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New York City
November 2002

More Questions than Answers Regarding Teaching and Technology
By Kim Brown

What do electronic football, a Japanese teenager and a first year teacher have in common? Professor Allen D. Glenn did great impressions of all three during his lecture, “Technology and Teacher Educators.”

The speech was part of the culminating event of NetTech-Making Technology Work in our Schools: A Forum for Education Leaders and Decision Makers. The Conference was held recently at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

If educators came looking for ways to integrate technology and teacher education, Glenn did not provide them. Instead, the Dean Emeritus and University of Washington College of Education Professor doled out questions for deans, professors and administrators.

“If you ask the wrong question the right answer won’t help,” Glenn said, then laughed, “actually, I did that on my dissertation.”

Allen D. Glenn began his career teaching at a public junior high school in Kansas. During the 70s he saw how computers allowed for engaging simulations of real life problems in his social studies classroom. He was hooked. Since then he has earned his Ph.D. in education and focused much of his research on the use of technology to instruct students. He has served on several educational technology panels for the U.S. Office of Education and co-authored “Restructuring Schools with Technology.”

According to Glenn, there are many questions that educational leaders need to ask themselves about the use of technology in teacher education programs. There are questions about personal skills like, “what messages are being sent via my office about the use of technology?” Then there are questions about resources; “what is being spent to support technology in the unit?” There are questions about hiring new faculty; “what funds are available to provide new technologies for new faculty?” The list goes on.

In an energetic lecture that was part scholarly and part stand up comedy, Glenn covered three main areas: technology today, technology and teacher education and the future, albeit in general terms.

“The democratization of technology has happened,” Glenn declared when he spoke about technology today. As an example he cited Japan jokingly, “It is now a law in Japan you have to have a cell phone, you have to have it on and you have to use it with two thumbs to send messages.”

He also pointed out one of the main differences between educators and students when it comes to technology. Professors and teachers remember a time before the Internet, whereas students don’t. “Kids believe high tech is now my tech,” he said.

Pre-service teachers are also better prepared to use technology as a part of instruction. “Teachers are better, they’re smarter, they can do more,” Glenn said.

Glenn ended the “Technology Today” part of his lecture by telling the audience that if they want to know where technology is going all they need to do is look at a Playstation. “Remember the first electronic football game?” he asked, then made beeping noises and moved like a robot across the stage. “We thought that was cool. Now you can see the expressions on players’ faces.”

When it comes to technology and teacher education, Glenn says it is no longer just the hardware that’s important but the leadership. Although he admits to hating the word “vision” he also says there is something powerful about it. Educational leaders need to define their vision about technology’s role in the department before allocating resources, hiring new faculty or implementing change.

It is also important to have staff that can maintain the infrastructure. “You better have someone who says ‘you can’t plug that into that, if you do that you’re going to die.’”

Glenn insists that tomorrow’s professors will have new skills and will need to think about classroom instruction in new ways. The teacher will not only pose questions, he will also be a co-learner in his classroom as more students have advanced technology skills.

The role of information technology (IT) is also changing. Right now IT is best at providing access to information, but Glenn says the emergence of high speed Internet is increasing the possibilities for educators. Kids can now come together from distant regions to create collaborative projects.

Educators must ensure government policy makers that technology is more than hardware and gimmicks, Glenn says. For that to happen the work of educators and its impact needs to be documented.

“The only choice we face is who will shape this new education environment and who will profit from it,” he said. And he left the audience with one final question. “Who better than us?”#

Allen D. Glenn can be reached at Miller Hall, Box 353600, Seattle WA 98195, 206-221-4790, aglenn@u.washington.edu

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