Notes from the Field: TLINC at the University of New Mexico
Since 2009, the University of New Mexico’s College of Education (UNM) has been a partner in NCTAF’s Teachers Learning in Networked Communities (TLINC®) project. Through TLINC, our college has been working to support our teacher education programs with increased collaboration, both online and face-to-face, and with added technology resources. Early efforts to integrate technology had been challenging because some faculty members and even some students were reluctant to adopt new technologies or new uses for now-familiar technologies, such as smartphones. However, with the initial infrastructure-building behind us, we are beginning to see a greater rate of interest in the TLINC project.
UNM has three active online communities of student teachers along with their faculty members in edWeb.net, the professional social network geared towards educators that is used as part of the TLINC program. We are pleased that these communities draw their membership from different parts of the UNM College of Education. The first group draws its members from the Dual Licensure Program, which includes Special Education with Elementary Education. The second group includes Elementary Education students, and the third includes Secondary Education students. We believe that the collaboration encouraged by TLINC is really working because despite the fact that there are other online platforms in which students and faculty are expected to work, student teachers have begun generating their own content on edWeb.net—posing questions and starting discussions—and sharing their experiences.
In the fall of 2011, with TLINC resources and mobile devices provided through a NCTAF-Qualcomm Wireless Reach grant, the College of Education has begun to integrate TLINC’s core concept of technology-enhanced collaboration, into the College of Education as a whole. We have linked TLINC communities on edWeb.net into the College of Education’s Field Services Portal, a portal that uses an algorithm to match Student Teachers with Cooperating teachers and has over 2000 regular users across New Mexico.
The mobile devices have enabled us to examine how students are using social networking on-the-go. The students use the devices to record themselves in classroom, to connect to edWeb.net, and to gather resources. We have found that there is a greater use of tablet devices than smartphones; this may be because many students already own a personal smartphone and are reluctant to use a second device.
It is exciting to see faculty and student interactions and postings on the edWeb.net communities. UNM is committed to making sure that our students have the resources they need even after they graduate and go out into the classroom. We see great value in TLINC work as it is geared toward the success of recent graduates.
We are very happy to see our faculty and students thinking and interacting outside of structured courses. Our efforts are, we believe, beneficial not only for our students and graduates, but also to the growing research knowledge base on technology and social networking in teacher preparation and educator development.