Tech Savvy Teaching: Using Technology in the Classroom
Today's children are increasingly tech savvy and expect to use digital technology virtually everywhere, including in their schools. Their teachers want them to have technology-enriched, pedagogically sound learning experiences at school but may not always know which technology enhanced approach (such as blended learning) or tool (such as a particular software program) is the best fit for their curricular and student assessment goals.
Teresa (Terri) Gustafson has, for the past five years, been helping address the needs of Michigan K-12 teachers, school administrators, and the technology integration specialists who work with teachers, through her involvement with the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL). MACUL is a nonprofit, statewide organization dedicated to the effective use of educational technology from preschool through college level and is an affiliate of ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education.
Engaging with Partners for Mutual Benefit
Ms. Gustafson was initially inspired to get involved in MACUL through her work as assistant director of the Center for Teaching and Technology in the College of Education. However, she has also found her participation in MACUL to be extremely useful to her studies as a Ph.D. student focusing on higher education administration. In her role as assistant director, she provides technology support and development programs for faculty and graduate students. She also helps the college's student teachers who are doing their internship year in Chicago Public Schools communicate with faculty and peers and access course information and resources remotely. While the nine undergraduate students she works with provide assistance with computers and audio/video equipment, Gustafson offers consultations and workshops to help faculty and graduate students make the best use of educational technology tools and software.
Accepting an Opportunity to Represent MSU
Gustafson's initial work with MACUL was as a member of one of its special interest groups that organized MACUL's annual conference on technology for Michigan educators. In 2008, Gustafson joined MACUL's Professional Learning interest group, where she provides advice on matters such as what workshops to consider for the annual conference. In 2012, she was asked to join MACUL's sixteen member Board of Directors as the higher education representative for Michigan. "I jumped on the opportunity to run for the board," said Gustafson, "so I could represent MSU in an organization that has as far a reach as MACUL. They are everywhere when it comes to instructional technology for schools."
Extending the Reach of an Educational Technology Conference
Working with Dr. Leigh Graves Wolf, assistant professor and co-director of the Master in Educational Technology (MAET) program, Gustafson co-plans (and her office co-sponsors) the College of Education Technology Conference that takes place annually each fall. She also presents a workshop there. In addition, she requires that the nine undergraduate students she works with co-present a workshop with her, another presenter, or a graduate student.
Since being involved with MACUL, she has worked to extend the reach of this conference well beyond the East Lansing area. Gustafson noted: "When I first took over the position, the conference was more aimed at the local population and at pre-service teachers and interns. My goal was to attract more teachers, superintendents and administrators to come from Detroit, Grand Rapids, Mount Pleasant—from wherever they could come."
Gustafson also has presented half-day workshops at MACUL's annual conference, on topics like how to incorporate software into classroom activities.
Exploring How Students and Teachers Use and Understand Technology
While Gustafson's background is in broadcasting, she obtained a master's degree in educational technology in the same college where she now works. As she became more involved in administration, she decided to pursue her Ph.D. in higher education administration and is scheduled to defend her dissertation proposal in autumn 2013. In the research for her dissertation Gustafson will be exploring how the current generation of students in higher education views the technology they use as learners and as "digital natives." Focusing on students who have already completed four years of college, Gustafson wants to understand how future educators currently interact with technology, how they will use it to teach, and how they themselves use technology to learn.
Gustafson's involvement with MACUL has affected both how she does her job at the College of Education and the direction of her Ph.D. coursework and research. Regarding the impact on her job, she says, "It really has made me think about the technology and the projects I initiate here in the college, because our students are going to be teachers in those districts some day and I want to prepare them the best way I can so they have some idea when they step into the classroom, of what the technology is and how they might use it—in a way that's pedagogically sound and of benefit to their students." Her work with Michigan's K-12 teachers has allowed her "to better understand and learn about how teachers use and understand technologies for their classrooms, how administrators view the challenges that they have, and also how teachers deal with the challenges of incorporating technology into the classroom."
Advocating for Sound Educational Technology Policy
Jennifer Flaggman and Terri Gustafson look at a new feature in iOS7.
Additionally, Gustafson chairs MACUL's Advocacy Subcommittee, which stems from her interest in technology policy for K-12 and higher education. One of her goals is to make sure that Michigan lawmakers are aware of the importance of educational technology in K-12 schools; the subcommittee has a booth at the annual conference to encourage participants to contact their legislators about this topic.
Terri Gustafson wants to understand how future educators currently interact with technology, how they will use it to teach, and how they themselves use technology to learn.
MACUL executive director Ric Wiltse is appreciative of Gustafson's contributions, noting, "As our higher education representative, Terri plays a key role on the MACUL Board of Directors. She heads our efforts to advocate for educational technology at the local, state, and national level. Her grasp of the issues facing not only higher education but also the K-12 level enables our Board to keep current with legislation that will affect how teachers teach and how students learn with technology. Terri is a tremendous asset to our Board."
Gustafson is similarly enthusiastic about her experience with MACUL and admires the dedication of the Board members, many of whom are or were teachers or school administrators. "Everybody on the Board loves what they do," she says. "They're dedicated to the kids, and they wouldn't be doing it if they didn't love it."