Campus News

educational technology graphic

UB educator recounts GSE’s use of technology in teacher preparation at White House summit


Published January 17, 2017

Mary McVee in a classroom
“One of the transformative changes summit attendees were challenged to answer is, how can technologies be used actively to create more opportunities for learning?”
Mary McVee, professor
Graduate School of Education

UB faculty member Mary McVee was among 50 national education leaders attending a White House summit last month on improving technology training for teachers, sharing with attendees some of the ways she and her UB colleagues have successfully used technology in teacher preparation.

McVee, a professor of literacy education in the Graduate School of Education, discussed some of the long-standing projects that UB education faculty have used in Western New York classrooms, as well as in teacher preparation programs. GSE students have created digital poetry, gathered digital data as citizen scientists and made movies about immigrant experiences, to name a few examples.

Joseph South, director of the Office of Educational Technology in the U.S. Department of Education and a summit organizer, praised UB’s efforts to prepare teachers to use technology effectively in the classroom. “We are excited by the commitment of the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education to ensure their pre-service teachers have opportunities to actively use technology to support learning and teaching through creation, collaboration and problem-solving,” South told UBNow after the summit.

McVee will continue to take part in a working group formed at the White House summit focused on “active learning through technology,” which asks educators to use technology to problem-solve, inquire and investigate ways to approach educational challenges across educational disciplines.

“Technology alone is not what is transformative,” McVee said. “Recent technologies such as iPads, computers and interactive devices can all be used to do traditional activities like fill-in-the blank worksheets. Doing a worksheet on a computer is still doing a worksheet. Taking a multiple-choice quiz online is still a multiple-choice quiz,” she said.

“One of the transformative changes summit attendees were challenged to answer is, how can technologies be used actively to create more opportunities for learning?”

McVee said the full impact of attending a White House summit “didn’t really sink in” — despite her being vetted by the Secret Service and passing through two security screenings that included a bomb-sniffing dog — until she heard South ask attendees: “What will you do with your White House moment?”

“That was really transformative,” McVee said, “because while every attendee was relishing being at the summit and taking in the historic surroundings, Dr. South and other members of the Office of Educational Technology wanted attendees to share ideas with one another, make action plans and help take word back to our home institutions and disciplinary organizations about the recently achieved, ongoing initiatives so this work will continue.”

Attendees were given time to work on devising an action plan to use with their programs, teacher preparation units or organizations.

“Having this time to develop an action plan really made me think about using this ‘White House moment,’ as Dr. South suggested,” McVee said. “I have a plan to share with my literacy colleagues, but I am also excited to provide input related to technology goals as we prepare for accreditation.”

The December White House summit — Advancing Educational Technology in Teacher Preparation, or Innovators’ Summit for short — was the latest instance in which McVee shared initiatives for teacher education that already are in place at UB with colleagues throughout the nation.

During the National Technology Leadership Summit last October, she helped lead a session on technology and storytelling. This included interactions with advisers from the Smithsonian Museum of American History, classroom teachers and children, researchers and educators. She discussed programs designed to help teachers use technology to solve academic problems.

Deborah Moore-Russo, chair of the Department of Learning and Instruction, stressed the importance of UB faculty members taking part in events like the White House summit and other national leadership initiatives.

“It is critical that education faculty be given opportunities to provide input on policy initiatives, especially on timely topics such as the incorporation of digital tools and environments, and their roles in education,” Moore-Russo said. “Opportunities where recognized leaders from across the nation are able to give voice to key aspects that impact teacher education — such as pre-service teachers’ digital experience and professional development of education faculty — are crucial for developing sound educational policy and leadership.”

The timing of this summit could not have been better for UB, McVee and Moore-Russo said, as the Graduate School of Education is preparing for reaccreditation with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Elisabeth Etopio, interim assistant dean for teacher education and interim director of GSE’s Teacher Education Institute, said technology has enormous potential to advance instructional effectiveness and promote student learning and development.  

“Given that the essence of technology is rapid change, educator-preparation programs should remain current with research and model best practices in digital learning and technology applications,” Etopio said.

“Further, we recognize that proficient application of these skills does not develop in isolation; rather it occurs across all class settings and clinical experiences. Integration of these digital experiences across all aspects of our teacher-education program is one goal we examine for ongoing accreditation with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation,” she explained.