Mike Klein Online

Teaching the Teachers to Teach with Technology

Mike Klein

Mike Klein

Georgia school doors re-opened this month which means the serious business of Friday night football looms near.  On the academic side, the battle to achieve something greater than statewide learning mediocrity punctuated by occasional points of light resumes anew.  But there also is another mission underway, one that could potentially remake the teaching profession.

“We cannot send our student teachers into classrooms, expect them to blend, expect them to know what to do without having (technology) preparation,” says Jo Williamson, associate professor of instructional technology at Kennesaw State University.  “We cannot send graduates to (public) schools that are our clients and expect them to retrain them.”

Last year Governor Nathan Deal appointed a Digital Learning Task Force to create a statewide digital learning strategy from K-12 through higher education.  Last week the task force was at Kennesaw State University to discuss teacher preparation in the emerging new digital world.

“We have students coming in that know how to surf the web, they know how to use social networking,” says Williamson, “but do they know how to teach with technology?”  (Watch on YouTube.)  Previous generations of teachers trained for the classroom.  Next generations must become skilled and comfortable in classroom and online instruction.

Also, many teachers who have one or even two decades before retirement never experienced online learning during their educations but they must now prepare students for an increasingly digital world in and beyond schools.  They need to catch up through professional development.

It is fair to conclude that teacher preparation is not a one-size-fits-all conversation.

Michael Horn, co-founder at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, noted, “It just doesn’t make sense to carry on old practices designed to teach large batches of students.”  University system assistant vice chancellor Mary Angela Coleman told the task force, “Are there things that we used to do that we don’t need to do anymore?”  (Watch on YouTube.)

This summer Kennesaw State hired a technology coach to help train its faculty.  “If we’re going to bring up our faculty (skills) we need someone who can help them,” said Williamson.
In January, Kennesaw State will launch its first MOOC – a Massive Online Open Course – to provide existing teachers with an introduction to online learning.  “It’s going to be free to all Georgia educators,” said Traci Redish, chair at KSU’s Department of Instructional Technology.  KSU Online offers hundreds of courses leading to bachelor and master degrees or certification.

MOOCs are the far edge of learning without borders. Georgia Tech offers MOOC courses, as does Emory University.  Georgia Public Broadcasting President Teya Ryan noted during the task force meeting that she enrolled in a MOOC course that had 30,000 students.   “I have to say, that kept bringing me back to the course because I was fascinated by that,” Ryan said.

Other distinct online examples:  Georgia Virtual School at the state Department of Education offers traditional and credit-recovery courses to middle and high school students; the University System’s ECORE project provides two years of basic higher education core curriculum online.  Another example is Georgia on My Line which is available at 31 Georgia higher ed institutions.

Online learning is a resource for non-traditional students – for example, working adults whose time is precious.  More and more, Georgia higher education serves older students who are not typical 18-to-23-year-olds but someone who has chosen to return to school after a lapse.

The Digital Learning Task Force will report its recommendations to Governor Deal before the end of the calendar year.  The top line message is to watch this sector closely.   The bottom line message is big, big things are happening and they will continue to develop at a rapid pace.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.)

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August 16, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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