Evolutions in technology and media have made existing without a computer a thing of the past. Whether it be simple management of data in a day-to-day job or preparing for a career in software development, being fluent in the management and use of computers and other technologies is part of a 21st century education. If you speak the language of information and technology and want to get students ready for a cutting edge education, you might make a great IT teacher.
Whether you choose to hold a traditional teaching position, or become a career and technical education (CTE) teacher, you’ll need to start with a bachelor’s degree. All states in the US have this requirement. Teachers are overseen by state boards that set education and license requirements, and this is the first step.
You might get your education a number of ways, depending on the requirements of your state.
Get a teaching or education degree with an emphasis in your subject area. These bachelor’s degrees teach the full spectrum of education and teaching practices and principles, with credit-hours set aside for a specialty if you choose to have one. If you’re considering a degree that will allow you to teach information technology, expect to allocate 30 to 45 credit hours of your education to this area.
Get a bachelor’s degree, then complete a secondary teacher credentialing program. States that follow this course will have you spend 1-2 years (or part-time equivalent) learning how to become an educator, building on your bachelor’s degree as a specialty area. If you choose to become a teacher in an area other than where you hold your bachelor’s degree, you may need to complete additional coursework.
Complete an endorsement program to teach in your field. If you already hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer sciences, applied technology, business technology, applied mathematics, or other science, computer or technology related field, your state may allow you to apply for a license or credential that uses your degree to meet the majority of the education requirements. You may still be required to complete some courses in teaching and instruction.
Most states license teachers who are going to teach younger children differently than teachers who wish to teach older children. While IT classes are more common for middle and high-school teachers, it is becoming more and more common for elementary schools to have a technology specialist as computer-based work and computer labs become part of early education. Many education programs orient the curriculum differently for teachers of older versus younger grades, and you may be expected to declare your intentions on admission or soon after to ensure you take the appropriate coursework. In some states, individuals pursing a CTE license take the same courses regardless of the grades they plan to teach. You may also find that IT teaching positions are combined with math or science positions and that licenses or credentials are issued accordingly.
You’ll also want to investigate the education program requirements for your state to learn if the institutions you’re considering are state approved. Some states approve programs themselves, some require that you attend a program accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) or other accrediting body.
2. Take the Required Teaching Exam
Oversight in the area of teaching requires some evidence that a teacher knows his or her stuff. In most states, in addition to the education, a teaching candidate must past at least one test for competency.
Examinations come in two types:
Basic skills tests: these are examinations that test reading, writing, mathematics, and teaching and education principles.
Subject area tests: these are examinations that assess competency in a specialty area.
While some states develop and administer their own tests, many states use the Praxis examinations. Praxis is a national organization that offers both the basic skills and subject area tests. Praxis offers an examination in technology education that includes questions about information and communication technologies as well as construction, manufacturing and energy/transportation technologies and their impacts. IT teachers may also be required to pass the specialty area examinations in mathematics or science.
For both state developed and Praxis examinations, each test may have several components. Your state will decide if, as an IT teacher, you need to complete both the basic skills and subject area tests, and which components of the tests must be passed.
3. Get Your Classroom Experience
As an IT instructor, you’ll have two responsibilities – to be an expert in your field, and to be qualified educator. You’ll be able to prepare yourself in part through your student teaching experience.
Student teaching experiences and fieldwork is required for all programs accredited by the NCATE, and nearly all programs include this requirement even if not required to be accredited by the state. The student teaching experience allows a teacher candidate to put what they’ve learned into practice in a setting that creates a careful progression of independence with the support of a mentor teacher.
Fieldwork that includes observations may start early in an education program, but student teaching experiences where you begin to deliver education in a classroom setting are scheduled in the later part of your coursework. Some colleges or universities require that you pass the state’s mandatory examinations before you begin, and some states require that you complete a physical.
The length of time spent in student teaching settings is established by the institution, but generally range from 300 to 500 hours. There is often a requirement that states how many hours must be in actual classroom instruction. These hours are considered part of the curriculum and are taken for credit.
Your placement for your student teaching experiences will vary depending on the grade you plan to teach, with the bulk of your classroom hours allocated to the appropriates grade levels. But most programs will include rotations in all grades, and will often ensure that you have exposure to special needs environments and culturally or ethnically diverse populations in order to understand the unique needs of those students.
The student teaching experience endeavors to facilitate skills and abilities in the following areas:
Applying education practices in a classroom environment
Progression of classroom responsibility
Data recording and distribution
Additionally, you’ll learn to apply the principles of teaching computer basics, data management, software applications, computer use and applications, and learn the fundamentals of vocational instruction.
4. Get the right Teaching License
Once you’ve completed your education and passed the required test(s), you are ready to apply for a license to be an IT teacher in your state. The qualification may also be called a credential or certification. Your state will have a regulatory agency that oversees teachers – it may be a state board of education, a council for teacher credentialing, or a professional standards board. These are the agencies that ensure that teachers are fully qualified.
The specific steps that a state chooses to take to license teachers vary, but there are some federal mandates for qualifications, and the certain steps are likely regardless of where you are applying. You may see the following requirements listed on your state’s website:
Complete the state’s specific application
Mail certified copies of your transcripts to the state board
Send testing scores to the state board
Complete a background check
Register your fingerprints with the state
Send letters of recommendation
Pay an application fee
There are also supplemental certifications or credentials that you can pursue once you’re a teacher that enhance your knowledge and demonstrate a higher degree of sophistication with the subject matter. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (www.nbpts.org), for instance, offers a certification in Career and Technical Education as a way to further your knowledge and professionalism.
Most states issue teaching license that require renewal. A two to four year issue period is common. To renew your license, you will generally be required to update your personal information and pay a fee. Some states will update background checks, and many require a teacher to complete a continuing education requirement.
5. Stay in-tune with Information Technology Teacher Education
Information is dynamic. Research continues, knowledge expands, principles evolve. As we learn more and more about what makes education work and not work, we update the way we teach, both the methods and the content. Additionally, as an IT teacher, you have the added responsibility of endeavoring to stay current in a field that can change on a monthly basis.
Many states have adopted a continuing education requirement for license renewal to address this challenge. Most states now require that a teacher complete anywhere from 8 to 12 hours of education each year in order to maintain their license (or credential or certification). States will generally allow this education to be either in education principles or your specialty area. In some cases, classes that teach about recent changes in legislation and their impact on education also meet the criteria. Some states only allow approved courses, so always check your state’s guidelines to ensure that the classes you’re considering will be applicable towards your license renewal.
Additionally, you can become a member of one of the many professional teacher associations as a way to network and stay current in the field. Many of these organizations offer newsletters, forums, courses and publications to keep you current with recent industry trends and changes. The National Education Association (www.nea.org) or the Association of American Educators (www.aaeteachers.org) are just two of the many organizations available for teachers that allow you to connect with other professionals.