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Technology and the New Professionalization of Teaching


by David Williamson Shaffer, Padraig Nash & A. R. Ruis — 2015

Background: By 2009, 99% of U.S. classrooms had access to computers, with an average ratio of 1.7 students per computer, and 40% of teachers report using computers often in their classrooms. However, while K–12 schools are investing more heavily in digital technologies, only a small fraction of this investment is going to instructional software (7%) and digital content (5%). Education policy leaders have called for increased investment in and use of digital learning technologies in K–12 education, which has significant professional implications for the 40% of teachers who use computers often and, perhaps more importantly, for the 60% who do not.

Objective: This article explores for a broad audience the changing landscape of education in the digital age, the changing roles of teachers in a technology-rich education system, and the skills, knowledge, values, and ways of thinking that teachers will need to have to support students’ social, emotional, and intellectual development in a digital learning environment.

Research Design: This analytic essay reviews and synthesizes research on learning in a digital environment, providing theoretical framework for understanding the changing landscape of learning in technology-rich environments and the consequent changes in teacher preparation that this may entail.

Conclusion: We explore the influence of educational technologies on teaching and teacher preparation by looking at three kinds of learning technology: digital workbooks that help students learn basic skills through routine practice; digital texts, such as ebooks, virtual museums, and learning games, that provide students with mediated experiences; and digital internships that simulate real-world practices, helping students learn how to solve problems in the ways that workers, scholars, and artists in the real world do. We examine the extent to which these technologies can assume different aspects of teachers’ traditional functions of assessment, tutoring, and explication. We argue that increased use of these and other digital learning technologies could allow teachers to provide more nuanced curricula based on their students’ individual needs. In particular, teachers will likely assume a new role, that of a coordinator who provides guidance through and facilitation of the learning process in individual students’ social, intellectual, and emotional contexts. We suggest this may require changes to teacher preparation and in-service professional development to help both new and experienced teachers succeed in an ever-changing digital learning environment, as well as new methods of evaluating teacher performance that account for more than student achievement on standardized tests.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 117 Number 12, 2015, p. 1-30
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18149, Date Accessed: 8/20/2017 11:31:50 AM

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About the Author
  • David Shaffer
    University of Wisconsin–Madison
    E-mail Author
    DAVID WILLIAMSON SHAFFER is Professor of Educational Psychology and Learning Sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the author of How Computer Games Help Children Learn. He studies and develops digital simulations and assessment tools to help students learn science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
  • Padraig Nash
    Lawrence Hall of Science
    E-mail Author
    PADRAIG NASH is Digital Learning Specialist in the Learning Design Group at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, California, where he designs computer-based science and engineering curricula, platforms, and tools for K–8 classrooms. He is also a doctoral candidate in the Learning Sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he studies mentoring in virtual internships.
  • A. R. Ruis
    Wisconsin Center for Education Research
    E-mail Author
    A. R. RUIS is a member of the Epistemic Games Group in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and a Fellow of the Medical History and Bioethics Department, University of Wisconsin–Madison. He studies the history of science, medicine, and education.
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