SITE Launches Professional Development Program: An Interview with David Slykhuis 

While teachers across the globe are scrambling to pivot towards online teaching and learning, SITE–Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education is embarking on a new, timely endeavor: A competence-driven professional development course series for teacher educators on integrating and leveraging digital technologies for learning.  

The international non-profit organization SITE–Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education promotes the development and dissemination of theoretical knowledge, conceptual research, and professional practice knowledge through the annual SITE conference, books, collaborative projects with other organizations, and the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education.  

In 2017, leading members of SITE developed Teacher Educator Technology Competencies (TETCs) to support the redesign of teacher education programs and to prepare educators to model and integrate technology in their teaching (cf. Foulger, Graziano, Schmidt-Crawford, & Slykhuis 2017). The TETCs represent diverse perspectives from an array of teacher educators and renowned organizations such as ISTEAACTE and the US Department of Education Office of Educational Technology.  

SITE now offers four online self-paced professional development courses for educator who want to expand their technology competencies: 

The courses can be taken as a bundle orthat leads to a certificate, or individually to focus on a specific set of competenciesA certificate from SITE is issued for every course successfully completed. 

For AACE Review, I had the pleasure to talk to one of the conceptual masterminds behind the new professional development certificate program: Prof. Dr. David Slykhuis, past president of SITE, professor of Science Education at the University of Northern Colorado, assistant dean of the College of Natural and Health Science and director of the UNC Mathematics and Science Teaching (MAST) Institute. Slykhuis’ research focuses on technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge (TPACK) in science education.

It seems that there never was a better time for professional development on teaching with technology. What sets SITE’s offering apart from other professional development opportunities? 

What is unique about SITE’s offering is that is aimed directly at teacher educators. The courses look at some of the unique aspects of teacher education and how teacher educators should not only model and use educational technology but also provide opportunities for teacher candidates to use technology as well. This professional development also leads teacher educators through steps to make changes to specific assignments or aspects to their class so there is immediate application of what is learned.  

Who do you envision as a typical participant? Did you design the program with teachers and administrators from the SITE community in mind? Have community members informed the development? 

We envision the typical participant being any faculty member involved in teacher education. This could be anyone from a content methods professor, a foundations of education professor, or someone involved in field placements.  

The teacher educator field helped inform the development of the TETCs at two different stages. The initial call for research around technology competencies and in the final stage when the TETCs were available for review and feedback. You can learn more about the unique research methods used in the development of the TETCs in CITE Journal.

Are there elements of the certificate program that you feel will be specifically helpful to educators for navigating the pandemic? 

It is important that teacher educators are well versed in all aspects of technology. However, TETC #4 is dedicated to the use of online tools and TETC #7 is focused on effective strategies for teaching in an online environment. Both of those are especially relevant right now! 

The technology landscape is ever changing, and it’s tough to stay ahead of the technology curve. How do you plan to keep the classes up-to-date? Perhaps more important, which elements are timeless classics? 

The TETCs and the related PD were created so that they were no tool specific. This was done particularly to address the ever-changing educational technology landscape. While we know the TETCs will have to be updated at some point, we hope they stand test of time quite will. Certainly, TETC #9 about using technology in a legal, ethical and socially responsible way and TETC #10 about the need for continued professional development will both help keep teacher educators ahead of the technology curve. 

What are some upcoming research endeavors that you are working on? Will technology competencies play a role? 

I am currently co-chairing the Learning Keeps Going Higher Education group that was created in response to the pandemic. The TETCs have played a role in the work as they provide an excellent resource for teacher educators.  

I will continue to work on TETC related research around technology infusion  

Lastly, do you have technology advice that every teacher candidate should take to heart? 

While TETCs were created for teacher educators, the goal is that having teacher educators competent in technology would produce teacher candidates prepared to use technology effectively in their future classrooms.  

My biggest piece of advice for teacher candidates on using technology is don’t be afraid to try! You don’t need to be an expert in the technology in order to use it in your classroom, you and your students can figure it out together and it can still be effective! 

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