Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

An Ethnographic-Case Study of Beliefs, Context Factors, and Practices of Teachers Integrating Technology

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

An Ethnographic-Case Study of Beliefs, Context Factors, and Practices of Teachers Integrating Technology

Article excerpt

This ethnographic-case study explored the beliefs, context factors, and practices of three middle school exemplary teachers that led to a technology-enriched curriculum. Findings suggest that these middle school teachers believe technology is a tool that adds value to lessons and to students' learning and motivation. Due to a personal interest in technology, these teachers are self-taught and apply for grants to acquire new hardware and software. They receive support for release time to continue with ongoing professional development, which has helped to change their teaching strategies from teacher-centered to student-centered. They are not afraid to take risk using trial and error, flexible planning, project-based lessons, varying roles, varying grouping, and providing multiple activities in their classroom practices.

Key Words: Technology Integration, Ethnographic-Case Study, Exemplary Teachers, Beliefs, Context Factors, and Practices

Introduction

Teachers cannot escape the fact that today's classrooms must provide technology-supported learning. The International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) report (2000b) states that today's classroom teachers must be prepared to empower students with the advantages technology can bring. Teachers have to work toward encouraging students to become critical thinkers, collaborative colleagues, and technology-literate citizens (Sage, 2000).

Being prepared to use technology and knowing how that technology can support student learning must become integral skills in every teacher's professional repertoire. ISTE (2000b) endorses technology integration that is student-centered and emphasizes teacher facilitation. The use of technology for curricula and professional activities requires substantial investments of time, money, equipment, and most of all a personal commitment and courage to try new things (ISTE, 2000b). District and school policy and professional development workshops are designed to positively influence teachers' adoption of technology: However, the adoption and use in the classroom is determined by teachers' attitudes and beliefs about technology (Ertmer, Addison, Lane, Ross, & Woods, 1999). Studying beliefs and context factors of teachers using computers helps to understand how to achieve technology integration. Considering the degree of the teacher's influence, it is important to gain a better understanding of the specific practices under which technology innovation can take place in classrooms.

As the availability of technology in schools and classrooms has grown, so has interest in the extent to which these technologies are being used and for what purposes (Honey, Culp, & Carrigg, 1999). Very little qualitative research has been done at the middle school level, and this study helped to expand the knowledge of technology integration for the middle school teacher. Missing from the research is evaluation data obtained from prolonged observations in a classroom setting where technology was integrated into the curriculum. It is important to observe the actual extent to which computers are integrated into the classroom environment (Painter, 2001) because of the criticisms of self-reporting assessments, which tend to be upwardly biased). A qualitative approach to determine patterns of behavior and cultural themes in the use of technology in the classroom, by exemplary technology teachers, can provide scenarios of classroom practice that other teachers may emulate.

For this study an exemplary technology teacher was defined as a teacher demonstrating skills, knowledge, and understanding of current available technology and translating that knowledge by designing developmentally appropriate learning opportunities for students (ISTE, 2000b). The study was guided by a central question: Are there certain beliefs, context factors, and practices of an exemplary technology teacher that will provide an in-depth understanding of exemplary teaching practices that leads to a technology-enriched curriculum? …

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