Teaching with technology to make learning more engaging

By

Meghan Krein

It was 1993. Teresa Foulger, now associate professor of technology infusion at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, was a classroom teacher where she taught 6th grade. Bill Clinton was president. “Unforgiven” was winning best picture at the 65th Academy Awards. The Buffalo Bills became the first team to lose three consecutive Super Bowls as they were defeated by the Dallas Cowboys. And Teresa’s school district had just received their first-ever Macintosh computers.

One of Teresa’s students — an athletic boy — loved recess. But one day, something odd happened. Teresa was inside, at her desk, working on the new computer when the boy skipped recess to watch her. He hovered over Teresa’s shoulder, watching as she typed and awing over the images on the screen. “I was intrigued by his level of interest,” Teresa remembers.

Teresa Foulger

Associate Professor Teresa Foulger leads the Teacher Ed Technology Competencies project

Wanting more of that, Teresa contacted the district’s director of curriculum to ask about getting more computers. She received a grant, which provided her the opportunity to explore the use of technology with other teachers as the district’s technology professional developer. “Ever since then I have been developing my understanding of professional development and organizational change. I seek to transform teachers and to support the development of systems that embrace technology,” she says.

Twenty-four years later, faculty wonder if things are different in teaching digital natives. Clearly, using technology is different than teaching with technology. “Teaching with technology demands two other layers of understanding: an intense understanding of the curriculum, and ideas about how technology tools might enhance learning capabilities,” Teresa says. “So learning to teach with technology is the marriage of three different skillsets: technology skills, knowledge of the curriculum and pedagogical knowledge.” Even with experienced digital natives, “we still need to develop their content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge,” Teresa says.

A lot of work and team effort goes into infusing technology into a program, Teresa tells us. And, those three aforementioned skillsets need to be woven seamlessly together. An instructor must be well-versed in both technological choices and pedagogical understanding.

Technology needs to be infused into a whole program, not just a course, Teresa says. “If we look at using technology knowledge, content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge and conjoining them to the point they can’t be pulled apart, then you can see that learning to teach with technology is complicated.” It would be unfair to expect teacher candidates to master teaching with technology on their first day as certified teachers, Teresa says. “The only way to address this is with time and practice. More practice than one course can offer.”

So what are the best ways to infuse technology into a classroom? Teresa tells us:

  • It’s a component of learning outcomes, not a separate outcome. Be creative with seamlessly weaving it into many experiences.
  • Be sure it is used as an enhancement that expands the possibilities.
  • Faculty should model the use of technology within the content area.
  • Teacher candidates should be asked to develop K–12 experiences that seamlessly integrate technology.
  • Remember that becoming masterful with technology takes practice. All teacher educators are responsible for helping candidates develop this part of their teaching.

Teresa leaves us with one last nugget of information: Technology should be used in ways that makes learning experiences more interesting and engaging for students. “Because new technology is continually being developed, the target keeps moving. We can never move fast enough to catch up and there will always be room for innovation.”

Learn more about technology infusion in teacher education at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.