New Grant Extends School of Education's Reach

The iPad in the hands of Dr. Sherry Powers ’77 looks just like all the other technological gadgets that have made life more interesting and convenient in recent years. However, the students and faculty in Asbury University’s School of Education are busily making this small device into a powerful tool for transforming the educational experiences of children around the state.

With the assistance of a $500,000 grant awarded by the James Graham Brown Foundation, Asbury is continuing an innovative approach to teacher preparation that combines the traditional training in classroom leadership with cutting-edge technology and Web-based resources. The funds will help Asbury continue to develop the School of Education’s clinical-based education preparation program, a method widely used by “teaching” hospitals for training in specific skills. The first of its kind in Kentucky, Asbury’s program is highly collaborative and utilizes a network of higher education and community leaders, teachers and education practitioners, families and students, and University undergraduate and graduate students.

The network, known as a Virtual Teaching School, uses technology — such as iPads — to enable its many different participants to communicate and share ideas. Grant funding has been instrumental in allowing Asbury to purchase electronic equipment to facilitate this communication, as well as develop relationships with teachers and school administrators in Eastern Kentucky to share best practices and better serve under-resourced schools.

Grant funding also will be used to develop a software platform that enables teachers-in-training to experiment with different strategies in classroom management using simulations and avatars. A common tool in the nursing profession, the simulations allow educators to gain experience with challenging situations without running the risk of adversely affecting real-life students.

“The software can create various cultural contexts in a classroom setting to simulate different school cultures,” said Dr. Rebecca Oswald, education professor at Asbury. “We also want to use the software for professional development for our graduate-program students, or the second-year teachers in Eastern Kentucky with whom we’ve partnered.”

“We are tremendously grateful and excited about the possibilities this generous grant will help us achieve,” said Powers, Dean of the School of Education. “Thanks to the hard work of Asbury’s Dr. Verna Lowe and the Education Department faculty and staff, we are well positioned to continue to prepare teachers who can truly change children’s lives.”

Asbury’s School of Education offers 35 certification areas to more than 400 degree-completion, traditional undergraduate and graduate students. For more information, visit asbury.edu/education.

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