posted February 27, 2002

Education Department Receives National Award

The department of education at Hope College has received one of only six "Distinguished Achievement Awards" nationwide for effectively blending technology into the college's teacher education program.

The awards were presented by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to institutions "exhibiting exemplary models" for integrating the society's "National Educational Technology Standards" (NETS) for Teachers. The six programs were honored during a luncheon on Tuesday, Feb. 26, during the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, held in New York City.

The ISTE has developed standards to help students learn to use technology effectively, not only in school but in life beyond the classroom as well. A set of related standards for teachers emphasizes their role in enabling students to do so. The teacher standards include understanding of technology operations and concepts; the ability to plan learning experiences supported by technology; and the ability to apply technology in professional development, communicating with others and assessing students' achievement.

Correspondingly, the department of education at Hope has weaved technology throughout its curriculum. The process began in 1993, as the department began to consider ways that technology could be blended naturally into the teacher education program.

"We decided that we would take these standards and see how well they would support what we were already doing in our classes," said Susan Cherup, professor of education, who has played a leadership role in the process. "We have now totally integrated the technology standards for everything we're doing."

The reason for the approach, according to Cherup, is two-fold: first, to make technology an on-going part of the students' experience, rather than an add-on that might be forgotten or seem irrelevant; and, second, to give them a chance to use technology just as they can when they graduate and become teaching professionals.

For example, students in one of the department's introductory classes now use PowerPoint to prepare and present the journals that have long been a requirement of the courses. In an upper-level class, students learn and use the spread sheet program Excel to create and maintain a grade book for their field placement. The department recently acquired a digital video camera, to provide another option for students as they tap the computer's potential in creating reports and making presentations.

Cherup also hopes that the approach helps keep the role of technology in perspective: that it isn't a replacement for good teaching, but a tool to complement it; an additional way to reach students and help them achieve. "The technology won't make you a good teacher," she said. "You have to go in and enhance the learning. But I can see how it's helping students succeed."

The college's teacher education program prepares Hope students to teach in elementary and secondary schools. Students in the program progress through three levels of preparation: introductory courses, professional sequence courses and a professional semester that includes a full- time student-teaching experience. The department has 11 full-time and two half-time faculty, with approximately 525 students enrolled in the program.

This is the first year that the ISTE has presented the "Distinguished Achievement Award." In addition to Hope, the schools with programs honored included: Arizona State University West; Ohio State University-Mansfield; University of Texas-Austin; University of Virginia; and Wake Forest University.