JITE v37n3 - From the Editor - Challenges Old and New
Challenges Old and New
Early discussions about this special theme issue centered on the changes affecting technology teacher education in the first part of the new century. Individuals involved in the preparation of teachers, and working in higher education in general, know that new developments have brought both exciting changes and significant challenges to bear on the process of teacher preparation. High-profile reports, such as the one published by the Holmes Group in the 1980s, forced teacher educators to reconceptualize existing structures of education programs in universities across the nation. The steady diffusion of computer technologies into the education arena influenced, among other things, how we evaluate the educational process. New data collection tools enabled an increased emphasis on accountability and quality control at all levels. Overshadowing all of this was a persistent spirit of retrenchment in higher education, which led to a focus on productivity within administrative units.
At the same time, the field of technology education has undergone its own significant changes. Attempts to update the curriculum and instructional strategies used in technology education, begun as early as the 1940s but formalized during the 1980s, created the foundation upon which our current evolving structure was formed. While this continuing evolution brings a sense of immediacy and even great promise, it also creates a feeling of uncertainty about the future of the profession. Perhaps the most significant development of the past fifteen years has been the steady decline in the number of technology teacher education programs and, more importantly, the number of graduates from these programs. We have responded to these declining numbers in a variety of ways, including trying to tap into new and non-traditional markets.
As the manuscripts for the theme issue took form, it became clear that the emphasis was not so much on the changes affecting technology teacher education, but rather on the challenges we face and our responses to them. Furthermore, some of the issues raised can be seen as old challenges wearing new hats.
In This Issue
Hill and Wicklein report on their national survey of technology teacher education program graduates. The purpose of the study was to determine the effectiveness of these teacher education programs, as perceived by recent graduates. The instrument used provides a checklist of desired attributes and skills that could provide a framework for program evaluation and redesign. Interestingly, respondents rated their ability to plan and deliver instruction, and to encourage critical thinking and problem solving, higher than other skills. This suggests that technology teacher educators have responded to the many calls for enhanced pedagogical skills on the part of new teachers.
Increasingly, universities are making use of distance learning technologies to reach a growing number of students, in particular non-traditional students. Professors engaged in distance teaching have discovered that it carries unique requirements for the design of instruction. Wells examines the impacts of learning styles and students' prior computer knowledge on their attitudes toward a computer-mediated course. His findings carry implications for other teacher educators as they move toward non-traditional delivery of instruction. Many questions remain with regard to distance learning, including its effect on faculty work loads, its effectiveness for student learning, and its potential to markedly change the way technology teacher education programs are delivered. Watch for more on this topic.
Braundy, O'Riley, Petrina, Dalley and Paxton present data from British Columbia that documents an ongoing problem in Canada, and is mirrored in the United States: the disproportionately low number of female technology teachers. Most of us are aware of this problem on an anecdotal level. To see the numbers from one province described here in detail illustrates starkly that, in spite of the apparent concern for gender equity, no real inroads have been made. These authors suggest that gender-specific interventions may be required to break through the persistent barriers that appear to prevent greater female participation in the field of technology education.
Although the visibility of elementary school technology education has grown, the number of technology education programs that offer preservice courses for elementary teachers remains small. Kirkwood describes the results of a study he conducted of elementary teachers in Indiana who have taken at least one course in technology education as part of their preservice course requirements. Findings from this study suggest that "one shot" approaches to training elementary teachers, while important for raising awareness, are inadequate for effective integration of technology activities into the curriculum. They also suggest that teachers with greater confidence about using technology activities are more likely to view them as an important part of the elementary curriculum.
In the At Issue section, Volk continues his analysis of the declining numbers of technology teacher education programs and graduates. Earlier projections made by Volk have held true, and the most recent data reported shows a steady erosion in the number of individuals pursuing technology education degrees. While it is difficult to believe that this downward trend can continue, the data is nevertheless sobering.
Finally, Marcia Braundy has written a book review of the 47th Yearbook of the Council on Technology Teacher Education. More essay than review, Braundy offers one very personal reflection on her experiences as a female in non-traditional fields.
Some Final Thoughts
The process of preparing this theme issue has been an important learning experience. I'd like to thank the reviewers who provided their time, expertise, and comments to help shape this issue. Editors have the unique perspective of seeing the confluence and fluidity of ideas as they make their way toward the final products that are published manuscripts. At best, these products spur dialogue and help us to see and approach the world in new ways. It is my hope that these manuscripts will accomplish at least some of that.