So, I was invited to the White House…

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In late November 2016 I was invited to a summit in Washington D.C. that was organized by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology and focused on educational technology in teacher preparation.  The summit took place in mid-December with one day of meetings hosted at the offices of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and a second day of meetings at the
Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House. It was an honor to be included on the invitation list to this event, and I was very happy to be able to attend.

The second day of the summit coincided with the release of a policy brief, Advancing Educational Technology in Teacher Preparation. The brief, and our summit, focused on four guiding principles:

  • Focus on the active use of technology to enable learning and teaching through
    creation, production, and problem-solving.
  • Build sustainable, program-wide systems of professional learning for
    higher education instructors to strengthen and continually refresh their capacity to use technological tools to enable transformative learning and teaching.
  • Ensure pre-service teachers’ experiences with educational technology are
    program-deep and program-wide, rather than one-off courses separate from
    their methods courses.
  • Align efforts with research-based standards, frameworks, and credentials
    recognized across the field.

During the summit experts from around the country were asked to share descriptions of their work that align with the principles. The list of presenters included: Dr. Teresa Foulger (Arizona State University) who discussed the work her team is doing to develop teacher education technology competencies and how educational technology is being integrated into the ASU teacher preparation curriculum; Dr. Jeff Carpenter (Elon University) who described his work using Twitter to develop community in Elon’s teacher education program; Dr. Royce Kimmons (Brigham Young University) presenting about the work he and his colleagues have done with technology in teacher preparation, including PICRAT; and Dr. Kyle Peck (Penn State) and Dan Randall (Brigham Young University) who discussed their work on badges and microcredentials. There were other presenters, but the ones I have listed here are working in areas that most closely align with my work context and/or research interests.  The summit attendees also heard remarks from Mario Cardona, Senior Policy Advisor for Education to the White House; Dr. Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary of Education; and Dr. Joseph South, Director of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology.

Teresa Foulger, Jeff Carpenter, Royce Kimmons, Kyle Peck, and Dan Randall are all doing important work, if you are a stakeholder in teacher preparation and/or educational technology.  I encourage you to give their work an in-depth look.  The work with badges and microcredentials may be new to you.  When I talk to people about badges in education I often sense a lot of skepticism, but I believe this topic especially has the potential to change a lot of what we do in Education in terms of pre-service and in-service teacher education.  You may see me write more about this topic in another blog entry soon.

As the summit was concluding we were given the opportunity to join affinity groups around the four principles from the policy brief.  Thus, we will all hopefully hear more about these efforts from the affinity groups rather than having the principles buried in a PDF document in some archive of government documents.  I agreed to work with the group focused professional learning for higher education instructors (the second bullet in the above list).  Our work is just getting organized, but at least one of the groups is already quite far along in their work; Teresa Foulger’s group working on technology competencies will report their work at the March 2017 SITE Conference.

Locally, I am curious about the implementation of educational technology experiences for pre-service teachers that are program-deep and program-wide, rather than one-off courses (bullet three in the above list).  I have already had some information conversations with my Dean about how this could be done in my College and I hope the conversation continues. The program-deep and program-wide goal is admirable, but many of us work in environments where student credit hours are the coin of the realm and having designated courses for educational technology makes those hours easy to count. Similarly, those of us who are faculty members in Educational Technology or Instructional Technology programs do not want to become support personnel to others implementing technology in their classes.  Implementing program-wide and program-deep experiences for pre-service teachers will take some creative thinking to ensure it works within systems that have been built for decades around the concepts of classes and semesters.

Dr. South and his staff from the Office of Educational Technology did a great job organizing and facilitating the summit.  I hope that the work of his office and the work growing out of the summit is able to continue through the transition to the next President’s administration.

 

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Going Slow

Slow Down .......You Clown!!

Photo by Luc B | CC

If you are a faculty member at an institution of higher education and have spent too much time in meetings or writing reports related to recruitment, retention, enrollment, accreditation, and the like, then you should find the time to read The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by M. Berg and B.K. Seeber. Michael M. Grant, who blogs at http://viral-notebook.com/, told me about the book.

The book is not long, just 90 pages.  It did, however, take me longer than expected to read, as I often had to stop and reflect on the number of personal experiences I have had (or friends have had) corresponding to the authors’ various observations. The book includes a preface, an introduction, four chapters, a conclusion, and acknowledgements and works cited sections.  The Preface includes the Slow Professor Manifesto, which begins:

“We are Slow Professors.  We believe that adopting the principles of Slow into our professional practice is an effective way to alleviate work stress, pressure, humanistic education, and resist the corporate university”(p. ix).

it goes on to include:

“In the corporate university, power is transferred from faculty to managers, economic justifications dominate, and the familiar ‘bottom line’ eclipses pedagogical and intellectual concerns. Slow Professors advocate deliberation over acceleration.  We need time to think, and so do our students.  Time for reflection and open-ended inquiry is not a luxury but is crucial to what we do” (p. x).

As I read the book, I found myself wanting to quote so much of that I found it ridiculous. They link the familiar three foci of professor-life (teaching, research, and service) to issues stemming from the corporate university, and they discuss how Slow can benefit them. They do not offer much in the book on the topic of online teaching.  I teach in a 100% online graduate program.  The book includes some information on technology and teaching online, but this is by no means a major part of the book.  I will continue to think about how the ideas shared in the book might be amplified or ameliorated by teaching online.

If reading the book does nothing else, it will help you know that you and your institution are not anomalies, if you share the same experiences described in the book.  Working in academe can sometimes be isolating, and the validation of knowing you are not alone can be comforting. I identified with many of the observations included in this book, but I am unsure of how to act to resist the corporate university. The reality is that deadlines are given, reports are assigned, and managers control raises (however infrequent or small) and other perks of the profession (travel and professional development funds). I believe it will be hard for any one faculty member to make much of a difference working alone to resist the corporate university without being branded as an uncooperative crank who does not work well with others.  However, recommending this book to others and discussing its many cogent points may produce meaningful changes within an academic unit.

I have many opinions and comments regarding the idea of the corporate university, which I may share in a future post.  I need some more time to organize them.