Wireless mentors

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The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) announced version 2.0 of its Teachers Learning in Networked Communities (TLINC) initiative which will outfit student teachers at five pilot universities with tablets and smartphones to "enable communication, collaboration, and the availability of limitless resources for teachers as they enter classrooms for the first time."

We are optimistic pessimists. It is true that productivity gains through technology have not yet been significantly realized in K-12 education, let alone pre-service training and induction. However, as our student teaching report demonstrated earlier this year, there are plenty of less whizz-bang improvements that need to be made within student teaching. For example, programs should systematically and explicitly require cooperating teachers to be able to positively impact student achievement and mentor apprentice teachers.

It doesn't strike us that this is a case where technology can make up for fundamental weaknesses. A student teacher with a terrible placement might be able to connect with an outstanding mentor through her smartphone, but it still requires the student teacher to do an awful lot of the figuring out about what's lacking with her placement herself.  It's not that we don't want to see student teachers connected to limitless resources, but we have to shore up the foundation before we think about adding bells and whistles.

Rob Rickenbrode