Partnering to integrate technology and teaching

Partnering to integrate technology and teaching

27 Apr 2016    

Preparing the next generation of teachers to effectively use technology in the classroom is the driving force behind Tech EDGE. But it’s not the only objective. The initiative of the Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education is stretching across Nebraska and making an impact as far away as China.

Associate Professor Guy Trainin is on a mission to make technology a seamless effort that isn’t considered an add-on to what teachers are already doing, but rather an integrated tool that is a familiar and effortless friend. Trainin is passionate about technology because he believes it is the key to helping today’s students learn the skills they need to be successful in an ever-changing world.

“The skills that students need to prepare them for the demands of college and careers have changed,” says Trainin. “We have to prepare our teachers to deliver these new skills.”

Guy Trainin
Guy Trainin, associate professor in Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education, is on a mission to make iPads and other technology seamlessly integrated into teacher education and classroom instruction. (Photo by Craig Chandler, University Communications.)

To help do that, Trainin and colleagues, including faculty affiliate Laurie Friedrich, developed Tech EDGE. Originally launched with the assistance of two teacher quality grants from the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, Tech EDGE’s mission is “to create a generation of teachers who are effective and confident using new technologies to prepare the students of Nebraska to participate and lead in tomorrow’s global society.”

Tech EDGE conferences are held four times a year, usually on the UNL campus. It brings together UNL faculty and students and K-12 teachers from across the state. “We’re pulling resources from everywhere,” says Trainin about the conferences. “The only way we’re going to move forward is by collaborating. We can have a first-year teacher presenting or a 30-year veteran.”

Trainin is clear to point out that this is not about introducing new technology tools or apps. While they do that, it’s really about learning. “”We don’t focus on the tools, but big ideas and how to adapt,” he said. “For me, any use of technology has to be primarily about learning. It’s not all about making life easier for the teacher, although that’s important. It’s really about student learning and we always need to keep that front and center. The best technology we have in education is teachers. Everything else is just a way to help teachers make the most of it.”

Tech EDGE also includes a library of video podcasts on the Tech EDGE YouTube channel. These videos include practical ideas on how to use iPads to enhance instruction in a variety of subjects. There are nearly 200 “iPads in the Classroom” programs. The channel also is an archive for past Tech EDGE conferences and other videos all targeted on using technology effectively to enhance teaching and learning. With the help of a UNL graduate student who is a native of China, Tech EDGE has even created video resources presented in Chinese for teachers in China.

Guy Trainin in China.
The Tech EDGE outreach in China has included working with a first grade classroom the past two and a half years in Linzi Shandong Province. With help from Tech EDGE, the class integrated iPads into clasroom instruction. Trainin visited the class in January 2015.

“We want to be available to every school in Nebraska and beyond, no matter how big or small, public or parochial,” Trainin says. “We’re not exclusive in any way. We have worked with small rural schools in the panhandle and urban schools in Omaha. ”

The opportunities for Tech EDGE seem endless, and Trainin says he wants the initiative to continue in the future. Additional funding would be helpful, but he suggests a lack of funding won’t stop Tech EDGE.

In February, on behalf of UNL, Trainin and Friedrich accepted the 2016 Best Practice Award for the Innovative Use of Technology Award from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. The award recognized Tech EDGE for leading the way in preparing teacher educators, future teachers and practicing teachers and for its partnerships with schools and other institutions of higher education.