Shifting to the digital age?


This story titled Teacher Colleges Seek to Shift to Digital Age appeared in my inbox this morning, and I felt myself sighing as I read it. The story is about Clemson University in South Carolina, where faculty are introducing a number of initiatives into their pre-service teaching programmes to encourage students to make greater use of digital technologies. The article observes…

Those strategies reflect a shift underway at some teacher colleges that are working to revamp their programs to improve the technology literacy of future educators—and address what many see as a major shortcoming in the profession.

You'll have to excuse my cynicism, but I found myself checking the date-stamp of the article to check that I wasn't reading something that should have been news two decades ago! 

As a school principal in the 1980s I introduced computers into my school, recognising then that digitl technologies were going to change the world that my students would be growing up into, and that enabling them to become familiar with how computers could enhance their ability to work with information and communicate with others (yes, before the Internet we used StarNet!) was going to be an essential competency in their lives. 

Following that I spent all of the 1990s working as a lecturer in educational technology at a pre-service teacher education institution. In that time I saw the introduction of computer labs, the Internet and digital photography as a part of the courses taught there. That particular institution has been running a 'digitial classroom' for more than a decade. 

Yet somehow there remains the perception that our pre-service teachers still aren't being prepared with the 'technology literacy' they'll require to teach effectively in the digital age. I hear the comment often expressed by NZ school principals where every effort has been made to integrate digital technologies into the classroom programmes in their school, but they find it difficult to recruit new teachers who are sufficiently 'digitally literate' to seamlessly embrace these practices. 

For me the problem needs to be addressed more broadly than simply confining attention to initial teacher education programmes (although they certainly need to be in the mix) – we need a more comprehensive system-wide 'kick in the pants' to accept that digital literacy is indeed an essential competency for all teachers and students in our third millennium education system.

Four decades after the first computers began appearing in classrooms why is it still news that our teacher ed programmes are now "seeking ways" to address this "shortcoming in the profession"?

Perhaps a clue lies in the final comment in the article…

Those charged with helping teachers weave technology into their instruction say doing so will take time, given that change doesn't necessarily come easily to colleges and universities steeped in tradition.

"This is all still fairly new for a lot of us in higher ed.," said Ms. Herro of Clemson. "The idea that we no longer hold all the expertise is hard to accept."

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