Iowa State University

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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, manager,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

11-16-04

Contacts:

Niki Davis, Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching,
(515) 294-5596

Cathy Curtis, College of Education, (515) 294-8175

Kevin Brown, News Service, (515) 294-8986

Iowa State's College of Education awarded $600,000 U.S. Department of Education FIPSE grant to prepare teachers for K-12 virtual schooling

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University's College of Education has been awarded a three-year, $600,000 grant from the U. S. Department of Education to become the first teacher education program in the nation to prepare undergraduates for virtual schooling.

"Virtual schooling uses telecommunication technologies (e.g. Internet, two-way video) to link teachers and students at a distance," said Niki Davis, director of the Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching at Iowa State, who is leading the project.

"Research in elementary and secondary virtual schools shows that a 'distant' teacher should be complemented with a local coach and, better yet, guidance from each student's homeroom teacher," Davis said. "Good virtual schooling must include a local as well as a distance component. New teachers are among the most adept at adjusting their teaching to fit the needs of this new generation of learners."

Davis said virtual schooling -- especially in rural areas -- is expanding rapidly, with a recent study showing more than 15 percent of all high school students nationally enrolled in online courses.

In Iowa, many students experience distance learning using the Iowa Communications Network (a state-owned fiber optic network that connects to every school district) or web-based courses offered through Iowa Learning Online, a clearing house coordinated by Iowa Public Television for the Iowa Department of Education.

"The number of teachers qualified for distance-learning is not adequate to meet that growing demand," Davis said. "And all teachers need to be able to coach students."

Davis' research team will develop and test curriculum and design new virtual reality tools with assistance from Iowa State's Virtual Reality Application Center. As part of the project, a virtual schooling certification program to develop new teachers' skills and assess their abilities will be incorporated into Iowa State's undergraduate teacher education curriculum. Certification will range from the basic 'coach' (who are prepared to counsel students taking virtual courses) to designers (who are competent to create, teach, evaluate and improve a virtual schooling course).

The model teacher education program developed at Iowa State will be adapted for three collaborating universities -- the University of Florida, Gainesville; the University of Virginia, Charlottesville; and Graceland University, Lamoni.

The project also is designed to help new teachers in small schools by developing a virtual library and online support community.

"New teacher retention is a national problem," Davis said. "Some studies indicate teacher attrition rates as high as 80 percent within the first five years. New teachers, especially those in rural areas, typically have heavy workloads due to multiple course preparations and few colleagues with whom they can develop and share ideas."

Davis said the virtual schooling tools created by the program will include prepared lesson plans and examples of successful online instruction that new teachers can use. The program will also provide easy access to experienced teachers for support.

Among the case studies students will examine are virtual schooling applications developed at Iowa State, including one that connects a classroom in rural Iowa with an urban multicultural classroom in California, and another that uses streaming video to illustrate foreign language instruction in distant classrooms.

"The program will serve as a model for teacher education programs nationwide," Davis said.

The $600,000 federal funds provided by the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) in the U.S. Department of Education, through its Comprehensive Program, will cover 60 percent of the $1 million "Teacher Education goes into Virtual Schooling" project. The four collaborating universities will pay the remaining 40 percent.

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Quick look

Iowa State University's College of Education has been awarded a three-year, $600,000 grant from the U. S. Department of Education to become the first teacher education program in the nation to prepare undergraduates for virtual schooling.

Quote

"Research in elementary and secondary virtual schools shows that a 'distant' teacher should be complemented with a local coach and, better yet, guidance from each student's homeroom teacher."

Niki Davis

Links

Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education: http://www.ed.gov/FIPSE

Iowa State University College of Education: http://www.educ.iastate.edu

Center for Technology in Learning and Teaching: http://www.ctlt.iastate.edu

Curry School of Education, University of Virginia: http://curry.edschool.virginia.edu/

University of Florida College of Education: http://www.coe.ufl.edu/

Graceland University: http://www.graceland.edu/