Preparing 21st Century Teachers: Supporting Digital Literacy and Technology Integration in P6 Classrooms

Preparing 21st Century Teachers: Supporting Digital Literacy and Technology Integration in P6 Classrooms

Salika A. Lawrence (CUNY Medgar Evers College, USA), Rupam Saran (CUNY Medgar Evers College, USA), Tabora Johnson (CUNY Medgar Evers College, USA) and Margareth Lafontant (CUNY Medgar Evers College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0000-2.ch008
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When teachers use technology and digital tools for academic purposes, they are more apt to introduce it to their K-12 students. This chapter describes methods used by teacher educators to incorporate technology into their courses to help candidates meet professional standards, and methods used by teacher candidates to incorporate technology into their teaching to help P6 students meet technology and 21st century standards. Teacher preparation programs should introduce candidates to different technologies and software programs, provide opportunities for candidates to use the tools, and guide candidates as they develop learning resources in the field using the technology. Three factors impacted candidates' use of technology: their perceptions about their capabilities as users of technology in academic contexts, their experiences using technology, and their access to resources such as digital devices and software. Although some pitfalls occurred with program-wide technology integration, the study offers strategies for addressing these obstacles.
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Disconnect between campus courses and school-based experiences pose a challenge for teacher education programs around the country (Zeichner, 2010). Field experiences are authentic opportunities for candidates to apply their knowledge, but school settings are complex (Zeichner, 2010). While working in the field, pre-service teacher candidates can find it challenging to identify ways to enact their knowledge about teaching practices acquired during their program. In the ongoing quest to strengthen “the connections between what our student teachers do in their school and community placements and the rest of their teacher education program” (Zeichner, 2010, p. 90), we used case study methods to examine how our teacher education program prepares pre-service teacher candidates for 21st-century classrooms. The aims were to document how the program provides candidates with opportunities to use digital tools and technologies and explore the extent to which these practices transfer to P-6 classrooms.

Given the global call for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, teacher preparation programs have a critical role to play in preparing teachers to integrate technology in the classroom (McCulloch, Hollebrands, Lee, Harrison, & Mutlu, 2018). We examined how our teacher education program (a) educates candidates on using technology as a tool within the content area through an integrated experience (Brenner & Brill, 2016); (b) enables candidates to create their own technologies through authentic projects and learning experiences; and (c) allows candidates opportunities to work collaboratively with cooperating teachers in technology-rich contexts. Our program-level efforts for technology integration include interdisciplinary and integrated curriculum projects using science, technology, research, arts, engineering, and math (STREAM) (Lawrence, Donnantuono, Mitchell, & Johnson, 2018). More specifically, we collaborated with a library media specialist in a local school to help pre-service teacher candidates examine how children’s literacy can be used to springboard students into engaging, critical thinking, and problem-solving experiences to foster STEM literacy (Lawrence, Donnantuono, Mitchell, & Johnson, 2018). Although candidates have reported they receive support in their teacher education programs to hone their skills and use technology (Brenner & Brill, 2016), our research shows few can transfer the strategies to the field.

This chapter describes the ways teacher educators integrated technology into their courses, strategies used to support teacher candidates’ use of technology, and how candidates used technology in P-6 classrooms. First, we provide background information on preparing teachers for twenty-first century classrooms by identifying outcomes and expectations of professional standards. Next, we use examples from teacher education courses to discuss pedagogical strategies using technology. Then, we examine whether candidates in the teacher education program effectively used tech-based strategies while working in the field with P-6 students. The chapter concludes with recommendations and implications for improving technology integration in P-6 contexts by supporting pre-service teacher candidates’ technology skills. The questions framing our work were:

  • 1.

    How are candidates prepared to work with technology and digital tools?

  • 2.

    How are candidates using digital tools during field placements in P–6 classrooms?

  • 3.

    What are the pitfalls and benefits of using technology for teaching and learning?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Tools: Electronic devices that may or may not be portable including computers, laptops, tablets, clickers, SMARTboard, projectors, etc.

Pre-Service Teacher Candidates: Prospective teachers seeking initial teaching certification and licensure.

e-Portfolio: A digital platform used to collect and organize electronic materials and information.

Technology Software: Software include applications (apps) used to accomplish various tasks with digital tools such as word processing or presentation (e.g., PowerPoint).

Technology Integration: Embedded technology or digital tools that are seamlessly incorporated into coursework and curriculum to enhance teaching and learning experiences.

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