Teaching the Teachers
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Walking into classroom 210 at Renton's City University last Friday, one would be hard pressed to differentiate the class from any other being taught at that time. The difference would only become apparent walking up to the computer terminals and discovering teachers from all over the state working on interactive lesson plans.
Microsoft has teamed up with Santa Clara-based Intel to launch their Teach to the Future program, a worldwide initiative to address the barriers teachers face in effectively integrating computer technology into the classroom. The first of the nationwide weeklong programs wrapped up last week at City University.
One of the major problems in implementing technology in the classroom is simply addressing teachers discomfort with computers, especially when many of their students may be significantly more expeienced in technology.
According to Robin Freedman, Public Affairs Manager for Microsoft's Education Division, one out of five teachers doesn't feel comfortable using technology in a classroom.
"We know that across the country that many, many schools have access to computers and access to computers. What is lacking is for teachers to be able to feel very comfortable using technology and being able to pass that on in the classroom," said Freedman.
One hundred local educators spent the past week not only getting over any fears they may have had about computers, but actually becoming Master Teachers, specialist in applying computer technology into education. Each Master Teacher, will then be responsible for teaching forty other instructors a similar curriculum over the next two years, thereby reaching 4,000 teachers in Washington State.
"It is a very ambitious program with a goal of reaching 400,000 classroom teachers worldwide," says Rick Meeder, Media Relations Manager for Intel. "It's an ambitious goal, but we think it's realistic and achievable."
The model is based on a trainer-to-trainer model that has been successful in the corporate world, and which Meeder anticipates spreading not only to large districts, but across all types of different schools and districts.
"The idea is to bring teachers who represent schools and districts in outlying and rural areas to get this training and take it back to their colleagues," said Meeder.
According to Jennifer Doherty, National Training Coordinator for the Institute of Computer Technology, and the instructor for last week's class, the course went well for the K-12 teachers.
"I have a wonderful group of enthusiastic teachers," said Doherty. "They are all enthusiastic about the program and know that this will really impact their teaching and the teaching that will happen in their schools."
This project also represents Microsoft's single largest donation of software, with a total value of $344 million in software, with $4 million in Washington alone.