Technology of all kinds is rapidly changing our world. In both teacher preparation institutions and in partner schools, educational technologies are impacting the curriculum in profound ways.
At Thomas Metcalf (preK through grade 8) Laboratory School, innovative technology initiatives help to ensure pre-service teachers and faculty associates teaching in the Laboratory Schools receive the training and support they need to be effective for all 21st century learners.
“We have been establishing a technological foundation here that our teachers can rely upon when trying to find a way to integrate technology in the classroom,” said Wesley Matejka, Metcalf’s technology coordinator.
To provide successful technology environments, Metcalf has invested in technology support faculty and staff, outfitted each classroom with cutting edge teaching tools, and provided individualized consultation for faculty associates on selecting and implementing current educational technologies in their classrooms.
“We have moved to a process with our teachers where, if they want to adopt something new, they are required to assess the curricular needs first,” said Amy Fritson-Coffman, principal of Metcalf. “Then, together, we determine the tool that can serve those needs.”
During the 2011–2012 school year, Metcalf launched an iPad initiative that put the device in the hands of every faculty and staff member. In order to get comfortable with the tool, they were simply told to “go play!”
“We told them to take it home, take pictures with it, surf the Web, check out their email, download apps, and find a way to enjoy the technology itself before we asked them to do more,” said Matejka.
Previous to this phase of the initiative, the value of the device was evaluated in an unlikely setting—a preschool classroom.
“While one-to-one iPad initiatives are not new, we found that the preschool level was a place where other schools hadn’t experimented with the technology yet,” said Matejka.
In the pilot of the iPad initiative, preschool teacher Cassandra Mattoon saw how quickly her students caught on to the iPads. As an experienced teacher, Mattoon knows that learning time outside of the classroom is critical for young children, so she decided to write a grant of her own to purchase six additional iPads. She received the grant and now her students can bring the iPads home to use.
“Parents told her that their child was teaching them how to use applications,” said Matejka.
Mattoon’s experience and positive outcomes with the technology have made her a knowledgeable resource for her colleagues and pre-service teachers at Metcalf. She also has served as a valuable collaborator for COE faculty on iPad integration research. Metcalf and University High School serve as living laboratories where Illinois State pre-service educators see model practices in action, including the effective use of educational technologies.
“We are who we are because we are a laboratory school—because of our relationship with the College of Education,” said Matejka.