Rudy Ford: A View on Teacher Preparation

Rudy Ford

Rudy E. Ford, assistant professor of education at Hampton University, describes the role of online cases in preparing preservice teachers for the classroom.

  1. How do multimedia case studies of real-life classroom situations help you teach future teachers?
  2. Are there other benefits of case studies?
  3. What is the process for studying CaseNEX cases -- multimedia case studies -- and discussing them with Curry students?
  4. Is there a difference between Internet and in-person discussions?
  5. What are some of the benefits to your students of the video link with students at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education?
  6. Hampton's student population is primarily African American. Curry's is primarily Caucasian. Do the students at both schools learn anything particular because of that diversity?
  7. What's the broader effect of technology instruction for students?

1. How do multimedia case studies of real-life classroom situations help you teach future teachers?

There's so much to learn from cases, from other people's real experiences, that I think any practitioner -- all the stakeholders in education -- can benefit from using cases to think out their philosophies in a safe environment. It's risk-free to give a controversial or even widely-accepted-to-be-wrong answer.

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2. Are there other benefits of case studies?

Some people perhaps learn better by what they see as opposed to what they read or hear, and I think more learning styles are taken into account when you look at a case. You know, the visual, the audio -- it's all there. And it's just plain more interesting and less boring.

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3. What is the process for studying CaseNEX cases -- multimedia case studies -- and discussing them with Curry students?

Generally speaking, my group would become familiar with a case by watching it either in a class prior to the joint session or on their own and form some ideas about it, either through group discussions or independent study. And then we set a time in advance and we log on and we actually view the case and discuss it in real time, using the Internet technology, with students from the Curry School of Education. And they often follow up through e-mail partnerships and pen pals -- electronic pen-pal situations -- to discuss those cases later. So there's a follow-up to it as well.

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4. Is there a difference between Internet and in-person discussions?

There doesn't seem to be a lot of difference when we do it on the Internet compared to when we do it in person. And as a point of comparison, we've taken a field trip already this semester to the Curry School and had a person-to-person interaction over a case, and the interaction we have on the Net tends to equal that in terms of value and quality of discourse. So they compare very favorably. Then, of course, there's no cost involved with using the Internet, and there was a cost involved with the field trip. So we can overcome a lot of the cost factors and time factors.

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5. What are some of the benefits to your students of the video link with students at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education?

If I say, "Okay, we're going to link up with the Curry School," my students seem to put a little extra effort into their preparation, probably through natural competitiveness with students from another school. And it translates into basically quality work on their part. It improves the quality for them to know that they will be dialoguing with someone from another university.

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6. Hampton's student population is primarily African American. Curry's is primarily Caucasian. Do the students at both schools learn anything particular because of that diversity?

While the students may have certain assumptions about people from different cultures, they're able to find out that, in reality, there are far more things they have in common -- far more things that concern them or that they want to learn about in the teaching and learning process that they share with other prospective teachers from around the world. They find that the commonalties are very powerful. And while I could report that to them in class, it's much more powerful when they discover it themselves through direct conversations with other students. And so they find that they change their perspectives. It's been very, very clear to me they have a newfound understanding, and they're less likely to make generalizations about teaching and learning for students that are different from themselves.

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7. What's the broader effect of technology instruction for students?

I'm hoping that even things like diversity and cultural tolerance of others from unlike cultures will improve because usually that's a result of a lack of familiarity. Fear of the unknown. And I think technology closes the unknown gap. The unknown becomes known much faster and sooner with technology. You're able to take a look at another culture, another school, another neighborhood, much easier. And form partnerships with people through the Internet and e-mail. It opens lines of communication that haven't been open before.

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This article originally published on 9/1/2001

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