Posts tagged ‘Education’

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Theory into practice: The design of an online technology skills course for nontraditional nursing students

Theory into practice: The design of an online technology skills course for nontraditional nursing students

Suzanne P. Stokes, Ph.D.
Troy State University, AL

Krista P. Terry, Ph.D.
Radford University

Abstract

Nontraditional students in an upward mobility nursing track delivered largely through distance learning technologies enroll in a one-hour credit elective course to learn skills required for success in the online learning environment. The course, “Introduction to Technology in Nursing Education,” began as a traditional classroom course. Its transformation to an online course reflects strengths inherent through using a systematic instructional design process in course development. An overview of the Dick, Carey, and Carey (2002) model of instructional design, examples of design components reflected in the course, and illustrations of instructional objectives and strategies from the lessons are presented.

Introduction

Designing and developing online learning environments for purposes of allowing students access to course materials, methods in which they can interact with content, and mechanisms for communication with faculty and peers is the focus of many practitioners, researchers, and administrators within the educational environment. While many publications serve to bridge the “theory to practice” gap when developing online education (e.g., Clark & Mayer, 2003; Mantyla, 1999; Stephenson, 2001) this paper attempts to bring into focus practical issues surrounding theory-based design and development of an online course for nurses. Consequently, it will provide a discussion of the development of an online basic technology skills course in the nursing program at a mid-sized comprehensive institution in the southeastern United States.

Providing online, web-based learning is the primary method of instructional delivery for students enrolled in a Registered Nurse (RN) to BSN-MSN degree track within the School of Nursing. The purpose of this degree track is to allow Registered Nurses who have earned the Associate of Science in Nursing degree to complete the nursing sequence required for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in one academic year and, if desired, move seamlessly into the Master of Science in Nursing degree program. Registered Nurse students in this track are typically full-time nurses living in the predominantly rural southeastern quadrant of Alabama. Time and location constraints imposed by work, family, and community involvement make the choice of a distance learning program appealing. Because of the unique nature of nursing education, the program is delivered via a blended methodology. Theory courses are delivered in an online, web-based mode while clinical experiences are personalized to meet individual needs and are conducted in facilities in students’ locales. Additionally, students have their choice of three branch campus sites at which they can receive student services, attend course orientation sessions, and take selected written and skills examinations.

Because of the heavy online component of the degree track, nursing program administrators committed themselves to preparing these nontraditional students for success in the program and satisfaction with their educational experiences. Results of studies by McCoy (2001) and Stokes (2001) indicate that students who have prior experience with using the World Wide Web are more likely to be satisfied with their online educational experiences. Recommendations from McCoy’s investigation of technological self-efficacy of nontraditional nursing students include developing strategies to enhance students’ technology skills and techniques for self-directed learning. Earlier work by Stokes (1999) found that public school teachers entering a graduate program with online components including an introductory technology skills course were able to identify their technological weaknesses, and through guided coursework, develop skills important to success in the degree program. The results of these studies therefore provided the basis for the development of an introductory technology course in which nursing faculty could equip students with the technology skills necessary for them to succeed in a primarily online learning environment. The “NSG 1160 – Introduction to Technology in Nursing Education” course (shortened to “Introduction to Technology” in this paper) was then designed, developed, and delivered to entry level students enrolled in the RN to BSN-MSN track.
Evolution of the Course

The online adaptation of the “Introduction to Technology” course evolved over four years. When faculty in the RN to BSN-MSN track observed that the program’s first group of nontraditional students was experiencing technology obstacles to learning, even though students had completed a prerequisite basic computer applications course as part of the University’s general studies requirements, a request for an online technology orientation session was submitted. This request was further substantiated by some students expressing frustration with adjusting to a return to college and adapting to a learning format that differed substantially from their previous learning experiences. To address these matters, the second year’s group of Registered Nurses entering the degree track was encouraged to participate in a basic technology orientation session delivered online during the week prior to the beginning of classes. The content was suggested by nursing faculty and was based on required nursing course activities that included synchronous and asynchronous communication, submitting work as email attachments, and using electronic databases for scholarly research. The orientation leader quickly noted considerable technology deficits in most students as well as a lack of basic software important for course activities, although students were informed of software requirements upon acceptance into the program. Course faculty saw only a moderate decrease in technology obstacles when the new term began. As the situation was assessed, suggestions were made that the orientation’s length and timing be changed to take into account individual differences in learning needs and learning paces, as well as to encourage students to complete arrangements for access to necessary software such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint prior to the beginning of the term.

During the time the RN to BSN-MSN track was initiated, a new one-credit hour elective course for traditional nursing students wishing to improve their technology skills was offered in the School of Nursing’s baccalaureate program. “Introduction to Technology,” the course that has been referred to previously, blended faculty presentations with computer-based learning activities. The instructor was present at all class sessions to provide immediate assistance as needed. Since the objectives of this course matched the needs identified in students in the RN to BSN-MSN track. A ssection of “Introduction to Technology” was modified for online delivery during the summer semester prior to the fall class of new RN students. The program director encouraged each student to enroll in the course. The course instructor guided students through skills activities; students practiced skills, realized the need for required software, and were technologically ready for beginning the program the following semester. Substantial improvements were noted by program faculty, and students’ evaluations of the online format were much more favorable than in the previous year. Between the third and fourth years, the course was redesigned based on the Dick, Carey, and Carey (2002) model of instructional design. The details related to the course as it now exists, as well as the theory that supported the design and development of the course, are described in the following sections.

Overview — NSG 1160 – Introduction to Technology

The catalog description for the course, “Introduction to Technology in Nursing Education,” states that the course:

Provides a foundation for using computer technology in learning; addresses digital communication, resources, and research. General topics include communication through electronic mail and course discussion, using the World Wide Web as an information tool, online scholarly research, and digital presentations. Course focus is the application of technology skills in learning (Troy State University, 2003, p. 291).

The general course objectives state that upon successful completion of the course, the student will be able to:

· demonstrate basic competency in core information technology skills;
· communicate using synchronous and asynchronous electronic processes;
· conduct Internet inquiry sessions for retrieval of nursing information;
· manage communication and information files in a digital environment, and
· develop electronic presentations for educational use.

There is no text for the course since all materials are available through the Internet. However, students are required to purchase a three-ring notebook, divider tabs, and a diskette. In addition, students are required to have access to a computer with an Internet connection, a printer, Web browser (Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, version 4 or higher), Microsoft Word, and Microsoft PowerPoint. Downloading Acrobat Reader and obtaining current virus protection software are covered in the course lessons. Access to course materials is through the university’s course management system via University-assigned usernames and passwords.
Table 1. Basic lessons and examples of corresponding instructional objectives for “Introduction to Technology.”

Lesson

Examples of Lesson Objectives
Upon completion of the lesson, the student will be able to:

1. Acrobat Reader Download Acrobat Reader to a personal computer; Install Acrobat Reader on a personal computer; Print a .pdf document using a local or network printer;
2. Syllabus Locate a course syllabus through a Blackboard course web site; Identify required course hardware and software; Identify University student support services.
3. Course Portfolio Develop an organized notebook of course materials; Maintain course records including assignment receipts and copies of submitted work as directed in lesson instructions; Use archived course materials for future reference
4. TSU Email Login to the University’s email system from any computer with Internet access; Organize program, course, and personal email communications in appropriate folders; Send email file attachments to course instructors and classmates.
5. Blackboard (Bb) Navigate through a Blackboard course site; Maintain current personal information in the appropriate area of Blackboard throughout the degree program; Use the Blackboard online manual for assistance when needed
6. Virus Protection Maintain up-to-date virus protection software on a personal computer; Describe how computer viruses and worms spread; Recognize an Internet hoax.
7. TSU Technology Policy Locate the University’s technology use policy; Acknowledge obligations of users of University technology resources; Recognize violations of the technology use policy;
8. Netiquette Identify objectionable behaviors frequently observed in electronic communication; Practice Internet etiquette / netiquette in all electronic communication;Follow guidelines for email communication specific to particular courses i.e., email subject line, body format, and signature.
9. Internet Terms Define words and abbreviations commonly used in technology-based environments; Look up unknown words and abbreviations encountered in web-based courses; Use Internet terms properly in verbal and written communication.
10. School of Nursing web site Use the School of Nursing web site as a primary resource for University and program information. Find tutorials for technology skills required for nursing courses in the Student Technology Help Pages.Direct nursing-related communication to the appropriate individual.
11. Web Resources Use search engines to locate resources on the Internet for course work; Maximize Internet searches by using advanced search techniques and specialized search engines; Explain the elements of a URL.
12. Evaluating Web Resources Evaluate a web site according to authority, purpose, currency, objectivity, and support; Identify the preferred domains for acquiring sound health information; Use a standardized form for evaluating web resources.
13. CINAHL Locate full-text scholarly articles in CINAHL through the TSU Library’s Remote Services area from a computer with Internet access; Use the library’s InterLibrary Loan (ILL) service to obtain copies of articles not available through CINAHL; Access the library’s online librarian service when questions or problems arise.
14. APA Style Produce a reference page of scholarly research formatted according to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), 5th edition; Identify errors common in using APA formatting for reference pages; Consult the University’s Writing Center for assistance with questions regarding APA formatting requirements.
15. Trojan Web Express Use Trojan Web Express for accessing individual University records; Maintain up-to-date personal information in the University’s database through Trojan Web Express;Manage course enrollment through Trojan Web Express
16. Discussion Board Access course-specific Blackboard discussion forums; Interact with classmates in an asynchronous discussion setting; Follow established rules of discussion forums.
17. Virtual Chat Access course-specific Blackboard chat rooms; Interact with classmates in a synchronous discussion setting; Search chat session archives for specific information.

The course is comprised of 17 basic lessons, two projects, a written examination, and a skills demonstration, all of which were derived from and correlated with the instructional objectives of the course (see Table 1 above). Table 2 provides a summary of each lesson’s purpose and selected activities. The two course projects are the development of a reference page that is comprised of resources from the World Wide Web and the CINAHL database (Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature) formatted according to APA style, and the development of a PowerPoint slide show that incorporates basic elements of an electronic presentation. Using APA format and the CINAHL database are components of the BSN and MSN curricular requirements, and because baccalaureate nursing graduates are expected to be producers of knowledge as well as consumers of knowledge, PowerPoint software was chosen as the medium for simulating information transfer from the nurse to the client community. Each student selects a health topic to use for both projects; this strategy helps students learn to take a single topic, locate consumer and scholarly resources, evaluate resources related to the topic, and incorporate information into a classroom presentation with an accurate reference list.

Table 2. Examples of lesson components for “Introduction to Technology.”

Lesson
Purpose (Condensed)
Examples of Activities
1. Acrobat Reader Acrobat Reader software is required to view and print many documents including syllabi, PowerPoint course enhancements, scholarly reading material through the TSU Library, and University documents. Determine if Acrobat Reader is installed by opening a .pdf file on the course web site. Download Acrobat Reader if needed. Print the poem in the .pdf file for the course portfolio.
2. Syllabus The syllabus is the guide for course requirements, grading criteria, calendar, and general course information including course and program policies. Locate and print the course syllabus for the course portfolio. Identify specific course elements including the course description, course objectives, evaluation components, and calendar.Submit the online lesson completion form.
3. Course Portfolio The course portfolio is a notebook for course documents; assembling the portfolio is a strategy for organization of materials in this and future courses. Purchase a 1″ notebook with a clear sleeve on the front, 5 tab dividers, and a 3.5″ diskette.Label the tabs according to instructions and file papers in the appropriate sections. Create a cover page for the notebook using PowerPoint.
4. TSU Email TSU email is the official account used in this course and throughout the nursing program. Developing email management skills enhances organizational skills. The attachment portion of this lesson checks the compatibility of the students’ word processing programs with Microsoft Word, the standard word processing program used by University faculty. Login to Trojan WebMail.§ Create a personal email profile. Create a class folder for all email correspondence.Practice sending a message to self with BCC to self; store the copy in the class folder.Send an email with a Word file attachment to the instructor; open an attachment from the instructor.
5. Blackboard (Bb) TSU uses the Blackboard (Bb) course management system in all courses. All School of Nursing courses use a uniform pattern for posting course materials Browse each of the following Bb areas: announcements, faculty information, course material, communication, web sites, and user tools. Update personal information in the User Tools area.Use the online Student Manual in the User Tools area to find out how to access old announcements.
6. Virus Protection Understanding types of computer infections and taking measures for protection is essential when working in an online environment. Read selected materials about infections and hoaxes. Verify that the computer you are using has virus protection software installed.Check the date when your virus protection software was last updated.
7. TSU Technology Policy All users of TSU technology resources must comply with this official University policy. Locate the TSU Technology Use Policy in the online version of the student handbook. Read the policy. Submit the online form indicating that the policy has been read.
8. Netiquette Using proper Internet etiquette (netiquette) is essential in professional communication. Read the “Core Rules of Netiquette” at http://www.albion.com/netiquette; Take the “Netiquette Quiz.” Send the instructor an email that correctly portrays the three basic elements: email subject line, body format, and signature.
9. Internet Terms Understanding words and abbreviations encountered when using technology is important for getting the most out of lessons and making the best use of time spent interacting with technology. Look up the meanings of selected terms and abbreviations in http://whatis.techtarget.com/ (a list of terms is provided).Respond to lesson questions that incorporate these terms.
10. School of Nursing web site The school’s official web site provides key information for students and links to resources important for success in the degree programs and tracks. Add the SON home page to Favorites (Internet Explorer) or Bookmarks (Netscape). Visit each area linked from the home page.§ Identify selected items in the site (a list is provided).
11. Web Resources Learning to find and evaluate information available through the web are essential skills in using technology in learning. Information located in this lesson will be incorporated into the Reference Page project and PowerPoint presentation. Review search engine types through “Search Engine Watch”§ Practice finding specific sites using techniques found in “Search Engine Math.” Participate in the lesson’s scavenger hunt
12. Evaluating Web Resources A common error made by Internet users is to accept information found on the Internet as fact; applying criteria for resource evaluation is important in nursing education. Read selected materials about evaluating web resources.Evaluate three sites according to a check sheet provided in the lesson.§ Identify three quality sites related to course research topic to use in the course projects.
13. CINAHL CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) is a major source of scholarly nursing resources; students are expected to use material found through CINAHL in the theory portion of all nursing courses. Access the CINAHL database through the remote services area of the TSU Library’s web site. Practice finding selected articles when given citations or subjects. Locate three full text articles related to course research topic to use in the course projects.
14. APA Style The School of Nursing requires students to use APA format when writing papers and submitting references for any project Bookmark selected online APA style information pages to use as resources when working with APA style.Visit the University’s Writing Center web site. Answer lesson questions about APA formatting in references pages.
15. Trojan Web Express TSU students use TWE for course registration, accessing grades, viewing transcripts, and gaining access to other official personal University information. Login to Trojan Web Express.§ Change the default or current password and specify a hint for the new password. Look at your latest transcript
16. Discussion Board The Blackboard discussion board feature is a component of all online classes; navigating through forums and maintaining discussions in established threads is essential for maximum asynchronous interactivity. Enter a discussion board forum. Participate in an instructor-lead thread. Begin a new thread within a designated forum.
17. Virtual Chat The Blackboard chat area provides a synchronous forum for formal and informal class meetings. Participate in one scheduled class chat session. Resize the chat screen so that at least twenty lines of chat are visible.Review your comments in the archive of the chat session in which you participated.

Although the skills demonstration at the end of the course provides a performance assessment opportunity from which the instructor can evaluate the cumulative skills of each student, the instructor’s observations of students’ work and their questions as they progress through the lesson tasks are key formative evaluations of the instructional materials design. In addition, these observations serve as a lesson to the instructor of the many means that students discover to reach the end product. Because the instructor is the course designer, these observations assist in refining instructional materials and related tutorials to guide students in the best methods of executing skills related to learning in an online environment.

Instructional Design Model

The “Introduction to Technology” course that has been described was designed and developed to meet specific needs within the nursing program. The course designer and developer utilized the Dick, Carey, and Carey (2002) model of instructional design as a basis for designing a pedagogically-sound course that could be delivered via an online environment to meet the needs of the nursing students. The following paragraphs describe how each phase of the design model was addressed as the course was redesigned from a traditional to a web-based format, therefore addressing both the theoretical and practical aspects of delivering a technology skills course in an online environment to nursing students.

The Dick, Carey, and Carey (2002) model of instructional design is based on a systems approach to designing instruction which identifies many components of a learning system as being crucial to developing successful learning environments. Instructional design models that are based in a systems approach generally assume that a large amount of instruction, such as an entire course, will be developed and that a significant amount of resources will be devoted to the development process (Gustafson and Branch, 1997). Other instructional design models that are based on the systems approach are the Smith and Ragan (1999) model and the Interservices Procedures for Instructional Systems Development (IPISD) (Branson, 1975) model. Although all models vary in their levels of specificity and complexity, each is based on the typical processes of the major phases of instructional systems design; these are analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation (Dick, Carey, and Carey 2002). The Dick, Carey, and Carey model consists of the following specific phases:

· Assess needs to identify goals
· Conduct instructional analysis
· Analyze learners and contexts
· Write performance objectives
· Develop assessment instruments
· Develop instructional strategy
· Develop and select instructional materials
· Design and conduct formative evaluation of instruction
· Revise instruction
· Design and conduct summative evaluation

Each of these phases of the model was critical to the design and development of the “Introduction to Technology” course as it now exists. What follows is a discussion of how each phase was applied to the development of the course.

Assessing Needs to Identify Goals

Dick, Carey, and Carey (2002) identify the most critical event in the instructional design process as being that of the identification of the instructional goal. This goal, derived from processes of assessing needs, can be developed and articulated by using a subject matter expert approach in which designers develop instruction in their areas of expertise, or the performance technology approach, in which the designers develop instruction in response to a set of problems or opportunities. Regardless of the methods, course designers engage in a process to determine the needs that will be addressed by the instruction, therefore forming the instructional goal.

The instructor who developed the “Introduction to Technology” course was a subject matter expert, therefore the methodology employed to determine the needs that shaped the instructional goal was both content generated and generated via the performance technology approach. Nursing faculty members who contributed to the needs assessment recognized the importance of student success and satisfaction from a student-centered, programmatic, and institutional perspective, and understood the need to develop a technology-based course that would attempt to facilitate the success of students who would be learning via a technology-based medium. Learner satisfaction is an important factor in the effectiveness of instruction and in program-related benefits (Biner, Dean, & Mellinger, 1994; Chute, Thompson, & Hancock, 1999). High levels of satisfaction with distance learning, regardless of the medium, influence students’ willingness to continue in a program. This willingness is evidenced by lower attrition rates, more referrals from enrolled students, greater motivation, better learning, and increased commitment to the program. The need to develop technological skill and competence in an online learning environment was therefore responded to by creating a course in which the instructional goal was to provide the students with a foundation for learning in a technology-based environment.
Instructional Analysis

Once the goal of promoting student success and satisfaction in an online environment was established, the process of conducting the instructional analysis was undertaken. This process, which involves identifying the specific skills and knowledge base that should be included in instruction, requires breaking the instructional goal down into discrete units in order to identify skills and the relative subordinate skills learners will need to possess to achieve the goal. According to Dick, Carey, and Carey (2002), when conducting the instructional analysis, the designer should ask, “what exactly would learners be doing if they were demonstrating that they already could perform the goal?” (p. 37). This process led to the identification of skills that students would need for tasks such as accessing course materials, communicating through email, locating Internet and library resources, completing online forms and quizzes, and developing class presentation materials. In addition, skills important for accessing University services such as the Writing Center, basic computer skills assistance, and administrative elements including grades and transcripts were determined. Each skill area was examined in a step-by-step manner in an attempt to identify all relevant subordinate skills and eliminate assumptions of prior knowledge or experience. Areas where experience was expected but not assured were linked to subject area experts for individual student assistance. Table 1 outlines the specific lessons that were developed as a result of the goal analysis phase that identified the skills needed to succeed in the online learning environment of the RN to BSN-MSN track.

Learner and Contextual Analysis

After determining the specific set of skills that need to be taught in order for the learners to be able to achieve the instructional goal, Dick, Carey, and Carey (2002) recommend conducting a learner and contextual analysis in order to determine “the characteristics of the learners, the contexts in which the instruction will be delivered, and the contexts in which the skills will eventually be used” (p. 95). They acknowledge that at times the designer may have sufficient knowledge of the target population to forego formal data collection, but they recommend areas in which designers should have knowledge of their target population. The authors (2002) recommend gathering information such as entry behaviors and prior knowledge, attitudes and motivational levels, general learning preferences, and group characteristics. This information serves to assist designers with developing instruction that will meet the needs of their students and will transfer to appropriate contexts.

Learners’ needs in the “Introduction to Technology” course were identified based upon prior experiences with students in traditional and online learning environments, and through discussions with program faculty who requested the course option for RN students. This anticipatory analysis indicated that some students would have minimal prior experience with using computers while others would have high levels of expertise and confidence. The wide variation expected in learners’ abilities and attitudes was the determining factor in developing formative assessment activities. Because the targeted students were adult learners, the necessity for relevant activities was emphasized. Additionally, it was believed that most prior educational experiences were traditional in which the classroom situation was teacher-centered rather than learner-centered. Transferring the responsibility for learning to the student was perceived as a key need as well as a major course purpose. The emphasis on self-directed and problem-centered learning, fundamental in Knowles’s (1970) theory of androgogy, is consistent with the constructivist model that is particularly appropriate for teaching and learning using emerging technologies (Lunenberg, 1998).

Writing Instructional Objectives

The writing of instructional objectives, or behavioral objectives as they are sometimes referred to, is a process that is seen as being central to designing instruction. Authors such as Robert Mager have greatly influenced the educational community by publishing books that provide instructions for writing clear and precise statements of what learners should be able to do when they complete the instruction (Mager, 1975). The objectives written for “Introduction to Technology” followed the model set forth by Mager and described in other instructional design models. The lesson objectives (see Table 1) contained clear, concise statements of what learners would be able to do as a result of their participation in the instructional activities of the course.

The course objectives were established when the original traditional section of the course was approved by the University and therefore were not altered for the online course section. The course sections are the same course, differing only in the method of delivery. Because the objectives were well developed for the traditional section of the course, no problems existed in their use as the online section was developed. The outcomes specified by the objectives guided the plans for measuring achievement Course activities were planned so that areas of weakness would be evident, and opportunities for corrections to work submitted were given throughout the course (see Table 1 for examples of lesson objectives).

Assessment strategies and instruments

After developing sound instructional objectives, Dick, Carey, and Carey (2002) recommend the development of assessment instruments that evaluate learners’ progress and instructional quality, and that are both learner-centered and criterion-referenced. Basing the assessment measures on the instructional objectives and goals of the course provides learners with a clear conception of what skills they will need to master, and provides instructors with information as to how well the students are mastering the skills and how effective instructional materials are at facilitating learning. “Introduction to Technology” relies on performance-based assessment measures to assess the learners’ levels of progress toward obtaining the instructional goal. Projects were designed to allow both direct and indirect demonstrations of skills. The summative assessment is comprised of an individual timed skills demonstration and a computer-based exam.

Instructional Strategies

Dick, Carey, and Carey’s (2002) discussion on developing instructional strategies – the chunking, sequencing, and presentation of materials – relies on a primarily prescriptive approach in which the learning components are tied directly to the content structure. Dick, Carey, and Carey, however, recognize alternative approaches such as constructivism as being viable alternatives for presenting and facilitating instruction. Tapscott [1998] described learning based on digital media as interactive learning that is learner-centered with a focus on the construction of knowledge, as compared to the broadcast learning that is teacher-centered and focuses on instruction. The designer of the “Introduction to Technology” course blended both prescriptive and alternative approaches to developing instruction in order to tie learning to the stated objectives and engage learners in authentic problem-solving tasks. The instructional strategies employed within the course followed a pedagogical model advocated by Jonassen (2003) in which learners are engaged in meaningful learning tasks and are actively learning from technology and with technology.

Course lessons were planned to guide each student individually through tasks. Each lesson ended with students submitting forms indicating that the lesson had been completed; completing a lesson carried no point value. However, because students were aware that skills from each lesson would be evaluated at the final exam, those who needed help in completing the lessons requested received assistance from the instructor before leaving the lesson. The course was divided into three sections to reflect the overall instructional strategy of learning skills, applying knowledge through activities and projects, and evaluation of skills and knowledge through summative assessments. Course sections were basic lessons, projects, and evaluation. Lesson and project component pages stated the purpose and objectives of each component, followed by sequential tasks to acquire or improve skills needed to accomplish each objective. Students were then asked to work through the material in a self-directed manner. Because students determined for themselves when lessons had been completed, accountability for learning was transferred from the instructor to the student, therefore engaging the students in authentic, problem-solving tasks, which are more typical of the constructivist paradigm of learning.

Instructional Materials

Dick, Carey, and Carey (2002) describe the “developing instructional materials” phase of their systematic design process as being one in which the designer decides on the delivery system and media selection, the amount of instructor facilitation, and the components of the instructional package (e.g., instructional materials and assessments). While the authors discuss many of the options and constraints inherent in choosing a delivery system, they also acknowledge that at times those choices are assumed and such related choices will be fairly stable.

Since the goal of “Introduction to Technology” was to engage students in a technology-based learning experience in an online learning environment, the media choice and options regarding subsequent materials development procedures were assumed and thus stable. Instructional materials development therefore was based upon the medium, which in this case was the course web site. This was the appropriate format in that students were preparing for entry into an online instructional track of the nursing degree program. The department in which the course was developed and delivered already employed the Blackboard course management system as the primary mechanism for the delivery of course materials.

Formative Evaluation, Revision of Instruction, and Summative Evaluation

The final stages of the Dick, Carey, and Carey (2002) systematic model of instructional design involve designing and conducting formative evaluations, revising instruction, and designing and conducting summative evaluations. The goal of the formative evaluation process is to develop materials and methods through which learners can provide information to the instructor or designer relative to the effectiveness of the course materials. Dick, Carey, and Carey recommend that evaluation instruments be designed to gather information related to the clarity of instruction, the impact of the instruction on the learner, and the general feasibility of the instruction. The data gathered from this evaluation process is intended to inform the process of revising materials to better meet students’ needs. Consequently the final stage of summative evaluation becomes a stage in which data is gathered to make decisions about the continued use of the instruction.

Although formal data collection measures were not developed within the “Introduction to Technology” course, questions and comments from students provided data for formative evaluation of instruction throughout the delivery of the course. As students worked through activities, areas where instructions or descriptions were unclear or where assumptions of prior knowledge were made became the key indicators for instructional design improvements and necessary revisions to materials. A course evaluation submitted after completion of the final skills and written exams provided information regarding overall strengths and weaknesses of the instructional design. These end-of-term evaluations graded the course with high marks, which are believed to be due to the high level of communication throughout the term.

Conclusion

Using sound instructional design theory is important in any educational setting to insure that learning objectives are met. Although all steps in systematic instructional design are important, evaluation of the course’s design has yielded important results in building and maintaining the quality of this introductory technology skills course for students in this track of the baccalaureate nursing degree program. Reliance on a formal system for design during the redesign of this course yielded not only a fine product, but provided the instructor/designer with a sound theoretical base for further development.


Contributors

Suzanne P. Stokes, Ph.D., is Associate Professr of Health & Human Services at Troy University in Troy, Alabama. With backdgrounds in nutrition and instructional technology, she teaches traditional and online classes for students in health sciences and nursing informatics. Her research interests include investigating factors that affect satisfaction and success of students engaged in learning that incorporates emerging technologies.

Krista P. Terry, Ph.D. is Director of the Multimedia Center and Assistant Professor in the College of Information Science and Technology at Radford univeristy, Radford, Virginia.

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Technology and Civic Empowerment: Toward Inclusion and Participatory Citizenship in the Elementary Social Studies Classroom

Technology and Civic Empowerment: Toward Inclusion and Participatory Citizenship in the Elementary Social Studies Classroom

Martin Horejsi
Beverly B. Ray
Idaho State University

Introduction

The National Council for the Social Studies (2001) defines responsible citizenship as “the knowledge, skills, and attitudes [required if one is to] assume the ‘office of citizen’ in our democratic republic” (p. 319). “A critical purpose of the educational institution in a democratic society is to prepare its citizens for their role as participants in that society…[as]…full and equal citizens” (Lindsay & Justiz, 2001, p. 7). In fact, education for all students is a moral mandate in a civil society (Dewey, 1944; Parker, 2001). To ready students for civil life, America’s public schools are charged with the task of educating all students for responsible citizenship.

While opportunities exist throughout the curriculum, elementary social studies classrooms provide many opportunities to foster citizenship skills and dispositions (Parker, 2001; Maxim, 2003). Citizenship education includes helping all students contribute and participate in the classroom and in society. Students who are active participants in today’s classroom stand a better chance of “exercis[ing] their rights and carry[ing] out their civic responsibilities” (Silva & Mason, 2003, p. 366).

For elementary student with disabilities, technology offers one method of empowerment allowing them to become active participants in the classroom and in their future lives as citizens of a democratic society. Empowerment includes “self-reliance, independence, competition, and freedom of expression” (Willamson, Gonzales, & Avery, 2003, p.204); characteristics valued in a democratic society. Technologies that support meaningful social studies learning and that actively engage all learners are critical to assuring students’ opportunities for participation and empowerment in civic life.

Assistive Technology in the Elementary Social Studies Classroom

Assistive Technology (AT) helps students with physical, cognitive, learning, or speech disabilities perform tasks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible (Bodine, 2003; Bryant & Bryant, 2003; Horejsi, 2003). Numerous specialized AT devices exist, but their price –or availability– often prevents their use in elementary classrooms. However, reasonably priced technologies are available to help students with disabilities participate more fully in elementary social studies classrooms.

Three categories of AT devices are available for use in social studies classrooms: Input devices, output devices, and software devices. Input devices allow students to enter or manipulate information in a computer. These include the keyboard and mouse. Output devices, such as the picture on a monitor, the printed page, and sound allow the computer to communicate social studies content back to students. Software devices include utility-application programs, such as a word processor or concept mapping software; educational programs designed to teach specific topics; or operating system software that controls the computer, peripherals, or even aspects of other programs.

Input Devices

The Mouse. Two substitutes for the conventional mouse include the trackball and the micromouse. A trackball, which is akin to a giant upside-down mouse, allows student to spin a ball, then let go of the ball completely before clicking a button. The device separates each input movement so they are not unintentionally combined. Many trackballs can be operated with a foot or an arn instead of a hand. Another useful device in this category is the micromouse, which is roughly the size of an egg or even smaller. Originally designed for use with portable computers in limited space, this device works quite well in small hands. For younger kids, or those with certain motor skill limitations, moving or controlling a standard size mouse is akin to rolling a soda can around, hardly a precise activity. Most micromice are optical, meaning they use the changes in reflected light to detect mouse movement, thus eliminating the need for a space-restrictive mouse pad.

Touchscreens. A touchscreen is an excellent choice for students unable to opearate the mouse effectively whether for physical or cognitive reasons. A touchscreen is a glass or plastic window covering the computer monitor or display. Students move the cursor by sliding their fingers around on the screen, then tapping the screen once or twice to select something. Many times students with disabilities can only watch as a more able-bodied student operates the computer during such in-class activities. A touchscreen eliminates this inequity, however, by allowing all students an equal opportunity to control the computer during classroom activities. Since touchscreens can be operated with just one finger or using any pointing device, they are particularly useful in the classroom. For example, touchscreens are effective for drill-and-practice software, where the student is required to make an onscreen selection, and for navigating within a web browser (e.g., during an Internet scavenger hunt or an electronic field trip). Touchscreens are also an effective writing tool. Student can type using a large font and use the touchscreen to move the cursor, highlight a passage, or move blocks of text around on the page. In contrast to the mouse, touchscreens draw on the physical cut-and-paste skills commonly learned by children in kindergarten, rather than requiring conceptual mouse skills that are hardly comparable to other skills children have acquired by that age.

Switches. Another alternative to the conventional mouse is the switch. A switch is a simple on-off or yes/no button of some type that uses individual, color-coded buttons designed to separate mouse functions such as scan and select. Or, the student can divide the navigation tasks by pointing to a choice on a touchscreen to select it, then use a button or switch to click the choice.

Keyboards. Arguably unchanged since they became popular 120 years ago, the keyboard is often a burden for those with a disability. AT keyboard designs vary widely including those with larger but fewer keys, flexible rubber-covered keys, color-coded keys, and onscreen keyboards that work well with touchscreens. Each alternate keyboard has its advantages and drawbacks, but since keyboards will most likely be the main communication between a student and the computer, expanding the reach of the keyboard interface to include students with disabilities is time and money well spent.

One of the most versatile keyboards (and expensive at $400) is the IntelliKeys® keyboard (by IntelliTools). It is an unusually durable alternative, especially for children who benefit from a very limited set of choices. This keyboard is essentially a blank slate upon which an overlay is placed. The overlay can be a commercial product designed for a specific software program or it can be programmed, providing a finite set of letters, numbers, words, or pictures to represent the choices on the screen. Because the IntelliKeys® keyboard is completely customizable, the teacher can create overlays for the keyboard to match social studies content or for use with software programs that teach skills, such as map reading; sorting concepts into categories; and timelines, charts and graphs.

There are also social studies software programs available that include their own set of overlays matching what the student sees on the screen. For example, Animal Habitats (recommended for grades PreK -1) and Ready MadeÔ Lewis & Clark (grades 3 –5) could be used, allowing interaction with little more than mouse clicks or customized keyboard commands.

Adjustments to Existing Input Devices. Since a computer’s default settings are rarely appropriate for younger students or those with disabilities, it is worth exploring the variations of keyboard and mouse performance in the operating system before purchasing any new AT equipment. Something as simple as altering the way the computer interprets keystrokes can make an important difference for many students. For students with limited fine motor skills who may press more than one key at a time the “sticky key” feature is another effective alternative. Other keyboard preferences include audible and onscreen visual cues, and “slow keys”—where a key must be held down for an adjustable amount of time before being accepted by the computer. Check the control panel for the Accessibility Options folder on a Microsoft Windows computer or Apple’s Easy Access for help. Teachers can also explore additional options for each operating system online at Microsoft and Apple’s web sites. Many additional options not commonly bundled with the original operating systems are available for download at Microsoft and Apple’s web sites.

Adjusting the mouse settings to slow down the tracking speed or to decrease the double-click speed, can increase a student’s chance of success the first time they point and click on a target. Many mice come with software enabling even greater customization of the mouse’s capabilities. The Universal Access preferences of Apple’s OS X or Microsoft Window’s Accessibility Wizard (found in the Accessibility folder of the Accessories listed in the Programs menu) provide additional features to help students with motor-skill disabilities use a traditional keyboard as well as adaptations for visual impairments, hearing difficulties, and motor control.

Output Devices

Sight. Both the Windows and Macintosh operating systems have built-in controls to help students with special needs better see text and images on the monitor. For example, the accessibility feature in Windows called Magnifier opens a separate window showing a greatly enlarged view of the cursor’s location, which makes it easier to click on small targets. Other possible adjustments in the computer’s operating system include screen color choices, contrast, and screen refresh rate (flicker), which is important if the student is photosensitive or has epilepsy. Both Apple and Microsoft have websites detailing information about various accessibility features within their operating systems and also links to third party AT solutions.

Sound. Sound, one of the most basic output sources, is often overlooked or deliberately shut off in instructional settings muting the sound. This is useful because of the distraction computer beeps and robotic voices have on the rest of the class. Headphones can help, but some classroom reorganization is usually needed to reduce the distraction of a talking computer.

For more than a decade Apple computers have included software to read text aloud. Another more powerful option is IntelliTalk II® software (by IntelliTools) which offers an easy-to-use text-to-voice word processor that pronounces letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs. With a little practice, students with limited visual capabilities or cognitive disabilities can “write” using text, sounds, and pictures. The software can also read aloud imported text from almost any source including text copied and pasted from other sources such as the Internet. Social studies students with reading disabilities can copy text directly from the Internet or from multimedia applications, paste it into the talking word processor, and then listen to the computer read the text to them. Although not a perfect system, it does allow the student greater access to the text-filled world of the Internet, electronic encyclopedias, and other electronic texts.

Software Options

Adapt for Access. It is not always necessary to purchase new hardware to solve AT problems. Often, there is software available to adapt programs or existing hardware to the needs of the student. For example, ClickIt!® (by IntelliTools) can be used in conjunction with other software programs to drive the programs with button clicks or hotspots on the IntelliKeys keyboard.

In addition to offering AT hardware, Riverdeep makes several software programs addressing social studies content. Each program contains built-in “Universal Access,” allowing for seamlessly integration between the software and a touchscreen. The software can also be set to work with a single button click as when the choice is highlighted during the cycling through of all possible selections. Other innovative AT software solutions include CrossScanner, which allows the user to press a single button to move the mouse cursor vertically, then select from the possible choices along any horizontal line. SmartClick activates a mouse click when the cursor hovers over a location for a set amount of time. Finally, there is a product called SloMo that reduces the operational speed of any software application or game (all three softwares by R.J. Cooper).

Many More Options

As time goes on, once expensive AT devices will appear in more mainstream social studies classrooms. For example, a fairly inexpensive combination digital camera/software program, Riverdeep’s TouchFree Switch, already enables students to operate computers with no more than the blink of an eye or the wiggle of a toe.

A digital camera is another tool of empowerment in a child’s hands. Digital cameras can be used to take pictures of social studies materials or field trips. The pictures are then easily imported into word-processed documents, PowerPoint slides, or an overlay maker, creating custom-designed or personalized worksheets, presentations, or keyboard overlays. The simplicity of the digital camera also lets students photograph their own work, providing insights to the teacher as to what the student views as important. Digital cameras can be integrated into alternative assessment strategies in several ways including having students take pictures that demonstrate relationships between concepts or ideas.

Conclusion

Because disability-specific assistive technology is rarely found on store shelves or even in computer equipment catalogs, it often falls to the social studies teacher to seek out AT solutions for his or her students (see Appendix A for a list of assistive technology resources). In addition to these resources, many school districts have a technology coordinator who may be of help, and some states have an assistive technology demonstration center where you can try out different AT hardware and software before buying (see the RESNA Technical Assistance Project website located in Appendix A).

For many students with special needs, technology is an agent of empowerment and inclusion “offering students a different way of looking at themselves and their capabilities and providing teachers with a new set of tools to support growth and learning” (Male, 2003, p.1). The skills students develop while using assistive technologies such as those outlined in this article can translate into academic success, classroom participatory skills, and preparation for meaningful participation in civil life (Male, 2003). With the abundance of AT devices and software available, the elementary social studies classroom is truly accessible for all students.


Contributors

Martin Horejsi is Assistant Professor of Science Education and Instructional Technology at Idaho State University. Dr. Horejsi teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in science methods, research and writing, statistics, instructional design, multimedia development, and technology integration. His research interests and special projects include probeware and real-time data collection in science education with special focus in the space sciences.

Beverly Ray is Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at Idaho State University, Pocatello, Idaho.

References

Bodine, C. (2003). What is assistive technology? The Exceptional Parent, 33, 32-34. Retrieved March 18, 2004 from http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.

Bryant, Dianne P. & Bryant, Brian R. Assistive Technology for People with Disabilities. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. 2 –3.

Dewey, J. (1944). Democracy and education. New York: Macmillan.

Horejsi, M. (2003). Making technology inclusive. Science & Children, 41(3), 2- 24.

Lindsay, B., & Justiz, M. J. (2001). The landscape for conceptual and policy issues. In: B. Lindsay & M. J. Justiz (Eds.), The quest for equity in higher education:.Toward new paradigms in an evolving affirmative action era (pp. 3-29)..Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Parker, W. (2001). Social studies in elementary education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

National Council for the Social Studies. (2001). Creating effective citizens: A position statement of the National Council for the Social Studies. Social Education, 53, 255 – 258.

National Research Council. (1996). National Science Education Standards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Male, M. (2003). Technology for inclusion: Meeting the special needs of all students. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Maxim, G. W. (2003). Dynamic social studies for elementary classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Silva, D. Y. & Mason, T.C. (Summer 2003). Developing pedagogical content knowledge for civics in elementary teacher education, Theory and Research in Social Education, 31(3), 366-395.

Willamson, I., Gonzales, M. H., & Avery, P. G. (Spring 2003). Collectivistic values and individualistic language as predictors of citizenship activities among high school students. Theory and Research in Social Education, 31(2), 203-217.

Appendix A
Assistive Technology Information and Organizations

ABLEDATA
http://www.abledata.com

Alliance for Technology Access
http://www.ataccess.org

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology
http://www.aect.org

The Center for Applied Special Technologies
http://www.cast.org

Closing the Gap
http://www.closingthegap.com

RESNA Technical Assistance Project (AT resources by state)
http://128.104.192.129/taproject/at/statecontacts.html

Virginia Assistive Technology System
http://www.vats.org

Virtual Assistive Technology Center
http://www.at-center.com

Companies Offering Assistive Technologies

Apple Computers: People with Special Needs
http://www.apple.com/disability

IntelliTools
http://www.intellitools.com

Kensington
http://www.kensington.com

Keyboard Alternatives and Vision Solutions
http://www.keyalt.com

Logitech
http://www.logitech.com

Macally
http://www.macally.com

Microsoft Accessibility: Technology for Everyone
http://www.microsoft.com/enable

Riverdeep
http://www.riverdeep.net

R.J. Cooper
http://www.rjcooper.com

Touchscreens

The Magic Touch
http://www.magictouch.com

Touch Screens, Inc.
http://www.touchwindow.com

Troll Touch
http://www.trolltouch.com


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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.

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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