$1.3 Million Grant Will Impact Teaching in Oregon

Imagine having to relearn major components of your job every year. That's the challenge for many teachers who routinely face technology-savvy students who know as much or more than they do about software and gadgets now commonplace in America's classrooms.

How do Oregon teachers keep up and what kind of support is in place for them as they deal with the daily realities of technology-based teaching?

Part of the answer is the $1.3 million U.S. Department of Education grant given the Oregon Technology in Education Network for "Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology." The goal of the three-year grant is to increase the integration of technology into the K-12 classroom and to develop and nurture communities of learners who will support and encourage each other. The program will serve about 800 teacher education students per year, plus faculty and K-12 teachers.

Six private institutions with teacher education programs will benefit from the grant. They are Willamette University, Western Baptist, Concordia, George Fox, the University of Portland and Pacific University.

Dr. John Tenny, grant interim director and professor of education at Willamette University in Salem, said, "This grant will help faculty who prepare students to become teachers, student teachers and K-12 supervising teachers. They will receive training and access to cutting edge technology, but perhaps the strongest component of the program is the partnership among the six participating institutions and the diversity they represent.

"These are schools that represent a wide range in student culture, experience and opportunity. We bring together teachers and students from urban areas within Portland and Salem, from outlying suburban communities, rural districts with small dispersed populations, as well as students and teachers on some of Oregon's Native American Indian reservations."

The six institutions are already sharing a lending library of technology that includes 24 wireless networked laptop computers, CD burners, data projectors, digital camcorders, high storage disk drives and software. The grant will support additional equipment for K-12 classrooms and will underwrite travel to educational technology conferences for lead faculty in the undergraduate and teacher education programs at each institution.

The challenge is not simply teaching teachers how to manipulate the technology. Technology has significantly influenced how students learn and teachers must now restructure the very nature of classroom learning.

"Faculty and student teachers must understand how to employ technology as a fundamental element of the learning process," Tenny said. "We need to reexamine the role of the teacher in the classroom and develop new models of teaching that can appropriately utilize these modern learning technologies."

Developing new teaching models will evolve in grant-supported workshops and restructured teacher preparation programs formed in collaborative partnerships involving all six institutions. Tenny and others believe technology has fundamentally transformed teacher education in America.

"Most all of the current K-16 students have been born during the age of the desktop computer," said Tenny. "They are the first truly digital generation and it's the job of America's present and future teachers to help them learn in ways that will prepare them for a future that will differ greatly from our past."