Students can collaborate with students in other schools and other countries as they develop ideas, skills, and products. Students in a class can collaborate outside class without having to meet in person. The theory behind collaborative learning is that the social construction of knowledge leads to deeper processing and understanding than does learning alone (Appalachian Education Laboratory, 2005).
The bulletin board and the chat room have become the backbone of many Web-based learning environments. Sophisticated Web-based collaborative learning environments incorporate not only real-time, text-based conversation, but also audio- and videoconferencing, and shared work spaces, where multiple users can collaboratively work on the same document or application. These multimedia shared work spaces are facilitated by software such as Microsoft's Netmeeting ( http://www. microsoft.com/netmeeting/), Intel's Proshare ( http://www.intel.com/proshare / conferencing/index.htm), and CU-SeeMe ( http://cu-seeme.cornell.edu / ). Multiuser object-oriented (MOO) text-based virtual reality environments now have a Web-based equivalent, WOOs (Web object oriented), which provide browser-based access to virtual rooms for a variety of collaborative text-based and multimedia learning activities (e.g., http:/ / lingua. utdallas.edu:7000/11).
With so many online communication tools, the challenge is to use the tools to facilitate deep and effortful cognitive processing for all of those involved in the collaboration. The rest of this section describes some examples of online collaborative environments that appear to do this by either structuring the collaborative activity or linking the collaboration to situated learning activities. The Knowledge Forum, the Web version of CSILE ( http://kf.oise. utoronto.ca/webcsile/demo.html), uses a bulletin board system to facilitate the collaborative production and use of dynamic knowledge bases. Students post items that are categorized as five "thinking types": Problem, My Theory, Need for Understanding, Plan, and New Learning. A teacher monitors the forum and coaches students toward discovery of expert knowledge (Appalachian Education Laboratory, 2005).
In 1998, a federal study reported that only 20% of the nation's teachers felt comfortable using modern information technologies in the classroom. Yet federal agencies, states, and school districts were spending billions of dollars a year to equip schools with computers and Internet connections. With this finding, the preparation of technology-proficient educators emerged as a critical goal in the national campaign to use new technologies to improve learning (Scot, 2005). To build the nation's capacity to meet this challenge, the U.S. Department of Education launched a program titled Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers to Use Technology.
This initiative, which quickly became known as PT3, eventually provided $399 million for 466 grants that were awarded in the years 1999 through 2001. The chapters assembled for Integrated Technologies, Innovative Learning: Insights from the PT3 Program provide rich insights into the range of PT3 projects which were created to ensure that future teachers are well prepared to meet the needs of 21?-century students. Producing technology-proficient educators for 21"-century schools requires a fundamental restructuring of today's teacher preparation and professional development system (Goetz & LeCompte, 2004).
Although many school districts are actively engaged in professional development programs to help the existing teacher workforce take advantage of modern learning technologies, no district in the country can meet the demand for technology-proficient educators without a significant commitment to teacher preparation improvement nationwide (Goetz & LeCompte, 2004). College and university presidents and deans, as well as other education leaders, must commit their institutions to transformational change. Adding a new methods course for technology in education or developing a cadre of education technology specialists is not sufficient (Berlin, 2005). The preparation of technology-proficient educators must go beyond training in basic computer skills and standard productivity or presentation applications (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998).
The PT3 grants program called for comprehensive teacher preparation improvements that would infuse technology throughout the full spectrum of future teachers' learning experiences. Any effort to use the potential of technology to change schools faces the same challenges the Wright brothers encountered during the early years of flight (Dewey, 1998). At the time, steam-driven railroads were the dominant mode of cross-country travel. Imagine if someone had walked up to the Wright brothers after they had made the first successful flight and said, that's pretty impressive, but how is it going to improve the railroads?' Although the evolutionary development of the airplane did nothing to improve steam engines, it dramatically transformed transportation. Today, too many of our teachers and students are still working in factory-era schools with stand-alone teachers in isolated classrooms (Boix-Mansilla & Gardner, 2007).
They are limited by a one-size-fits-all curriculum and textbooks that are often obsolete. This educational model, developed to meet the needs of an earlier time, is no longer appropriate for the connected world of the information age. In the last century our public schools were designed to serve a sorting function, preparing students for different roles in the workforce. Academic content was presented to those headed for professions and managerial positions, while those who were not on the academic track were prepared for jobs in mills, forestry, agriculture, mining, and other work not requiring advanced learning. In an industrial economy many jobs were available for students who did not succeed in school (Dewey, 2004). But in today's economy, the vast majority of jobs require knowledge workers, with 21 51-century learning skills. The factory-model school is no longer efficient, effective, or equitable (Brooks & Brooks, 2004).
Too many students are falling behind or dropping out, with no good options. With modern information and communication technologies, we are crossing a threshold that will profoundly transform schools; effective use of these new learning media will lead to a fundamental reorganization of the teaching and learning enterprise. These technologies are transformational because they enable us to do something truly radical: for the first time, we can restructure our schools so that they become true learning communities that have the capacity to help every child meet high expectations, true because they are organized around what research tells us about how people learn (Fogarty, 1991). Future teachers will use these new tools to master instructional approaches that enable their students to become active learners who draw on multiple sources of information to develop knowledge and skills, using real-world collaborative inquiry.
Tomorrow's teachers, active learners themselves, should learn with these technologies integrated into their own education by faculty who are themselves modeling technology-proficient instruction, particularly in those courses where these teachers are taught the content and expertise they will use in the classroom. In addition to strong academic preparation, tomorrow's teachers, and their teacher education faculty, need extensive hands-on learning opportunities in K-12 schools where they can master new instructional strategies appropriate for various content areas and the multiple learning styles of diverse students (Berlin, 2005). Through this clinical experience, teachers should become highly proficient in information technologies used to assess learning and to tailor instruction to individual learning needs. Today's affordable computers, along with handheld devices and wireless connectivity, create the potential for every teacher and student to become a member of a networked learning community.
These new learning communities can reduce the isolation experienced by many novice teachers, who often feel they are thrown sink or swim into challenging assignments with little opportunity to draw on the expertise of their professional colleagues. Participation in these networked professional communities should begin during a teacher's preparatory years. It should extend into the early practice years so that these communities become a bridge of continuous induction and mentoring support. This continuous interaction will break down the time-worn and no longer serviceable distinctions between preservice and in-service teaching experiences. In the past, because of geographic distance and fewer human resources, most schools and districts were limited regarding the induction and mentoring assistance they could offer new teachers. Today's technologies can change that, enabling professional collaboration across the previously daunting barriers of time and distance.
The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) is building on that potential, as well as on the experience of PT3 grantees, by collaborating with several school districts to develop local online networks of teachers who are working in high-needs schools. Research has shown that new teachers are much more likely to stay in their schools and improve their practice when they have collegial support, skilled guidance, time needed to work with their peers, and opportunities provided by an external professional network (Goetz & LeCompte, 2004).
We believe that providing collegial support and skilled guidance in networked communities will help novice teachers become accomplished practitioners more quickly, improve teacher retention rates, and improve student academic achievement. Well-prepared teachers are the most valuable resource a community can provide for its young people. The need for technology-proficient teachers is greatest in low-income communities and rural areas, where students must rely on their schools for access to modern information and communication technologies. To ensure equity, these schools must be staffed with educators who can help students use these powerful learning tools to meet the high academic standards and challenging occupational demands they will face in the new millennium. In schools with well-prepared teachers, these new learning tools are frequently…