While cmuters and educational programs crowd our classrooms, many teachers are often reluctant to utilize it despite research indicating it enhances learning. This article explores the state and federal policies that encourage use of educational technology.
TEACHER WILLINGNESS TO UTILIZE TECHNOLOGY TO ENHANCE CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION
Focus of study:
Technology is here to stay and public education appears in many ways to accept this fact with gratitude and at the same time shun its use as a classroom tool. Experienced instructors are grateful on many levels for the convenience of computerized tasks that have replaced paper and pencil charts. For instances tedious jobs like taking attendance, recording grades, and communicating with parents through email and Websites have offerred educators a break from that boredom. Many after-school hours have been saved with spread sheets that automatically average test scores, submit grades, and print report cards. While teachers new to the profession take this accommodation for granted, those educators who spent late nights recording grades in a ledger type grade book see the benefits of technology in this way. However, these same two generations of teachers do not always seem as eager to transform their classrooms into technologically engaging learning environments.
Rationale for the Proposed Study:
ACCORDING TO THE TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY THE PROPOSED REVISED 2010 TEXAS ESSENTIAL KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS FOR TECHNOLOGY APPLICATIONS WILL INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING OBJECTIVE FOR STUDENTS BY THE END OF GRADE 2
TEACHER WILLINGNESS TO UTILIZE TECHNOLOGY TO ENHANCE CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION
Barnett, Harvey. “Successful K-12 Technology Planning: Ten Essential Elements.” October 2001. ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology. Syracuse, NY. http://www.ericdigests.org/2005-2/technology.html
Perhaps the most important statement Barnett makes in his article is “…technology use is not about the hardware, Internet connections, and so on. What is important is how the technology is integrated with the instructional program.” Nine years after the publication of his article that delineates the best ways to increase teacher and student willingness to use technology appropriately, districts are still labor to make the equipment work for them. The phrase “work for them” has at least two interpretations here: literally keeping the computers, laptops, digital cameras, and software in top speed physical condition; and staying informed and skilled in the best possible methods of enhancing student learning. The balance between these two necessities becomes “just one more thing” that teachers (who are already overwhelmed with “things”) must add to the demands on their time.
Barnett clearly sets out the Ten Essential Elements for technology planning for schools and districts:
1. Create a Vision
2. Involve all Stakeholders
3. Gather Data
4. Review the Research
5. Integrate Technology into the Classroom
6. Commit to Professional Development
7. Insure a Sound Infrastructure
8. Allocate Appropriate Funding and Budget
9. Plan for Ongoing Monitoring and Assessment
10. Prepare for Tomorrow
Florida Center for Technology Integration. (2009). “The Technology Integration Matrix.” College of Education, University of South Florida. November 3, 2010.
The University of Florida developed the Technology Integration Matrix as the culmination of a report studying the extent and methods of educational technology use in classrooms. In addition, the matrix developers were hoping to help educators evaluate “basic technology skills and integration.” For this purpose the University created a survey similar to the Texas Education Agency’s STAR chart. Like the STAR chart the Florida survey, called the Inventory for Teacher Technology Skills (ITTS), also helps districts evaluate teachers’ levels of proficiency with technology, plan for professional development, and assess needs.
This Website includes a matrix with the following categories of technology usage: entry, adoption, adaptation, infusion, and transformation and whether schools are active, collaborative, constructive, authentic, and goal directed. Indicators include measures of whether technology is used to deliver information to students; students begin to utilize constructive tools such as graphic organizers to build upon prior knowledge and construct meaning; students have opportunities to select and modify technology tools to assist them in the construction of understanding.
Fryer, Wesley A.. (2008) “Integrating Technology in the Classroom.”
Investing in Technology: The Payoff in Student Learning. 10-31-10. http://www.ericdigests.org/2005-2/technology.html.
Fryer discusses the manner in which using technology increases student achievement.
This ERIC digest reviews some of the major research on two different methods of computer usage – computers as tutors and computers as tools of learning. When computers act as tutors, professional development is essential to train teachers to use the tutoring programs.
McCrea, Bridget. (2010). “Filling the Tech Gap.” The Journal: Transforming Education Through Technology. October 30, 2010. http://thejournal.com/home.aspx.
As districts across the country feel the economic stress of loss of property taxes, which in turn affect school budgets, educators and administrators become more creative with attempting to keep technology integrated into their teaching. McCrea comments sympathetically with the struggle that schools face to find funding for technology needed to keep American students informed and accomplished in its utilization. In this report, The Alpine School District in American Fork, Utah, had trained its teachers to incorporate the MY Access! online writing program for grades 7 and 8. Not only does the program offer thousands of writing topics and prompts from which to choose, it includes a grading feature as well. Many teachers and parents were at first not convinced that the program’s grading system was fair even if it was impartial. But eventually, enough of the community, educators, and students decided MY Access! was a worthwhile endeavor for all involved. Then budget cuts made the program unaffordable. In this case, the teacher reluctance to use technology became less a factor than the scarcity of funding to keep the program going.
Schaffhause, Dian. October 2009. “Boundless Opportunity.” The Journal: Transforming Education Through Technology. Volume 36, No. 9. Pages 13-18.
Teachers of the twenty-first century need to embrace the opportunities afforded to students who are already tech-savvy. While teachers may be struggling to teach students the basics, there is no need to hold them back according to this article. Schaffhauser reports on the use of safe, online collaboration between schools in Washington, D.C. and Israel. The students exchange videos of traditional dances with music from their countries. The teachers in this project called ePals did have to be diligent and tenacious in order to review the correspondence between the two schools. Some teachers may not be willing to spend the time and effort it takes to monitor such an online program. Even though the rewards could high, teachers who already stressed about including the required curriculum materials can be hesitant to add onto their duties.
Texas Education Agency. October 7, 2010. “School Technology and Readiness (STAR) Chart.” http://starchart.esc12.net.
Since 2006, public school teachers in Texas have participated each fall in the School Technology and Readiness (STAR) Chart survey. It is described by TEA as a “teacher’s tool for planning and self-assessing aligned with TEA’s Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020.” This survey asks individual teachers to report on the state of technology use in their own classrooms. The questions fall under four categories:
Teaching and Learning (TL)
Educator Preparation and Development (EP)
Leadership, Administration, and Instructional Support (L)
Infrastructure for Technology (INF)
This data is then reported directly to the principal who in turn submits it to the district. Immediate feedback from the STAR Website gives the principal an overview of how technology is viewed by the faculty using the ranking descriptors (1) early, (2) developing, (3) advanced, and (4) target.
The focus school for this research paper - Gleason Elementary in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District – submitted STAR chart survey to TEA on October 7, 2010. Forty-nine female teachers of varying ages and years of teaching experience answered 24 questions. Gleason’s STAR data indicates an interesting mix of developing (58%) and advanced (37.5%) ratings. Only one area – Infrastructure for Technology: Internet Access Connectivity/Speed - received the target rating. After five years of reports, the school technology usage has progressed overall to the developing stage.
Each rating in every focus area has a detailed descriptor to help teachers determine at which level they feel they meet the criterion. For example, in the area of Educator Preparation and Development, teachers at Gleason overall rated themselves as 2s or developing - see below:
“Professional Development Experiences - Most teachers have completed professional development on the integration of technology specific to their content area and to increase productivity to accomplish a variety of instruction and management tasks.”
“Models of Professional Development - Our campus provides large group professional development sessions that focus on increasing teacher productivity and building capacity to integrate technology effectively into content areas, and include follow-up facilitate implementation.
“Capabilities of Educators - Most of the teachers on my campus demonstrate two to three of the SBEC Technology Applications Standards.
“Technology Professional Development Participation - 9-18 hours of technology of professional development available per school year for all teachers.
“Levels of Understanding and Patterns of Use - Most teachers adapt technology knowledge and skills for content area instructions.
“Professional Development for Online Learning - Most teachers have participated in professional development on the customization of online courses or content for appropriate subject area.
Texas Education Agency. “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Technology Applications.” Chapter 126. Subchapter A: Elementary. http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/ch126.html.
Beginning September 1, 1998, the Texas Education Agency established Chapter 126 grades K-12 Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) objectives concerning the use and application of technology. With this chapter of the TEKS objectives, the state encourages the incorporation of technology in student learning. With the focus of this literature review being the use of instructional technology in elementary education, it is notable that grades K-5 are assigned seven pages of objectives.
In §126.2 (K-2) and §126.3 (3-5), TEKS includes four overriding strands under Technology Application: Foundations, Information Acquisition, Solving Problems, and Communication. Each subheading clearly describes TEA expectations concerning student use of technology from proper posture and keyboarding skills to the utilization of software, Boolean searches, Internet navigation, laws concerning copyrights, and problem solving. With this comprehensive list of requirements, students should be keyboarding, word processing, as well as comfortably creating published documents and informative presentations by the end of elementary school.
At this writing, no state assessment for technological knowledge amongst public school students has been developed. This section of TEKS receives little or no mention at staff development gatherings in other content areas. However, these TEKS are part of the requirements for college and career readiness and may need to be examined more closely or integrated into the content areas. This research paper will attempt to report on teacher awareness of the Technology TEKS, their use of technology in educating children, and their comfort level with allowing students to use technology to enhance their own learning.
U. S. Department of Education. (June 2010). “National Educational Technology Plan.” Office of Educational Technology (OET), Draft. November 3, 2010. http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/os/technology/index.html.
According to its Website, the Office of Educational Technology (OET)
. . . provides leadership for maximizing technology's contribution to improving education at all levels; develops national educational technology policy; … ensures that Department educational technology programs are coordinated and consistent, and support efforts across the federal government; … supports the Department's Mission and the President's and Secretary's priorities by leveraging the best modern technology to:
• support progress toward college and career-ready standards and rigorous assessments that will improve both teaching and learning;
• connect and support teachers and ensure all students have access to highly effective teaching;
• engage students and turn around low-performing schools; and
• improve student learning, teacher performance, and college and career readiness through enhanced data systems.
The “What’s New” section of the OET Website features several reports indicating the OET’s awareness of the need for teacher staff development in creating opportunities for students to utilize technology. For example, Educational Technology-Focused Online Communities of Practice (COP) discusses the need for teachers to have access to experts as well as other teachers who use technology in classrooms. The COPs give educators opportunities to communicate with each other and with experts in the instructional technology field around the world.
Once these goals from the federal level eventually reach the individual classrooms in the U.S., teachers should be able to access the tools they need to ensure students receive technology skills.