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March 1, 2002

Teachers and Technology

A recent survey of Michigan teachers by Michigan Virtual University found that teachers like using technology to learn, but they aren't so sure about using it to teach. In fact pundits have said the survey results are likely to start new conversations about the use of technology in schools. Asked the Detroit Free Press: "Now that billions of dollars have been spent to put computers in classrooms, the question becomes whether teachers are prepared to use them."

A new program at Calvin College, funded by a $10,000 grant from SBC Ameritech, is designed to help teachers use computers to teach. And it's going to do so by getting to the teachers while they're still in college.

"Technology Tools of the Trade" is an innovative program that is bringing together Calvin, Aquinas and Siena Heights (in Adrian). The money from SBC Ameritech will be used to both develop a curriculum for education professors at the three colleges and to train those professors.

Calvin's Rob Bobeldyk (above) is a Teaching and Learning Team leader who works in the college's information technology department, helping Calvin professors across the campus integrate technology into their teaching. He worked this past fall on developing the curriculum for this new program. And this spring he will teach it to education professors at Aquinas, Calvin and Siena Heights. He says the program's goal is to educate and excite education professors about technology as a teaching tool so that those professors can educate and excite their students - - tomorrow's teachers.

"It's sort of the trickle-down theory," says Bobeldyk, a former sixth-grade teacher. "We'll be teaching faculty members web-based skills and also teaching them how to teach the skills to their students. Those education students will then be equipped when they're teachers to make technology part of their pedagogy, their approach to teaching and learning. We'll be getting exactly at the weaknesses that the recent (MVU) survey pointed out."

Bobeldyk already has taught the new "Technology Tools of the Trade" class to Calvin professors, many of whom, he says, have been incorporating technology into their teaching for several years. He has teaching dates lined up in the coming months for Aquinas and Siena Heights, including March 13-15 sessions at Aquinas for education faculty there. After the faculty have mastered the new skills, primarily web-based, Bobeldyk will assist the professors in teaching them to their education students as a guest lecturer.

The recent survey was part of Gov. John Engler's over $100 million "Teacher Technology Initiative," which gave laptop computers to public school teachers. It's intended to get teachers using technology in the classroom. But the survey, which 90,000 teachers replied to, showed that teachers have been slow to integrate technology into their teaching. Part of the reason for that is that the only classes offered to teachers as part of the program were online courses through Michigan Virtual University and at this point only 10 percent of the state's teachers have taken an MVU class.

A Detroit teacher, Jeffrey Robinson, told the Free Press: "It all boils down to training and techniques."

Bobeldyk concurs wholeheartedly.

"Once teachers get a sense of how technology can improve and enhance their teaching, they get excited," he says. "But we need to give them the training to make good use of the technology. That's what this new program is intended to do.

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-957-6475 (v)
616-957-7069 (f)