Generative Technology for Teacher Candidates: The Assignment

Generative Technology for Teacher Candidates:  The Assignment

Dana L. Grisham

My friend and colleague, Linda Smetana, and I have been working together since about 2004. She’s a full professor at CSU East Bay (Hayward, CA), from which I retired in 2010. Linda is one of those extraordinary scholars and teacher educators who stays close to her field—she teaches one day per week in a Resource classroom in the West Contra Costa Unified School District—and also works full time at the university, where she specializes in literacy teacher education in both special and general education. Recently, Linda and I have been investigating the intersections of literacy and technology in teacher preparation together and I’d like to share with you a project we just completed and the results of which are going to be published in a book edited by Rich Ferdig and Kristine Pytash, due out later in 2013.

Our belief is that “generative” technology needs to be infused into teacher preparation. Technology in teacher preparation tends to be “silo-ed” in the programs where we teach. Currently, candidates at our university have one technology course, based on the ISTE standards, but bearing relatively little on pedagogy for teaching. By generative technology, we mean that the technology is embedded in the content of the course in teaching methods, rather than something “added on.”

The basic framework that we used for the assignment was the TPACK model (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) that has appeared in this blog before:


The TPACK model asks the teacher to look at the content of the lesson, or what we want students to learn, as well as the pedagogy (how best to teach this content), and then at the technological knowledge that might be advanced in the lesson. Where the three elements intersect is known as TPACK or the theoretical foundation and link between technology and praxis. In our courses, we have presented TPACK as the goal for integrating meaningful technology into lesson planning and teaching.

The participants in our recent study consisted of 21 teacher candidates in the fifth quarter of a seven-quarter post-baccalaureate teacher preparation program; 17 of these candidates were simultaneously completing their masters degree in education while 18 of the 21 participants were earning their education specialist and multiple subject (elementary) credentials.

In creating the assignment, we carefully considered the context for teaching of the candidates in the course, structuring the assignment so that all candidates could successfully complete it. Candidates had different levels of access to student populations. Accessibility ranged from 30 minutes a day three days a week, to the full instructional day five days a week.  Teacher candidates also taught different subjects among them: English, History, Writing, Reading, Language Arts, Study Skills, and Social Skills. To insure that teacher candidates considered all aspects of their assignment in their write-ups of the project, Linda provided guidelines for the reflection. Students were responsible for learning to use the tools they chose. Linda collected and we jointly analyzed the data. Findings from the research were uniformly positive. In fact, right now Linda is doing post-research interviews with a couple of the candidates who have really taken to the integration of technology into their teaching.

For the purposes of this post, I would like to share the assignment with you. In my next post I plan to share a couple of the projects. Teacher candidates were provided with guidelines for the technology assignment and provided with a list of potential tools that they might use for the assignment. They learned the TPACK model for planning. Below is the technology assignment from Linda’s syllabus and the list of technology tools (free or very inexpensive) provided for students to investigate. We offer this with complete permission for other teacher educators to use or modify for use in their courses.

The Generative Technology Assignment

The Common Core Standards mandate the use of technology for instruction, student work, and student response.  Students with special needs, especially those with mild moderate disabilities may not have access to technology or their access may be limited to hardware and software that may not be useful to support the learning process.

During the second month of the class, we will have three independent learning sessions.  These sessions are intended to enable you to complete the technology assignment.  This assignment focuses on integrating technology with academic skill development, core content with teacher and student creativity. The focus should be on an aspect of literacy or multiple literacies.

In this assignment you will use technology to develop a set of learning sequences for use with your students.  You may complete this assignment in groups of no more than two individuals one of the technology tools in the syllabus or one that you locate on your own.  If completed in pairs, the finished product must demonstrate increased complexity and include the work of students in both individuals’ classrooms.

Your technology assignment should enhance the learning of your students.  Prepare an introduction to the presentation to educate your viewer.  Think about the content of the presentation, reason for the your selection this medium and/or process.  Share how your presentation meets the needs of your students and reflects their knowledge. The assignment must incorporate student work.  Identify how the students participated in the development and creation of the assignment. 

Prepare a thoughtful reflection of your thoughts on the process and the final product including the preparation, implementation and evaluation of the product and the management of students and content. This reflection should be descriptive and include specific examples. It may be submitted as a word document.

Place your project on a flash drive that may be placed into the classroom computer for projection.  Use your student work of materials from the web, interviews, u-tube and anything else that will capture students’ attention. 

Technology Web Resources Provided to Teacher Candidates










Strip Designer

(iPad app)




Cool Tools for Schools


In addition to the assignment, teacher candidates were provided with guidelines for reflection, seen below.

Questions to Guide Reflection

What and how did students learn? Include both intentional and unintentional lessons.
What did you learn?
What would you do differently if you were to do this project again?
What were the greatest successes of this project?
How would you improve this project?
What advice would you give a teacher contemplating a similar project?
What kinds of questions did students ask?
Where were students most often confused?
How did you address the needs of different learners in this project?
What resources were most helpful as you planned and implemented this project?

To scaffold teacher candidates application of technology to lesson planning for the project, each one provided Linda with a proposal to which she gave feedback. Each proposal contained the following components: Context, Students, Standards (literacy and NETS•S standards), Technology, Process, and Product.

Every student completed the assignment successfully and their reflections are highly interesting….more to come! In my next post, I will share with you some of the amazing projects that Linda’s teacher candidates produced.


Grisham, D. L. & Smetana, L. (in press). Multimodal composition for teacher candidates: Models for K-12 writing instruction. In R. Ferdig & K. Pytash (Eds.). Exploring Multimodal Composition and Digital Writing. Hershey, PA: I-G-I Global.

Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technologiical Pedagogical Centent Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108, 6, 1017-1054.


What Do Instructional Natives Need to Know about Technology?

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Students seem to know how to do all kinds of things digitally. They can tweet and text. Email is so last decade. iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tabs offer so many ways to connect to friends, family and the world at large via the Internet. Anyone can sign up for a MOOC. Fifteen-year-olds are outlining educational approaches—on a Washington Post blog, no less. Education professionals might be wondering just where they fit in the world where information is readily available.

Just what can teachers and other education professionals do when digital environments make data and information* seemingly ubiquitous? What is their role, if there is one? Last week, the National Council of Teachers of English updated its policy statement titled The NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment. What is notable about it is what is does not contain. There are no references to tools such as blogs or wikis. The word “computer” appears only once, and then only in the appendix. There is not a single reference to a SMARTboard or similar technology.

Rather, what is notable about this Framework is that is focuses on the dispositions of “Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society” (para 3). Verbs that characterize these 21st century outcomes include: design, create, develop, and manage. These verbs lend vibrancy to the technology and media students do and will continue to encounter even as the tools themselves continue to evolve (cf. Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004). One aspect of the Framework is one that has long fascinated me; though the Internet can bring volumes of information right to the desk of anyone with access, the real strength of the internet lies in how it brings people together in new ways across and within cultures, affinity groups, geographical regions, and more. The Framework emphasizes this aspect, too.

Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought.

This week, Project Tomorrow and BlackBoard, Inc. via the Speak Up National Research Project released a study exploring how those who want to be teachers are employing technology in their quest to become teachers and in their daily lives. The report also explores what aspiring or preservice teachers expect to encounter once they become teachers. The report delves into many nuances; however, here it is worth noting that though aspiring teachers use technology more than current teachers, they need and want models of how those technologies can be used in service of learning. Moreover, the principals for whom they might someday work hold high expectations that the new teachers entering the profession will be able to employ digital technology in service of learning.

The Project Tomorrow report continues to emphasize the problematic “digital native” metaphor (see last week’s post, for example); however, it does provide guidance for teachers who work with aspiring teachers including cooperating teachers in schools and teacher educators. Education professionals, as instructional natives, can help meet the needs of aspiring teachers and the demands of the 21st century, now well into its second decade. It is not necessary, or even realistic, to believe that any teacher, student, or teacher educator can “keep up” with every development on the technological horizon.

Some dispositions characterize instructional natives (Wolsey & Grisham, 2011) that may help:

• Teachers and teacher educators can use technology to assist them to better their own professional knowledge and connect with other educators.

• Teachers and teacher educators may not know how to use every tool available (and the secret is that neither do their students), but they can find online resources and ask their own students for help. Seeking the advice of students seems counterintuitive, at first, but I assert that this one quality is the hallmark of the 21st century instructional native.

• Teachers and teacher educators can trust their students to use media in responsible ways, with thoughtful guidance and questions from their teachers who are instructional natives.

• Teachers and teacher educators can and should regularly try out new technologies even if doing so is not quite comfortable at first.


Leu, D. J., Kinzer, C. K, Coiro, J. L., & Cammack, D. W. (2004). Toward a theory of new literacies emerging from the Internet and other information and communication technologies. In R. B. Ruddell & N. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed., pp. 1580-1613). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Wolsey, T. D. & Grisham, D. L. (2011). A nation of digital immigrants: Four principles [online editorial]. The California Reader Online, 44(2), 1-9. Retrieved from

* For an interesting discussion of the difference between data, information, knowledge, and wisdom, read:
Stewart, T. (1997). Intellectual capital: The new wealth of organizations. New York: Doubleday.

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