September 15, 2008 — University of Virginia professor Glen Bull has never doubted the potential of digital technologies to facilitate learning – not since he collaborated with the Engineering School in the 1970s to build the Curry School of Education’s first computer.
Among his many efforts to promote effective uses of computers in schools, Bull, a Curry School professor of instructional technology, founded the National Technology Leadership Coalition, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary when it meets Sept. 18 and 19 in Washington.
The coalition brings together leaders from a dozen teacher-education professional associations, editors of eight technology-related journals and representatives from various government and educational agencies, educational technology centers and technology corporations.
"Dr. Bull created a bold collaboration and dialog among technology leaders and the content-based [teacher education] organizations that had not happened previously," said Lynne Schrum, professor of education at George Mason University and editor of the Journal of Research on Technology in Education. “He had a vision of the potential of educational technology long before most and has established infrastructure to support and guide the field toward that vision.”
Each year for the past decade, Bull has organized a summit at which he prompts participants to explore the educational benefits of an emerging technology and kicks off a year of development, research, dialogue and dissemination among the various organizations represented in the coalition. This year's summit, hosted at the headquarters of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, will focus on potential educational uses of new Web-based media technologies in education. These so-called "Web 2.0" technologies enable users to easily create, remix, co-write and share text, video and audio files.
“On their home computers, kids are creating and publishing online media in real time,” said Bull. “We need to harness this energy and creativity in schools.”
For months, Bull has been examining youth culture and emerging technologies, corresponding with faculty members across educational fields and collaborating on articles for educational technology publications – all to push forward participants’ thinking about how Web-based media technologies may be incorporated into classrooms to improve student learning.
No one should expect that the mere presence of a computer in a classroom will improve student learning, said Bull, explaining the significance of the coalition’s work. “Educators must discover which technologies combined with which teaching strategies best help students learn specific curricular content,” he said.
The focus on the interaction of technology and school curriculum grounds the work of the National Technology Leadership Coalition, which brings together technology specialists and teacher educators who might not otherwise have opportunities to learn from each other.
"He constantly challenges our thinking and makes sure we are thinking outside a traditional box about the intersection of technology and education," said Margaret Niess, professor emeritus of science and mathematics education at Oregon State University and a representative of the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators. "His efforts and those of the coalition leaders have impacted nationwide educational efforts … for integrating appropriate technologies in education."
Bull, who also co-directs the Curry School's Center for Technology and Teacher Education with associate professor Joe Garofalo, believes that if student learning is ever to be improved on a large scale through the use of educational technologies, well-prepared teachers are the key.
“The Curry School teacher education program, for example, has established a cadre of faculty members and alumni nationally recognized for integration of technology in each discipline – science education, math education, language arts and social studies,” said Bull. “They help teacher candidates see how familiar technologies can also engage students in deep conceptual understanding of school subjects and do it in a way that is relevant to life outside of schools."