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UC Conference Marks Progress of Educational Technology Initiative

Date: Oct. 2, 2001
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Archive: General News

Current and future teachers in the Cincinnati area are effectively using technology to enhance student learning through a $2.7 million project led by the University of Cincinnati. The three-year Comprehensive Educational Restructuring Technology and Infusion Initiative (CERTI 2) not only aims to infuse technology in the UC teaching program to provide highly trained teachers, but also strives to bridge the Digital Divide affecting urban schools. The success of the initiative, as well as its future aspirations, were examined at the second annual technology conference held Sept. 28 at Kingsgate Conference Center. The theme of the two-day conference was Equity, Innovation and Excellence in Digital Education.

CERTI 2 is an addition to UC's award-winning teacher training program and includes professional development in technology for UC faculty, education students and public school teachers that work with UC's teacher interns. Tech Cat Joy Kumar Benzigar, front, assists at the summer technology instituteMore than 10 partners are providing half of the funding for the initiative, including the UC College of Education, McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, Cincinnati Public Schools, Kent State University, Iowa State University, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, WCET-TV, Ohio SchoolNET and Generation www.Y. The remaining half of the funding is provided by a grant through the U.S. Department of Education's Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology (PT 3) initiative.

CERTI 2 project director Joyce Pittman, UC assistant professor of educational technology, told conference attendees the initiative reflects the federal government's campaign to Leave No Child Behind. "If we do not have equal opportunities to the same resources, we run the risk of leaving children behind. We need a powerful and systemic vision for technology in our homes, schools and classrooms to create educational equity for all people, making technology available for teachers and teacher educators."

US Representative Steve Chabot opened the conference, saying the federal government has provided 35 federal programs to build IT schools and libraries, but that little research has been conducted to show which programs are providing the best results. CERTI 2 is showing results and the initiative constantly undergoes internal and external assessment.

"Of the 150 PT 3 grants awarded, five were selected as outstanding models of what PT 3 is all about, and UC was one of the five programs featured in a videotape of the model programs" said CERTI 2 associate director Jeff Gordon, UC professor of teacher education.

Cathy Maltbie, a research associate for the UC Evaluation Services Center, led the internal evaluation of CERTI 2, explaining the first year of the initiative, launched in summer, 2000, focused on educational restructuring and professional development for technology infusion. Results included the establishment of faculty-student learning partnerships, student and faculty development through the annual summer institute for technology training, practice and skill building. Added technology-related curriculum as a result of CERTI 2 included a course developed by Assistant Professor Joyce Pittman on how to integrate technology across different teaching levels (early childhood, middle school, high school), as well as a middle childhood education technology course developed by UC Associate Professor Janet Bohren.

External evaluator Gary Phye of Iowa State University and director of Star Schools Evaluation Program said the first year of the program received excellent participation from education and A&S faculty. He added 100 percent of the participating faculty had access to computers in their homes and the Internet in their office. As for student surveys, Phye said senior and post baccalaureate students showed the most extensive use of Internet research and word processing assignments. He also added there may be a tendency to overestimate students' knowledge of technology when they first come into the university.

"While they may be comfortable using Photoshop for personal reasons, they may not be familiar with Blackboard. What we're asking them to do with the software packages is to learning something now for the future. They may know a lot about computers, but do they know a lot about pedagogical software?"

The second phase of integration will include UC faculty, mentors in partner schools and the UC education students, with additional professional development opportunities and the addition of the student electronic portfolio, demonstrating how they've mastered using teaching technology. Clermont and Warren County Educational Centers will be contributing partners as the initiative moves into those districts and as the initiative expands distance and online learning opportunities.

CERTI 2 co-director Ted Fowler, professor of teacher education, stressed that as teachers are continually challenged to improve instruction, they must continue to strive for excellence in their approach to using technology, adding variety, clarity and keeping students actively engaged in the learning process.

"Education has long been the foundation of the country in moving us forward as workers, citizens and individuals," said Pittman. "What can be done to bring about a more coherent vision not just to improve math and science, but improve all areas of education? We must look at subjects from a multidisciplinary point of view and bring teachers, administrators and the community together for this coherent vision."

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