CONTACT: STEPHEN PRADARELLI
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0007; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Aug. 26, 1999
'Electronic backpacks' give education students a place
to store work, experiences
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Next to a semester's supply of
macaroni and cheese, backpacks are probably the most essential item on students'
back-to-school shopping lists. How else can they haul around those 40-pound
textbooks, spiral notepads, snacks and CDs?
This fall, however, some education majors at the University
of Iowa will get backpacks of another sort: an "electronic backpack" -- essentially
dedicated Web space -- where they can record and store class notes, projects
and field experiences in the form of text, photos and even audio and video
files. The information will be used to enrich the students' learning experiences
and later be assembled into an electronic portfolio that potential employers
can access via the Internet.
Ultimately the materials could be used for an electronic
"toolbox" to improve a teacher's work in the classroom, to share information
with other educators or to let parents know about a teacher's education, experience,
philosophy and techniques.
"I like to call it a framework for professional development,"
said John Achrazoglou, lecturer/program associate and coordinator of Instructional
Technology at the College of Education.
Achrazoglou and Rebecca Anthony, director of the Educational
Placement Office, began developing the framework after recognizing the tremendous
potential computers and the Internet offered for gathering, organizing and
conveying dramatically the knowledge and skills accumulated in college.
About three years ago Achrazoglou and Anthony developed
electronic portfolios as a way to improve the marketability of new education
graduates. Principals and other employers can visit a graduate's web site
and find the requisite resume, as well as lesson plans, samples of projects
produced by students under the teacher's guidance and even video clips of
actual classroom sessions. By virtue of having a Web site, new teachers also
make it clear that they are computer- and Internet-savvy -- increasingly important
in today's tech-friendly classrooms.
Achrazoglou said about 300 students have created electronic
portfolios to date.
"We think this idea will work in any professional
or academic setting," he said, adding that classes on electronic portfolios
offered the past two summers have attracted students from business, art and
other majors. "Employers are really enthusiastic. Tech skills are up there
with communication and writing skills as a requirement in the job market."
Although students already had to accumulate materials
for the portfolio in the past, the "backpack" provides tips on organizing
the material in a coherent way, as well as Web space. This is especially important
for prospective educators. In addition to meeting certain academic criteria,
in 2001 Iowa teachers will be required to meet certain performance standards
that might best be illustrated using testimonials, classroom video and other
information suited to a Web presentation.
"This will be a powerful way to convey that information,"
Anthony said. "What we really want to do is position our students now so that
when performance indicators are mandated our students will already have a
head start, not just on a paper basis, but in an electronic format."
This semester about 150 students enrolled in the Technology
in the Classroom Course will receive the backpacks.
"Once you have it, you can always go back, update
it, enhance it, because as a college student you're always growing and learning,"
Anthony said. "Whenever you access it, you are using technology skills to
add, to edit, to enhance."