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State Grant Prepares Future Teachers For Technology (Released: 11/09/00)

By Janice Palmer, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- A large sign bearing the message "Thank You Connecticut" will be displayed on Friday, Nov. 10, by students at the University of Connecticut's Neag School of Education.

Sixty-four students in the teacher preparation program are receiving new laptop computers to use until they graduate. The pilot program is funded by a $150,000 grant from Connecticut's Department of Information Technology in an effort to integrate technology into the public school curriculum.

To demonstrate appreciation for the state's investment, the Neag School of Education is holding a kickoff event at the Konover Auditorium in the Thomas R. Dodd Center at noon. Students will display their new laptops and a large thank you sign.

"This is an investment that will reap rewards for years to come," says Richard Schwab, dean of the school. "When our students enter the classroom as teachers, they will be trained in the latest technology and capable of using it to benefit their students."

Computers and the Internet offer educators a multitude of opportunities to enhance classroom activities and learning. But a 1999 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics showed that 80 percent of K-12 teachers in the U.S. are uncomfortable using technology for instruction.

To be selected for the project, each student responded to a series of questions about how they would use the computer to facilitate their learning as students, how it would affect their ability as classroom teachers, and how it would benefit their future students. A committee of Neag School of Education faculty members ranked the responses and the top scorers are receiving the computers.

In accepting the laptops, students are expected to become mentors to their classmates and future colleagues, says Scott Brown, who is head of the educational psychology department and is leading the initiative.

"We'll have 64 agents for change out there. Not only will computer and Internet knowledge benefit their work in the classroom, we anticipate that teachers who haven't been exposed to the technology will turn to our students for help," he says.

During the next three years, Brown and several colleagues will conduct qualitative and quantitative studies to track the students' abilities and accomplishments in relation to those who do not have laptops.

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