UBC teaches the teachers on tech tools

A collaboration between Canadian and Mexican universities could improve the way post secondary instructors train the IT managers of the future.

The University of British Columbia recently said it was launching what may be the first

online Master of Educational Technology (MET) degree program ever offered in Canada. Developed for teachers and support staff, the courses are intended to help educators make better use of the high-tech tools available to them in e-learning as well as live classroom settings.

Jim Gaskell, MET coordinator at UBC’s Faculty of Education, said the program is in some ways an enhancement to certificate programs the school has offered in educational technology for about five years.

Courses under development for the fall include Design of Technology-supported Learning Environments that explore platforms like Web CT and BlackBoard. Others are more theoretical, like Text Technologies: The Changing Faces of Reading and Writing. This will look at history of different technologies that produce text and the ways in which they have come to shape text. “”It’s the classic Canadian ‘the medium is the message,'”” he said, referring to Marshall McCluhan’s famous quote. “”I don’t know where they’ll start off with — maybe clay tablets — and then ending up with hypertext.””

The curriculum is being created in partnership with Tec de Monterrey, which has worked for years with UBC on a number of other projects like building a new residence so that Tec de Monterrey students could come and work at UBC.

The MET program will include 10 courses, but there will be no thesis or major paper. Four core courses are being developed jointly in English and Spanish and will run simultaneously so students from both schools can chat with each other online.

Pepe Escamilla, Tec de Monterrey’s director of the MET program, said both tech-savvy instructors in computer science departments as well as arts teachers could benefit from the courses.

“”If you have a computer engineer and you think he will be a good teacher, it’s not necessarily (true),”” he said. “”The old-fashioned professors feel that technology could eventually get rid of them . . . We are not thinking of substituting them, at least in the literal sense. Maybe the physical presence of a professor, but you will always need someone at the other end of the Internet.””

Gaskell agreed. “”I think that what we bring to it at the faculty of education is a broad educational perspective about notions of learning, notions about how to get kids engaged in ideas and discussing with each other,”” he said. “”It takes more than technical background to create a good learning environment.””

Gaskell said he hopes teachers who take the MET will feel more comfortable designing their own tech-enabled programs and have a better understanding of the tools’ possibilities and limitations. Beyond theory, he said teachers should come out with some technical skills, even though it is not really a technical program. “”People are coming in with a great variety of skills, and a great variety of needs,”” he said. “”If people need particular skills in order to do some of the assignments, we will either build tutorials in for that, we will put them in touch with other students who have those skills and collaboratively they will be able to pick up some of those skills.””

The program will begin in September.

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