A Model for Internet Support & Use:

A wealth of information is available concerning the Internet. Texts by Benson and Fodemski (1996), Maran (1995) and Polly (1996) provide concise explanations of the Net, well organized lists of educationally pertinent Web sites and detailed examples of how educators have used such sites to enhance both their teaching and their students performance. Additional texts regarding the Net can be found at the "Un-official Internet Book List" site ("www.northcoast.com/savetz/booklist"). This site now lists over 690 texts that range in topical focus from "Internet Introductions & Guides" to "Servers & Administration." Unfortunately, most teachers simply do not have the time, nor the expertise, to wade through the mountains of Internet related information.

Cuban (1996) points out, that simply providing teachers with technology and in-service training rarely results in the meaningful use of the targeted technologies. Instead, an alternative teacher support model is needed. Such a model should be designed around teachers busy schedules, it should occur on a one-to-one basis in their own classrooms, with their own technology and on topics that are of personal and professional interests. The model should be constructed to both recognize and build upon teachers individual strengths and accomplishments, while at the same time enhancing their instructional effectiveness. Finally, the model should yield not only well prepared teachers, but also the resources that such teachers will need to incorporate the Net into their day-to-day instructional programming. Ideally, the model would also provide empirical data concerning the impact the that Net technologies and resources have upon both instruction and student performance. At first consideration, such a teacher support model would appear to be impossible to implement. The limits of school budgets simply do not permit the cost that such a model would normally entail. Surprisingly, the necessary resources are both free and already available to most U.S. school systems.

Each year, thousands of individuals begin the preparation to become teachers. Given the current job market (Greenwald, 1997) and projected need for teachers, the ranks of "preservice" teachers should substantially increase during the next few years. In each case, colleges and universities require preservice teachers to not only succeed in a long and rigorous array of course work, but to also complete between 500 to 700 hours of field work. This work is carried out under the direct supervision of experienced teachers. Such teachers model, observe, advise and mentor preservice teachers through an extended series of activities that gradually lead up to the "student teaching" experience. Within this experience, "fledgling" preservice teachers eventually take over a class and carry out all (or at least most) of the duties and responsibilities that they will be expected to perform as certified, or licensed teachers. Mentoring teachers are assisted in this developmental process by college supervisors. These supervisors, often faculty and experienced teachers themselves, serve as the link between the theory of college course and the reality of the school classroom. As they are gradually prepared to enter the teaching profession, preservice teachers move back and forth between their course work and field experiences, trying to reconcile the differences between what they are learning and what they are expected to do.

Preservice teachers, as supported by their college faculty and mentoring teachers, provide the key of an effective, Internet support model. Within that model, preservice teachers use a portion of their 500-700 hours of field work to:
  1. document the instructional strategies, activities, materials and evaluation protocols that their mentoring teachers have found to be effective;
  2. identify information and instructional materials that their mentors would like to add to their instructional programming, then search for pertinent resources on the Internet;
  3. share with their mentoring teachers the Internet knowledge and skills that they have gained through their course work and computer labs (Note:this could be done either in the teacher's classroom or home, i.e., wherever there was the most time and best equipment);
  4. collaboratively design, develop, implement and monitor Internet enriched instructional activities for K-12 students; and
  5. develop Internet resources, i.e., Web sites, that share the preceding information with the world.

The success of the preservice teachers work is dependent upon both the cooperation and support of their mentoring teachers and college faculty. As such, mentoring teachers would be asked to:

  1. share the instructional strategies they have found to work;
  2. identify what they would like to know and be able to use in their classrooms;
  3. explore Net technologies and resources;
  4. try out Net-based activities with their students; and
  5. share what they know and learn with their collegues throughout the world via te preservice teachers' Web work.

Finally, college faculty would be asked to:

  1. incorporate Internet use and resources into the course work taken by preservice teachers;
  2. facilitate the Net-based activities of mentoring and preservice teachers through interventions with school administrators and access to technology support personnel; and
  3. conduct research concerning the use nad impact to Net based activities upon the instructional designs of mentoring teachers, the educational performance of their students and the professional development of preservice teachers

While such a model may sound idealistic, it is in fact currently being used by one U.S. deaf education teacher preparation program and accepted by nine others.