Elizabeth Bishop wants to bring K-12 teaching into the 21st Century. The assistant professor of English and education at Ithaca College places an emphasis on teaching future schoolteachers to use technology to support and improve learning in the classroom.
On Dec. 13-14, Bishop attended an innovators summit on the topic hosted by the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. Part of the event was held at the White House. At the summit, Bishop and other educators, experts and higher education administrators discussed how to make sure the nation’s newest teachers are ready to utilize educational technology to support all students’ learning.
“K-12 schools sometimes fall victim to being a 19th Century model where you have a teacher at the front of the room and young people are just taking in information,” said Bishop. “This idea is much more about how to have students, their teachers and those of us who are teacher educators have the facility to use that technology to truly transform the way that young people learn.”
To illustrate how technology can be effectively used in the classroom, Bishop gives the example of students using a podcast format to present a research project. That podcast could then be shared on a class Twitter account, where it could reach audiences outside of the classroom, allowing students to see the power of their work in the real world.
The innovator summit was organized around four principles for operationalizing educational technology in teacher preparation: focusing on the active use of technology to support learning and teaching; building sustainable systems of professional training in the use of educational technology for instructors at colleges and universities; ensuring that teaching students’ experiences with technology are dispersed throughout their coursework rather than separated into one-off courses; and aligning those efforts with standards, frameworks and credentials recognized across the field.
While there are standalone educational technology courses at Ithaca College, Bishop says that “across the Department of Education, people are using technology in all sorts of different ways in their classrooms.” For example, several course instructors model the use of clickers — remote transmitters that enable instructors to ask questions and immediately collect and view students’ responses — as a technology for engaging in quick formative assessments, says Associate Professor Jeane Copenhaver-Johnson, chair of the Department of Education.
Bishop notes that some in the education field dismiss technology as a gimmick, but stresses that it can be transformative when used in service of well-crafted pedagogy and teaching concepts. Educators may also be reticent to incorporate technology into the classroom for fear that it will be misused — that students will use laptops or tablets to go on Facebook instead doing classwork. Bishop, who taught in the New York City public school system before moving into higher education, says that in her experience those behaviors arise because students don’t feel challenged or motivated.
“We need to understand that a lot of students have something of a native fluency with technology and all they’re looking for is that good challenge to inspire their practices,” said Bishop.
Ithaca College hosts an Educational Technology Day each year, featuring presentations from educators, experts and vendors.
You can follow Bishop on Twitter at @DrBishopDigital.