Augsburg News

News Archives - 2001

Teaching the Teachers Technology

April 2001
Joe Erickson helping a student on a computer

Education professor Joe Erickson and Jade Wanzeck '02 work together on a new computer program in the education lab. (Photo by Linda Cullen)

For kids today, computer technology is a natural; but for their teachers, technology in the classroom can be unfamiliar and daunting. A new program at Augsburg is training its education faculty and its students—future teachers—how to incorporate new, high-tech learning into their classrooms. The aim is to engage children in hands-on learning with computers, digital cameras, video equipment, and other media, rather than letting them passively watch their teachers use them.

Joseph Erickson and his colleagues in Augsburg College's Education Department are on a mission to change how students are prepared to become teachers in Minnesota's schools.

"We need to train tomorrow's teachers not only how to effectively use technology but so that they go into the classroom wanting to do so, and not having to be dragged kicking and screaming into the process," the Augsburg associate professor remarked. "To stay current, teachers need to both understand the 'big picture' of technology use in schools and how to think creatively about new ways things can be done in their classrooms."

Erickson said his department recognizes that it's going to be very hard to change the profession because most schools are inherently slow about adapting to new ideas. "I hate to say it, but the process is sort of like trying to change a tire while the car is still rolling."

And, he added, "While hardly anyone thinks we shouldn't be doing this, the big question is how? Many teachers and parents favor trying new things 'but not with my children.' They don©ˆt want their kids to be the 'experiment.' We need to engage in a discussion on what we think teaching and learning is all about and embrace the possibilities that technology provides; to think creatively about new ways that things can be done in our classrooms."

Toward that end, the Augsburg Education Department has received a three-year, $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education's "Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology" (or PT3) program to immerse its faculty members and students in both learning and applying "cutting edge" technology to the teaching world.

The Augsburg program—Millennium Teachers Technology project (MT2, for short)—features a unique collaboration of the College, a number of urban public and charter schools, and private technology businesses focused on developing a model for technology training for teachers.

The project is being directed by a team made up of project leader Sonja Schmieder; Education Department faculty members Erickson and Gretchen Irvine; and Bill Bierden, a technology specialist and adjunct professor. Schmieder came over to run the project from a nonprofit school district cooperative called TIES (Technology and Information Educational Services), a consortium of 36 school districts headquartered in Roseville, Minn., that was created to aid educators in infusing technology into their schools and into instruction.

TIES first approached Augsburg about taking on this project and helped secure a pilot planning grant to explore the feasibility of such an ambitious project.

"Augsburg has developed a reputation as both innovative and as a center for teacher education. We are among the largest teacher education programs in the state (more than 500 students are currently seeking licensure)," Erickson said. "But, even though the College is 'big' in that regard, it also has the reputation of being 'small' in terms of the close relationships between faculty and students—something we thought would be important if this was going to succeed."

Augsburg also has a reputation of being an advocate for all teacher programs in the state. Toward that end, the College is planning to sponsor an event for prospective teachers and their faculties from all of Minnesota's teacher preparation institutions sometime yet this spring.

chmieder said it was is a natural thing to do. "We must think beyond our own grant and look for ways to present a united voice to insure that we prepare technology-proficient future teachers," she said.

Erickson noted that much of the credit for securing the grant also goes to the College's Institutional Technology (IT) Department, which had been staying on top of the newest technological trends and investing in a campus-wide network to give faculty and students something to which to connect. The IT Department also has been actively involved in helping put a new high-powered, yet small, laboratory in place where the students enrolled in teacher education will have the opportunity to experiment with the latest equipment—ranging from laptop computers to digital scanners, computers, and digital cameras.

The project got underway at the start of the academic year with the first step being to train and deepen the skill level of the education department's faculty. By the end of the first semester, each faculty member had learned how to develop his or her own Web page and had taken training on use of other technology as well.

Step two this semester involves intensive work with 20 teacher education students, recruited from both the day and weekend programs.
"We will take what we learn with these 20 students—whom we're calling Student Technology Advocates—and spread it across all the students in our program during years two and three," Erickson said. "We want to havethem not only learn for themselves but also to advocate with their professors in their own training. We see Augsburg as a learning community and we want this to go both ways with the students being both supported and supportive."

Karla M. Juetten, Plymouth, a Weekend College student, said she volunteered to be one of the 20 students because, "A teacher of the 21st century must be well enough prepared so that they are not intimidated or overwhelmed by new technology. The tools available to the classroom teacher are changing at such a fast pace that we honestly can't know what will be possible five years from now. We need to consider technology a lifelong subject and work to prepare teachers to be open to the changes ahead."

Once the students are comfortable with this new model, they will do their community "service learning" in one of the "partner" schools where they will be given the opportunity to both teach and help implement the use of technology wherever possible. Eventually, it is hoped that in addition to an ever-growing number of teachers trained in this manner, these schools can serve as models for other schools in the state and beyond.

"If you think of technology as a 'tool' that can be used in many different ways, it becomes a new way of thinking," Erickson noted. "And, technology is more than just computers. It's any advance in materials and information that helps accomplish a task. It's a continuum from spoken/written language to the use of satellites. Some kids, for example, might use fax machines to enhance and communicate with people in their community about what they are doing in the classroom. Others might use digital still or video cameras.

"And, we definitely want to get away from the old model where students are taught about technology by taking a course on the subject. Our goal is to embed technology across the curriculum. We don©ˆt teach students how to use chalk. They just see how it works by watching how others use it and then use it themselves. The same needs to be true for technology—on an advanced level. We want teachers to avoid the trap of everybody having to do the same thing, the same way, at the same time; avoid the standard way of thinking and embrace the possibilities.

"Some students might be using computers, others digital cameras, and others VCRs—all at the same time—as they use different methods to solve a problem or accomplish a meaningful learning task. That's why we need to get past the old way of thinking and think creatively about new ways things can be done.

"And, of course, it'll be an ever-moving target, because as technology grows and develops, so must our training and how it is used in education."