Technology Integration as a Transforming Teaching Strategy

3/1/2004 5:00:00 AM

Abstract:
This study of technology integration in the classroom involved 42 observations in 16 classrooms, 20 interviews, and 27 responses to an online survey. Teachers were selected with a common educational background in integrated learning and technological knowledge. Beliefs and classroom teaching strategies of teachers who participated in Jacksonville University's Master of Arts in Teaching program were analyzed. Results revealed that technology integration varied according to individual teaching beliefs, perceptions towards technology innovations, and how the teacher practiced and put technology to work in the classroom. Constructive teaching strategies were found in 50% of the classroom observations. If technology integration is a first step towards transforming teaching and learning, then understanding pedagogical possibilities can… assist teachers in transforming their classroom practice.

Everybody is talking about technology integration, but few practicing teachers profess to know exactly how to proceed. The fact is that real integration requires change. . . . However, what seems to be lacking is a model that teachers can use to guide them through the necessary changes they will need to make to be successful in integrating new technology into their classroom (Johnson & Liu, 2000, p. 4).

Technology integration means viewing technology as an instructional tool for delivering subject matter in the curriculum already in place. Educators need to understand technology integration more completely.

Observations of successful classroom models of technology integration should be provided to teacher educators so they can help teachers integrate effectively. These technology-integrated models should reflect diversity in grade levels and subject areas in order to provide a wide spectrum for teacher educators.

The purpose of the study was to explore how teachers who have learned to integrate technology perform several years later in the actual task of integration. The secondary purpose was to explore the relationship between teachers' beliefs and their use of a various strategies to integrate technology in the classroom. These teaching strategies enhance learning, enabling students to construct their own learning using computer technology as an instructional tool.

According to the U.S. Department of Education (1999), less than 20% of American teachers feel adequately equipped with the skills necessary to integrate technology into their classrooms. Therefore, although technology offers the potential to enhance and improve the students' learning experience, there is a lack of consensus on how to combine computers with other learning tools. This absence of agreement causes too many teachers to be casual or even non-users of computers.

True technology integration is rare. It involves students constructing their own learning while using both hardware and software tools and allows for student-centered approaches for both teacher and student. Pierson (2001) argued that educational reform efforts should not only focus on acquiring more machines for classrooms but also on developing teaching strategies that complement technology use within the curriculum.

Today's students have often taught themselves technical skills and digital literacy and can perform more than schools will currently allow. This holding back has been attributed to the lack of technical confidence among teachers, school staff, and administration. At the postsecondary level, professional development has been affected by lack of skills among university faculty in delivering needed research, creating working models, and providing practical solutions for teachers.

Principals have looked to new teachers as a solution to the technology gap. Newer teachers may be more open to learning how to use technology, but they are also trying to gain teaching experience and classroom management in their first years. While newer teachers may come in with more technical skills due to having taught themselves, technology integration is not being modeled or taught in their pre-service coursework.

Professional development teams provide in-service workshops to help new teachers learn the basic operational skills of the computer and proficient teachers to upgrade their technology skills. However, in-service sessions have consisted of "one-shot workshops" that have not been proven effective in helping teachers make the transition from novices to exemplary technology-using teachers, much less provide the resources needed for integrating technology into the curriculum. "Experienced teachers need time for reflection and collaboration with other teachers so that they can envision technology use in relation to their established practices in multiple contexts" (Pierson, 1999, p. 28).

This lack of technological knowledge causes a variety of problems in schools. The present divide between instructional technology (IT) staff and teachers using technology in the classroom has continued to expand. The IT staff has focused on connections, networking, trouble shooting, maintaining equipment, and keeping up with a growing and dynamic field. Classroom teachers are frequently stuck trying to use an often-unreliable tool for instruction in a meaningful way to meet state standards and reach all students. Any teacher with minimal knowledge about computers is often called on for technical support because the gap in knowledge is so severe. The systemic barriers to innovative technology use weary many of these teachers. This has caused another dilemma in education: Too many experienced teachers are leaving the classroom.

Teachers are practical and often autonomous individuals. They may not mind learning new skills, such as the computer, but they desire flexibility and control in implementing those skills. Teachers want to personalize the lessons they teach and decide for themselves on the tools they should use. Technology training and modeling of technology integration are not adequate at the university level or in professional development. There is a gap in information about how to integrate technology for the pre-service and in-service teacher. Technology integration is a complex phenomenon that involves understanding teachers' motivations, perceptions, and beliefs about learning and technology. There appeared to be a strong relationship among participants in this study between integrating technology in the classroom and having a philosophy that leaned towards using constructivist teaching strategies. The online survey revealed that the surveyed Jacksonville University graduates had constructivist teaching beliefs based on 17 of 18 indicators of constructivist philosophy.


Figure 1: Pierson's model of technology integration (modified). Note. From Pierson (1999). Diagram modifications have been made to include student construction of knowledge. Used with permission

Pierson (1999) defined technology integration as teachers utilizing content and technological and pedagogical expertise effectively for the benefit of students' learning.

A fourth component to Pierson's integration model: student construction of knowledge, was added by this researcher. This adapted model served as a conceptual construct to explain the interwoven patterns of knowledge reflected in the Jacksonville University MAT program.

Johnson and Liu's (2000) model is based on a meta-analysis of 102 case studies of technology integration (Figure 1). It identifies significant components of three predictors of technology integration. The authors examined 67 cases from the K-12 environment, 24 from higher education teacher training settings, and 11 from in-service training settings. All grade levels and curricular topics were included. They found six instructional components common to all 102 case studies: (a) use of software, (b) use of Web-based instruction, (c) use of Web information resources, (d) use of problem-based learning, (e) instructional design choice, and (f) tailoring multimedia courseware (Johnson & Liu, 2000).


Figure 2. Johnson and Liu integration model.

Johnson and Liu (2000) presented their integration model as a first step in identifying effective and successful technology integration. The present study focused on teachers working in a standards-based environment and using the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) to describe how students used technology for productivity. Participants were familiar with aligning standards through using county-mandated Florida Sunshine State standards in their lesson plans. Florida's standards are based on (NETS), which were created by the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE).

A Snapshot of Technology Integration

The following classroom observation is a snapshot of Mrs. C, a sixth grade science teacher, who is using technology in a variety of different ways. However, the integration of technology is not the norm in all classrooms or schools.

According to the NETS for Teachers (2002),
Teaching in all settings should encompass student-centered learning approaches to learning. Students and teacher candidates must have the opportunities to identify problems, collect and analyze data, draw conclusions, and convey results using electronic tools to accomplish each task (p. 22).

As students entered the sixth-grade classroom, the routine became obvious. Students found their seat based on letters of the alphabet. Seating the students this way allowed them to work with as many people as possible throughout the school year. It also allowed a flexible set up for labs, group work, or taking notes. Students completed a warm-up activity in their journals. Mrs. C drew a letter from a cup to select different students each day to share what they had written.

The second activity incorporated technology. An LCD projector projected class-generated student notes using Inspiration software. Students copied the notes, about different biomes, in concept map format. Mrs. C shared the Missouri Botanic Gardens' Biomes of the World Web site, which describes six of the world's biomes, three freshwater ecosystems, and three marine ecosystems. Mrs. C asked the students to help her evaluate this Web site and clicked on various links. She asked questions throughout the demonstration: "What is the difference between ecosystems and biomes?" Her students responded, "Many ecosystems can exist in a biome."

She proceeded to click on the links about the temperate forest. The students recorded the data collected: Temperate forests have four seasons. The trees leaves are deciduous, meaning they change colors during autumn. There is substantial rainfall in the temperate forest. Mrs. C led the class to look at the rainfall bar graph before asking, "Which biome has the greatest amount of rainfall?"

Mrs. C concluded the lesson by going over the planning guide for the biomes before letting students begin their group work. Groups had to report on their biome's climate, flora, fauna, and terrain. The biomes researched were the taiga, tundra, tropical rainforest, deciduous forest, grasslands, desert, temperate rainforest, and temperate forest. Students would develop biome posters explaining how biomes were differentiated.

Following the note taking and research time, Mrs. C gave students the remainder of the class period to work with their groups on their biome project. She supported project-centered learning in the classroom. The first observation focused on students in the planning stages of a biome project. Some of the students were involved in using the classroom computers for collecting research and resources. Six students were sent to the media center to gather more research. Other students were using library books at the front of the room or watching a video using headphones about the desert.

Mrs. C delivered information about biomes in an interesting way that invited students to want to know more about their research topic. She modeled the process of research and multitasking involved in project-centered learning. Her students competently manipulated various forms of technology, from accessing the Internet for research to creating titles for student projects to using encyclopedia CD-ROMs or viewing a video to gather more information.

Findings from the classroom observations indicated that teacher graduates were effectively integrating technology into their classrooms. According to participant interviews, technology integration was consistently emphasized through curriculum development in Jacksonville University's MAT in ILET. This study's findings indicated that teaching strategies that engage and involve learners were effective in accomplishing technology integration in the classroom. Several effective strategies were observed: (a) using technology as an instructional tool applicable to the classroom setting and curriculum, (b) teacher facilitation and management of the learning environment, and (c) incorporation of national educational technology standards.

Students were observed constructing their own knowledge through WebQuest development and Web design. They created their own descriptive paragraphs with Kid Pix and explored topics of choice-everything from police vehicles to the Bermuda Triangle. The students reflected on their own project development by evaluating each other's work. Some students calculated monthly payments on a $10,000 car using a Web-based financial calculator. They worked in small groups and engaged in active learning by interacting with the teacher through questioning and with their environment using a variety of tools from scissors to digital cameras.

Perception affects use. Participants had learned to use technology as an instructional tool. In their own classrooms they used it to search for knowledge, apply knowledge, and present their own students' construction of knowledge. They used technology to reinforce skills as well as supplement and enhance daily lessons.

Teachers who perceived technology as a tool to help themselves and their students work more productively defined technology integration as "putting the technology to work for you." "The computer is like an employee-it has to earn its pay. I put it to work," explained a computer applications college professor. An elementary school computer teacher said,

Technology integration is where you use technology to do something that could not be readily done with something else. Learning technology skills and content at the same time encourages fascination and student curiosity. Technology can expand or extend a teacher's time after the teacher gets over the hump of learning it.

Participants agreed that teachers should not use technology just for technology's sake. Instruction should reflect research-based teaching strategies that are considered best teaching practices. Technology should be integrated, engaging, and encourage student exploration to learn independently.

In summary, this study found that integrating technology effectively was demonstrated across grade levels and course content using such constructivist teaching strategies as active, authentic, constructive, cooperative, and intentional/ reflective learning. Results revealed that technology integration varied according to individual teaching beliefs, perceptions towards technology innovations, and how the teacher practiced and put technology to work in the classroom. Active, authentic, constructive, cooperative, and intentional/reflective learning were teaching strategies found in 50% of the classroom observations.

This study revealed that technology integration varied according to individual teaching beliefs and perceptions towards technology innovations. If technology integration is the first level towards transforming teaching and learning, then understanding the possibilities in the classroom can give researchers, teacher educators, and professional development facilitators more knowledge to move teachers in this direction.

REFERENCES

Johnson, D. L., & Liu, L. (2000). First steps toward a statistically generated information technology integration model. Computers in the Schools, 16(2), 3-12.
Pierson, M. (1999). Technology practice as a function of pedagogical expertise. (Doctoral dissertation, Arizona State University, 1999). UMI Dissertation Service, 9924200
Pierson, M. (2001). Technology practice as a function of pedagogical expertise. Journal of Research on Computing on Education, 33(4), 413-430.
Woodbridge, J. (2003). Technology Integration as a Teaching Strategy. Dissertation.
Minneapolis, MN: Walden University.

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