Teachers as Technologist: How the University of Iowa College of Education is Preparing New Students

ACT and the University of Iowa (UI) College of Education have a long history together, dating back to E.F. Lindquist. Lindquist was a professor at the UI College of Education, a pioneer for standardized testing, and later became the co-founder of ACT. Lindquist was not only an innovator for standardized testing, he also was an early adopter of technology inventing the first optical scanner, allowing tests to be scored by equipment rather than by hand. Lindquist’s impact is significant and still felt today with two prominent buildings honoring his legacy—The Lindquist Center at UI’s College of Education and the Lindquist Building on the ACT campus.

Technology has come a long way since Lindquist left his mark and continues to rapidly evolve and change the face of testing and education. In this ever-changing environment, teachers are expected to be expert technologists, but many teachers and students who are studying education across our nation do not have access to technology. The barrier of not having access to technology creates a real disadvantage for our classroom teachers and new teachers entering the classroom. If we do not prepare our classroom teachers to be technologists, how can we expect them to expose students, specifically low-income and underserved populations, to technology? It starts with upskilling our teachers and encouraging new teachers to take the lead on closing this gap in technology.

According to a recent article on Edudemic, “in an attempt to level the playing field for low-income students, teachers may scale back on using technology inside and outside the classroom. But that approach comes at a cost for all students; they’re missing out on the opportunity to learn valuable digital literacy and tech skills. Instead, schools and districts must start to invest more in education technology, ensuring all students have access to the tools they need, while all teachers have the support and training necessary to confidently use new technologies in the classroom.”

What can be done to better prepare teachers to become technologists? A project at the UI College of Education is tackling this problem and encouraging pre-service teachers to remain literate in technology, solidifying their place at the head of the tech-savvy class with hopes they bring these skills into future classrooms. In a ceremony held in February 2017, around 100 newly-admitted Teacher Education Program students received Google Chromebooks, thanks to the generosity of the Baker Digital Teacher Project, which is supported by UI alumnus, Linda R. Baker. By providing Chromebooks to students in the program, UI is arming Iowa’s upcoming teachers with digital skills and placing an importance on technology from the start.

“This is amazing and totally unexpected,” says Ivey Blinten, a first-year Teacher Education Program student from Greenwich, Connecticut, who is interested in elementary education. “I really think that technology is the future and so many classrooms have so much technology integrated into them. So, for us to be able to get these and be able to learn about them and use them, I think it’s going to make a great impact for our classrooms someday.”

The UI College of Education believes “it is important for newly-admitted students in the Teacher Education Program to be immersed in technology that is being used in classrooms as soon as they enroll at the UI College of Education. This early immersion helps students become familiar with the technology, allows them to use it in their own studies, and helps them to incorporate it into their practicum and student teaching experiences later in their collegiate careers.” Lastly, providing and encouraging the use of technology will help new teachers expose technologies to our most vulnerable populations ensuring they are not left behind in a rapidly changing technological world.