Tuesday, September 05, 2000

Teaching through technology

UC program aims to expand role in education college

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Talk-and-chalk is yielding to high-tech, but too many teachers still are picking up vital new skills scattershot.

        “I'm learning along with the kids,” said Jane Markowski, a 35-year veteran teacher at Sands Montessori.

        Recent graduates from the University of Cincinnati's College of Education hardly fare better: two credits of learning technology during undergraduate years.

        That's not good enough, says Joyce A. Pittman.

        A fresh PhD in learning technology, the College of Education hired her in 1999 to integrate technology into everything it teaches.

        Instructional technology is dynamic, changing as teachers find new ways to use hardware and software.

        Dr. Pittman's current definition embraces “the theory and practice of design, development, use, management and evaluation of processes and resources for learning.”

        Yes, she acknowledged, that's always been part of education, but now each step asks how to use computers to enhance learning.

        Dr. Pittman spent the past year applying her doctoral research to create UC's Comprehensive Educational Restructuring and Tech nology Infusion Initiative (CERTI).

        This year, she's leading faculty colleagues into the world of CERTI. Next year, students.

        Success will prepare the college and P-12 teachers for imminent accreditation standards that require instructional technology.

        It's all part of education's move to critical thinking.

        Teachers are no longer considered the fonts of knowledge with students learning by rote. Technology allows students to take responsibility for finding and sharing information from many sources and thinking critically about its meaning and value.

        Dr. Pittman said CERTI approaches this by:

        • Providing expert help in using computers and computer programs, learning how to assess student achievement and abandoning memorization for critical thinking.

        • All of that works only if college and P-12 curricula are restructured.

        The process can be painful, Dr. Pittman acknowledged, and this could be her toughest year.

        Dr. Pittman is encountering faculty anxiety if not resistance because there's no escaping participation in CERTI. “They are to do it,” Dr. Pittman said. “It's not a choice.”

        Still, she's sensitive to faculty concerns.

        Foremost is academic freedom, she said, and colleagues ask, “Are we being told how to teach and what to teach?”

        No, she tells them, because her goal is to help them adapt instruc tional technology to their subjects.

        Cheering her on is Melissa Sherman, who had one computer course when she got her degree in 1990 from the College of Mount St. Joseph in Delhi.

        Now, she has a master's degree in instructional technology and curriculum design from UC and teaches and coordinates classroom technology in the Hughes Center high school for the teaching professions.

        All that would have been a lot easier with CERTI, Miss Sherman said. “It takes people a lot longer to pick up or to catch up than if they had a good basis in instructional technology.”

        CERTI will cost $2.7 million over three years.

        Almost half is coming from the U.S. Department of Education. UC and its 11 partners — including Cincinnati Public Schools where students intern during their fifth year of teacher ed, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College and WCET-TV — will provide the rest.

        CERTI's first public program will be a free workshop on “learning, teaching and living behind the silicon curtain” at UC's Kingsgate Center on Sept. 25.

        It is open to anyone who wants to brainstorm and share ideas about learning and teaching through technology.

        The CERTI 2000 workshop is open to the first 150 registrants. Details: Dr. Pittman, CERTI@uc.edu or 556-4385 or 556-3586.


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- Teaching through technology