Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Learning Experiences and Practices of Elementary Teacher Candidates on the Use of Emerging Technology: A Grounded Theory Approach

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

Learning Experiences and Practices of Elementary Teacher Candidates on the Use of Emerging Technology: A Grounded Theory Approach

Article excerpt

Introduction

Digital citizenship is no longer optional, but necessary, as we are living in a fast-evolving era of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) world. This revolutionary movement from an analogue-based to a digital-based society has also changed the types of occupations needed; the roles of creative individuals as the key agents of change; the ways people collaborate with others and interact with digital devices; and, the ways ideas are developed, shared, and distributed (deSessa, 2000; Friedman, 2005). For some scholars, our digital-based society is recognized as an exciting time and as a powerful catalyst for rethinking innovative ways to teach and learn science (deSessa, 2000; Slotta & Linn, 2009).

For many decades, the needs and demands for preparing the workforce in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have increased; at least this is the case in the United States (Kuenzi, 2008; National Commission on Excellence in Education [NCEE], 1983; National Academy of Science [NAS], 2010). The national efforts to improve student achievement in science and mathematics have also intensified in the U.S. (National Science Board [NSB], 2006). For many years, teacher shortage and inadequate preparation of highly qualified teachers in these areas have remained a challenge for the nation (The California Council on Science and Technology [CCST], 2007; Triangle Coalition for STEM education, 2017). Still, there is a limited collective understanding on how to increase the quality of STEM education, how to prepare highly qualified science and math teachers, and how to enlarge the STEM workforce.

The role of teachers is considered a critical component in STEM fields (CCST, 2007). Some believe that high-quality teachers would induce meaningful learning and, subsequently, increase the number of students who choose STEM career paths (NSB, 2006). This, in turn, would partially solve the challenge of high demand for STEMskilled workers in the U.S. (NSB, 2006; U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, 2012). In spite of this well documented need, the CCST report acknowledged the fact that there is a lack of well-prepared and effective teachers who teach science and mathematics at the secondary level. Furthermore, less than one percent of the available federal STEM resources for teacher performance improvements have been dedicated to preparing future teachers-only $0.43 million out of $312 million available (National Science and Technology Council [NSTC], 2011). Among these investments, there were only five programs that focused on STEM fields for K-8 pre-service elementary teachers (NSTC, 2011).

Some teacher education programs (TEP), however, shed light on preparing prospective teachers. For instance, Klenier, Thomas, Lewis, and Greene's (2007) report indicates that more than 90 percent of the identified TEP were already integrating technology into instruction, which ranged from utilizing Internet resources to content specific software tools. 93 percent of the participating institutions reported that they teach educational technology within methods courses. When investigating factors that were considered as barriers to integrating educational technology into programs, pre-service teachers' lack of interest and limited skills and knowledge were not considered as significant barriers during program coursework or field experiences. When it comes to integrating technology into field experiences, competing priorities in the classroom and available technology infrastructure in the schools were the two most frequent barriers to the participating institutions (Klenier et al., 2007).

The Purpose of Study

The elementary teacher candidates (ETCs) in this study were in a teacher preparation program where digital citizenship and technology integration with instruction were highly valued. Towards the end of the 4-year program, the ETCs take a science methods course that was designed for them to engage in a new kind of learning and instruction using emerging technologies, specifically a Virtual Reality (VR) platform within which the ETCs are avatars. …

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