Reprinted courtesy of the Shreveport Times
19 April 2010

Smart Education: Future Teachers Teach Future Techies

By Icess Fernandez

When it comes to teaching future teachers about technology in classrooms, there's a google of reasons why it's a good idea.

But education departments at LSU-Shreveport and Centenary College only need one.

Smart education
Christina Gremillion speaks to a teaching class at Centenary College about the Smart board that is being used in schools.(courtesy photo/The Times)

"With students coming in more tech savvy, you don't have to be ahead of the game, you have to be in the game," said Robert Prickett, assistant professor of education at Centenary.

In Texas, the governor is considering electronic textbooks for students. Locally, Caddo Parish Superintendent Gerald Dawkins has talked about similar measures.

Nowadays, students are more tech-savvy. Students have moved beyond iPods and podcasts to iPhones and beyond texting to Twitter.

"Technology is embedded into everything we do," said Ruth Ray, chairwoman of the education department at LSUS. "Our proficiency is higher now than five years ago."

Both entities — LSUS and Centenary — are charged with teaching some of the area's teachers. Each school has technology courses for their undergraduate students as well as their master's and alterative certification students.

At Centenary, the undergraduates have an education technology class where teacher candidates learn about surrounding district's acceptable use policies. They also play with the technology, Prickett said. Flip cameras, digital cameras, scanners, Web sites — all of it is experimented and discussed.

"We ask them, 'Now that you played with it, what are the educational implications,'" he said.

Students write lesson plans with technology in mind and, at the end of the semester, students do a case study where they go to classrooms where technology is being incorporated into the classroom.

They are also required to do an online portfolio, Prickett said.

"When teaching with technology, teach with an end goal of it being for education."

At LSUS, teaching candidates also get a class in technology. The class, called Intro to Technology and Education, changes focus every year to keep up with advances, Ray said.

"(Technology) is a buzz word, a catch phrase. It's no longer an addendum but a requirement," she said.

Like Centenary, LSUS has an educational technology lab with similar software used in the Caddo and Bossier school districts. However, higher education cutbacks have impacted who's teaching.

"Our ed tech guy retired in May," Ray said. "We haven't been able to hire another. We have faculty that are filling in."

As education begins to embrace more technology, Ruth said, schools will need to turn to someone in the building who knows how it works. The university offers a certificate to become technology facilitators. There is also a class in the university's master's program called technology leadership in schools.

"What seems to be missing in schools is the former leader of technology," she said. "What often happens is that a school gets money for computers and then what? What about the professional development?"

All of these courses are structured to help foster creativity in future teachers as well as help start their life-long education with technology.

"Not only are our students more proficient, but k-12 students are more proficient," Ray said.