ERIC Identifier: ED477732
Publication Date: 2002-12-00
Author: Cosgrove, Maryellen S.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Teaching and Teacher Education Washington DC.
Telecommunications Distance Learning and Teacher Preparation.
Distance learning (DL) is not a new phenomenon in education. First-century
didactic lessons via written letters may be the actual birth of learning in a
non-face to face mode. Formal correspondence courses can be traced back to the
early 1800's when adults learned the art of 'shorthand' by subscribing to
mail-order lessons. In 1886 Pennsylvania State University began the first series
of courses disseminated from a university campus. Twenty years later the
National University Continuing Education Association (NUCEA) was formed to
coordinate and monitor correspondence and extension courses offered nationwide.
In 1934 Iowa State University was the first institution to offer courses via
television. By using multiple media modes of interactive television, fax and
e-mail, telecommunication courses were expanded in the 1970's to offer learners
the opportunities to communicate with the instructor and other students
(Matthews, 1999). According to LePage (1996), it is important that new teachers
be familiar with the potential uses of technology. This may be accomplished by
providing opportunities to learn from and use telecommunication technologies in
teacher preparation programs.
Since contemporary children are generally proficient using computers and the
Internet, educators are wise to consider going beyond the traditional methods
and materials of instruction in an effort to meet their students' needs and
interests. From social, political and technological view points, schools need to
prepare children to live in a complex and rapidly changing world. DL can enable
them to do this by meeting and collaborating with students from other sites.
Teachers no longer focus on a single lesson to a single group of children but
rather a multitude of activities directed to diverse and distant learners (Nixon
& Leftwich, 1998). Through the use of two-way, interactive, full-motion
compressed video transmitted through fiber optics, classrooms can now be
laboratories with access to the world!
EXAMPLES OF DL IN THE TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAM
candidates need to be ready to embrace rapidly changing technologies throughout
their careers. Early exposure and hands-on use of DL affords them experiences
both as consumers and producers of this technology (Abdal-Haqq, 1995; Beck &
Wynn, 1998; Fatemi, 1999; Wang, 2000; Wright, Rice & Hildreth, 2001).
Teacher education programs can extend the "traditional" uses of DL by bringing
campus-based courses into school-based classrooms, expanding clinical
experiences to a variety of settings and requiring teacher candidates to
team-teach with distant teachers to reach more students in diverse settings
Theory with Practice
Teacher educators have long questioned the lack of practicing teachers' input
into the campus-based preparation. Goodlad (1990) refers to this phenomenon as a
disjuncture between theory and practice. By using interactive television DL
technologies, methods course instructors can now bridge the gap between college
learning and school teaching. Since observations in 'real' classrooms can create
scheduling problems, may disrupt the visited classroom and can fail to focus on
the important details of effective teaching, the use of DL can help teacher
candidates become competent observers of learning without disturbing a classroom
of students. Teacher candidates can not only observe actual teaching experiences
while their campus-based instructors point out pertinent details, they can also
participate in follow-up discussions with the classroom teachers about the
experience. This provides a common experience between the teacher candidates and
their instructors to analyze and discuss during subsequent class meetings
(Snell, 2001). Genuine linkages between theory and practice are fostered via DL
thus promoting meaningful dialogue between classroom teachers, university
instructors and the teacher candidates.
Teacher Candidates with Supervisors
During clinical experiences, great distances may separate the teacher
candidates and their university-based supervisors thus making observations
sporadic due to time-consuming commuting. This limited time ultimately hinders
the college supervisors' efforts to build mentoring relationships with the
teacher candidates. Since clinical experiences are an integral part of teacher
preparation, frequent on-going supervision with specific constructive feedback
is essential. Furthermore, the methods course instructors rarely have time to
supervise their students out in the field so potential linkages between theory
and practice are rarely made thus exacerbating the disconnect between the
campus-based courses with the school-based field experiences. But the use of DL
supplements the face-to-face observations thus affording more consistent contact
between the college supervisors and methods course instructors and the teacher
candidates (Schlagal, Trathen, & Blanton, 1996). Consequently, the
university-based faculty can become a more integral part of the field
experiences and not just occasional visitors.
Teacher Candidates with Peers
Teacher candidates can be disconnected from peers who are not only placed in
different classrooms but also in different schools and school districts. They
rarely have opportunities to plan and team-teach all the students in their
various student teaching classrooms thus limiting this capstone experience to
one site with one group of students. By enabling teacher candidates to determine
experiences that can be enhanced through DL, planning lessons with distant
teachers, and teaching a variety of students across grades, sites, and
disciplines, they will be better prepared to meet both teaching and
technological challenges throughout their careers (Schure, 1994).
CHALLENGES AND GUIDELINES
Perhaps the biggest challenges to
using DL in the teacher preparation program are accessing compatible
technologies between sites and scheduling observations. Finding the appropriate
time to observe classroom teachers, coordinating a supervised visit between the
university and school, and planning a lesson between different schools may seem
insurmountable; however, the results may be well worth the effort. Riedl and
Carroll (1993) note that teacher candidates who use technology in their
preparation programs will have direct models to follow when they step into their
According to Cosgrove (1998) teaching and learning via DL are very similar to
teaching and learning in a traditional mode. There are essential instructional
components common to both such as context analysis, behavioral objectives,
selection of materials and activities, monitoring student learning, and
assessment. However, in order to effectively balance DL technology with
teaching, researchers suggest it is advisable to follow these guidelines
(Cosgrove, 1998; Elliot, 1995; Rutherford & Grana, 1994; Willis, 1993).
1. Be prepared! Materials, aids and strategies need to be carefully
considered for activities within and among the sites. Determine that necessary
materials are readily available because a lull in the lesson while the teacher
searches for materials will cause students to become inattentive and distracted
by the cameras.
2. Immediately establish a rapport among all the students and teachers. Ask
the students to introduce themselves and share some pertinent information so
that everyone can remember their names by association. Teachers need to refer to
the students by name and not by location in order to create a cohesive class
3. Use a variety of techniques throughout the lesson. Respond to learning
styles by using a balance of print and visual aids with concise verbal
instruction. When using the overhead projector keep all written materials
concise with large print. Use black pens on white boards because colors are
difficult to see at the remote site.
4. Provide interactive opportunities not just with the instructor but also
with the other students at all sites. Cooperative learning techniques are
effective by encouraging the students within their sites to talk and participate
with each other and then share their findings with the students at the remote
5. Feedback maintains motivation and corrects misconceptions as well as
monitors student learning. Continuously check the students at the remote sites
by asking them to repeat concepts or answer questions. Direct questions to
specific students; redirect questions so that students respond to each other and
follow-up questions to elicit additional input. Remember to increase wait time
to a minimum of 15 seconds for responses to compensate for the lag in the voice
6. Use both summarization and closure techniques to continuously review the
key points of the lesson. By using the graphics camera, students' responses can
be listed, edited and reviewed.
7. Although the temptation is great, do not speak only to the on-site
students. Make a conscious effort to look into the camera to establish
eye-contact with the distant learners. Frequently ask them if they can see and
hear. Due to the compression of images, the students at the remote site appear
smaller so invite them to sit in the front seats of the distant classroom.
8. Every aspect of a telecommunications class requires an acute consciousness
of one's appearance, movements, voice and techniques because the distant site
students will truly be focused on the teacher. Using exaggerated arm and hand
movements may distract from the message.
9. The voice is a powerful instructional tool so precise enunciation and
articulation are essential. Rate needs to be considered because speaking too
slowly will cause boredom whereas speaking too quickly will sound garbled at the
distant site. And finally volume needs to be monitored. It is not necessary to
scream, but speaking too softly will make it difficult for the students at the
distant site to hear.
10. The coordination between sites is often the biggest challenge to an
effective and smooth experience to ensure that the technology does not distract
from the content. Always have a back-up plan, such as sending materials to the
distant site beforehand, because transmission failures do sometimes occur.
As in every effective lesson, teachers must establish a bond with the class,
state the objectives and purpose of the lesson, monitor progress of the
students' learning, and summarize the key points and relevancy of the concepts.
Active student interaction between sites is also necessary to enhance learning
in a DL setting (Rutherford & Grana, 1994).
A goal of DL instruction is the ability to use
both the mechanical and intellectual tools to facilitate the exchange of
information and ideas across the miles. As a result of visiting and observing a
variety of classes, aligning campus learning with school teaching and
team-teaching via DL, today's teacher candidates can learn to reflect, evaluate,
and fine-tune all their teaching both in a traditional sense as well as by using
technology. Furthermore by using DL for a variety of purposes throughout the
teacher preparation program, teacher candidates can gain the confidence and
desire to become life-long learners who will be able to adapt to emerging
technologies, schools and students of the future.
References identified with an EJ or ED number
have been abstracted and are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should
be available at most research libraries; most documents (ED) are available in
microfiche collections at more than 900 locations. Documents can also be ordered
through the ERIC Document Reproduction Service: (800) 443-ERIC.
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