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4 Ways Teacher Education Programs Develop Tech-Savvy Teachers

Education schools try different approaches to train teachers with technology tools and prepare them for integrating technology in classrooms.

As education becomes more digital, education schools are trying to find different ways to help current and future teachers keep up with the times.

A lot of these efforts involve more practice in real classrooms and virtual environments, along with a focus on skills that teachers need to master so they can work with any type of technology.

1. Games

In a game, the stakes are low and the rewards are high. Players receive feedback immediately about how well they did in accomplishing an objective, and they can have fun while they're learning how to react in different teaching scenarios. 

Example: MIT and the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning, which will open next year, have teamed up to create games for graduate students so they will have a safe space to practice.

2. Virtual reality

Virtual teaching labs allow teachers to immerse themselves in a classroom with students who exhibit different behaviors and will react to how they teach. This type of technology is especially helpful when students can't get enough time teaching in real K-12 classrooms or don't see every scenario that could possibly happen during their student teaching.

Example: Penn State created a virtual teaching lab powered by artificial intelligence that music education students will use this fall. 

"It strikes at providing our students with experiences, experiences where they can be creative and experiences where they can fail and experiment," said Kyle Bowen, director of Teaching and Learning with Technology at Penn State.

3. On-demand training

Instead of signing up for an entire degree program, teachers often just need to learn a few skills right away that they can use to solve problems in their classes. They don't need so much information that they're swimming in it.

Example: In April, Capella University started providing no-charge professional development courses focused on digital teaching and learning that teachers can take any time. If they want to, they can also earn graduate credit for these courses that will count toward a future degree.  

"Teachers might need to learn something right now 'cause they have to do something differently next week, and that's a smaller chunk of learning," said Amy Smith, dean of Capella University’s School of Education.

4. Competency-based instruction

Schools of education are changing their practices when it comes to technology programs and tools. "For a long time, teacher prep has approached technology from the standpoint of training teachers to use tech x, y or z," said Bob Pianta, dean and professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education. 

But that approach isn't effective because specific products come and go quickly. Rather, it's important to establish a set of skills that teachers should learn so they can use any technology tool for learning, Pianta said.

Example: The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia is in the middle of redesigning the way it teaches students so that it's based on competencies with technology instead of teaching specific tools.