Volume 1, Issue 1 ISSN 1528-5804
Pope, C., & Golub, J. (2000). Preparing tomorrow's English language arts teachers today: Principles and practices for infusing technology. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 1 (1). Available: http://www.citejournal.org/vol1/iss1/currentissues/english/article1.htm
Preparing Tomorrow's English Language Arts Teachers Today: Principles and Practices for Infusing Technology
Teachers using technology in their English language arts classrooms are not only improving their instruction for their students; they are changing the very nature of that instruction. The following are three examples of English language arts classrooms where technology serves an integral part of classroom instruction.
These scenarios reveal teachers who not only know technology but also know how to use it appropriately in their teaching to the students' benefit. How do we prepare these kinds of teachers—the kinds of teachers who know their content (English language arts), know content pedagogy (how to teach English language arts), and know instructional technology (how to infuse technology appropriately into that teaching)?
Principles of Technology Infusion
As English language arts teacher educators, it is our role to prepare English language arts teachers today who will be the classroom and school leaders of tomorrow. These new teachers must be ready to step into the status quo as well as to advance the profession by infusing technology into their teaching. If we want new English language arts teachers who can accomplish this feat, we as their teacher educators must be models of that process.
We offer the following seven principles as touchstones for infusing technology into English language arts teacher preparation programs. These principles grow from and correlate with the National Council of Teachers of English Guidelines for the Preparation of Teachers of English Language Arts (1996) and the International Society for Technology in Education National Educational Technology Standards for Students: Connecting Curriculum and Technology (2000).
We and our students who will soon become teachers need to:
Discussion of Principles
Principle 1: Introduce and Infuse Technology in Context
We believe that this principle is the sine qua non of the list. Technology should be a naturally supporting background for both the content and the pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1987) of English language arts. Teaching and learning English language arts is our goal; technology is a means by which we can reach that goal. To infuse this technology, we must build on what we know from research and practice—that is, "what we know about reading [and literature], writing, speaking, listening, viewing and visually representing" (National Council of Teachers of English, Standards , p. 1). These primary elements of our discipline serve as the centerpiece of our English language arts teacher preparation.
Another context to consider when making instructional decisions is the students themselves. They will be at different levels of development as users of technology, and we must determine and honor those levels. Then, within our classes we can build the instructional scaffolds for students to advance as technology users while staying focused on teaching English language arts.
To carry this experience to the next level of learning, Carol's writing methods students engage in ongoing email correspondence with students at a local middle school. The methods students help the middle school students with their writing, offering suggestions for revision and serving as a real, appreciative audience. The middle school students get substantial, individualized help with their language, and the methods students get to know middle school students while learning the instructional revision approaches and communication skills beneficial for young adolescents ( http://www2.ncsu.edu /ncsu/cep/ci/eci307.html ). In these scenarios there is an interlocking of content (writing), content pedagogy (peer response), and technology. Technology is not an "add-on" but an integral part of the instruction ( http://courses.ncsu.edu/classes/eci307001/index.html ).
Principle 2: Focus on the Importance of Technology as a Literacy Tool
In English language arts teacher preparation programs, it is critical to acknowledge the impact technology has had on our language—how we read, write, view, and visually represent information. Words used everyday such as windows , files , menu , and mouse have new meanings and mental images; headlines include such prefixes as cyber , e-, and hyper ; media ads and discussions include such terms as dot com , url , and www . Clearly, ad creators, writers, editors, and producers assume that members of the reading public understand this new language. These vast lexicon changes reflect not only a vocabulary shift but also a thinking shift. We have new "pictures" in our reading and listening memories, pictures which have moved into our daily communication.
Besides the dynamic impact of technology on our vocabulary, technology has also brought us an expanded view of "what is considered text and how text is prepared" (National Council of Teachers of English, Guidelines , p. 8). The Internet, hypertext documents (like the ones in this online journal), web sites, bibliographies with url addresses, e-mail, and personal web sites (visual representations of ourselves and our work) all are different kinds of texts, different genres with their own emerging characteristics. In English language arts teacher preparation programs, we need to address these literacy shifts, varying text forms, and the attendant skills new teachers will need to both use and teach these new texts and languages.
Just as technology is influencing language and reading, it has already had an impact on writing and teaching writing. As students use computers more (pen and paper less) to compose, the way we teach writing is greatly affected. Seeing a student's writing drafts in process will be harder because they will embed and internalize their own recursive writing process. In turn, instructionally guiding students through their writing process will be more challenging. However, we do not need to abandon our awareness that "both oral and written discourse contain like elements and follow processes that teachers need to understand in order to help students develop and extend communication skills" (NCTE, Guidelines , p. 16). Rather, we need to acknowledge that "technology has enlarged these processes to include visual discourse...[which is] closely linked with oral and written discourse" (NCTE, p. 16).
By the same token, students discover that as they compose web sites, online documents, and email they stretch the boundaries of linear texts and traditional modes. Hyperlinks may replace footnotes; web sites provide further explanations; and images become windows to more information. This kind of examination and reflection is the "text" of a methods class that infuses technology: students do English language arts and English language arts pedagogy through,with , and about technology.
Principle 3: Model English Language Arts Teaching and Learning While Infusing Technology
One of the critical lessons to learn as a teacher in a technologically rich environment is that we will never be completely caught up; we will never know everything. We will constantly learn with and from our students. As a result, the English language arts classroom will necessarily become learn ing -centered and learn er -centered, with both teacher and student functioning in both roles. To ensure that our soon-to-be teachers understand this shift, we need to create and model how this kind of classroom looks and functions.
At the same time the teacher and students are using technology to aid their own writing processes, the teacher demonstrates the MOST important element of modeling technology integration—taking risks, trying out new technologies with students, and relying on the students to supplement their instruction. In Carol's teaching writing class she relies on students to help each other, to demonstrate technology processes she does not know, and to teach new skills and applications. Thus, the methods classroom becomes a shared teaching/learning environment for both students and the teacher.
Principle 4. Evaluate Critically When and How to use Technology
The late Dr. Stephen Marcus (University of California, Santa Barbara) said in a conference presentation on integrating technology that "`Literacy is knowing where the truth lies.' He deliberately implies two meanings with this statement: people need to develop the necessary `reading' skills to enable them to seek out and identify sources of honest, straightforward, `truthful' information; and they also need to detect and read accurately those electronic texts that distort the truth. The skills of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation have always been important reading skills for students to master; but now, with the presence and operation of the Internet, these skills have become critical tools for the literate person." (Golub, 1999, pp. 53-54)
Teacher educators, as well as our students, need to be critical consumers of technology, to be thoughtful users who question, reflect, and refract (Pope, 1999) on the best times and ways to integrate technology. To be models of this process, we need to be critical evaluators in our own methods classes and involve our students in that process. The goal of this critical analysis of technology integration is to articulate and internalize a process for questioning and probing both the why and how of infusing technology through various applications, programs, web sites, methods of teaching, or communication tools. If teachers use this process, they will become teacher-researchers in their own classrooms. They will systematically pose questions, examine when it is appropriate and useful to integrate technology and when it is not, and follow through with the implementation and evaluation of the technology use. In such a process they will be "informed, adjusted, or validated by systematic classroom observation" (Selfe, 1992, p. 33). They will seek to discover "where the truth lies."
Principle 5. Provide a Wide Range of Opportunities for Using Technology Within the Content
According to Bertram Bruce, students should "learn technology, learn through technology, learn about technology" (1998, p. 222). To provide diverse experiences and perspectives, we can infuse opportunities for students to learn to work the technology itself and to develop those technological skills through the study of English language arts content as well as the English language arts content pedagogy.
Possibilities abound for the integration of technological opportunities that relate to English language arts content. Students can create web sites, "read" the Internet, participate in online discussions (ListServes, real-time chat rooms, asynchronous discussions, videoconferences), and use all kinds of writing process skills on computers (create texts, add graphics and pictures, determine appropriate formats, revise extensively, and edit). The content and pedagogy merge in such experiences.
Principle 6. Examine and Determine Ways of Analyzing, Evaluating, and Grading English Language Arts Technology Products
Technology products are new genres for most of us, and they require a new set of process skills. Understandably we may be uncertain about how to evaluate the students' process, the quality of the work, and the product itself. When we infuse technology into our English language arts teacher preparation programs, we as teacher educators come face to face with these challenges. We are pushed to examine and think about these new-found forms, genres, and products. With our students we can work to determine the best ways of evaluating and grading them.
We can make these kinds of decisions by (a) keeping the content up front—that is, what is the content of the product? (b) determining the objective for the project itself—that is, what was the goal of the process and the product? what were students to learn? (c) using that information to create rubrics and evaluation descriptors.
As the students reviewed and analyzed the sites, they began to pick out strengths and weaknesses of the sites. They could see the variability of quality as well as the appeal different sites might have to different audiences, depending on the viewer's purpose in reading the site. Through this process they began to determine the criteria they might use in evaluating and/or grading a student-created web site. If the criteria are determined by both the teacher and the students in advance, the process of evaluating and grading become more integrated into the instructional process, the English language arts teachers "use assessment outcomes to improve instruction" (NCTE, p. 26).
Principle 7. Emphasize Issues of Equity and Diversity in Technology Accessibility
According to the NCTE Guidelines , English language arts "teachers should be sensitive to student needs so that all students, regardless of differences, receive encouragement, support, and opportunities to learn" (p. 11). We need for our soon-to-be-teachers to both witness and understand the diverse accessibility to technology their school and their students will have. And they must consider this variability in their class assignments, opportunities for use in the school day, and homework expectations. In our teacher preparation programs we need to reference this challenge in our own assignments, classroom work, and expectations.
We have also learned "over the last decade...that [computers] cannot be understood simply as tools, considered in isolation from the social, political, or economic contexts in which they are developed and in which they continue to be used. Technology...is a richly embroidered artifact of a culture" (Selfe, 1992, p. 29), and as teacher educators we and our future teachers need to acknowledge that fact. We need to devise ways of responding and coping with the inequities the division of computer access will be between poor children and the middle and upper class children.
To see how one teacher specifically deals with some students' lack of accessibility to technology, they read, studied, and discussed a MID tech ( http://www2.ncsu.edu/midtech/ ) interview with a second-year teacher, Angela Cooper ( http://www2.ncsu.edu/midtech/spotlight/cooper/index.html ), who works to provide everyone in her classes an equal opportunity to use the three computers available in her middle school classroom. By reading and discussing the interview with Angela, the students see how a teacher can cope with only a few computers and provide access to everyone as often as possible.
From these principles and examples of infusing technology into English language arts teacher preparation, clearly the classrooms of today and tomorrow will look very different. No longer will the teacher be the dispenser of information; teachers and students will be learners together
In such an environment students participate actively and directly in their own education. They will not rely solely on the teacher but will use the Internet and electronic tools and media to gather information and gain insights. "The increased use of the Internet and the proliferation of websites has brought about a new set of basic skills for students (and even adults) to master: information literacy skills. Paul Gilster, in his book, Digital Literacy , defines this kind of literacy as `the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers'" (Golub, pp. 52-54
This shift to a learning-centered classroom does not mean, however, that the teacher is obsolete. Instead, it demands that the teacher's role change from that of an "information-giver" to one of "designer" and "director" of instruction. Teachers need to design worthwhile problems for students to solve and worthwhile projects for students to pursue. As students work on these activities, the teacher "directs" the students, offering suggestions and serving as a respondent for their emerging insights.
Using the principles we offer above, we suggest that English language arts methods classes can infuse technology in a way that does not interfere with the content pedagogy but supports it in a way that actively involves students and prepares them with the technical and pedagogical skills for creating the new learning-centered classroom.
We invite you to respond to our principles, offer your own variations, and describe ways you have found to infuse technology in your English language arts methods classes and program. Please join our conversation through on-line responses and articles from your own work. Help us focus our thinking, practice, and research in this critical area of technology and teacher education.
Bruce, B. (1998). Dewey and technology. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 42 (3), 222-26.
Gilster, Paul (1997). Digital literacy . New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Golub, J.N. (1999). Thought worth thinking about: Reflections, connections, projections. Virginia English Bulletin , Fall 1999, 52-54.
International Society for Technology in Education (2000). National educational technology standards for students: Connecting curriculum and technology . USA: ISTE.
Logan, R. K. (1995). The fifth language: Learning a living in the computer age. Toronto, Canada: Stoddart.
National Council of Teachers of English (1996). Guidelines for the preparation of teachers of English language arts . Urbana, IL: Author.
National Council of Teachers of English (1996). Standards for the English language arts . Urbana, IL: NCTE.
Pope, C.A. (1999). Reflection and refraction: A reflexive look at an evolving model for methods instruction. English Education , 31 , 177-200.
Selfe, C.L. (1992). Preparing English teachers for the virtual age: The case for technology critics. In G.E. Hawisher & P. LeBlanc (Eds.), Re-imagining computers and composition: Teaching and research in the virtual age . Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook
Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the New Reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-22.
Authors' Pertinent Websites