WCU receives federal technology training grant to assist teachers

CULLOWHEE — A grant of almost $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Education will allow Western Carolina University and three other Western North Carolina colleges to provide technology training for their teacher education faculty and area public school teachers.

Western will team up with Appalachian State University, the University of North Carolina at Asheville and Warren Wilson College in a consortium called the Appalachian Rural Teacher Technology Alliance (ARTTA). The Department of Education awarded the alliance $374,272 for the first year of the three-year project.

The four institutions will use the grant money to develop technology initiatives to strengthen teaching and learning practices for their faculty members who instruct education students on campus, and for cooperating public school teachers who work with student-teachers and interns during their pre-service training. Each alliance institution will implement different programs in the areas they serve, and then share their successes with each other.

“This grant will allow us to do some very exciting things that will enhance our capacity to provide quality service to the schools of our region,” said A. Michael Dougherty, dean of Western’s College of Education and Allied Professions.

Beginning in the fall, and continuing next spring, WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions will host technology portfolio evaluation workshops. WCU teacher education faculty and cooperating teachers from the public schools will receive instruction on how to assess the state-mandated student technology portfolios required for all teacher education students as part of state licensure procedures.

Professional development seminars will be held to bring the cooperating teachers and WCU faculty together to develop strategies to introduce teacher education students to technology integration practices in their course work at WCU, and to enable the students to facilitate educational technology during their student teaching and internship experiences in the public schools.

The grant will permit an expansion of a project involving Fairview Elementary School in Jackson County and Apple Computer in which the partners are experimenting with wireless technology as it relates to teaching and learning, as well as its use in the supervision of teacher interns. That project will be expanded to include other schools.

“In my opinion, this grant will assist us in ensuring that the teachers we train are even better prepared to help the students in our schools learn more effectively,” Dougherty said. “We will be able to provide professional development activities for our own faculty, as well as for our colleagues in the public schools. Through this grant we will be able to take one more step toward assuring that the region’s public school students are prepared for the challenges they will face as technology continues to impact Western North Carolina. As the International Society for Technology in Education has noted: To live, learn and work successfully in an increasingly complex and information rich society, students and teachers must use technology effectively,'” Dougherty said.

The Department of Education grant was among four training grants awarded to North Carolina schools by the department’s Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology grants program. A total of 122 grants were awarded nationwide to improve teachers’ use of computers and the Internet.