WMU News

Grants promote integration of technology in classroom

Sept. 3, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- A national effort to promote better use of technology in the classroom has landed Western Michigan University's College of Education more than $1.1 million in grants as well as a mention by President Bill Clinton.

The two grants awarded to WMU are part of 122 new federal grants totaling $43 million that were announced recently by President Clinton in a weekly radio address. In announcing the 122 grants, Clinton singled out two grants as examples--one at WMU and the other at San Diego State University.

The President reported to the nation that "a grant to Western Michigan University will be used to build partnerships with business leaders and local school districts to help future teachers use technology in the classroom."

Funded through the Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology program, known as PT-3, the 122 grant recipients are joining forces with more than 900 partners across the country, uniting colleges and universities with elementary and secondary schools, community-based organizations, and technology companies. The U.S. Department of Education is funding these programs to fuel a nationwide movement for improved teacher preparation and enhanced readiness of new teachers to effectively guide learning in technology and information-rich environments.

WMU also is a participant, along with four other universities and colleges as partners, in a second PT-3 grant project this year. The initiative is part of a $2,054,922 national grant project supported by the ThinkQuest Foundation of Armonk, N.Y., and is one of 12 grants awarded as catalysts to expand teacher preparation innovations and teacher certification reforms. Both types of grants are awarded for three years and are part of a federal commitment of $128 million over three years. Additional matching commitments will come from partners, totaling $130 million over the life of all of the 122 grants.

The primary PT-3 grant to WMU is an implementation grant of about $1.1 million over three years. The WMU portion of the ThinkQuest catalyst grant is for $15,000 a year, or $45,000 over three years. The total of both grants over three years is $1,153,211.

Grants to WMU are to a consortium made up of the University, local schools and high-tech businesses. The consortium is led by the University's Merze Tate Center for Research on School Reform and Dr. Robert Leneway, a senior principal research associate in the center and the project's director. The first type of PT-3 grant received is one of 110 awards made to implement specific teacher preparation improvements at colleges and universities around the country. The WMU initiative will be carried out with support from several WMU colleges including Education, Arts and Sciences, and Fine Arts, as well as the Office of Information Technology. The effort is designed to ensure that all WMU students who become certified teachers meet the newly published national technology standards for teachers using and integrating technology in their classrooms.

The University is calling its primary implementation grant project Collaborative Learning and Teaching Through Technology and is joining together with high-tech corporations, a foundation that promotes student use of the Internet and 50 Southwest Michigan schools. Corporate partners are IBM and Microsoft. Microsoft is donating licensing fees for two student computer labs to the tune of $50,000 a year, giving students access to many of Microsoft's products. IBM is awarding a $200,000 equipment and materials grant to develop a national online support center to prepare people with disabilities for careers in information technology as well as enhance the technology skills of the teachers who serve them.

In addition to Leneway, Dr. Howard Poole, professor of educational studies, will work with College of Education students and faculty and Dr. Allen Carey-Webb, associate professor of English, will work with faculty from the other WMU colleges that prepare future teachers. An additional staff member will be hired to work with about 700 WMU intern teachers who work in 12 Southwest Michigan school districts, as well as with their supervising teachers.

"One of the things that is happening is that technology standards have changed," Leneway says, "so that as technology evolves, what may have been a minimum standard 10 years ago is no longer enough. Too often we continue to model the use of the 20th century blackboard to teach 21st century skills needed for 21st century jobs.

"With this national grant initiative, " Leneway continues, "the U.S. Department of Education is recognizing that education is rapidly moving from a teacher-student model of learning to a new model of networked learning communities, with teachers and students linked together through technology to each other as well as other learning networks." These networks may include students and teachers from other schools as well as other collaborative groups and public and corporate representatives.

The WMU-led implementation project will promote the use of collaborative and interactive technology to help ensure that more than 800 WMU graduating pre-service teachers meet and

practice nationally recognized standards when it comes to using technology in the classroom. Independent periodic assessment, student and faculty feedback, faculty development and pre-service education curriculum support on the new standards, a portable wireless learning lab, and Web based electronic portfolios are possible strategies that will be used to carry out this massive three-year effort.

"What we're hoping to do is ensure that every student who graduates from a teacher education program at Western demonstrates effective technology use," Leneway says. "It's vitally important that new teachers be able to keep pace with the march of technology. In particular, the Internet is having a profound effect on education, making classrooms more geared toward learning through interactive technology and collaborative communication."

The ThinkQuest grant partnership with WMU and four teacher preparation programs will help provide guidance and training for teams of WMU students, K-12 students, supervising teachers and WMU faculty in developing interactive, collaborative learning modules that can be included as part of the ThinkQuest Internet library visited by more than three million users every month.

WMU also is joining hands with the ThinkQuest Foundation, which in the past has collaborated with sponsors to offer scholarships and other prizes to high school and elementary school students who develop collaborative Web projects. ThinkQuest now is extending its initiatives to pre-service school teachers.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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