Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

The Digital Lives of U.S. Teachers: A Research Synthesis and Trends to Watch

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

The Digital Lives of U.S. Teachers: A Research Synthesis and Trends to Watch

Article excerpt

The United States Department of Education's 2010 National Educational Technology Plan called for educators to transform learning and teaching with digital resources and tools. However, classroom teachers are especially challenged by information seeking, use, and management as well as by increased pressure to provide accountability data and serve diverse learners. In response to these challenges, the digital library community, spurred to improve science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) education, is developing solutions that include metadata and paradata schema; highly curated, centralized collections; and integrated planning, management, and assessment tools. Still, local and external factors can hinder change and must be considered in design and implementation. In this paper, we integrate an extensive collection of research relating to educators' digital "lives," or processes; provide an overview of very recent developments in digital library technology that pose possible solutions; and illustrate essential facilitating conditions, including the vital role of the teacher librarian.

Introduction

Struggling American schools are widely considered to be in need of reform to address key challenges to student learning that include:

* Poor academic performance in science and mathematics (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2011c), especially when compared to other nations (Gonzales, et al., 2008; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2010);

* Lack of exposure to 21st century skills in school (Board on Science Education, 2010; Project Tomorrow, 2010a; Rotherham & Willingham, 2009; Silva, 2008);

* High drop out rates related to student boredom (Bridgeland, DiIulio, & Morison, 2006; Chapman, Laird, & KewalRamani, 2010);

* Declining numbers of students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) (National Science Board [NSB], 2010; Project Tomorrow & Pasco Scientific, 2008);

* Few "workplace ready" students with employability skills like basic writing and mathematics, punctuality, and communication skills (Guy, Sitlington, Larsen, & Frank, 2009; Raybould & Sheedy, 2005).

Numerous initiatives to restructure schools through vouchers, charters, and various reform programs as well as proposals to increase teacher retention, skill, and accountability have all been examined as routes to improvement. However, effective student learning experiences can be reduced to uneven access to two contextual variables: high quality learning resources and high

quality pedagogy (Maull, Saldivar, & Sumner, 2010b; Morris & Hiebert, 2011). Alone, neither variable is sufficient to improve student achievement (Arslan, 2010).

While improving the quality of teaching would seem to be an obvious way to improve the quality of learning, the importance of improving access to digital resources cannot be understated. The number of teachers who do not integrate technology is dwindling (Project Tomorrow, 2010b). Studies have showed that the majority of K-12 teachers in the United States use digital media and technology in some aspect of their classroom instruction with most teachers reporting that they use the Internet for searching, finding, retrieving, using and digital media such as games, activities, lesson plans and simulations frequently or every day (PBS & Grunwald Associates, 2011). How technology is used to access learning resources, rather than if it used, for teaching is the differentiator.

Effective technology integration has become a centerpiece of educational improvement, as the White House Office of Educational Technology's National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) (2010) underscored:

Although the expectation of effective teaching and accountability for professional educators is a critical component of transforming our education system, equally important is recognizing that we need to strengthen and elevate the teaching profession. …

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