How Teachers Integrate Technology and Their Beliefs about Learning: Is There a Connection?

Article excerpt

Research indicates that teachers who readily integrate technology into their instruction are more likely to possess constructivist teaching styles. Evidence suggests there is a parallel between a teacher's student-centered beliefs about instruction and the nature of the teacher's technology-integrated lessons. This connection between the use of technology and constructivist pedagogy implies constructivist-minded teachers maintain dynamic student-centered classrooms where technology is a powerful learning tool. Unfortunately, much of the research to date has relied on self-reported data from teachers and this type of data too often presents a less than accurate picture. Versus self-reported practices, direct observations that gauge the constructivist manner in which teachers integrate technology are a more precise, albeit protracted, measurement. In this study 32 classroom teachers completed a survey to measure their beliefs about instruction, but they were also directly observed and rated with the Focus on Integrated Technology: Classroom Observation Measurement (FIT:COM). The FIT:COM measures the degree to which technology integrated lessons are aligned with constructivist principles. Analysis did not reveal a significant relationship between practices and beliefs. Although most teachers identified strongly with constructivist convictions they failed to exhibit these ideas in their practices.

**********

Current educational reform movements in different disciplines emphasize the importance of a student-centered classroom (AAAS, 1993; National Council for the Social Studies, 1994; National Council of Teachers of English, 2000; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000). Many school administrators now advocate that teachers put aside notions of traditional teaching in favor of developing learning environments where students share ideas, grapple with the meaning of new information, and defend divergent thinking. This type of student-centered and student-active learning is often called constructivism. Leaders in educational technology have also thrown support to the idea of moving away from linear direct instruction and toward constructivist classrooms. Notably, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) endorses technology integration that is student-centered and emphasizes teacher facilitation (ISTE, 2000).

The use of technology in K-12 education has grown steadily since the inception of classroom computers in the 1970s (National Governor's Association, 1999; Puma, Chaplin, & Pape, 2000). Today, it is commonplace to discover teachers using technology for a variety of purposes, including record-keeping, accessing lesson plans, creating study guides, and communicating with parents. Students too, are found busy employing technology to compose reports, analyze data, communicate with experts, and perform research. Few argue that technology will not continue to become even more embedded in student experience. However, classroom visitors often see technology integrated in a variety of ways. Some teachers maintain tight control and use technology only for presentation purposes. Other teachers, with the same resources and access, allow students nearly full reign of technology decisions. Why do such varied pedagogical styles exist for technology integrated lessons? It is, of course, possible that these classroom practices mirror the teachers' nontechnology integrated lessons and what is observed is a reflection of what the teachers believe constitute quality instruction. That is to say, a teacher who firmly believes the best way for students to learn content is through informative teacher-delivered lectures will give little consideration to the idea of using technology as a means for student exploration. Likewise, it appears logical that a teacher who firmly believes in exploratory learning is not going to be an advocate for drill and practice software. Another possibility is that teachers use technology in a way they think is aligned with their beliefs, but on close inspection the teachers' lessons are misaligned or incongruous with the teachers' convictions. …