As a result of the incorporation of computer technologies into teacher education programs, the fields of educational technology and teacher education have produced a substantial base of scholarship in recent years. The Preparing Tomorrow's Teachers for Technology (PT3) grant competitions sponsored by the Department of Education have resulted in a nationwide technology focus in teacher preparation institutions. Institutions submitting grants are encouraged to think beyond technology courses to " systemic program improvements that transform teacher preparation by infusing technology throughout the educational experience of all future teachers." This most recent demand for innovation in teacher education however, has been implemented and studied as a neutral, if not universally beneficial addition to teaching and learning. In a time when teacher educators view learning to teach as a deeply complex, social, and political process, we have yet to fully understand the interactive effects of learning about computer t echnologies on learning to teach. Uncovering a broader understanding of the interrelationships between these two fields requires fore grounding what we know about the learning to teach process to better see the ways in which it is influenced by computer technologies for teaching and learning.
The following selections by Loader and Loveless exemplify the importance of studying this phenomena by highlighting the very complex, nonlinear, socially embedded, and ultimately human endeavor of learning to teach. David Loader writes:
...this is not about training teachers to use computers in specific ways so they can train their students to do likewise. It is much more fundamental and far-reaching: it will change the "world-view" of teachers; alter some of the belief systems and values that constitute their humanness; and place them in a different cultural milieu which is like migration to another country. It will change their relationship to students, subjects, and teaching. (cited in Spender, 1995, p. 116)
Avril Loveless (1998) adds:
...the development of pedagogy is not one of the teacher located at the center of a number of outside influences, calmly reflecting upon the way forward for effective action. It resembles more the meeting of tectonic plates, jarring and grinding against each other, creating mountain ranges and sliding faults. (p. 1271)
This study documents this "meeting of tectonic plates"; that of the preservice student teachers' constructions of educational technology and their beliefs and images of teaching and learning.
Educational researchers are just beginning to explore the unique ways that students and teachers use the Internet and other computer technologies and for what purposes. Too few, however, focus on the influence of computer technologies on preservice students' development as novice teachers and the various ways that preservice students understand the pedagogical uses of these technologies in the classroom. Some notable exceptions include Barnes' (1995) study with preservice teachers' activities using the Internet. She explored how technology influences students' ideas, activities, and images of themselves as teachers and learners along with how the students envisioned their teaching differently with this technology. In her yearlong study of elementary preservice teachers, Larson (1998) documented the need for a critical understanding where preservice teachers think about how new technologies can become part of a complex, technology rich, multimedia learning environment and what the relationship of computer tec hnologies to schools and society should be. Ferdig (1998) used a narrative approach to understanding the ways that teachers create their own stories with technology. He emphasized that preservice teacher education programs should allow opportunities for dialogue and dialogic interactions so that students can create their personal stories of technology in the classroom.
Research on the effects of incorporating computer technologies into classrooms with practicing teachers is documented in the Apple Classroom of Tomorrow (ACOT) Project (Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997). The project's goals were to investigate how "routine use of technology by teachers and students would affect teaching and learning" (p.3). Some of the reported effects include, the redefinition of the student role and the teacher role and the salient role of teachers' personal beliefs on the infusion of technology into teaching practice.
Others raise questions related to changes in social dynamics associated with new technologies (Thurston, Secaras, & Levin, 1996; Harrington, 1992); social, political, and ethical dimensions of the new technologies (Schwarz, 1996; Cooley, 1992; Apple, 1991; Bowers, 1988); and the relations among new technologies and our emerging conceptions of print, authorship, plagiarism, and similar constructs that are being reformulated as technological innovation rushes on (Burbules & Callister, 1996; Jones & Maloy, 1996). Still another group of researchers ask questions about the roles of technology in bridging isolation among teachers (Merseth, 1991); the impact of technology on problem solving, writing, lesson planning, and so forth (Murphy & Oughton, 1995; Brown, 1992); and the practical and educational utility of incorporating technology across the curriculum--including the teacher education curriculum (Larson, 1998; Thomas, Clift, & Sugimoto, 1996; Thomas, Larson, Clift & Levin, 1996; Clift, R., Mullen, L., Levin, J., & Larson, A., 2001).
Context for Research
Beginning with exploratory research in the Teaching Teleapprenticeships Project on the ways in which preservice teacher education students use telecommunications, we became attentive to the importance of studying the individual even while embedded in more than one context (Thomas, Clift, & Sugimoto, 1996a). Student teachers in this study varied not only in the quantity and quality of messages sent to their cohort, but also in their perceptions of telecommunications in the process of learning to teach. This difference in perceived usefulness of technology and telecommunications in learning to teach for the 11 student teachers as a group was the initial impetus in the author's thinking about the multifaceted role of technology in teacher education programs. Why did such a difference exist and what can be learned from this investigation about how individuals are affected and affect technology use in their growth as future teachers? This fact prompted the construction of a conceptual model for understanding prac tice in school and university contexts with the individual student as the center of understanding and by doing so emphasizing and highlighting the perhaps unique approaches to technology infusion that a group of individuals may encounter (Clift, Mullen, Larson, & Levin, 2001).
This study is situated in one teacher education program to uncover how preservice students understand the pedagogical meaning of computer technologies. Unlike previous work, this study follows four students for a period of an academic year, providing a rich, descriptive, and flexible account of their experiences in a teacher education program. …