Education faculty aim to encourage productive use of new technologies in the classroom

Camarillo, Calif., Sept. 22, 2011 – Three CSU Channel Islands (CI) School of Education faculty members who were awarded fellowships and a grant from Google are developing a program to help teachers use technology more effectively in the classroom.

CI Professors Dr. Jeanne Grier, Associate Professor Dr. Jill Leafstedt and Adjunct Lecturer Catharine Reznicek of the Ventura County Office of Education earned fellowships to take part in Google’s first-ever Faculty Institute, held over the summer at its Mountain View headquarters. The three-day institute explored ways of using new technologies to enhance student learning. It brought together Google staff with 39 faculty members from 19 CSUs, Stanford and UC Berkeley, along with innovative teachers from across California, for expert advice, hands-on workshops, case studies and brainstorming.

Google focused on CSU because CSU programs credential 60 percent of California’s teachers – or 10 percent of all U.S. K-12 teachers.

"There is so much technology available to educators today, but unless they learn how to use it effectively, it does little to change what is happening in our classrooms,” said Google Education Research Engineering Manager Nina Kim Schultz. “Without the right training and inspiration, interactive displays become merely expensive projection screens, and laptops simply replace paper rather than shifting the way teachers teach and students learn. There’s an essential challenge to help teachers develop the dispositions and confidence to be lifelong evaluators, learners and teachers of technology, instead of continuing to rely on traditional skill sets that will soon be outdated."

While at the Institute, Grier, Leafstedt and Reznicek developed the idea for UDTech, an online program that helps teachers create lesson plans using technology to engage all different types of learners in the classroom. The concept is based on applying the principles of universal design, which are rooted in engineering and architecture, to technology in education.

"Teachers often make their lesson plans and then adapt them for different learners and use technology as an 'add-on,'" said Grier. “Our hope is that UDTech will help teachers build a game plan for using new, interactive technologies so that their subject matter is more accessible and engaging to everyone in the classroom.”

Google funded the proposal with a $20,000 grant and has asked the three faculty members to return in May to present their project. Grier, Leafstedt and Reznicek plan to pilot the program with teaching credential candidates at CI and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, in the spring. Ultimately, they hope to make UDTech available to the entire CSU system and the broader education community.

“Our experience with Google really opened our eyes about how technology, employed purposefully, can provide a much more profound learning experience,” said Leafstedt. “As educators, it’s our responsibility to adapt to changing technologies. We can’t afford to miss opportunities to connect with students and engage them on their terms.”

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About California State University Channel Islands
CSU Channel Islands (CI) is the only four-year, public university in Ventura County and is known for its interdisciplinary, multicultural and international perspectives, and its emphasis on experiential and service learning. CI's strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master's degrees. Students benefit from individual attention, up-to-date technology, and classroom instruction augmented by outstanding faculty research. CI has been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Connect with and learn more about CI by visiting CI's Social Media.