Infusion of Technology into the Curriculum

Article excerpt

The subjects in this study were 10 preservice students who completed their student teaching in fall, 2001, in the Central Washington Region, and 10 veteran teachers enrolled in the Master's Program at one of the teacher training centers in Washington State. This study sought to determine whether preservice teachers and veteran teachers in the master teacher program hold similar or different perceptions regarding teacher use of technology in their areas of assignment. Based on the findings, we concluded that there is still a lack of infusion of technology into the curriculum. The results of the veteran teachers in the master teacher program showed very little use of technology in the subject areas. The results suggest that school districts may not be providing adequate staff development experiences to prepare veteran teachers to use technology in their classrooms.

In February of 1996, President Clinton issued a challenge to schools and educational leaders to prepare "technologically literate" students by the 21st century. Recognizing the importance of the Internet in the future of education, the Clinton Government mandated that all classrooms should be connected to the Internet by the year 2000, and all teachers must be trained to integrate this technology into the curriculum (US Department of Education, 1996). Considering the speed at which school change usually occurs, four years is an amazingly short time to complete such a massive undertaking. The year 2000 has arrived, and we have not yet completed the task. Incredibly, however, the first part of Clinton's challenge is all but accomplished. According to surveys conducted by the Center for Research on Information Technology, approximately 50% of schools had some kind of access to the Internet in 1996. By 1999 this number had grown to more than 90% (Becker, 1999).

It can be assumed that this number has continued to grow over the recent months and that we are now very close to the 100% goal. Equity issues, which once plagued the technology arena, seem to be diminishing (at least regarding Internet access). Anderson and Reinvest (1999) find no significant difference in access levels for schools serving minority or low socioeconomic communities as compared to schools serving more affluent communities: this finding differs sharply from similar surveys conducted three years earlier.

Simply having access to technology/ Internet, however, does not ensure its best use. This becomes evident when close scrutiny is given to the way in which the Internet is applied. Becker (1999) discovered that only 26% of elementary teachers involved their students in Internet based activities. 92% of these activities involved downloading research information. Only 8% involved more interactive applications, such as email, web publishing, simulations, and problem-solving. According to Doherty (1998), many expensive Internet connections lie dormant in schools, except for brief periods when they function only as a very convenient encyclopedia.

Low use of the technology reflects the failure to meet the second part of Clinton's mandate that teachers be prepared to integrate technology into their curriculum. Hubbard (1998) and Sunal et al. (1998) cite a lack of proper training and follow-up support as the most frequent reasons teachers give for not using the Internet in their classrooms. According to Hubbard, most teachers who use the Internet in innovative and creative ways have trained themselves through a process of experimentation born out of personal interest. Harris (1998) tells us that while such innovators may naturally seek out creative avenues for using the Internet, the majority of teachers, and especially the "technophobes," need specific training and ongoing support to integrate the technology effectively. School districts have spent billions of dollars putting the infrastructure in place to allow for Internet access, with little left in their budgets to pay for staff training (Sherry, 1997). According to Johnson (1998), priority must be given to staff development now if we want the financial investment in infrastructure to pay off. We cannot rise to Clinton's challenge to prepare a technology literate student population unless current trends are altered. This can only be achieved if we train our teachers in the best practices for technology use.

Moving towards best practices in Internet based curriculum

Sunal et al. (1998) identify five levels of Internet use, with the higher levels being most reflective of best practices. Teachers using the Internet to gather lesson plans and resources would be said to be working at a level one. If and when these resources are shared with students to augment curriculum, Internet use shifts to level two. Level three is achieved when students themselves work on the Internet as part of an existing lesson. Level four occurs when teachers construct new curriculum and projects not possible without use of the Internet. At level five the students construct their own projects: their learning and use of the Internet is self-directed. As documented above, most of the current Internet applications in schools occur at levels one, two, and sometimes three. Only a relatively few innovators are using the Internet at a level four or five (Sunal et al.). However, the literature appears to be unanimous in stating that working at these higher levels must be the standard to which all teachers should strive if the Internet is to achieve its full potential as a learning tool (Doherty, 1998).

As stated earlier, Doherty (1998) warns against the Internet becoming a passive learning technology by serving only a lower level information retrieval function. This is not to downplay the value of the Internet as a research tool. Indeed one of its most powerful functions is to provide access to sources typically beyond the reach of students and teachers alike (Parker-Roerden, 1997). Through the Internet students have access to libraries, databases, museums, government offices, satellite data, and experts in the field. The Internet also fosters an appreciation of the multifaceted nature and complexity of any one topic. Being able to link across sites exposes students to the multiple perspectives that surround issues (El Hindi, 1998). Another powerful characteristic of the Internet is its timeliness: information is updated continually, and where textbooks become outdated quickly, the Internet is a source of real-time information. For example, learning becomes much more powerful when students can look up the actual temperature in the Arctic at that precise moment and then monitor its changes over time, as opposed to reading statistical averages from a text (Willis, 1998). Also important is the possibility of bringing equity to the resources individuals have (Berenfeld, 1996). In the past a considerable source of inequity between schools was rooted in the differences between the amount and quality of library resources they could afford. Through the Internet, assuming they have a connection, all schools, no matter what their budget or demographic profile, have access to the same amazing variety of resources.

The use of the Internet as a research resource is indeed an invaluable tool for the classrooms of the 21st century. However, if teachers are to move towards working at higher levels of Internet use, and if the true learning potential of the Internet is to be realized, additional aspects of it must be employed.

Purpose

The use of technology has the attention of most elementary and secondary schools; indeed, according to a 1999 U.S. Department of Education survey, 90% of schools now have some sort of access to the Internet. But this statistic does not speak to how technology is being used in all of these settings. According to Doherty (1998), the majority of school Internet use consists of teacher research and resource collection as part of lesson plan development. Only a very small percentage of teachers involve themselves and their students in direct experiences on the Internet. In cases where their students do use the Internet, it tends to be restricted to downloading static information, such as news, weather reports, and information about topics they are studying.

This study sought to determine whether pre-service teachers and veteran teachers in the master teacher program hold similar or different perceptions regarding teacher use of technology in their areas of assignment.

Method

To carry out this study, we adapted a technology survey questionnaire to use in our Teacher Education. We chose a five point Likert scale for the subjects to indicate how strongly they agree that teachers in their place of assignment infused technology into their curriculum. It was pilot tested in spring, 2000. The 21 item instrument was subjected to a reliability analysis using the SPSS Reliability Program. The coefficient alpha reliability estimate was .9161. We concluded from this that the questionnaire was content valid since the instrument was designed from concepts reflected in the literature.

The subjects in this study were 10 pre-service students who completed their student teaching in fall, 2001, in the Central Washington Region, and 10 veteran teachers enrolled in the Master's Program at one of the teacher training centers in Washington State. Both groups were informed of the survey at the beginning of the quarter. At the end of the quarter-long seminar for the undergraduate preservice teachers, they were given a consent form for the survey. They were informed that answering the survey was voluntary. They were asked to put the survey in an envelope after completion and return it to the researchers. The same approach was followed for the graduate students in the Master Teacher Program. To determine whether the two groups held similar or different views, an alpha level of .05 was used to evaluate each variable, as well as an independent t-test for statistical significance in SPSS.

Results

The instrument for this study contained 21 items and requested a response rating from 1, for "don't know" to 5, for "strongly agree." A high mean of 3 and above indicates a more positive view of the use of technology in the schools. The subjects were asked to indicate how well the teachers in their place of assignment infused technology into their curriculum.

The data were analyzed by using the t test for independent samples in the Statiscal Package for the Social Sciences(SPSS). Demographic information was also ascertained and analyzed. The result shows 65% of the participants are female and 35%-males, 95% are Caucasian and 5% minority. As to teaching assignment, 45% were working at the elementary school level, 25%s were at middle or junior high schools, and 20% were at high schools. The subjects were also asked about place of assignment. 85% of the subjects were assigned to the Ellensburg area and 15% were assigned to the Seattle area.

The undergraduate preservice students were overall positive as follows:

1. The teachers can install a variety of software packages on a computer to use in teaching in their subject areas (mean = 3.70).

2. The teachers use a variety of software packages to teach in their subject areas (mean = 3.20).

3. The teachers can implement basic troubleshooting techniques (e.g., resolve printing problems) on computers (mean = 3.70).

4. The teachers use a scanner with a computer to develop and deliver instructional units in their subject areas (mean = 3.20).

5. The teachers use digital/video cameras with a computer to develop and deliver instructional units in their subject areas (mean = 3.50)

6. The teachers use graphics and digital images to create web-pages for teaching in their subject areas (mean = 3.10)

7. The teachers use the Internet in an informed manner and critically evaluate the information it provides for use in teaching in their subject areas (means = 3.70).

8. The teachers are aware of how computers and related technology are used in business industry and society (mean = 4.40)

9. The teachers use word processing for teaching in their subject areas (mean = 4.00).

10. The teachers use spreadsheet applications for teaching in their subject areas (mean = 3.10)

11. The teachers use multimedia software (HyperStudio, HyperCard) for teaching in their subject areas (mean = 3.20)

16. The teachers develop instructional units that require the use of educational software (e.g. Inspiration, Teacher Helper Plus) in their subject areas (mean = 3.50)

17. The teachers assess student learning through activities that integrate computers and related technology (e.g., electronic portfolios and electronic grade books) (mean = 3.90).

18. The teachers develop activities in their subject areas that are designed to teach students about the equitable, ethical and legal use of computers and related technology (mean = 3.20).

19. The teachers design instructional units in their subject areas that use computers to promote critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making by students (mean = 3.40).

20. The teachers design instructional units in their subject areas that use computers to facilitate learning for students with diverse learning needs (mean = 3.10).

21. The teachers in my school are well prepared to infuse technology in the curriculum. (mean = 3.20).

The veteran teachers in the master program surveys were overall, positive for:

8. The teachers are aware of how computers and related technology are used in business, industry and society (mean = 3.00).

9. The teachers use word processing for teaching in their subject area (mean = 3.10).

The descriptive summary show that the mean score of undergraduate preservice teachers' responses is higher on most of the items. Responses to whether teachers can install a variety of software packages on the computer differed significantly. The combined mean score for the undergraduate pre-service teachers responses was 3.70 (SD = 1.49), while the combined mean score for the veteran teachers in the master program was 2.00 (SD = .69). This difference was significant (t = 2.49, df = 18, p < .023). As to whether teachers use a variety of software packages to teach in their subject area, no significant difference was found. Responses to teacher ability to implement basic troubleshooting techniques on the computer did yield a significant difference. The combined mean score of the undergraduate pre-service teachers was 3.70 (SD = 1.64) while the combined valence mean score for the veteran teacher was 2.40 (SD = .699). This difference was significant (t = 2.31, df = 18, p < 033).

There was no significant difference between the answers from undergraduate pre-service teachers and the veteran teachers in the master teacher program on as to whether teachers use a scanner with a computer to develop and deliver instructional units in their subject areas. The answer for teachers' on the use of a digital/video camera to develop and deliver instruction did yield a significant difference. The combined mean valence score for the undergraduate pre-service teachers was 3.50(SD = 1.58), while the combined mean valence score for the veteran teachers in the master program was 2.00(SD = .35). This difference was significant (t = 2.25, df = 18, p< .049). A significant difference was also found between the undergraduate pre-service teachers' and veteran teachers' answers for teacher use of the Internet in an informed manner and critical evaluation of the information the internet provided them for use in teaching in their subject areas. The combined mean valence score for the undergraduate pre-service teachers was 3.70 (SD = 1.49) while the combined mean valence score for the veteran teachers in the master program was 2.10 (SD = .69). The significant difference was (t = 2.11, df = 18, p < 049).

Significant differences were found between undergraduate preservice teachers and veteran teachers in the master teacher program for on whether teachers are aware of how computers and related technology are used in business, industry and society, The combined mean valence score of the undergraduate preservice teachers was 4.40 (SD = 1.26), while the mean valence score for the veteran teachers in the master teacher program was 2.10 (SD = 3.00). The significant difference was (t = 2.81, df = 18, p < .012). There was no significant difference for whether teachers used word processing and spreadsheet applications for teaching in their subject areas. The combined mean score for the undergraduate preservice teachers was 4.00 (SD = 1.63), while the mean score for the master teachers in the graduate program was 3.10 (SD = .99).

Both groups were asked about teachers' use of multimedia software for teaching in their subject areas: the combined mean valence score of the undergraduate preservice teachers was 3.20 (SD = 1.39), while the mean valence score for the master teachers in the graduate program 2.10 (SD = .31). The significant difference was (t = 2.45, df = 18, p < .026).

The teachers' responses did not differ for the questions on assistive technology to promote learning for students with special needs, for the evaluations and recommendations for software, for the use of technology for distance education, and for the use of video conferences for teaching. As for whether teachers develop instructional units that require the use of educational software, the combined mean valence score of the undergraduate preservice teachers was 3.50 (SD = 1.43), while the mean valence score for the master teachers in the graduate program was 2.20 (SD = .42). The significant difference was (t = 2.75, df = 18, p < .013). For the question on whether teachers assess student learning through activities that integrate computers and related technology, the combined mean valence score of the undergraduate preservice teachers was 390 (SD = 1.20) and the mean valence score for the teachers in the graduate program was 2.20 (SID = .42). The significant difference was (t = 4.24, df = 18, p < .000). For question of teachers developing activities that are designed to teach students about the equitable, ethical, and legal use of computers and related technology in their subject areas, the combined mean valence score of the undergraduate preservice teachers was 3.20 (SD = 1.40), while the mean valence score for the master teachers in the graduate program was 2.10 (SD = .57). The significant difference was (t = 2.30, df = 18, p < .003). And for the question on whether teachers design instructional units in their subject areas that uses computers to promote critical thinking, problem solving and decision-making among students, the combined mean valence score of the undergraduate preservice teachers was 3.40 (SD = 1.17), while the mean valence score for the master teachers in the graduate program was 2.20 (SD = .42). The significant difference was (t = 3.04, df = 18, p < .007).

The final two questions on designing instructional units in their subject area that use computers to facilitate learning for students with diverse learning needs, and if teachers in "my" school are well prepared to infuse technology in the curriculum statistically showed no statiscal difference.

Conclusion

Based on the findings, it is possible to conclude that there is still a lack of infusion of technology into the curriculum. The results of the veteran teachers in the master teacher program showed very little use of infusing technology into the subject areas. The results suggest that school districts may not be providing adequate staff development experiences to prepare veteran teachers to use technology in their classrooms. The researchers also conclude that the veteran teachers appeared not to show high interest in the potential of technology in the classroom. In order for teachers to infuse teaching with technology, they need professional development opportunities to learn to use and implement technology in their classrooms.

However, the undergraduate pre-service teachers' results showed that teachers in their areas of assignment are incorporating significantly the use of technology in their subject areas. What may have caused the difference in perception? It is likely that the groups are not equivalent on the variables other than the identified group membership variable. The group of undergraduate pre-service teachers are younger than the comparison group of veteran master teachers.

To fully utilize the technology that is available to teachers in the classroom, serious work needs to be done to train teachers in the best use of technology. Staff development must take priority if the financial investment in technology is ever to pay off. If we are to rise to Clinton's challenge to prepare a technology literate student population, current trends in technology use must be altered. This can only be achieved through teacher training in best practices in technology.

References

Anderson, R. E., & Ronnkvist, A. (1999). The presence of computers in American schools. Irvine, CA: Center for Research on information Technology and Organization. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 430548)

Becker, H.J. (1999). Internet use by teachers: Conditions of professional use and teacher-directed student use. Irvine, CA: Center for Research on Information Technology and Organizations. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 429 564)

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Doherty, A. (1998). The internet: destined to become a passive surfing technology? Educational Technology, 38 (5), 61-63.

El-Hindi, A. E., (1998). Beyond classroom boundaries: Constructivist teaching with the internet. Reading Teacher, 51, 694-700.

Harris, J. (1998). Design tools for the Internet-supported classroom. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Hubbard, R. (1998). Increasing internet usage among teachers and students for information retrieval and curricular augmentation through ongoing training and support. Southeastern University. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED429557)

Johnson, D. G. (1998). Effectively integrating the World Wide Web and computer software technology into diverse classrooms. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 429808)

Parker-Roerden, L. (1997). Net lessons: Web-based projects for your classroom. Sebastopol, CA: Songline.

Sherry, L. (1997). Linking technology with promising practices to improve teaching and learning. (Eric Document Reproduction Service No. (ED 414277).

Sunal, C. S., Smith, C., Sunal, D., & Britt, J. (1998). Using the internet to create meaningful instruction. The Social Studies, 89, 13-27.

U.S. Department of Education, (1996). Getting America's students ready for the 21st century-meeting the technology literacy challenge: A report to the nation on technology and education. (DOE publication) Washington DC: Author.

Correspondence concerning this article may be addressed to Dr. Henry S. Williams, Department of Curriculum and Supervision, 400 E. 8th Avenue, Ellensburg, WA 98926-7410, email: williamh@cwu.edu.

Henry S. Williams, Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Melanie Kingham, Department of Teacher Education Program, Central Washington University-Seatac

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