AUSTIN, Texas—All teacher education students at The University of Texas at Austin entering the professional course sequence next fall semester will be using laptop computers under a new requirement designed to enhance their teaching skills and prepare them for classrooms of the future.
Dr. Manuel Justiz, dean of the College of Education, said the faculty and administration decided to require the laptop computers after seeing the success of a pilot program that helped some future teachers develop proficiency in the use of computer technology. The decision eventually will require all students engaged in the teacher preparation professional course sequence to have a laptop computer meeting certain specifications.
To minimize the cost of this requirement for students who do not already own a computer meeting the specifications, and since the requirement is so new, Justiz said an introductory package agreement was developed for certain individuals involved in teacher education. The agreement combines resources from The University of Texas at Austin and the Austin Independent School District with Apple to offer computers “at a special price.” Those who qualify for discounts will include teacher education students, faculty and staff, as well as public school teachers identified by the university as serving the university teacher education program by mentoring future teachers.
“Through innovative programs and in partnership with local school districts and corporate sponsors, future teachers have been given increasing instruction and opportunity to develop proficiency in the use of technology to teach in all grade levels and subject areas,” said Justiz. “One exciting and effective aspect of these efforts has been a pilot program equipping future teachers with laptop computers to use in class, in the schools and at home. This program was proven to be so successful that the decision was made by the faculty and administration to expand this initiative.
“These computers will be required for use in most professional development courses and field experiences, will facilitate innovative instructional technology integration in public school teaching and will equip our graduates for teaching in Texas classrooms of the future,” he said.
Under this plan, each specific program defines the semester or course when this requirement will affect its students. In most cases, this will occur when a student enters the officially designated “professional development sequence” and has two to four semesters remaining to complete all certification requirements.
Justiz said the College of Education sought competitive bids from leading computer vendors. Based on consideration of cost, functionality, ease of use and vendor commitment to an ongoing support partnership,
Apple was selected as the standard solution for at least the first two years of the program. To provide the best possible support for students and faculty in the initial years of this innovative project, only one operating system will be supported, Justiz said.
As part of the introductory package agreement with Apple, the computer company is offering to those who qualify for the discount a 600MHz iBook meeting all requirements at a price of $1,000. The computer has a one-year insurance policy covering theft, loss and breakage. Justiz said this plan will allow students to own a great laptop computer they can use in their classes as well as take with them into their first classroom job.
Justiz said the College of Education has secured agreement from the Office of Student Financial Services to include the minimum costs of this requirement in each affected student’s financial aid package. The College of Education also oversees a large scholarship program that can assist needy students, and Apple offers a student financing option.
Justiz said that to prepare for this new requirement, faculty in teacher preparation programs have been engaged over the past year, and will continue to work throughout the coming summer, on curriculum revision to infuse technology into best educational practice. He said students affected by the laptop computer requirement will be notified directly and individually.
“These students will receive special training at the beginning of the semester to assist them in maximizing use of their computers in classes and field experiences,” said Justiz. “They also will be able to take advantage of increasingly available wireless Internet access, on campus and elsewhere, including the entire College of Education’s George I. Sanchez building beginning in fall 2002.”
The minimum laptop specifications for the 2002/03 academic year are as follows:
- Model: Apple iBook or Powerbook
- Operating system: Mac OS X
- Processor: 500MHz PowerPC G3 (600MHz preferred)
- RAM: 128 MB (256 MB preferred)
- Hard disk size: 15GB (20GB preferred)
- Removable media: DVD-ROM/CD-RW
- Connectivity: 10/100Base-T Ethernet, Apple AirPort card, 56K internal modem, USB and FireWire ports, external SVGA monitor/projector port
- Technical support: AppleCare Protection Plan
- Software: MS Office, standard student software bundle for the university.
Details of eligibility and ordering will be provided to affected individuals soon by Dr. Lawrence Abraham, associate dean in the College of Education for teacher education and student affairs. Questions about the computer requirement and purchase opportunity should be directed to Abraham at (512) 471-3476 or via email.