The Third Millennium is characterized by a rapid explosion of technological developments. These advances create challenges for educators and the need to develop a deeper understanding and skill set to meet the needs of future learners. In order to meet these challenges we need to encourage educational approaches that emphasize and embrace technology use. As school districts continue to prepare students for a global world that leverages technology to accelerate business operations and gain a greater competitive edge, it becomes vital to ensure teachers are equipped to meet the technology learning demand. It is evident that students’ understanding of technology has out-paced that of their teachers, creating future challenges for global competition. The growth of the world output is crossing national boundaries, and the thoughtful preparation of current and future teachers is critical to ensure our students’ success in meeting the rigorous demands of an increasingly global marketplace.
Irresistible Force Meets Immovable Object: Technology and Curriculum Move at Different Speeds
In the research by Dr. Gilbert Valdez, “Technology is a change phenomenon that defies belief unless it is put into a context of other things in our lives. Oblinger and Verville (1999) share this comparison of computer power’s evolution as compared to the American automobile:
One reason that IT acts as a change agent is that the speed and magnitude of the alterations it catalyzes are so dramatic. Consider the automobile as an example of the transformative effects of technology. In 1985, the most expensive car made in the United States was a Cadillac. It cost $17,000, averaged 12 miles to the gallon, and weighed more than one ton. If the automobile industry had achieved the same technology trajectory as the computer industry, today a Cadillac would cost $12.63, weigh 14 pounds, get 5,900 miles to the gallon, and be three feet long! In fact, if you are driving a Ford Taurus today, you are 'piloting' a vehicle that contains more computing power than the first lunar landing module.” (Valdez 1999, 1).
Fulton (1998), in an essay titled A Framework for Considering Technology’s Effectiveness, notes that the teacher is a key variable in technology implementation and effectiveness. Also, that “technology’s impact on teachers and their practice should be considered as important as student effects, for students move on but teachers remain to influence many generations of students.”
Kozak (1992), in the article titled, Technology Education: Prospectus for Curriculum Change, indicated that a preparation program should be an adaptive and open system which is dynamic, differentiated, and a continued renewal process that leads to continuous learning. Technology will continue to change and the ability to adjust needs to be fluid and ongoing.
In fact, preparing teachers to adapt to a constantly changing landscape of technology is more important than preparing them to use a specific tool.
School budgets continue to be reduced at a time when technology preparation needs for students and teachers continue to increase. Districts find themselves in a difficult position of trying to prepare for the future and meet the global call. One district has become creative in providing a dynamic, differentiated, and continued renewal process that has led to a continuous learning cycle for their staff. Madison School District, located in Phoenix Arizona, developed a plan to meet those 21st century teaching and learning skills by increasing the technology competency of its teaching staff.
CATS, MICE, and CATNIP: Preparing Teachers for the Future
Madison School District instituted three unique integrated training programs to ensure the teaching staff was prepared to meet the global future. The district used the ‘earning’ of technology tools for the classroom as the incentive for attendance in blocks of technology classes. These three ideas unfolded as technology entered into the classroom:
- CATS (Computer Assisted Teaching Strategies) encouraged teachers to choose from a smorgasbord of technology classes. This personalized menu was designed to be suited to individual teachers to meet the variety of student needs in their classrooms.
- MICE (Madison Integrating Computer Educators) were composed of one teacher from each campus to explore ways to improve student achievement. This person became a resource anchor for the campus. However, there were so many needs they soon realized they could not accomplish them in the normal after school training. They overcame this challenge by dedicating one Saturday per month of undisrupted time to advancing their technology knowledge and skills.
- CATNIP (Classroom Application of Technology – New Incentive Program) allowed teachers to take coursework at their own pace to earn technology equipment for their classrooms. In the first year of this project all 320 teachers enrolled in the first five training hours of CATNIP with “The Care and Feeding of Your Laptop” and in doing so they earned their own laptop computer.
The CATS’ Meow: A Proven Model for Success
The last five years have produced some impressive results. To date 80 percent of district teachers have voluntarily completed 45-plus hours of specific CATNIP courses, choosing form 150 different modules and training sessions. There are 300 teachers who have earned a SmartBoard in their classroom through the CATS program. Thirty-five percent of the teachers have enrolled in 60 hours of CATNIP, earning document cameras or response pads, while some have earned both by completing 90 hours.
Student achievement is at its highest level since the conception of the Arizona labeling system. All eight schools have made Adequate Yearly Progress. The MICE program has not only created leadership on each campus it has created leaders in the State of Arizona and throughout the nation. Over 12 teachers involved in the program have been state and national conference presenters. The program itself has been the recipient of the State Golden Bell Award and the National Magna Grand Prize Award.
A Trifecta for the Third Millennium: Conclusion
The Madison School District has found a way to be creative in building a flexible, dynamic, differentiated, and continued renewal process that leads to continuous learning for their staff. They have embraced the Fulton (1998) concept that the teacher is a key variable in technology implementation and effectiveness, and the impact on teachers is as important as student effects. It does not appear that additional funding is going to emerge in public education. What is certain is that things will continue to change and our teachers will need to adapt at an accelerated rate. If we are to be competitive as a society, our schools must help students prepare for the global marketplace. If we truly meet this challenge, the Third Millennium will not only be characterized by a rapid explosion of technological development, it will be identified as a time of educational transformation and success.
Fulton, Kathleen. (1998). A Framework for Considering Technology’s Effectiveness. http://www.doe.in.gov/olt/pdf/appresearchkful.pdf
Kozak, Michael R. (1992). Technology Education: Prospectus for Curriculum Change. Journal of Technology Education, Vol. 4. No. 1, (Fall), 65-69.
Valdez, Gilbert. (2004). Critical Issues: Technology Leadership: Enhancing Positive Educational Change. North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1-20. http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/educatrs/leadrshp/le700.htm