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Using laptops to teach

CSUF Puts Technology in the Hands of Future Teachers

Credential Candidates Use Laptops to Broaden 21st Century Teaching Skills

March 18, 2008
by Debra Cano Ramos

Imagine a world where teachers and their K-12 students are using laptop computers in classrooms — instead of pencils, paper and textbooks.

Loretta Donovan does.

For Donovan, assistant professor of elementary and bilingual education, she envisions a laptop computer in the hands of every teacher — and student.

To achieve this, under Donovan’s guidance, the Elementary and Bilingual Education Department has launched a one-to-one laptop pilot program for its credential students. The program’s goal is to give teacher candidates the tools they need to work in a digital classroom.

“One-to-one laptop learning is the future of education in the 21st century,” Donovan said.

Through the pilot program, teacher candidates are learning how technology can be used in their own teaching, explained Tim Green, associate professor of elementary and bilingual education and an instructor of the technology pilot program.

“Our students are able to try technology in teaching and learning in a safe environment where they can experiment and get feedback. The credential students also are experiencing, as students, what it feels like to be on the using end of technology,” Green said.

As part of the program, the 29 students pursuing a multiple subject teaching credential each received a university-provided MacBook laptop and software for use in class and at home during the spring semester.

Cal State Fullerton’s Information Technology funded the cost of 30 laptops and software for the pilot program, said Donovan, whose research interests center around effective technology integration in elementary classrooms. When the pilot program started last fall, the credential students — who self-elected to be in the two-semester, technology-emphasis pilot program and are studying to become K-8 teachers — used their own laptops.

Teaching future teachers how to use laptops in the classroom does not replace traditional teaching methods, but is merely another tool, especially today when the younger generation has grown up in the age of technology, Donovan said.

“It gives teachers ideas for alternative ways to teach,” said Donovan, who teaches in the elementary credential and master’s of education programs, focusing on educational technology.

In the pilot program, credential students are getting the opportunity to use Web-based software to collaborate with each other on course assignments, to create Web pages for teaching and learning, and to explore the use of technology has an integral part of the learning experience. “The use of laptops is analogous to the notepad and pencil of the 20th century,” noted Karen Ivers, chair and professor of elementary and bilingual education. “Today’s generation uses digital technologies for learning and communicating. As educators, we need to embrace the digital revolution and evolution of technologies so we can continue to prepare our future teachers to help students succeed.”

Using laptops is not a question of whether it is better instruction, but how instruction is delivered.

“Good instruction is good instruction, but unless educators are using tools that are applicable to the lives of today’s students, we won’t reach them, nor will we be preparing them for productive lives in today’s society,” Ivers added.

Using technology to teach not only taps into young students’ curiosities, but also helps engage them in their studies, Green said.

“Technology puts information in the hands of the students when they need it. It makes teaching student-centered rather than teacher-centered. Teachers are no longer the keepers of knowledge,” he said.

As an educational technologist, Donovan also has been collaborating with her colleagues who teach methods courses to assist them in integrating technology into the teaching and learning experience.

In recent years, schools have offered students access to computer technology in lab settings. Today, only a handful of public and private schools in Orange County have instituted ambitious one-to-one computer technology programs. To provide credential students in the pilot program experience teaching using technology, the college is collaborating with Robert C. Fisler Elementary School, Donovan said. At the Fullerton K-8 school, its students are using laptop computers both at school and at home.

“Through the partnership Dr. Donovan has created with Fisler School, our teacher candidates have the privilege of working with technology-savvy master teachers and are exposed to real-world learning experiences,” Ivers said.

Cal State Fullerton’s credential candidates agree that learning how to teach with technology puts them not only in the forefront of education, but makes them more marketable when they look for their first teaching job.

 “Being part of this unique program will undoubtedly help in getting a job because you learn how to utilize technology in the classroom,” said Chrissy Hiester, who is in the pilot program and studying for her multiple subject teaching credential. “More importantly, this technology program has helped me to become a more effective teacher. The more tools and tricks you have up your sleeve to help students get engaged in learning and to succeed, the better.”


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