EDUCATE marks first year, receives donor support

University Park, Pa -- This past fall, students in Elementary and Kindergarten Education and Secondary English Education became the first cohorts to experience the College of Education’s new initiative to integrate powerful digital tools in teacher education experiences. Under the moniker EDUCATE (Exploring Directions in Ubiquitous Computing and Teacher Education), students and instructors utilize a common set of digital tools to broaden and deepen our student’s capacity to meet the challenges of 21st century classrooms.

Central to this work is the development of electronic teaching portfolios and video analysis of teaching practices. To bring students on board, the program requires students majoring in Elementary and Kindergarten Education and Secondary English Education to acquire a MacBook notebook computer. The program was piloted for two years through the College’s partnership with the State College Area School District’s Professional Development School (PDS).

Taking cues from the PDS pilot, the launch of EDUCATE began in the summer of 2007 with faculty and instructors in the two programs learning about the notebook computer and a variety of multimedia software. In fall 2008, EDUCATE was expanded to include students in the College under EDUCATE Director and Assistant Professor Orrin Murray. “Although very important, the notebook computer is not our principal focus. Where other programs focus on teaching with technology, EDUCATE is structured in a way that emphasizes a focus on using digital tools to support the cycle of examining and improving upon ones’ own teaching practice.”

In keeping with this focus, workshops are offered to ensure that valuable class time is not spent learning how to use particular applications. Murray has also worked with faculty to re-work courses in ways that are designed to take advantage of the common digital tool set. “Our students will be technology literate not because they can use PowerPoint or Word to create and or deliver lessons, but rather because they know how to use digital tools to interrogate and improve their practice.”

Through EDUCATE, the College aims to be a national leader in research and practice associated with educating effective education professionals (e.g., teachers, teacher educators, educational researchers, administrators, counselors) for 21st century technology-intensive learning environments. Faculty and students are busy working to transform classrooms into cutting-edge learning environments to support effective instructional practices and research on learning and teaching in technology-rich settings.

After carefully considering a number of digital tools, the College faculty selected the MacBook because of its capabilities. A built in camera and microphone allow students to record audio and/or video of lessons. In addition, the notebook computer comes pre-loaded with a software package that faculty can use to help students develop lessons and interact with their classrooms. For example, iMovie, iPhoto, and Comic Life are three applications the students are learning to use through instruction in their literacy courses (LLED 400, 401, and 402).

“Dr. Murray has been instrumental in seeing EDUCATE become a prominent program in the College. It’s not unusual to see groups of students gathering with their MacBooks and sharing ideas,” said Dean David H. Monk.

Krista Wallden, a junior in Elementary and Kindergarten Education, shared some of her thoughts on the MacBook since being introduced to it this year. “Since using the MacBook, I have really started focusing my teaching around the use of technology, through organizing my lessons as well as finding different sources for activities. I haven’t utilized all the tools, but I see potential with the programs; Comic Life and iMovie, for example, would appeal to students.”

She adds, “I feel that there are many ways that the Mac requirement has helped me become a better teacher. As technology is becoming a vital tool in classrooms, becoming familiar with this new form of technology is crucial to my becoming a prepared teacher. Prior to this requirement, I had no experience with Macs, and I feel much more prepared having explored their applications during my coursework, rather than when I am in a professional teaching position.”

In the design for EDUCATE, Monk realized that donor support would be important to the program’s success. So when he asked Joyce '57 Ed and Vince McLean to consider a gift to the College by creating a technology fund, they responded by creating not one but two funds to support technology initiatives.

The College of Education Technology Fund will provide monies for the dean to help keep pace with ever-changing and evolving technologies. The McLean’s have pledged a total of $140,000 to this endowment, some of which is designated for immediate spending. To complement this fund, the EDUCATE Technology Scholarship will provide $5,000 in funds for each of the next five years to outstanding undergraduate students with financial need and whose major requires the purchase of computing technology. In the first year since it was created, the scholarship has been awarded to eight students to help with the purchase of their MacBooks, including Wallden.

Plans for next year include a convocation for all students in Elementary and Kindergarten Education and Secondary English and more opportunities for faculty to learn and share what they have discovered about what’s possible in a technology rich learning environment. EDUCATE will also be expanding to include students in the World Languages Education program.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010