Teachernet: Student Teachers Form A Community of Teachers
Project Number Three – 1992
This is a project I began in 1989 with an Academic Computing Grant from the California State University System, am submitting it for your collection.
California State University Long Beach
Comments like these flooded the ATLNetwork this past school year as student teachers in both elementary and high school setting in Long Beach, Cerritos, and Huntington Beach all participated in a unique project called TeacherNet. Funded by a 1989 ACE Computer Grant from the CSU system and inspired by Craig Blurton’s ASTUTE training for CSU faculty on telecommunications, Dr. Jean Casey, Asst. Prof in Teacher Education decided to see if telecommunication could improve the university supervision of student teachers. The number one objective of the project was to improve university supervisor and student teacher communication. The second major objective was to see if having a computer in their home for sixteen weeks would not help students really learn to use one effectively and therefore produce a genuine computer-using educator at the time of graduation.
Through the generousity of a loan of 15 Macintosh Computers from Apple Computer Corp., 15 copies of Microsoft Works for the software for communication as well as to hook the student teachers on wordprocessing, data base and spreadsheet without their even realizing it and 15 copies of KidTalk a talking wordprocessing program for them to take to the elementary school and share with their students, we were ready to begin. The pilot phase of the project began in Sept. 1989 with a training session on telecommunications at the SWRL Chancellors office lab. Master teachers from Carver Elementary school in ABC school district in Cerritos, University supervisors from California State University Long Beach and six student teachers were all trained in using the ATL Network e-mail and conferencing system. The best part was at the end of the training when each participant got to take home a Mac, a modem, some software and the excitement necessary to motivate them to be the first one to get on-line. The student teachers won by far and were the first to log on to the system but everyone else rapidly followed. As soon as everyone discovered how much easier it was to send a message this new way and avoid many attempts at phonetag, the participation grew, then with information put on the system by the project director that included hints for lesson design, activities, job availability and other such “carrots of wisdom” the participants discovered the value of this resource. At the end of the first semester, 100% of the participants recommended continuation of the project. In Spring 1990, ten elementary student teachers, five secondary student teachers, six university advisors, seven elementary teachers, the Director of Field Services, Director of Single Subject training, Director of Education Placement and two Educational Psychology counselors were all on-line to support the student teaching process. Results gathered through evaluation by the Director and Elementary school staff and a questionnaire indicated the following accomplishments:
- A community of professionals among pre-service and in-service teachers was formed. Student teachers no longer felt isolated in their experience.
- Student teachers reported an increased opportunity to reflect on what they were learning. They had more time at home to evaluate teaching they observed and teaching they did and think about it and then write thoughtful discussion questions and responses to their university supervisor. The number of contacts between student teachers and university supervisor doubled when compared to a semester without telecommunications.
- The student teachers felt the system was a boost to their self- esteem, they took great pride in their telecommunication accomplishments and were enthusiastic about the prospect of continuing to use computers in elementary classrooms when they were hired.
- All participants using the conferencing system were able to discuss in depth topics such as classroom management, lesson ideas, job joys and frustrations, job opportunities and the most important conference the lounge where all topics were accepted and welcomed and parties and get-togethers planned and scheduled.
- Finally the university supervisor’s all really appreciated the ability to preview student’s lesson plans prior to visiting the school for observation. They also found it a great timesaver to be able to be alerted by the student teacher of last minute assemblies or field trips that required scheduled observation changes. In the past many miles would have been driven only to find out that a schedule change made classroom observation impossible on a given day.
Student teaching has consistently been identified as the most significant element in the teacher preparation process. It provides a great opportunity to apply theory to practice in a more intense and prolonged situation than any prior preparation experiences. Our nation is presently facing a coming teacher shortage and the facts of teacher retention are a serious problem. Fifteen percent of teachers leave the profession by the end of the first year of teaching and another 25% during the first three years. It is vital that a close network of professional support between pre-service, in-service and university teachers be strengthened. TeacherNet accomplished just that strengthening. All participants involved felt that they knew each other better than they had ever known their colleagues before. The student teachers each now not only had the master teacher they were assigned to communicate with but received messages, ideas and communication from any of the other master teachers on TeacherNet. Some of the students communicated with teachers from other states. The University of Virginia, Illinois and Michigan are just a few others who have student teachers in similar programs. This next year we’d like to get our international exchange student teachers at Winchester England involved in this program.
The only difficulty encountered in the project was the availability of computers and the need to collect all the equipment and myriads of cords and connections, store them, organize them and have them ready for the next group. It is not cost effective or are their funds for the 240 more computers needed to make this program available to all student teaching candidates and all university supervision faculty. However the number of new students arriving in the program already owning their own computer means that for the cost of training, software and a modem many more students can take advantage of this technological support system. GTE is considering helping us get more phone lines at the elementary school sites, and continued business support should help programs like this grow. Most of all the benefactors of TeacherNet were the student teachers who were very reluctant to part with their Mac and determine to continue being a computer using educator and the elementary students who caught the enthusiasm for the computer from them. A video tape of the project was made to help others learn about the project. After finishing filming a segment in the kindergarten where the kindergarten teacher and student teacher explained telecommunications to 30 kindergarteners the teacher was heard to comment, “Why without the computers Miss Oh and I wouldn’t know what to do!” Thank goodness for the computers, American education was saved for the day! I think the “Net” result was positive and we now have more teachers who will be vitally interested in and supportive of the California Technology Project and the integration of technology in their classrooms.
For further information about starting a TeacherNet project, having training on it or purchasing the TeacherNet video contact:
Dr. Jean M. Casey Project Director CSULB Long Beach 1250 S. Bellflower Blvd. ED2-272 Long Beach, CA 90840 213-985-5795