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Last March, many educators were caught off guard—and dismayed—when they learned their school doors were closing and teaching would move online due to COVID-19. Rightfully so. They simply were not prepared for one of our nation’s greatest education experiments turning in-class instruction into online learning with a flip of a switch.
While some schools had already implemented remote learning strategies, the vast majority believed that teaching online and in blended environments would happen sometime in the future. No one anticipated that PK-12 schools and universities would be forced online overnight—without a plan.
The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 shed a light on the need to enhance online teaching curricula in our educator preparation programs. Prior to the pandemic, most teacher education programs prepared candidates to go into brick and mortar schools, so their emphasis on teaching online was minimal. Often, teacher candidates were taught to use technology in classrooms as a tool to convey information or allow students to seek answers. What was not being done was a wide scale effort to prepare future teachers to model and integrate online technology in their pedagogical approaches.
Often, educational technology courses are seen as the only way to address online instruction. This belief is an ineffective tenet that doesn’t prepare future teachers to use technology to fully enhance the education of their students. If teacher candidates only experience one course with technology, and it is compartmentalized, then they are not being trained to use technology in context. With the recent challenges of online teaching during the pandemic, many educator preparation programs are now re-evaluating their curricula to integrate technology across the entire program, including courses on online teaching.
Roles and responsibilities of teacher educators
Adapting to an online teaching format not only requires thoughtful examination of instruction and modification of in-class pedagogy skills, but must also address the digital use gap. In 2017, The U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology disseminated the National Educational Technology Plan. The plan stated that the responsibility of preparing teacher candidates to successfully teach technology should be on educator preparation programs—not on the school district once they arrive.
Teacher candidates who receive consistent and meaningful experiences with technology throughout their teacher education programs are better prepared to integrate technology into their own classrooms—whether in-class or online. Recognizing the need for a common set of technology proficiencies for educators who prepare teacher candidates, the Teacher Educator Technology Competencies (TETCs) were developed (Foulger, Graziano, Schmidt-Crawford, Slykhuis, 2017). This collaborative research was done in three phases: crowdsourcing literature, collecting expert opinion through a Delphi process, and gathering open public comment. This process resulted in the development of 12 competencies, with related criteria that define each competency.
The goal of the TETCs is to create a framework for integrating technology across the entire teacher preparation program, so that teacher candidates see technology in context and integrated into their practicum experiences. The TETCs are available online to all college education faculty as a resource to help achieve the 12 competencies.
The new normal
The pandemic has presented many challenges and implemented changes in our educational system that will have a lasting impact. Perhaps the greatest realization is that technology can no longer be siloed; we must have it in place at all times. Moving forward, the lessons learned from this pandemic will build an education system that can seamlessly transition to online teaching in the event of any emergency.
About the Author
David Slykhuis is the assistant dean of the College of Natural and Health Sciences and director of the Mathematics and Science Teaching (MAST) Institute at the University of Northern Colorado. He is the current co-chair of the AACTE Innovation and Technology Committee, chair of the National Technology Leadership Summit, and a past-president of the Society of Information Technology and Teacher Education.