K-12 Teachers' Use of Course Websites

Article excerpt

While the benefits of course websites have been established at the university level, a paucity of literature exists regarding K-12 teachers' creation and subsequent use of course websites, how they use these course websites, and the factors that encourage, or barriers that impede their use. In this study, 36 inservice K-12 teachers participated in a technology integration course, and as a component, constructed a course website. Ten weeks after the conclusion of the course, the teachers were given an online survey to determine the rate of use of their website. The results showed that due to a number of contextual barriers such as a lack of access to appropriate software, a perception that parents and students cannot access the Internet at home, and a lack of time, over two-thirds of the teachers did not use their course website on a regular basis. In addition, each of the teachers surveyed found the construction of their course website to be a beneficial experience, and the vast majority intended to use it in the future. These results, their implications, recommendations, and directions for future study are discussed.

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For the better part of the past decade, the Internet has been described by teacher educators as a tool that can have far-reaching benefits for both teachers and students (Bennett & Gelernter, 2001; Soloway, Norris, Blumenfeld, Krajcik, & Fishman, 2000; Bennett & Pye, 1999; Hicks & Ewing, 2003; Singleton & Giese, 1999). Braun and Risinger (1999, p. 7) offered particularly high praise for the Internet, as they referred to it as a "truly revolutionary development" in terms of teaching and learning. However, the Internet can also affect the manner in which an instructor organizes course materials, as syllabi and course handouts, as well as lecture notes, tutorials, and procedures for assignments can be put online (Maddux, 1999; O'Sullivan, 2001; Selim, 2003). This ability of instructors to create course-specific websites has the potential to radically alter the way in which instructors conduct their courses. While the benefits of course websites have been established at the university level and there have been numerous studies that focus on teacher and student use of the Internet in K-12 settings, a paucity of literature exists regarding K-12 teachers' creation and subsequent use of course websites, how they use these course websites, and the factors that encourage, or barriers that impede their use.

Stemming from his 2000 study of topics taught in teacher education instructional technology courses, Betrus deemed that use of the Internet/World Wide Web was present in 95% of the courses in his survey, which was the highest rate of any topic. It is with good reason that preservice and inservice teacher education students are taught to use the Internet, as 99% of public schools had an Internet connection in the fall of 2002 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003a). However, the manner in which the Internet/World Wide Web is taught is not clear, as it could mean anything from searching the Internet for content-specific resources and lesson plans to creating course-specific web sites. In addition, the translation between what is taught in teacher education programs and what occurs in K-12 schools remains a question (Betrus & Molenda, 2002). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to find out how (if at all) K-12 teachers use a course website in their instruction, as well as what connection exists between what is taught in a university technology integration course and actual classroom practice.

METHOD

In this study, 36 inservice teachers from a variety of grade levels and subject areas were participants in a five-week technology integration course as part of a program in Curriculum and Supervision. This course included components on searching the Internet for resources, technical components of how to build a website, as well as File Transfer Protocol (FTP) software, and a website's potential instructional and communicative benefits. …