same mistake that was made by P-12 schools; they treat "technology"
as a special addition to the teacher education curriculum - requiring
specially prepared faculty and specially equipped classrooms
- but not a topic that needs to be incorporated across the entire
teacher education program. Consequently, teachers-in-training
are provided instruction in "computer literacy" and
are shown examples of computer software, but they rarely are
required to apply technology in their courses and are denied
role models of faculty employing technology in their own work.
The reasons for these deficiencies in teacher
education programs are relatively easy to explain, if difficult
to excuse. First of all, many teacher education programs lack
the hardware and software essential to strong programs. Teacher
education programs often are given low priority for special technology
funding on their campuses and therefore are denied essential
technology. Second, many teacher education faculty lack the knowledge
and skill to incorporate technology into their own teaching.
Similar to P-12 teachers, they have not been provided the training
they need to use technology successfully. Third, a majority of
teacher education departments and colleges have not been able
to invest in the technical support required to maintain a high
quality technology program. Fourth, some higher education faculty
are out of touch with what is happening in schools. They have
little understanding of the vast changes that are occurring in
P-12 classrooms as a result of the introduction of technology
and how they must change their own instruction to stay abreast
of changes in the schools. Finally, teacher education programs
are driven by an academic culture that rewards and recognizes
individuality among faculty.
There are few incentives for bringing faculty
together around a common vision about what the teacher education
program should be. There may be individual faculty who believe
that more emphasis should be given to the role of technology,
but in any program it is likely that faculty who either oppose
technology altogether or who at least do not wish it to be a
priority are present as well. Furthermore, development of technological
applications of software, while extremely time-consuming, is
often not as highly valued for tenure as is more traditional
publication and research. Too, because college faculty also are
expected to be experts in their own fields, there is little or
no tradition of identifying absences of knowledge and skill among
college faculty and providing faculty development to overcome
What Is To Be Done?
Bringing about the needed changes in teacher
education programs will not be easy. Change will not occur by
simply adding a course or recruiting a new faculty member who
understands technology. What is required is a transformation
of the culture of teacher education, one in which technology
is seen as changing relationships between students and teachers
and between learners and knowledge, as case illustration 6 demonstrates.
While change will be difficult, it cannot
be avoided or postponed if teacher education programs are to
serve the needs of schools. Here are a few steps teacher education
programs should take.
Creating a Vision
Teacher education programs should be guided
by a vision of what their programs might become if they took
full advantage of information technology. For example, teacher
education programs devote substantial time and expense to providing
"early experiences" for their students. These typically
involve sending students individually or in groups to spend time
in school classrooms observing teachers. Sometimes these experiences
are tightly linked to the instruction taking place in the university
classroom, but illustrative examples of theory in practice can
rarely be planned and cannot be analyzed as they occur. Two-way
interactive video allows teacher education students to observe
a P-12 class from their university classroom. Their professor
can point to events that deserve special consideration, without
interfering with the P-12 class.
Technology can also serve as the catalyst
for reconsidering the entire architecture of teacher education:
e.g., how, when, and where candidates will acquire the knowledge
and skills they need; and the linkage between preservice and
in-service professional development. The integration of technology
should be accomplished in relation to other efforts to reform
teacher preparation, not as a separate reform initiative.
No vision about the future of teacher education
is likely to prove useful if it is not closely tied to a set
of assumptions about the future of schooling and the impact of
technology on school instruction. This visionary process is one
that must remain fluid and subject to amendment as conditions
and opportunities change. The job is not to create a vision statement
that remains fixed for years; the task is to begin a process
in which the faculty begin to dream about the kinds of schools
and teacher education programs society requires and how to obtain
them. Above all, the process demands a faculty prepared to experiment
and to try new ideas.
Developing a Plan
With a vision in hand, the teacher education
faculty need to plan how their vision can be realized. The "plan"
must be more than a technology acquisition plan that focuses
on how to acquire, allocate, and amortize hardware and software.
The plan must be tightly linked to other planning processes in
the college and include suggestions for integrating technology
across the curriculum, for providing faculty development, and
for building the support structure the program will require.
Steps for reallocations within the existing budget as well as
ideas for seeking external funds are also a part of a good plan.
The budget planning process must also include the recurrent costs
associated with technologies - which include maintenance as well
Perhaps the most important part of a sound
plan is the specified outcomes for the students who are enrolled
in the teacher education program. What knowledge, skills, and
attitudes will they acquire from the teacher education program
that are essential for them to perform successfully in technology-enriched
Vanderbilt's Peabody College has developed
an excellent conceptual model of the way courses and curriculum
and student learning can be transformed via technology. Teacher
candidates can progress along a continuum, starting as consumers
of technology (reliance on faculty-developed applications) to
become producers of technology-based applications for use in
In addition, teacher education programs
should pay careful attention to the National Standards for Technology
in Teacher Preparation, developed by the International Society
for Technology in Education (ISTE). ISTE recommends that all
teachers acquire competencies in basic computer/technology operations,
in personal and professional uses of technology, and in the application
of technology for instruction. Few, if any, teacher education
programs are currently meeting all of these standards. Few schools
or departments of education will be able to achieve their plans
and to reach their visions in a brief period. Therefore, plans
must remain flexible in order to take advantage of new and unforeseen
circumstances: new technology, new faculty, new funding opportunities.
What is important is to have a plan that is directed toward the
vision with the flexibility to alter the plan appropriately as
efforts take place. Continuous and systematic planning is more
important than achieving a final plan.
Perhaps the best way the faculty can inspire
teachers-in-training to use technology is to cast themselves
as learners and to experiment fearlessly in the applications
of technology. The teacher education faculty can make themselves
role models of lifelong learning if they create for themselves
situations in which they must learn from each other and from
their students. Except at the level of graduate seminars, faculty
are not accustomed to place themselves in situations where they
are members of a learning group. College faculty can lean upon
more skilled faculty colleagues who can coach them while they
improve their own abilities. Such efforts demonstrate a model
of teaching behavior that should be encouraged among P-12 teachers.
It is not necessary for all faculty members
to exploit every technology in their classes. Nor is it necessary
for faculty to reach consensus on how technology should best
be employed. The fact is that we are in the early stages of understanding
how technology can be used most effectively to support teaching
and learning. Given the circumstances, it is best if many pedagogical
approaches are tested, several theories of learning applied,
and a variety of technologies are used. The results of each experiment
should be assessed carefully. Encouraging faculty to be reflective
about their work and evaluate results of instruction can also
advance an important domain of knowledge, while building faculty
This is not a time when teacher education
programs can confidently predict how technology will change the
profession. This is a time of transition, which calls for experimentation.
Taking a Comprehensive Approach
If teacher education programs adopt a vision
of what they wish to accomplish and become, and specify technology's
role in support of this vision, and if they encourage an attitude
of experimentation in which the teacher education faculty and
the teachers-in-training learn to use the technology effectively
together, then the other factors that must change will logically
follow. These include: