Perhaps it was taking his first computer course at the University of South Alabama in 1983—Micro-computing Systems in Education—that made Dr. Monte Tatom see his future. Or maybe it was that time in 1999 when PDAs looked pretty futuristic to many, but Tatom, then a high school principal, saw at his fingertips all the possibilities technology could bring to educators. He stretched his teachers a little bit, he readily admits, but wanted to make sure they were ready for the 21st century.
“If we don’t embrace technology, we’ll be left behind,” Tatom told them. Every class at their school had Ethernet connections and several computers, including one for each teacher.
“I didn’t want pencil and paper communication with me,” he said. He wanted emails. It was a difficult transition and concept for many of his teachers back then. But Tatom jumped into the field of instructional technology and embraced it—learning it, teaching it, living with it—and has ever since.
Armed with a Ph.D. in educational administration from Auburn University, he worked in K-12 education for 26 years before moving to Freed-Hardeman University (FHU) in Tennessee in 2006. As an associate professor of education in the college of education & behavioral sciences, he started dabbling in online classes, served as director of“iLearn: Integrating Student Learning and Collaborative Technology” and became a member in the Tennessee Educational Technology Association.
Once he started teaching advanced technology for administrators, more and more students, educators and administrators saw the ripple effect value of such classes. He was asked to make the class applicable for counselors and then for educators. He did.
In 2014, he started developing the online Master of Education in Instructional Technology Program. Approved in 2016, he and his colleagues created the syllabus and Blackboard portion of the program. Set to launch this Summer—2017—it seems he has brought the best of his expertise, experience and excitement in the field of instructional technology to the table. The program shows how technology is interwoven with our way of life and can enhance the way education is taught and students can learn.
“It’s an important fact that for K-20, technology is not going to go away,” Tatom said. “It’s going to continue to have an impact. Take that new piece of technology to develop the learning in a preschool. How am I going to take that to help a young learner in fifth grade? It will keep evolving—but without textbooks because they go out of date six months after they’re published.”
The four-term master’s program is entirely online, cohort based and designed to provide students with the skills to effectively use instructional technology within teaching and learning for Pre-K through 20. It is also designed to provide the needed skills to develop up-to-date online system and professional training and continued learning for the 21st century employee. The 31-unit program, at $570 per unit, can be completed in 14 months.
Once completed, educators can have an edge when applying for jobs.
“This credential will help teachers distinguish themselves as leaders in their schools,” said Leah Shull, one of Tatom’s former students. “Many teachers shy away from technology, but teachers who embrace it will find that it can infuse life and even joy into their classrooms.”
A big plus of the program is that prior learning experience (PLE) can apply toward the degree and competency. The candidate may qualify to submit PLE by building and delivering a portfolio of evidence to prove s/he has the experience. Up to five courses of credit can be earned.
“The M.Ed. in Instructional Technology program continues the University’s strategic efforts to provide increased access to quality online programs that meet workforce needs and demands,” said Dr. C. J. Vires, provost and vice president for academics. “Our online programs provide greater access to affordable advanced degrees for nontraditional and diverse populations that are well beyond the University’s traditional service area and service sectors.”
For educators, the challenge is to guide them to the resources and have them teach students how to use technology—and integrate it in lessons, Tatom said.
“Unfortunately, the importance of technology has widened the ‘digital divide,’ a term for the division between tech haves and have-nots,” said Shull who is currently a technology integration specialist, a doctoral student in educational technology leadership at New Jersey City University and a sixth grade language arts teacher in Chester County, Tennessee.
“As our world becomes more global, it’s more important than ever that all students are able to compete on a global stage. Technology, when deployed well, can help bridge some of the gaps that traditional instruction has left. By enabling teachers to target instruction to each individual child, technology offers real hope for overlooked minorities.”
Tatom’s former students like Shull have firsthand knowledge in how instructional technology can impact their teaching and students’ learning for the better.
“Gone are the days where a teacher can stand at the front of the room lecturing while students dutifully take notes,” Shull said. “Today’s well-prepared educator should be aware of the tools that are available to support student learning and should know how to integrate them into the classroom. As our society becomes increasingly reliant on technology, it is vital that educators prepare their students for their role in a technological world.”
That world includes people from all walks of life, any age group, to fill in any industry, with current and future technology, Tatom explained. It will give many a voice and a platform and a way to improve the world as we know it. “You can teach junior high students, people in nursing homes and business outreach on how to put together programs,” Tatom said. “You’ll want to think outside the box—and sometimes even throw that box away.”
For more info on the M.Ed. Instructional Technology at FHU, visit: https://www.fhu.edu/academics/graduate/education/med-instructional-technology •