Archive for July, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Changing Instructional Practice: The Impact of Technology Integration on Students, Parents, and School Personnel

Changing Instructional Practice: The Impact of Technology Integration on Students, Parents, and School Personnel

Jennifer A. Alexiou-Ray
Elizabeth Wilson
Vivian H. Wright &
Ann-Marie Peirano
University of Alabama

Abstract
Attitudes of students, school personnel, and parents toward technology use within schools are an important and often overlooked component of successful curriculum integration of technology. Due to negative responses toward increased technology use in her classroom, one teacher engaged in an action research study to explore why students, parents, and other school personnel were resistant to technology integration. Students, once accustomed to the changed classroom environment, were excited to be engaged in new types of learning experiences. School personnel were pleased with the accessibility of classroom information and support services technology provided. Lastly, parents noted that though the style of teaching was different, it offered many new possibilities for their children. From the results of the surveys, it appears that much of the initial resistance to technology integration derived from discomfort with the unknown.

Introduction

Attitudes toward technology use within the school setting are an important and often overlooked component of successful curriculum integration of technology. Much of the research done on technology integration assumes that once appropriate technological tools are in place in the classroom, students, teachers, and parents will overwhelmingly support the change toward a technologically based curriculum. However, after taking over a low-tech History class mid-year, one teacher, seeing that the computer resources were available, began to experiment with new teaching methods, and was disturbed by the amount of resistance toward the change by students, colleagues, and parents. Therefore, she wanted to explore two questions: What does research say about the changes that must take place in education to make technology integration a viable instructional option, and how do all of the educational stakeholders feel about the change toward a more cyber-centric curriculum?

Literature Review

Technology becomes a more prevalent part of the education culture with each passing year. Schools cannot ignore the impact of technology and the changing face of curriculum. Those who have done research on how technology will affect secondary schools, see vast changes occurring. Symonds (2000) asserts that the high school will look much different in 2018; it will be “High Tech High” (p.190). Furthermore, Bennett (2002) addresses the actual changes that must take place for technology usage to make a difference in curriculum design and start the alteration to Symonds “High Tech High.” Bennett suggests changes in the roles of teachers, students, and computers. Students would interact collaboratively with teachers and technology. Computers would deliver and remediate lessons, while the teacher would be a facilitator and a mentor (Bennett, 2002; Dooling, 2000). Harris (2002) notes that educators have “to accept changes…in [their] interactions…with students and they [have] to support students as their roles change, too” (p. 457).

Before the aforementioned changes can occur, schools must explore issues dealing with teacher training and securing equitable student access to technology. Technology must be part of the total curriculum, which means that teachers must be equipped with the tools necessary to effectively integrate technology in their classes. This brings about the issue of teacher training. Diem (2000) maintains that few teachers actually use computers themselves due to a lack of support and little free time to learn the often-complicated operation of technological devices. Diem insists that technical support for teachers needs immediate improvement because, “teachers who are supported are less likely to feel threatened and develop more positive attitudes toward technology, and teachers who are supported are more likely to become proficient users of technology in the classroom” (Diem, 2000, p. 495). However, the presence of technology in classrooms does not necessarily produce better learners, nor does technology have the same result in all educational environments (Tolmie, 2001). Teachers must have the tools to engage students effectively, using technology. In order to achieve the proper training in technology integration, schools must make in-service relevant and recurring (Corcoran, 1999). Furthermore, according to the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for future teachers, adequate preparation for technology integration should occur at the college level.

Tierman (2002) explains that problems with equitable student access to technology, often referred to as “the digital divide-or the disparity in access to computers across socioeconomic, regional, or cultural lines-is a growing concern nationwide, as computers gain even more importance in U.S. business and education” (1). In addition to computer availability, other issues concerned with equitable student access to computers include: computer adequacy, availability of software, Internet access, and home availability of computers (Shaver, 1999).

According to Moore’s Law, computer technology changes and improves at an exponential pace, which can make many of the computers that exist in schools dinosaurs by business and private sector standards. Furthermore, much of the software, including operating systems, is outdated. Internet access is another area in which schools lack the resources (T1 lines, data ports, servers, etc.) to offer wide spread usage to students. Another availability issue lies within student homes. According to the Census Bureau, only 36.6 percent of Americans have computers in their homes (Shaver, 1999). This is especially a problem in lower socioeconomic areas, where schools already have limited access to technology.

Answering the second question posed by the researchers is more difficult than the first. There is a need for investigation into student, school personnel, and parental attitudes concerning computer use in the classroom. Dooling (2000) found that students believed that “the effectiveness of computer technology experiences at school depends on the student’s prior knowledge [and his or her] teacher” (p. 22). Furthermore, Trejos found students are undecided about the benefits of specific uses of classroom technology, such as class websites, but parents feel these sites keep them more informed (2000). Eaton (1999) particularly praises the use of class websites as a way to enhance communication and learning and Trejos (2000) indicates that students appreciate the ability to retrieve homework assignments, extra credit work, and test reviews on the Internet. However, some do not like the fact that parents are constantly kept apprised of school activity. One high school student noted, “Sometimes [class websites are] more of a hassle than a solution. If you get a bad grade, your parents will come to you and ask what happened” (Trejos, 2000, p. C01). Trejos also reveals that parents feel they are better informed of their children’s academic performance when class websites and email communication with teachers are available.

The utilization of email and class websites (which will be the most closely studied technology tools throughout the remainder of this study) allows for interactive collaboration between students, teachers, and parents. Furthermore, it provides a basis for different teaching and learning styles that are offered by increased technology usage. Bass and Rosenzweig (1999) see technology supporting a constructivist learning perspective. They point, particularly, to online interaction via email and websites.

However, one must realize the drawbacks to electronic communication and online interaction. Despite all of its uses, the Internet has many sites that provide undesirable and incorrect information. According to Berson, Berson, and Ralston (1999) and Britt, Smith, Sunal, and Sunal [1998] teachers and parents should be wary of unrestricted student access to the Internet. Students will probably benefit more from having directed online assignments such as a WebQuest (developed by Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University), where Internet resources have been chosen by the teacher ahead of time to limit aimless searching of the Internet.

To further study the information presented by Dooling (2000), Tolmie (2001), and Trejos (2000), an action research study was conducted to analyze parental, student, and school personnel’s reactions to the increased usage of technology as an instructional component. A teacher of tenth grade U.S. History wanted to explore the reasons behind some of the negative responses to increased integration of technology in her classroom. Replacing an educator (in the middle of an academic year) whose teaching style lacked an emphasis on technology, the teacher initially felt that she would receive overwhelmingly positive responses to this change due to the extensive research about the affirmative results technology integration has on teaching and learning. However, as previously mentioned, much of the literature involving the use of technology in a classroom setting dealt with statistics on achievement, behavior, and dreams of futuristic ideals, not on opinions and attitudes of those involved. Therefore, the teacher had a desire to study the beliefs and attitudes of those involved with her classes.

Method

Apparatus

Based on the limited amount of research available on attitudes toward increased technology integration in classrooms, the researchers in this study developed questionnaires which they hoped would help answer questions about increased technology usage in the classroom and how it impacts all educational stakeholders. The researchers first tried to find a survey or set of surveys already existing in printed or web-based scholarly literature. After finding no surveys asking questions specific to feelings about technology integration, the researchers decided to create their own questionnaires for each focus group in the study. They examined current instructional practices used within the focus classroom and literature examining these practices, which included email, class web sites, online teaching and learning, and student Internet use. Lastly, they took the observation and research data and created three surveys. The surveys were reviewed by a panel of professors in the college of education at a southeastern university and Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval was received.

Participants and Procedure

Three groups were included in this research study: Group A=students in five tenth grade, Early American History classes, Group B=regular classroom support personnel, Group C=parents of the students in Group A. Each group was asked to fill out an online survey developed by the researchers. Web addresses linking to the surveys were added to the teacher’s class web site and participants visited the site to access the hyperlink. The participants were given directions and an explanation of their role in the project before they began taking the surveys. The students received oral directions, while school personnel and parents received written directions in the body of an email. All three groups were promised confidentiality and made aware that there would be no reward or penalty for their participation.

Group A consisted of 130 tenth grade Early American History students. The students ranged in age from fifteen to seventeen years old. The majority of Group A was lower-middle class to upper-middle class and had access to at least one personal computer at home with the Internet. The students were members of five Early American History classes with twenty-one to twenty-nine students per class. Students chose to participate in an online survey about using Internet, computers and other technology, and email in the classroom (Appendix A). The teacher instructed the students to complete the anonymous surveys at the end of a class conducted in the computer lab. Ninety-two students completed the survey.

Group B included special education teachers and aides, English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers and aides, as well as counselors and school office personnel who worked closely with students and regular classroom teachers. Each of the faculty and staff who participated were directly involved with the History class being studied through one or more students. The special education teachers and aides as well as the ESL teachers and aides provided services for those members of their programs. The history teacher worked with the resource teachers to provide the best accommodations and modifications of the curriculum for each student receiving additional academic support services.

Counselors and office personnel dealt with students in various capacities, which included extended absences, make-up work, academic support, and students with 504 plans (504 plans include all students qualified to receive accommodations and modification because of health impairments or disabilities, which do not fall under the category of special education.) All of those included in Group B had reason to access the class web site on a regular basis to assist students and parents in academic planning. Group B received an email asking for their voluntary participation in the anonymous, online survey (Appendix B). The focus of the survey for Group B was usability of the class web site to gain information for the students that they assist. Seven of the thirteen teachers and classroom support personnel completed the survey.

Group C, parents of Group A, was contacted through email and asked to complete an online survey about class websites, email usage, and student Internet access (Appendix C). The participants in Group C had access to personal computers and the Internet. Respondents were not required to provide their names or any identifying information. Furthermore, as with the other parts of the study, no incentives were provided. Approximately one hundred sets of parents were sent the email asking them to complete the survey. Of those contacted, sixteen parents responded to the survey.

Results

Student Study

mportant feature of a classroom. Teachers hope that with innovative and exciting lessons they can engage students and encourage lifelong learning. It is particularly important to study the ideas and reactions of students when using new methods. First, students indicated how often technology was utilized in their tenth grade history class. This question helps to give validity to a survey on student attitudes toward the use of technology in the classroom. Given the choices of never, occasionally, or often, ninety-two percent of students indicated that they used technology often. Upon elaboration, the students listed an assortment of different technological methods employed by the teacher, such as a SmartBoard, the Internet, a television/computer connector, digital cameras, and a class web page.

The majority (83; N=92) of students also indicated that technology integration in the classroom made learning more interesting. Of the ninety-two respondents, only nine said the use of technology added nothing to the learning environment. When asked what they liked best about using technology, some of the students responded in the following manner:

Student 1: “I personally am not a big fan of technology but it does make class more interesting”
Student 2: “I like using technology because it shows another way to look at things, other than in textbooks.”
Student 3: “It makes school fun because we are doing things differently in [history] than any other class.”

Though many of the responses were positive, students were able to critically analyze the limitations of technology usage. Student concerns included: malfunctioning electronic devices; the inability to quickly discern the validity of information on the Internet; and lack of computer knowledge. For example, only twenty-two percent of students rated themselves as having advanced computer skill or knowledge. A minority of students also mentioned they did not like retrieving assignments via a class website.

However, the most interesting part of the study dealt with the changing attitudes of the students from the beginning of the semester until the administration of the survey. Students compared present opinions about classroom technology use to initial feelings about the concept of technology integration. The majority of students indicated that they felt scared or worried about the prospect of increased technology usage. However, many of these same students changed their opinions after becoming acquainted with new classroom policies and procedures.

In addition to classroom technology usage, students also discussed personal time spent using a computer or other technological device in a single week. Students chose from less than one hour, two to three hours, four to five hours, six to seven hours, eight to nine hours, ten to twelve hours, or more than twelve hours. Each choice had a relatively even spread of respondents with the greatest percentage, twenty-three percent, using the computer six to seven hours per week. Although the amount of time spent using computers was not surprising, it was shocking that eighty-four percent of students claimed that of their time using computers, less than three hours a week were devoted to school related work. Students spent the remainder of the time on computers talking to friends through instant messaging, checking movie times, receiving and sending email, and playing games. This lack of scholarly computer use is also astonishing when one considers that sixty-eight percent of the students surveyed have five or more academic classes. Furthermore, fifty-eight percent of respondents indicated that only one of their academic classes had a website.

Lastly, students evaluated the use of email as a tool for scholarly collaboration. Fifty-four percent of students said they used email to contact their teachers about assignments. Students who used email for school related questions and concerns rated this type of communication using the following three choices: not helpful, somewhat helpful, and very helpful. Twenty-nine percent of students rated email as not helpful, while thirty and forty-one percent believed electronic mail was somewhat helpful and very helpful, respectively. Many of the students explained reasons why they believed email was not more useful. Some of the arguments were not having access to email, the difference between actual and desired response time, and technical difficulties with email services.

School Personnel Study

Of the school personnel who regularly interacted with the students in the study in an academic support capacity, ninety-two percent knew what the class website offered to assist students and parents, and sixty-nine percent accessed the site regularly to assist students with assignments. Respondents said they found the site useful for helping students keep up with daily assignments, informing students and parents of work missed because of absences, and directing weaker students toward reviews and remediation.

When asked to evaluate the overall quality of the site, the responses were overwhelmingly positive. Participants rated the following characteristics regarding the class website: ease of navigation, ease of finding contact information, ease of understanding classroom information, ease of finding desired information, and the degree of relevant support offered to students, parents, and school personnel. School personnel used a numerical scale of one to three to evaluate each characteristic: 1= website did not exhibit the characteristic; 2=, the website was somewhat adequate regarding the attribute; and 3= the website consistently demonstrated the quality.

Seven of the thirteen respondents indicated that the site consistently demonstrated ease of navigation (a rating of three), which was the highest score of all website characteristics. Ease of finding classroom information and the degree of relevant support offered to students, parents, and school personnel were also highly rated, with the majority of those surveyed indicating excellence, a rating of three, in these two areas. Lastly, the ease of finding the information desired and the ability to find contact information received a rating of three by approximately fifty percent of the respondents.

In addition to rating characteristics of the website, participants were also asked to give insight on what they believed to be the advantages and disadvantages of a class website. No one indicated that there were disadvantages to having information posted on a class website. However, one respondent felt that the teacher relied too heavily on the site as part of her teaching style. The respondent noted “Students benefit from having instructions given in a variety of formats, and usually seeing it written on the board is the best way.” The same respondent also wrote “The website should be used to reinforce what goes on in the classroom, not to give new information.”

However, as noted by this respondent’s remarks, it is clear that there was a lack of communication between teachers about the exact functions of this particular class site. The History teacher suspected that misinformation from students may have been the participant’s cause for alarm, and the particular teaching philosophy espoused by this participant is evident in her opinion that seeing information on the board is the best way to provide students with new knowledge. Moreover, the class site was used to supplement information that was also available to students through handouts and a corner of the class white board devoted to homework assignments and upcoming events.

Parental Study

The results of the parental questionnaire displayed an overall positive perception of email communication and class websites. The survey began by asking if the parents were aware of the website for their child’s American History class. Over sixty percent were aware of the site; however; only fifty-six percent reported visiting it regularly. Those parents who accessed the site used it for learning about their children’s assignments, test dates, and test reviews. When asked what other information should be available, some suggested links to pertinent history resources. However, the majority of respondents were satisfied with the content. Likewise, fifty-seven percent of parents felt the website offered useable and relevant support for students and parents.

When asked about the advantages and disadvantages of a class website, many responded positively. Parents were especially pleased with the ability to access homework assignments, testing dates, and obtain review material. Moreover, parents found it convenient to access the website to retrieve make-up work, therefore, avoiding calling the school for missed assignments. Participants also responded positively to the posting of project due dates. Many felt that because these projects required more time and research it was important to know about them in advance. Another respondent praised the helpfulness of the website for his or her child who had ADD/ADHD. Because the student had trouble focusing in class, having the assignments and upcoming due dates available for home access helped the parents keep the child on track.

Participants who were not previously aware of the website were asked if they would utilize it now. Eighty percent of respondents replied that they would now access the class site. Those who said they would not view the website, after learning of its existence, qualified their responses. Most felt that their children were responsible enough to keep up with their assignments and earn a good grade in the class; however, if grades or behavior ever became a problem they were glad that the site would be there to assist them.

Parents also contributed input on email communication with teachers. Eighty-seven percent of respondents knew they could email their child’s history teacher, while sixty-sixty percent used email to contact her regularly. The most common reason for email usage was a concern for their child’s behavior or grades. Others saw it as a way to conveniently check the progress of their children, even if grades were not slipping. Parents also felt that email communication was quicker than attempting contacting the teacher via phone. Another advantage parents found over traditional forms of communication was less reliance on students to relay messages. Although the majority of responses dealing with email communication were positive, parents indicated drawbacks, such as, lack of personal communication and the lag in email response time.

Lastly, parents were asked if they had reservations about their children using the Internet for school-related work. The majority of respondents felt that the Internet was a valuable resource for educational tasks. Most respondents felt that skill in using the Internet and personal computers was worthwhile for students to learn. Nevertheless, most parents also qualified their support of Internet use with phrases such as “if used appropriately,” or “when used correctly.” Others were worried about the quality of information available on the web. Finally, one respondent expressed concern regarding universal student access to the Internet.

Overall, parents displayed a positive attitude toward the forms of technology discussed above. However, there was one notable exception. On each of the questions, the same respondent reacted very negatively to the class website, email communication, and Internet use. The responses given indicate a general negative attitude toward technology use in the classroom. However, the participant never indicated why he or she disliked the increased use of technology in the classroom.

Implications

It is important to note that although this study was prompted by negative attitudes to technology use in an instructional setting, the vast majority of the responses from the three groups were positive. The results of the survey suggest that much of the initial resistance to technology integration derived from discomfort with the unknown; for instance, survey data indicated that the History class being studied was unique in its use of technology integration as a pedagogical practice. A mid-year teacher change contributed to participants’ discomfort as well. Having found the answer to their initial question, the researchers felt it was important to address individual aspects of technology integration, such as email communication and student/teacher/parent collaboration, student Internet access, and instructional practice, to improve teaching methods and foster authentic learning.

The majority of parents and many of the students appreciated the ease and flexibility of email use. Respondents acknowledged the convenience email offers busy parents, teachers, and students. However, few of the respondents recognized the new set of problems created with this type of communication. According to Trejos (2000), many teachers feel overwhelmed with the amount of email correspondence they must deal with on a daily basis. Educators voice concern that reading and responding to email significantly diminishes the time they have to plan, an issue overlooked by the parents and students in this survey. Furthermore, the researchers also concluded from the survey response rate in the parental survey and the lack of time students spend using the Internet for school related work, such as emailing teachers, that email may not be the most effective form of communication. An area of further research should focus on the most efficient way to correspond with parents and students.

In addition, parental attitudes and opinions regarding proper Internet use by students is another area that deserves further study. According to Tolmie (2001), many pre-existing factors, such as parental attitudes, will determine successful technology integration in an educational setting. The majority of parents, who participated in the survey, viewed the Internet, in various forms, as an important instructional and communication tool. Conversely, respondents also seemed aware of the dangers that the Internet and email may pose to users. For example, many participants qualified their approval of Internet use, which indicates that they are concerned about the abundance of inappropriate and unreliable material available online.

Furthermore, as suggested by Berson, et al (1999) and Britt, et al (1998), teachers should be wary when asking their classes to use the Internet and should warn them of the dangers that exist. Teachers, schools, and school systems should provide Acceptable Use Policies (AUP) to students and parents with guidelines for proper Internet and email use while at school. AUPs and school filtering programs can help keep students out of undesirable websites and keep them focused on academic tasks.

Moreover, when introducing students and parents to a dramatically different teaching style, it may be helpful to explain, in-depth, how technology will be used in the classroom. If a teacher adequately prepares students, in the beginning, it is reasonable to assume that the teacher will not have overwhelming resistance to technology integration. As evidenced by the student questionnaire, after having a chance to adjust to the difference in teaching style, students noted that they enjoyed technological tools such as the SmartBoard, which emphasized a more constructivist approach in which students are actively learning with “real world” implications (Britt et al., 1998). Using constructivist learning includes inquiry-based learning, bridging reading and writing through on-line interaction, and making student work public in media formats (Bass and Rosenzweig, 1999). Most students indicated that they enjoyed the hands-on learning offered by technology integration and felt they retained more of the information provided in the history class.

Conclusion

Any analysis of technological use must take into account the many components of an educational setting. Tolmie (2001) maintains that the same forms of technology will not necessarily yield comparable results in every educational environment. Technology is not used in isolation for teaching and learning, and the impact of technology on education is largely determined by the established educational setting. To be successful, a teacher attempting to integrate technology into a classroom environment must consider factors such as: administration, teacher, student, and parental attitudes towards technology; the educator’s teaching style and philosophy; the subject and concepts taught; and the learning styles of the students. Finally, reflective evaluation of current and future practices, as well as staying abreast of current research will help provide the best education for all students.


Contributors

Jennifer Alexiou-Ray is a doctoral student at the University of Alabama and a teacher of Computer Applications at Mountain Brook Junior High, Mountain Brook, Alabama. Her job responsibilities include helping to develop curriculum for a comprehensive seventh grade computer class, assisting teachers in integration of technology in the classroom, and computer and network troubleshooting. She hopes to participate in research involving electronic instructional design, student perceptions of technology integration, and the relationship between constructivism and technology integration.

Elizabeth K. Wilson, Professor, University of Alabama.

Vivian Wright, Assistant Professor, University of Alabama

Ann-Marie Peirano, University of Alabama

References

Bass, R. & Rosenzweig, R. (1999). Rewiring the history and social studies classroom:
needs, frameworks, dangers, and proposals. Journal of Education, 181(3), 41-62. Retrieved November 8, 2002, from Academic Search Elite database

Bennett, F. (2002). The future of computer technology in K-12 education. Phi Delta
Kappan, 83(8), 621-626. Retrieved October 12, 2002, from Academic Search
Elite database.

Berson, I. R., Berson, M. J., & Ralston, M. E. (1999). Threshing out the myths and facts of
Internet safety: A response to separating wheat from chaff. Social Education, 63(3), 160-
161.

Britt, J., Smith, C., Sunal, C. S., & Sunal, D. W. (1998). Using the Internet to create meaningful
instruction. The Social Studies, 89(1), 13-17.

Corcoran, T. (1999). Making the most of professional development [interview]. Curriculum
Review, 38(5), 4-5.

Diem, R. A. (2000). Can it make a difference? Technology and the social studies. Theory and
Research in Social Education, 28, 493-501.

Dooling, J. (2000). What students want to learn about computers. Educational Leadership, 58(2),
20-24.

Eaton, J. S. (1999). The social studies classroom on the eve of the cyber century. Social
Education, 63, 139-141.

Harris, S. (2002). Innovative pedagogical practices using ICT in schools in England. Journal of
Computer Assisted Learning, 18(4), 449-458.

Shaver, J.P. (1999). Electronic technology and the future of social studies in elementary and
secondary schools. Journal of Education, 181(3), 13-41. Retrieved November 8, 2002,
from Academic Elite database.

Symonds, W.C. (2000). High school will never be the same. Business Week, 3696, 190-193.
Retrieved December 3, 2001, from Academic Search Elite database.

Tierman, K. (2002, January 15). Grant takes aim at digital divide [Electronic Version]. Columbia
Daily Tribune. Retrieved November 8, 2002, from Newspaper Source database.

Tolmie, A. (2001). Examining learning in relation to the contexts of use of ICT. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17(3), 235-241.

Trejos, N. (2000, November 5). Internet makes kids’ grades an open book: Websites help parenttrack students’ progress. The Washington Post, p. C1.

Appendix A

Technology and Learning in the Social Studies Classroom-Student Survey

This survey includes students who are currently enrolled in Ms. __________ American History to 1900 classes. The purpose of this study is to examine the feelings of students regarding the integration of technology in the classroom. Your participation will include answering a brief questionnaire about your experiences with technology usage in the classroom. The time required to complete the questionnaire should be no more than fifteen minutes. Student participants shall not feel that their grades will be impacted upon completion of the survey. All questionnaires are completely confidential and names will not be disclosed at any point during or after the study. Your participation is voluntary, and you may withdraw from the study at any time.

1. Please indicate one of the following to describe how often Ms. __________ uses technology in the classroom?

  1. Never
  2. Occasionally
  3. Often

2. What forms of technology does Ms. __________ use in the classroom? (i.e. digital cameras, PowerPoint, email, SmartBoard, the Internet, etc.)

3. Do you feel that the technology used in your Social Studies class makes lessons more interesting? Please explain why or why not?

4. What do you like best about using technology?

5. What do you like least about using technology?

6. Please indicate one of the following to describe your knowledge of computer use.

  1. Beginner
  2. Intermediate
  3. Advanced

7. Approximately how many hours a week do you spend on the computer?

  1. less than 1
  2. 2-3
  3. 4-5
  4. 6-7
  5. 8-9
  6. 10-12
  7. more than 12

8. Of the time you spend on the computer, approximately how much is for school-related work?

  1. less than 1
  2. 2-3
  3. 4-5
  4. 6-7
  5. 8-9
  6. 10-12
  7. more than 12

9. Please list the school-related activities for which you use the computer. (i.e. writing papers, research, checking assignments, emailing teachers, etc.)

10. Please list the non school-related activities for which you use the computer. (i.e. emailing friends, using chat rooms, checking movie times, etc.)

11. How many academic classes are you currently taking?

4
5
6
7

12. Of these classes how many have a class website?
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7

12. Specifically, how do you feel about the website used in Ms. __________ class?

13. In what ways, if any, do you find her site useful?

14. In what ways, if any, do you dislike having a website in your Social Studies class?

15. At the beginning of the semester, when you heard you would be using more technology in the classroom, how did you feel? Explain.

16. Have your feelings about class websites and other technology changed over the course of the semester? Please explain.

17. In what way has the use of technology in Ms. __________ classroom motivated you to learn differently?

18. Have you ever emailed Ms. __________ about a class assignment? (If you answer “no” to this question, please skip the remainder of the survey.)

Yes
No

19. How would you rate this type of communication?

not helpful
somewhat helpful
very helpful
20. What advantages and/or disadvantages do you see with email communication outside the classroom?

Appendix B

Technology and Learning in the Social Studies Classroom-School Personnel Survey

Your voluntary participation in this study is requested. This study includes faculty and staff who work with Ms. __________ American History to 1900 students. The purpose of this study is to examine the feelings of school personnel regarding the integration of technology in the classroom. Your participation will include answering a brief questionnaire about your experiences with technology usage in the classroom. The time required to complete the questionnaire should be five to fifteen minutes. The benefits of this study are to provide research on this topic and to improve the instructional methods in Ms. __________ classes. All questionnaires are completely confidential and names will not be disclosed at any point during or after the study. Your participation is voluntary, and you may withdraw from the study at any time.

1. Are you aware that Ms. __________ offers a web site to assist student’s parents, and school personnel?

Yes
No

2. Have you ever accessed Ms. __________ site? (If you have not, please skip to question 6)

Yes
No

3. Please indicate to what degree Ms. __________ web site exhibits the following characteristics. One meaning not at all, 2 meaning somewhat, and 3 meaning consistently.

Ease of navigation 1 2 3
Ease of finding contact page and contact information 1 2 3
Ease of understanding classroom information 1 2 3
Ease of finding the information you desired 1 2 3
Offers useable and relevant support for students and school personnel 1 2 3

4. What are the main reasons you use Ms. __________ web site?

5. Have your ever suggested Ms. __________ web site to a parent or colleague?

Yes
No
6. As a member of the faculty or staff, what advantages and/or disadvantages do you see in having a class web site? (Please skip the remainder of the questionnaire if you have not visited Ms. __________ web site.)

7. Can you think of anything else you might like to see included in a web site for a Social Studies class?

8. Are there any specific features you like about Ms. __________ web site?

9. Would you recommend that other teachers offer class web sites?

Yes
No

Appendix C

Technology and Learning in the Social Studies Classroom-Parental Survey

Your voluntary participation in this study is requested. This study includes parents whose children are involved with Ms. __________ American History to 1900 classes. The purpose of this study is to examine the feelings of parents regarding the integration of technology in the classroom. You will answer a brief questionnaire about your experiences with technology usage in the classroom. The time required to complete the questionnaire is five to fifteen minutes. Parental participants shall not feel their completion of the survey will affect the grade or treatment of their child in Ms. __________ class. This study will provide research on this topic and help improve the instructional methods in Ms. __________ classes. All questionnaires are completely confidential. Ms. __________ and Ms. __________, graduate students at a southeastern university, are conducting this study as part of a course assignment.

1. Are you aware that your child’s Social Studies class has a website where homework and other assignments are posted? (If not, please skip to question 6.)

Yes
No

2. Do you regularly view the class website?

Yes
No

3. For what reasons do you access the website?

4. Please indicate to what degree Ms. __________ website exhibits the following characteristics. One meaning not at all, two meaning somewhat, and three meaning consistently.

Ease of navigation 1 2 3
Ease of finding contact page and contact information 1 2 3
Ease of understanding classroom information 1 2 3
Ease of finding the information you desired 1 2 3
Offers useable and relevant support for students and parents 1 2 3

5. Can you think of anything else you might like to see included in a website for a Social Studies class?

6. What advantages and/or disadvantages to parents do you see in having a class website?

7. Are you aware that your child’s Social Studies teacher can be contacted by email? (If not please skip to question 10.)

Yes
No

8. Do you use email to contact your child’s teachers? (If not, please skip to question 10.)

Yes
No

9. What are the main reasons you use this type of communication?

10. What do you feel are its benefits and/or limitations to email communication with your child’s teachers?

11. Do you subscribe to Internet Information on Demand (IIOD) provided by ______________________ School? (This service provides regular updates for student grades and attendance.)

Yes
No

12. Please explain why you do or do not subscribe to IIOD.

13. If you have answered ALL previous questions please skip to question 14. The website in your child’s Social Studies class provides current and previous homework assignments, project and paper assignments, the class syllabus and classroom policies, test reviews, and information about your child’s teacher. Now that you know about the website and/or email communication available in your child’s Social Studies class, do you think you will utilize it/them? Why or why not?

14. Do you have any reservations about your child using the Internet for school-related work? Please explain.


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Monday, July 28, 2008

Training Teachers to Evaluate Educational Tutorial Software: A Model of Intra-School Professional Development

Training Teachers to Evaluate Educational Tutorial Software: A Model of Intra-School Professional Development

Boris Handal
Cumberland High School
NSW, Australia

Parvin Handal
Western Sydney Health Area Service
NSW, Australia

Anthony Herrington
Edith Cowan University
Perth, Australia

Abstract
This paper describes a project concerned with the design, implementation and evaluation of a training program aimed to train secondary mathematics and science teachers in the selection of appropriate educational tutorial software (ETS). Before the implementation of this training program, a situational analysis revealed an apparent need for teachers to be better informed of the principles of ETS. It also revealed an apparent lack of available training schemes within local professional support groups. Consequently, an intra-school professional development model emerged as the most realistic strategy to align teachers’ background expertise with the school’s need for a more intensive use of technology in the curriculum. Seven mathematics and science teachers participated in a training seminar on evaluating ETS. Interviews held after the training seminar revealed participants’ learning as well as their willingness to use ETS in the classroom.

Intra-School Professional Development of Teachers

The past three decades has witnessed the failure of centrally directed change in large educational enterprises (Fullan, 1993; Handal & Herrington, in press). Despite large-scale investments of money, time, and research, many attempts to promote improvement in the educational outcomes have been problematic (Fullan, 1993). One of the main reasons for limited success is the lack of a grass-roots approach to teachers‘ professional development (Print, 1993).

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM, 2000) calls for teachers to be more active initiatives in their own professional development. According to the NCTM

Mathematics teachers must develop and maintain the mathematical and pedagogical knowledge they need to teach their students well. One way to do this is to collaborate with their colleagues and to create their own learning opportunities where none exist. They should also seek out high-quality professional development opportunities that fit their learning needs. By pursuing sources of information, building communities of colleagues, and participating in professional development, teachers can continue to grow as professionals. (2000, p. 373)

Intra-school professional development (ISPD) is one approach that can improve teachers’ effectiveness and confidence in addressing school-based concerns. In intra-school professional development, teachers and administration take the initiative and jointly develop programs using the current staff to meet the school’s and teachers’ needs (Good & Brophy, 1994; Kirkwood, 2001). Schools can also incorporate particular expertise from other institutions such as universities (Fullan, 1993). When teachers plan their own professional development, they can benefit from the course being delivered within their own school context. In such a situation, teachers’ problem solving capabilities are used to solve real issues and the school is transformed into a learning organization (Fullan, 1993). This grass-roots effect can empower teachers’ morale and enhance a sense of commitment and belonging to the school. In an ISPD scheme, teachers’ talents are identified and mobilized (Fullan, 1993), particularly in a technical area such as computer education (Monaghan, 1993).

There is also evidence that teachers participating in courses where externally-based ‘withdrawal’ (Schiller, 1985) or ‘top-down authority-based’ methods are used (Dynan, 1983, p. 42), have little success in implementing change when they return to their school. One reason may be that teachers in these types of programs are only considered as “clients” (Hoyle, 1976). Training through externally developed professional development programs is often out of context, often conflicts with school needs, and often lacks understanding by adopters, funding sources and support (Dynan, 1983). Such programs may well result in disunity of purpose because groups of ‘resisters’ are formed (Fullan, 1993). Moreover, unsuccessful reforms affect teachers’ morale causing stress, cynicism and burnout syndromes (Fullan, 1993). Hart (1992) adds that when teachers consider new tasks to be trivial and superficial they tend to mistrust other innovations.

ISPD may provide a more effective method for fostering educational change than traditional approaches. Rosenholts (1989) found that 90% of 1200 teachers from 78 elementary schools reported effective learning from other teachers, while only 45% reported effective learning from professional conferences. According to Good and Brophy (1994), approaches conducive to ISPD can take the following forms: (a) professional discussion, (b) curriculum development, (c) peer observation, (d) peer coaching, (e) action research, and (f) university-school system alliances.

Professional discussion enables teachers to reflect on general professional issues that are of interest and common to them (Leikin & Winicki-Landman, 2001). These issues need not necessarily be related to the specific school context but they may have a broader scope such as philosophies of education, teachers’ beliefs, computer education, problem solving, parental involvement, investigational work, and so forth. Teachers may also work co-operatively in curriculum development tasks, developing and sharing knowledge and experiences in the design of instructional activities that reflect school needs. In peer observation teachers collaborate to visit one another’s classrooms to identify situations that may assist them in improving their own teaching. Novice teachers, in particular, can benefit from observing experienced teachers. Peer coaching takes place when a teacher, who is an expert in one area, facilitates understanding of other faculty members (Guinney, 2001).

Teachers can also engage in their own professional development through action research, which involves the processes of planning, acting, observing, and then reflecting on classroom practice. Teachers tend to apply this approach in a more flexible and informal way than do academics (Arhar, Holly, & Kasten, 2000). University-school system alliances provide another form of intra-school professional development. These are partnerships between schools and universities that are mutually beneficial such as collaboration through winter or summer institutes on issues such as classroom and school improvement, educational technology, and leadership training (Fullan, 1993).

Educational Tutorial Software

Educational Tutorial Software (ETS) usually follows a fixed structure and sequence. It first starts with an introductory section on the purpose and nature of the lesson, and then information is presented and elaborated. Next, the student is questioned, and once the student answers, the program judges the response and feedback or remediation is given accordingly. The cycle closes when the lesson is terminated either by the learner or by the program and a summary appears at the closing of the lesson.

A tutorial design attempts to replicate a personal tutor’s behavior. Ideally, an ETS will provide motivation for the lesson, offer opportunities for interaction, correct mistakes and misunderstandings, and encourage success (Gibbons & Fairweather, 1998; Leuhrmann, 2002a; 2002b; Schwier and Misanchuk, 1993). Educational tutorial software is considered to be a powerful instrument that enhances learning through independent work. According to Alessi and Trollip (1991; 2001) tutorials are effective for presenting information based on facts, for learning concepts, rules and principles, or for gaining knowledge of problem solving strategies. An ETS may also be useful when the number of students or qualified teachers do not justify a regular class (Merrill, et al, 1992). In addition, ETS could be a useful instructional tool in small schools that do not have the resources to afford a specialist (Alessi & Trollip, 1991; Gibbons & Fairweather, 1998). Such software can also be used to supplement normal classes providing further opportunities for individual reflection and practice.

One of the major challenges in the development of computer-based software is good instructional design. Initial computer-based instruction software designs were transmissive and influenced by behaviorist educational models (Saettler, 1990). This may explain the disinterest of some educators towards computer based instruction. Too many programs are available that are nothing more than the electronic versions of traditional workbooks (Gibbons & Fairweather, 1998). The lack of inquiry-based constructivist instructional design may influence educators to believe that computer-based products are not sufficient or flexible enough to meet learners’ needs, however, tutorial software, for example, in the form of multimedia can be a powerful tool for enabling real world problems to be investigated in the classroom (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000).

Situational Analysis

An ISPD strategy was implemented at an international school in Macau to train teachers in the use of ETS. Prior to the design of the ISPD strategy a situational analysis was carried out in the school. The school follows the British curriculum and prepares its students for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). Most of the students are from an Asian background. Secondary teachers come from a variety of countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America, Canada, South America, India, Taiwan, People’s Republic of China, Zimbabwe, Macau and Singapore. The language of instruction is English. Seventeen teachers and the secondary school administrator took part in the analysis.

The participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire to examine the level of their technological expertise and use of technology in their classrooms. In addition, the secondary administrator of the school was interviewed. The responses indicated that teachers regularly used overhead projectors and tape recorders as the main instructional technology. The school is very keen on the use of technology in teaching. For example, the school has purchased hand calculators for the primary section. Video players are yet another medium that is used in classroom instruction, particularly in the teaching of English as a second language and History. Educational videocassettes were obtained from the Educational Resource Center of the Department of Education of Macau, which possesses a large collection of these items. The school has also purchased thirty new PC computers to be used by students. These computers were chiefly deployed to teach computer courses such as word processing, databases and spreadsheets. The purchase of computers has permitted all secondary students to have access to the equipment either as a computer studies subject or as a tool to complete assignments for other subjects.

The computer studies program at the school starts in primary Grade 4 and continues in secondary school. In Grades 4, 5 and 6, students participate in two periods a week of typing and development of other navigational skills through games. As part of the computer studies program, secondary students study Windows, Microsoft Word, Access as a database, and Excel as a spreadsheet. Two out of the three instructors have received training in the use of computers either as a tool or as an instructional aid. Instructors prepare handouts as there are no textbooks to follow. Assessments are conducted through tests, class work and projects.

Data from the questionnaire showed that 82% of the teachers have received training in the use of computers and had learned to use packages such as word processing, spreadsheets or databases. It was also found that among the staff there were two teachers with specific training in programming. Eighty-eight percent of the teachers did not have any training in computer education. The survey also revealed that 12% of the teachers used overhead projectors and 6% used videocassettes, slides, CD-ROM and the Internet consistently. However, the expectation was that computers should be used more often. The school administration had previously recognized some teachers’ expertise in computer education and requested them to train other teachers.

The Department of Education of the Macau Government is mostly concerned with the management and funding of public schools. Some computer courses are offered to the teachers during the school holidays. However, most of these courses are conducted in Chinese though a few of them are conducted in English or Portuguese. In brief, the situational analysis revealed the school’s strong support for the goals of computer education and a need for more professional development that could not be found in local professional organizations.

Implementing an ISPD strategy to train teachers in ETS

According to the situational analysis, none of the teachers at the school had received training in identifying appropriate educational software for the learning and teaching of secondary mathematics and science. An ISPD was planned with the following objectives:

1. To understand the general structural principles of sound ETS packages.
2. To understand the role of ETS in computer-based instruction.
3. To be familiar with the interface design, navigation and control of an ETS.
4. To evaluate the interface design, navigation and control of an ETS.
5. To demonstrate a willingness to use ETS in classroom teaching.
Seven mathematics and science teachers at the school participated in the training seminar. The seminar was taught by one of the secondary school teachers who had received specialized training in the field as part of her postgraduate training. A handbook was developed for the seminar participants. The handbook covered selected topics on computer-based instruction and educational tutorial software. The computer-based instruction section covered phases of instructional design, namely, presenting information, guiding the student, practicing by the student, and assessing student learning; It also covered the five major types of computer-based instruction: tutorial, drill, instructional games, simulations and tests. In turn, the ETS section covered: (a) introduction, (b) student control, (c) motivation, (d) presentation of information, (e) questions and responses, (f) judging responses, (g) providing feedback about responses, (h) sequencing lesson segments, and (i) closing. The information was presented in note-point form along with pictures of typical ETS displays. An abridged version of the Alessi and Trollip (1991) Quality Review Checklist was developed for participants so that they could evaluate ProOne Mathematics software (ProOne, 1996) used as an example of ETS.

Ten sets of ProOne Mathematics I software were made available to the participants. The computer laboratory of the school was used for training purposes. An overhead projector was also used to show transparencies of typical ETS displays as well as to present points by the instructor. ProOne Mathematics I was chosen for the training seminar among other ETSs available because it demonstrated important features of an effective ETS identified by the Quality Review Checklist.

Design and Procedure

Participants were assigned to a PC with CD-ROM incorporated so each one was able to manipulate the ProOne Mathematics I software according to the instructor’s guidance. The instructor explained in sequence the main authoring issues in the design of an effective ETS. Parallel to the instructor’s exposition, participants were manipulating the software in order to verify those authoring features. They were constantly encouraged to go through the different programs of the software and to experiment with the different functions. This activity was welcomed and actively pursued by the participants.

The instructor made use of overhead transparencies that showed note points and samples of screens. Advanced organisers were also used in explaining the key concepts of the seminar. Active discussion was encouraged between instructor and participants, and among participants, to encourage a better understanding of key concepts.

In addition to the ProOne Mathematics I software, participants also had the opportunity to manipulate the Access 95 Tutor software (Perry, 1996) and compare it with ProOne Mathematics I and the seminar notes. They were also requested to complete a written questionnaire to indicate their understanding of the main ETS issues.

Finally, participants were asked to evaluate the ProOne Mathematics I software by completing the quality review checklist previously developed. At this stage, participants had to review their previously acquired knowledge with some needing more feedback and elaboration from the instructor. In subsequent days, interviews were carried out to identify participants’ attitudes towards the use of ETS and to the training seminar.

Results and Discussion

Participants’ responses elicited through interviews were analyzed in terms of their perceptions on the use of ETS as an instructional tool. Their responses were also used to evaluate the effectiveness of the training program as well as to offer recommendations for future developments.

A number of themes emerged from the analysis of the participants’ responses. Participant’s indicated that they had comprehensively learned aspects of the role of ETS in instruction. One participant said:

I understand that it is only a tool and I could see that it is not replacing a teacher. I also learned many things that could be applied in other areas of the education just about first introduction. When you introducing things, it is important to set your objectives, and I learned about writing questions…

Another theme emerged to indicate participants’ ability to recognize and evaluate tutorial software:

It [the seminar] stimulated my thinking as what to look for in the evaluation of tutorial software. What positive and negative things to watch out for when shopping around for such software tools.

I think I have learned how to look for a useful piece of software that I will be able to use in class and may be give students something worth learning rather than any other CD-ROM.

Participants also expressed their willingness to use ETS in their classroom in future, although some of them mentioned barriers to fully implement this approach. Some of them said that they still needed more knowledge to be able to implement change in their classroom. In addition, money to buy ETS can be a problematic. One of the teachers said that this seminar had helped her to look for effective software and therefore to saving money:

When I last went to Hong Kong I saw four or five of these CD-ROM for the subjects that I will be teaching next year. Now that I know what I am looking for I can at least look at the CD-ROM and evaluate it, that this is going to be useful and this is just not wasting my money.

Integrating technology into normal classes was another problematic theme that emerged. One participant remarked:

I think getting copies or getting enough for everybody to be involved at one time is difficult. This has to be a process of taking the students out of the classroom. Two or three for one computer and setting up some tasks for them to learn or use the tutorial for themselves or assign them a project to use the CD-ROM. Because getting twenty or twelve copies of one CD-ROM is not buyable as it is too much.

Another participant highlighted a further difficulty with integration and limited resources for individualized learning.

Because I teach science I think it would be very helpful. Big classes might be difficult, with the lab that we are using, I might not be able to have one student working at one computer and with a group of students then it might be left to one student to do everything rather than each student trying things by themselves.

A similar concern was expressed by another teacher:

The only difficulty I see is that if the students did not have that much experience with the computers, they will have difficulty in the beginning going around.

Another respondent remarked on the theme of class management:

As a supplement I think it is very useful. The main difficulty I think would be to maintain control to know exactly whether the students are working or not. But if it is a self-explanatory tutorial, it should not be too much problem.

However, novelty and motivation was seen as another beneficial theme with one participant pointing out:

Now I know the importance of tutorials. I will try the CD-ROM with a few students and see how it goes. Later I will try with the whole class. I think my students will enjoy it because it is a different experience.

Conclusion

A situational analysis of the issue of computer education in the school clarified the need for staff development and a process for educational change in the area of computer-based instruction. An intra-school professional development model was planned and implemented with mathematics and science staff to provide knowledge about the use of educational tutorial software. Interviews following the implementation revealed a number of themes in relation to computer education. Participants were able to recognize the value of incorporating educational software into their teaching, were better equipped to evaluate such software and more willing to incorporate it into their discipline areas. However, other themes emerged to indicate the difficulties associated with ETS, in particular, resource costs, accessibility, organization and management. Participants’ responses also showed that this was the first time they had access to this type of inservice training pointing to the considerable potential of intra-school professional development as a form of teacher training.


Contributors

Boris Handal obtained his BEd (Honours) from the Higher Pedagogical Institute of Peru, his MEd from Edith Cowan University and an EdD (Awarded 2002) from the University of Sydney. Currently, he is a mathematics teacher at Cumberland High School, NSW, Australia

Parvin Handal, obtained her Bachelor of Sciences majoring in Mathematics and Computer Sciences from the University of London and her Masters of Education (Training and Development) in the area of computer education from Southern Cross University (NSW). Currently she works as data consultant and IT trainer.

Anthony Herrington, Ph.D., is a Senior Lecturer at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia. He lectures in mathematics education, technology education and pedagogies associated with tertiary teaching.

References

Alessi, S.M., & Trollip, S.R. (1991). Computer-based instruction: Method and development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Alessi, S.M., & Trollip, S.R. (2001). Multimedia for learning: Methods and development. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Arhar, J.M., Holly, M.H., & Kasten, W.C. (2000). Action research for teachers: The yellow brick road. New Jersey: Prentice Hall College.

Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Dynan, M. (1983). Dissemination of curriculum innovation. Curriculum Perspectives, 3(2), 60-65.

Fullan, M. (1993). Changing forces: Probing the depths of educational reform. London: Falmer.

Gibbons, A.S., & Fairweather, P.G. (1998). Computer-based instruction: design and development. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Educational Technology Publications.

Good, T.L., & Brophy, JR. (1994). Looking in classrooms. New York: HarperCollins.

Guinney, E. (2001). Coaching isn’t just for athletes. Phi Delta Kappa, 82(10), 740-743.

Hart, A. (1992, April). Work feature values of tomorrow’s teachers: Work redesign as an incentive and school improvement policy. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.

Handal, B., & Herrington, A. (in press). Mathematics teachers’ beliefs and curriculum reform. Mathematics Education Research Journal.

Hoyle. E. (1976). The parameters of change. In W. Prescott & E. Hoyle (Eds.), Innovation: Problems and possibilities (pp. 27-54). London: Open University.

Kirkwood, M. (2001). The contribution of curriculum development to teachers’ professional development: A Scottish case study. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 17(1), 5-28.

Leikin, R., & Winicki-Landman, G. (2001). Defining as vehicle for professional development of secondary school mathematics teachers. Mathematics Teacher Education and Development, 3, 62-73.

Leurhmann A. (2002a). Should the computer teach the student, or vice-versa? In R. Taylor (Ed.), The computer in school: Tutor, tool, tutee (pp. 129-135). New York: Teachers College Press. Republished Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 2(3). Available: http://www.citejournal.org/vol2/iss3/seminal/article1.cfm

Luehrmann, A. (2002b). “Should the computer teach the student…”—30 years later. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 2(3). Available: http://www.citejournal.org/vol2/iss3/seminal/article2.cfm

Merrill, P.F., Hammons, K., Tolman, M.N., Christensen, L., Vincent, B.R., & Reynolds, P.L. (1992). Computers in education (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Monaghan, J. (1993). IT in mathematics initial teacher training: Factors influencing school experience. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 9, 149-160.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2000). Principles and standards for teaching school mathematics. Reston, VA: Author.

Perry, G. (1996). Access 95 Tutor: The interactive seminar in a box. Indianapolis: QUE Corporation.

Print, M. (1993). Curriculum development and design. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

ProOne. (1996). Mathematics. College Grove, TN: CDAccess.

Rosenholts, S. (1989). Teachers’ workplace: The social organization of schools. New York: Longman.

Saettler, P. (1990). The evolution of American educational technology. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

Schiller, J. (1985, July). The change facilitator styles of primary principals and their effects on teacher implementation of a new curriculum: Preliminary findings. Paper presented at the 15th annual conference of the South Pacific Association for Teacher Education, Hobart, Tasmania.

Schwier, R.A., & Misanchuk, E.R. (1993). Interactive multimedia instruction. New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.


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Copyright for articles published in this site is retained by the authors. By virtue of their appearance in this site, articles are free to use, with proper attribution, in educational and other non-commercial settings.

Please report any problems you may have with the site to the webmaster via email. Don’t forget to include “The Digital Enquirer Problem” in the subject so we can response to it as soon as possible.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Construction of Teaching Metaphors Through the Use of Technology

Construction of Teaching Metaphors Through the Use of Technology

Vivian H. Wright
University of Alabama

Cheryl W. Sundberg
Louisiana Tech University

Sondra Yarbrough
Jacksonville State University

Elizabeth Wilson
B. Joyce Stallworth
University of Alabama

Abstract
The study of preservice teachers’ development of metaphors as personal conceptions of teaching and learning is important not only to the preservice teachers but also to teacher educators. Such metaphors may provide us with snapshots, or glimpses, of our future teachers and can provide information on how we, as teacher educators, can ensure that methodological theories and pedagogical principles become a part of the preservice teachers’ experiences. This study presents an important framework for the development of teaching metaphors and presents data on four preservice teachers’ development through a general methods course and their subsequent teaching field methods course. Specific uses of text and graphics are examined in the data analysis. Conclusions indicate that text and selection of visuals revealed either a teacher-centered philosophy or a learner-centered philosophy of teaching..

Rationale for Metaphor Examination

The research base supports classrooms that are learner-centered where knowledge is constructed through language-mediated interaction with peers and mentors and through interaction with the environment (Vygotsky, 1979, as cited in Moll, 1990.) Thus, the articulation of the conception of teaching and learning and subsequent sharing of this conception with peers and mentors are critical components of preservice teacher education. One assignment commonly used in many teacher education programs as a method for eliciting reflection on the process of teaching and learning is the metaphor. If a common purpose of this metaphor is to give the teacher educator an idea of what the preservice teacher is thinking about teaching and learning, the teacher educator may find a need to change instruction in order to better connect theory and practice as the metaphor develops and changes. With teacher education programs also searching for ways to effectively integrate technology to enhance teaching and learning for the preservice teacher, this study sought to determine if use of technology to construct the metaphor would enhance the preservice teachers’ construction of meaning and reflectivity.

Theoretical Framework

Metaphors can serve as a coherent and succinct way of “representing and organizing thoughts about particular subject matter, activities, or theories” (Knowles, 1994, p. 60). The metaphors of prospective teachers can be used to provide “glimpses” of the developing conceptions of teaching that are held by these individuals. The metaphors of prospective teachers are determined, at least in part, by their experiences and thus reflect elements of their personal histories.

One researcher noted the process of expression actually assists in cognition:

Finding an adequate articulation for what I want to say about these matters brings them into focus. To find a description in this case is to identify a feature of the matter at hand and thereby to grasp its contour, to get a proper view of it. (Taylor, C., 1985 as cited in Wertsch, 2000 p. 27)

The act of writing text is often reflective; Lotman postulated text acts as a “thinking device” and “a generator of meaning” (1988 as cited in Wells, 2000 p. 77). If writing aids in cognition, analysis of the text should provide a glimpse into the preservice teacher’s conceptualization of teaching and learning. In a study conducted by Surbeck, Han, and Moyer (1991), the researchers coded the dialogue of students’ journals for reflectivity and determined levels of reflectivity that included categories of reaction, elaboration, and contemplation based on how the students connected information back to theory. In a related study, Lamy and Goodfellow (1999) conducted a study of online students in a French course and categorized reflectivity based on whether conversations centered on French (classified as reflective) or centered on social aspects (identified as non-reflective). Thus, analysis of a teaching metaphor via PowerPoint should provide students with a mode for reflecting on the art and science of teaching and learning.

Metaphor as Means of Reflection

The use of analogies and metaphors can encourage reflection. Children’s analogies and metaphors “…often push the children’s thinking to new levels of sophistication and reasoning.” (Gallas, 1995 p. 46) Thus, when preservice teachers develop metaphors of teaching and learning, they, like children, may examine their current views and hopefully, consider carefully the type of teachers they wish to be and become.

A case study by Knowles (1994) revealed that the experiences in the classroom as a teacher are not necessarily congruent with the metaphors that are developed based on the personal history of an individual and experiences as a student. For example, individuals may be drawn to teaching as a result of their experienced success in school and have memories of teachers whose classrooms were conducive to learning and whose actions conveyed a deep sense of care and concern for students. These personal histories may generate teaching metaphors that are not easily maintained in beginning teachers’ classrooms. However, initial metaphors are likely to influence practices as these individuals enter the classroom. For this reason, Knowles suggested that examining an individual’s critical experiences might be a worthwhile task in teacher preparation courses.

The use of metaphors can enable teachers to represent their personal understanding of the teaching process, themselves as teachers, young adults as learners, and schools as systems in a way that can be beneficial in exploring the complexity of teaching (Earle, 1995). However, it is this complexity that makes the use of a single metaphor limiting in examining teacher’s understanding. Furthermore, teaching metaphors may give only the perspective of the teacher and fail to acknowledge the learner’s viewpoint.

Metaphor as Means of Change

One researcher insisted there should be a shift in the conceptualization of the classroom as a business to the view of the classroom as a new country to be explored, to “go where no one has gone before” as quoted in a popular television show. Wheatley (1991) indicated the “workplace metaphor was commonly used by teachers to describe the activity in classrooms and wrote, “Teachers can be heard saying, ‘My students don’t work hard enough’” (p. 13). Wheatley postulated a shift in the classroom metaphor from a “workplace” to a “learning place” would more closely describe a constructivist paradigm on learning. The students would be “explorers” and “inventors” rather than “workers.” Wheatley described learning as a “co-construction” through social interaction in the classroom. Thus, a shift in the metaphor could encourage preservice teachers to embrace the constructivist paradigm more closely.

Bullough and Stokes (1994) examined the metaphors of 22 secondary preservice teachers enrolled in a yearlong certification program. The authors established the need for the study by providing a rationale for metaphor analysis by examining the literature on: (a) images of self, (b) self-narratives, and (c) personal metaphors. Over this period the preservice teachers were asked to develop and refine their teaching metaphors. The researchers concluded that, initially, the preservice teachers’ metaphors were similar, particularly in regard to their view of the “teacher as expert”. Within the group, there were some who viewed teaching as nurturing as well. The researchers found that there were three themes that emerged from the data during the course of the study: change, loss of innocence, and rhythm. Within the group there appears to be individual differences which the researchers categorized as (a) never got it, (b) got it, but didn’t like it, (c) went along, but didn’t work at it, and (d) got it and used it. The researchers noted that levels of critical reflection were achieved by some of the student teachers and concluded that metaphors should continue to be explored for use in teacher education while noting that limitations exist.

Earle (1995) found that there were differences in the metaphors of novice teachers and experienced teachers. While there were apparent differences in novice teachers’ metaphors they seemed to have the common attribute of focusing on managing the classroom. Experienced teachers, on the other hand, presented metaphors that focused on their approaches to instruction.
Metaphors can be used to conceptualize beliefs about the multiple roles of teachers. It has been suggested by Tobin (1990) that prospective teachers’ beliefs can change significantly in the process of becoming a teacher and that metaphors can be used to examine these changes. The use of teaching metaphors along with a reflective process can help inservice and preservice teachers identify conflicts between their beliefs and their roles as teachers. Because teachers often view themselves as having multiple roles or that they change roles according to the teaching context, teachers in Tobin’s study commonly used several metaphors to describe their roles.

Metaphor as Means of Visualization

The visualization of the metaphor via the selection of pictures and graphics in the production of a PowerPoint presentation may produce a more mature conceptualization of teaching and learning. For example, Einstein visualized Maxwell’s writings about light waves. He viewed himself riding on the motions of the gas molecules (John-Steiner & Meehan, 2000). The process of selecting pictures and graphics could, in fact, allow the preservice teacher to actually visualize the process of teaching and learning, much like Einstein rode the waves of the gas molecules in the development of his theory of relativity. Perhaps the visual aspects of the PowerPoint are important components in the development of the metaphor. Like a painting, the metaphor via PowerPoint might grow and develop as the preservice teachers “paint” a picture of the metaphor with the technology. In fact, if the use of PowerPoint indeed triggers the creativity of the preservice teacher, the metaphor should grow in the same way a painting grows and develops. Shahn noted: “Thus an idea rises to the surface, grows and changes as the painting grows and develops.” (as cited in John-Steiner & Meehan, 2000)

Technology’s Role in Metaphor Development

Can technology contribute to the process of constructing a teaching metaphor? How does the use of a media such as PowerPoint aid or inhibit the reflective conceptualization of teaching and learning? In a study of the graphing skills of 125 seventh and eighth grade students, Mokros, and Tinker (1987) concluded that use of the technology may be a “bridge between concrete and formal operations” (p. 381). In addition, the technology provides a multi-modal approach to learning thus, addressing learning style differences in students. Other researchers also concluded the use of technology aids in cognition (Auberry & Nakhleh, 1999; Beichner, 1990; Brasell, 1987; Friedler, Nachmias, & Linn, 1990; Nakhleh & Krajcik, 1991).

In previously cited studies, research revealed technology can act as a cognitive bridge. Traditionally, the metaphor assignment used text only. However, studies by Cuban (1993) and Harper (1994) indicated analysis of photographs of classrooms provides a glimpse into the teacher’s conception of teaching and learning. Cuban (1993) and Harper (1994) analyzed photographs of classrooms for evidence of constructivist teaching principles. A classroom was described as using a constructivist approach if there was evidence of approaches such as students working in cooperative groups, a variety of materials being used, and projects displaying a variety of media.

In other studies, researchers have found that the use of the computer to mediate communication encourages reflection. Bos, Krajacik, and Patrick (1995) indicated telecommunications provided a radical means for teachers to collaboratively reflect on practice and noted that “ . . . for most teachers, reflecting on their practice is a crucial step for enacting meaningful innovations” (p. 190).

Metaphors Into Practice

Rodriguez (1993) outlined the hazards of not discussing personal metaphors before practice teaching. Rodriguez supported more connection between theory and practice, and perhaps metaphors are one method to help bridge the chasm between the two. The researcher also stated that teacher education programs need to do a better job in discovering the students’ beliefs earlier in the program in order to help them find a connection between theory and practice.

Tobin (1990) found that teaching practices often correlate to teaching metaphors but in some instances a desired metaphor, such as teacher as facilitator, is not implemented in the classroom due to a variety of reasons. In other cases, teaching practices that are viewed as possibly constraining the learning process of students can be related to the teacher’s metaphor. A possible use of metaphors suggested by Tobin is that teacher change can be initiated by introducing different, more appropriate, metaphors.

Bullough (1992) used teaching metaphors to examine the struggle that beginning teachers had reconciling their personal metaphors with an established curriculum. The belief that a pre-determined curriculum and personal teaching metaphors were, at least at times, contradictory was a central focus of the study. While Bullough did find that the teachers in the study struggled to negotiate the conflicting ideas between their personal metaphors and the adopted curriculum, other factors such as classroom management, were not identified as being additional sources of conflict between actual classroom teaching and theories taught in teacher education courses. The cooperating teachers were also seen as influential in reconciling the differences between metaphors and classroom teaching by allowing (or not allowing) the individual to explore the implementation of their own ideas in the curriculum.

Studies such as Bullough’s serve as a reminder that the process of becoming a teacher is unique for each individual (Bullough, 1992). The personal dimensions of becoming a teacher need to be given more attention but need to be viewed within the context of classroom teaching and implementing an established curriculum

Research Design

The research focused on how technology mediates the development of a teaching metaphor. The researchers used psycholinguistic analysis and coded data for emerging trends (Patton, 1990) and compared the themes in this study with those articulated previously in the literature. The data sources consisted of the preservice teachers’ PowerPoint presentations of their metaphors. Triangulation was achieved from collecting data at two points in time and examining the text and the pictures of the PowerPoint presentations. In examining the data, the researchers looked for evidence of constructivist principles, reflectivity in the text and pictures, connections to theory, and a learner-centered focus (Surbeck, Han, & Moyer, 1991; Lamy & Goodfellow, 1999; Cuban 1993; Harper, 1994).

Data were collected from two required teacher education courses at one southeastern research institution during two consecutive semesters. The first course is a required pre teacher education course that gives an overview of the teaching profession and requires 24 hours of field placement. The second course, which many students take the subsequent semester (although not required to do so), is the content methods course and requires 90 hours of clinical experiences. With the infusion of technology in this institution’s teacher education program, the course instructors implemented additional media to both of these courses, one of which was the required teaching metaphor to be developed using PowerPoint. The researchers collected the metaphors during the fall, 2001 and spring, 2002 semesters. Those students who completed the prerequisite and the methods course during two consecutive semesters determined the convenience sample. Four students were determined to have PowerPoint metaphors from both semesters and these metaphors were examined. Few studies in metaphor analysis have examined the role of technology in metaphor change and development. Therefore, this study provides an additional method for investigating metaphors in preservice teacher education.

Results

Of the four preservice teachers, two were male and two were female. To protect anonymity, pseudonyms are used in data presentation. Additionally, in the data presentation, many of the metaphors are stated in the form of a simile, which was allowed in the assignments.

Savannah’s metaphor in the pre-education class and the methods course was “teaching is like flying a kite.” The metaphor was teacher directed and the PowerPoint changed minimally between the two semesters. Savannah articulated in her first metaphor “a kite must have good structure and balance, as a teacher must also have in the classroom.” She re-worded this sentence in the second metaphor presentation to read, “the kite flyer must have knowledge of how to construct (sic) kite.” The pictures Savannah selected to visually represent her conception of teaching and learning consisted of single clip art images such as a singular kite flying or a singular teacher teaching (Appendix A).

Butch approached his metaphor development in the pre-education class as a baseball game and also articulated a very teacher centered approach. In the second metaphor Butch developed for the methods class, he re-defined his metaphor from a coaching perspective, but maintained the political aspects of playing the game. For example, in Butch’s first metaphor, he stated, “Teachers are just like baseball coaches in that they must motivate their students to learn each and every day.” In his second metaphor, Butch stated, “Teachers should always be in control in the classroom. Never let the students know that you feel uncomfortable. Further, he wrote: “A coach should be in control on the field. The players should never be allowed to tell the coach what type of scheme to use.” Throughout the first PowerPoint, Butch had references that teaching, much like playing baseball, should be fun. For example: “Teaching is like the game of baseball because it is a challenge, yet it is fun.” In his second metaphor, Butch appeared more serious: “As a coach, the fate of your team depends upon your preparation.” Butch did not use any pictures to illustrate his first metaphor, which might indicate that he could not visualize himself as a teacher. In the second metaphor, he selected one picture for his opening slide (Appendix A). The picture was a baseball player catching the ball which might indicate that Butch sees himself as omniscient and again very teacher centered.

William did not express a clear metaphor for the pre-education requirement, but he instead articulated his philosophy of teaching and grounded his approach with theory and briefly mentioned that teachers should be like “road maps.” In this first attempt, William stated, “Education is a process in which students gain knowledge of a subject, develop social skills, and learn problem-solving techniques.” For his second PowerPoint in the methods course, William articulated his metaphor as “Teachers are like road maps” and took a learner-centered approach. For example: “A teacher should offer a path to choose without choosing the path for the student.” He also made references that the teacher should not be the only source for information and should offer feedback throughout the learning process. William discussed that our job is to make the students life-long learners to teach them how to learn, “Teachers need to show the student how to function without a map available.” William did not have any images in his first metaphor but in his second, used a variety from clip art to web images. In each image, a sole person was showing how to learn (teacher illustrating the map) with the exception of the map image (Appendix A). While most images appeared teacher centered, the teacher is showing how to read the map, and the text indicated support that the teacher is showing the students how to learn, or in William’s words, “Teachers must also teach students how to use the MAPS effectively.”

April’s metaphors illustrated the most change between the first and second metaphor. In her first metaphor, April stated, “Teaching is like making stir fry” and was very teacher centered in her approach. She articulated that she was the one to decide the recipe, what ingredients to use, and how long to cook it and stated, “next, you need to chop up the ingredients just like you need to chop up the information you are going to teach your students.” Further, she wrote, “All the food you have prepared should be served together.” And, “All of the information you have given your students should be put together for a test.” It appeared that April, in her first metaphor, also believed that testing drives the curriculum. “Eat and enjoy your finished product just like you will grade and enjoy seeing all of the information your students have learned.” Images used in April’s first PowerPoint did not articulate her metaphor in many cases and focused on singular items. In April’s second metaphor, she re-focused and designed a new metaphor, “Teaching is like growing flowers.” She stated, “Students, just like flowers, are delicate subjects. They require preparation, care, nurturing, determination, and dedication to grow in strength and knowledge.” Themes relating to learning as a process, multiculturalism, and using multiple strategies were evident. In analyzing the pictures in the second metaphor, April used a picture of herself to introduce the PowerPoint, which might indicate she views herself as a teacher. Her pictures of flowers varied from singular flowers to gardens, possibly indicating more of a student view of teaching and learning. The text supported this, such as “All flowers, like students, come in different sizes, colors, and types. This requires that teachers have multiple strategies to help all students learn.”

Discussion and Recommendations

The research base supports the use of analysis of text and photographs to reveal a glimpse into the teacher’s conceptualization of teaching and learning. However, caution must be used in drawing conclusions about the extent to which the metaphor actually represents the views of the preservice teacher on teaching and learning. The selection of clip art, for example, may have been based simply on available resources and not on how the preservice teacher views teaching and learning. In a similar manner, the text may be the result of an Internet search for teaching metaphors. Thus, the preservice teachers used little or no reflection in completing the assignment. On the other hand, this research and previous research indicates the metaphor is useful in providing some information about how the preservice teacher visualizes teaching and learning.

The questions for future research are:

1. What insights does the analysis of the metaphor offer the teacher educator into how the preservice teacher conceives teaching and learning?
2. What types of remediation activities should be considered for preservice teachers that “just don’t get it.”(Bullough & Stokes, 1994)
3. Previous research in teaching metaphors used analysis of text only. How does the selection of clip art and photographs reveal the thinking about teaching and learning?
4. In what manner does the technology act as a cognitive bridge in the development of a metaphor?

In conclusion, we found the use of PowerPoint for the production of a metaphor offered a unique view into how preservice teachers conceive teaching and learning. Both the text and selection of visuals revealed either a teacher-centered philosophy or a learner-centered philosophy of teaching. What is not clear is how closely aligned the metaphor is to the preservice teacher’s conceptualization of teaching and learning. As noted by Knowles (1994), the metaphors of preservice teachers can provide a glimpse to the developing conceptions of teaching. These glimpses should not be ignored, but examined closely, in order to help teacher education programs discover students’ beliefs earlier in a program find connections between theory and practice.


Contributors

Vivian H. Wright, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology in the College of Education at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. She works with teacher educators on innovative ways to infuse technology in the curriculum to enhance teaching and learning and has helped initiate and develop projects such as Electronic Portfolios for the Preservice Teacher, Master Technology Teacher, and Technology on Wheels. Her research interests include asynchronous education, specifically Internet and E-Learning, and K-12 technology integration.
Cheryl W. Sundberg, Assistant Professor, Louisiana Tech University

Sondra Yarbrough, Assistant Professor, Jacksonville State University

Elizabeth Wilson, Associate Professor, University of Alabama

B. Joyce Stallworth, Associate Professor, The University of Alabama

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