Using Handheld-Computers and Probeware in a Science Methods Course: Preservice Teachers' Attitudes and Self-Efficacy
Gado, Issaou, Ferguson, Robert, van 't Hooft, Mark, Journal of Technology and Teacher Education
This study investigates conditions and factors that affect preservice teachers' decisions to use handheld computers in scientific investigations and explores aspects of student learning and classroom practices that would be affected by handheld-based science activities. A Handheld-Based Laboratory (HBL) was designed to model strategies for integration of mobile technology into Science Methods courses and to create a conceptual change in preservice teachers' attitudes towards technology. Participants included 21 preservice teachers in a Science Methods course. Five conditions that can affect the integration of handheld technology for instruction and learning emerged from this study: (a) classroom and school environment, (b) teachers' technological background and predisposition, (c) students' prior knowledge and experience, (d) open and engaging curriculum, and (e) access to handheld computers as learning tools. Use of handheld-based science activities also enhanced preservice teachers' inquiry abilities, organizational skills, engagement in science content learning, and attitudes and self-efficacy.
Current trends in educational reform require teachers to be proficient in science and technology (International Society for Technology in Education [ISTE], 1991, 1999; International Technology Education Association [ITEA], 2000, Thomas & Cooper, 2000). The National Science Education Standards indicate that "the relationship between science and technology is so close that any presentation of science without developing an understanding of technology would portray an inaccurate picture of science" (National Research Council, [NRC], 1996, p. 190; see also American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 1990). Consequently, teachers need to be prepared to integrate technology into their teaching, and colleges of education have an increasingly important responsibility to prepare them (NCATE, 1997). One of the more recent developments in instructional technology is that of handheld computers. These small devices are mobile and flexible in their use, allow for dynamic collaboration between multiple users, and real-time data collection in scientific investigations when associated with probeware. The unique nature of handheld technology allows for almost seamless integration of technology in a learning environment, and this requires professional preparation. The current study investigates under what conditions preservice teachers make decisions about handheld technology integration, and how this integration enhances inquiry-based instruction in a science methods course and affects their attitudes and feelings of self-efficacy.
Research indicates that it takes a great deal of education and experience to achieve a comfortable level of expertise in the use of technology as a tool for helping students learn (Coley, Cradler, & Engel, 1997; ISTE, 1999; Milken Family Foundation, 2001; NCATE, 1997; Thomas & Cooper, 2000; U.S. Department of Education, 2000). Yet, technology does not permeate the typical student's preservice education experience. Reasons for the lack of technology integration in teacher education programs are manifold. For one, social cognitive factors exist that affect a preservice faculty member's choice to integrate technology into his or her courses (Dusick, 1998; Snider, 2002). These include environmental factors such as support, sharing of resources, and training, as well as personal social cognitive factors like "faculty attitude, anxiety, self-efficacy, willingness to make a time commitment and face the risks involved with using technology, competency, beliefs and perceptions of the technology's relevance, and lack of knowledge" (Dusick, p. 123). Second, the resistance of inservice teachers (who act as cooperating teachers in the preservice teacher training programs) to the institutionalization of educational technology can become a major obstacle in the process (Medcalf-Davenport, 1999; Strudel & Wetzel, 1999). Third, because technology changes so quickly, "recommended best practices are a constantly moving target" (Cooper & Bull, 1997, p. 97), making matters more complicated. As a result, it is crucial for preservice educators to be flexible and "evaluate the use of technology as a process of change" (Snider, p. 231).
One of the more recent developments in educational computing is that of handheld devices. Even though graphing calculators have been around for a long time and over 80% of high school mathematics teachers report using them for classroom instruction (Burrill et al., 2002), the push to introduce portable computers in other subject areas and grade levels has emerged in the last five years with the arrival of small devices that have a wide variety of computing capabilities. Leaders in the handheld industry, using initiatives such as the Palm Education Pioneer (PEP) program and the TI/NCSS Strategic Alliance, have promoted the influx of palm-size devices in schools, as current research shows that computer use and student learning gains are "closely associated with having computers accessible in teachers' own classrooms" (Becker, Ravitz, & Wong 1999; Marx et al., 2000; Norris & Soloway, 2005; Norris, Sullivan, Poirot, & Soloway, 2003; Soloway et al., 2001), and a 1:1 student to computer ratio is needed to make computing in schools truly personal and effective. For many school districts attaining this ratio is a financial impossibility (Norris & Soloway, 2005). Handheld computers which cost a fraction of the price of desktop and laptop computers can provide schools with a more realistic alternative for technology integrating and meeting the challenges of improving student achievement (Hennessy, 1997; Robertson et al., 1996; Sharples, 2000a).
Handheld computing differs fundamentally from the more traditional desktop computing environment in that users "interacting with a mobile system interact with other users [and] interact with more than one computer or device at the same time" (Roth, 2002, p. 282; Cole & Stanton, 2003; Danesh, Inkpen, Lau, Shu, & Booth, 2001; Mandryk, Inkpen, Bilezkjian, Klemmer, & Landay, 2001). Roschelle and Pea (2002) highlighted three ways handheld devices have been used to increase collaborative learning: (a) classroom response systems; (b) participatory simulations; and (c) collaborative data gathering (Danesh et al., 2001; Mandryk et al., 2001; Roschelle, 2003). For example, one fifth-grade teacher has taught a classroom simulation about the Great Depression combining 1:1 handheld computing with five desktop computers and digital imaging devices (van 't Hooft & Kelly, 2004). As this example shows, the introduction of handheld devices in a learning environment that already incorporates technology does not automatically lead to the replacement of existing equipment, but complements that technology and amplifies its importance. Norris and Soloway (2004), described this type of environment as the "handheld-centric classroom," a place where teachers and learners have access to personal and shared digital tools making up a total technology infrastructure that promotes project-based learning. This type of ubiquitous computing supports artifact creation and revision, collaboration, learning in context, and managing and coordinating the use of multiple resources. Finally, because of their small size, handheld computing devices no longer constrain the user like laptops do, and could become lifelong-learning tools (Inkpen, 1999; Sharples, 2000b).
PURPOSE AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The purpose of the Handheld-Based Laboratory (HBL) was to model strategies for integration of handheld technology into a Science Methods course with the intention of changing preservice teachers' attitudes towards technology integration. The study explores conditions that affect preservice teachers' decisions to use handheld computers in scientific investigations as well as aspects of student learning and classroom practices that would be affected by handheld-based activities. The following research questions guided the investigation: (a) What conditions will enable preservice teachers to integrate handheld technology in their future classrooms? (b) What aspects of preservice teacher learning and classroom practices are affected most by handheld-based science activities? (c) How does the integration of handheld-based science activities affect preservice teachers' attitudes and self-efficacy toward handheld-based activities in their classrooms?
A mixed method combining qualitative naturalistic investigation and one-shot pretest posttest quantitative design was used (Caracelli & Greene, 1993; Creswell, 2002) to measure overlapping, but distinct facets of preservice teachers' attitudes toward handheld-based science activities and the conditions in which these occur. Quantitative data was collected to illustrate or clarify results from qualitative data (Greene, Caracelli, & Graham, 1989).
A total of 21 preservice teachers (17 undergraduate students and 4 graduate students), registered for an undergraduate Science Methods course, participated in the study. The sample was 90% female, 10% male, 76% Caucasian, 14% African-American, and 10% Hispanic. The study took place in a science methods laboratory of a College of Education in Ohio.
Technology Integration in the Methods Course
The course focused on the use of handheld technology and probeware for science learning, for example, asking questions, information retrieval, experimenting, problem solving, data gathering, representation, and analysis, networking, and assessment (National Research Council [NRC], 1996). Performance assessment and self-assessment were used to evaluate student knowledge and skills specific to handheld-based science activities. All activities and assessments were aligned with the National Science Education Standards (NRC), Ohio's Academic Content Standards (State Board of Education, 2003), and the ISTE standards (ISTE, 1991). To create a ubiquitous computing environment, the HBL used in this study consisted of five handheld computers, the Science Explorations with Palm Handhelds activity book, probeware (Pasco's …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Using Handheld-Computers and Probeware in a Science Methods Course: Preservice Teachers' Attitudes and Self-Efficacy. Contributors: Gado, Issaou - Author, Ferguson, Robert - Author, van 't Hooft, Mark - Author. Journal title: Journal of Technology and Teacher Education. Volume: 14. Issue: 3 Publication date: Autumn 2006. Page number: 501+. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.