Attending the annual AERA meeting is like asking a little kid if he wants to spend a week at Disneyland. To me it’s a “no brainer”, and when I found out the theme for this year’s meeting was centered on the role of technology I knew AERA was a must. Research is what propels us to do our job as teacher educators. It reminds us that as society changes so must our practice.
This year’s 2014 AERA meeting “Education Research for Innovation in Practice and Policy” is the perfect context for any teacher educator but especially salient for one who lives and works in the Silicon Valley. There is no other place where the power and role of technology is greater than in Mountain View. However I am still undecided as to the impact technology has on how teachers’ teach and students’ learn. And so I hit the streets of Philly with an agenda, “How does technology influence the lives of teachers and students?”
Many of the presentations I attended focused on how technology is being used with Preservice and Inservice teachers. Although there is an assumption that today’s learners are “digital natives” many studies showed their participants did not have the skills to apply technology tools in a meaningful context. They have difficulty using the tools in the context of their academic discipline in a way that shapes how learners think. In thinking about these findings from the TPACK framework (Koehler and Mishra, 2009), teachers may have “technological knowledge” but lack the “technological pedagogical knowledge” to use technology to improve student learning. For example, although teachers may know how to use an IPAD, they may not have the understanding of how to use this tool to advance students thinking about a subject’s specific topic.
As much as I love technology, the cool gadgets, convenience and functionality I am not ready to announce as a teacher educator that technology is a panacea for narrowing the achievement gap. Nor do I believe placing a device in the hands of every K-12 student will successfully prepare them to be college and career ready. There is much work to be done here not just by researchers investigating what works in the classroom, but also by teacher educators in their preparation of pre-service teachers to use technology in the context of their discipline.