Attitude toward Instructional Technology Following Required versus Optional WebCT Usage
Johnson, Genevieve M., Howell, Andrew J., Journal of Technology and Teacher Education
The current study sought to understand the mechanisms that facilitate improvement in preservice teacher attitude toward instructional applications of computer technology. Participants comprised two groups: education students whose use of WebCT was required for completion of course assignments (n = 42) and education students whose use of WebCT was entirely optional (n = 82). All students made pre- and postcourse ratings of the perceived value of instructional technology. Across groups, positive changes from pre to postcourse occurred on seven of the ten items that evaluated attitude toward instructional technology. Additionally, students required to use WebCT showed a greater overall change in attitude from pre to postcourse and made greater use of optional online course material relative to those whose use of WebCT was optional. Requiring the use of technology in course work may generate favorable attitudes toward technology and thereby foster greater utilization of other available computer-based applications.
Teacher preparation programs are frequently criticized for their inability "to fully prepare new teachers to use technology effectively in their professional practice" (Milken Exchange on Education Technology, 1999, p. i). Most teacher preparation programs reportedly offer one course in which preservice teachers are to develop basic computer technology skills (Hsu & Hargrave, 2000). Cherup and Snyder (2003) proposed a more integrated approach to technology in teacher education, one that includes a curriculum of technology operations, planning and designing learning environments, assessment and evaluation, professional practice, and social, ethical, and legal issues. Despite concerted and evolving postsecondary effort to equip novice teachers with technological competencies, "relatively few teachers routinely use computer-based technologies for instructional purposes" and when computers are used, "they are generally used for low-level tasks such as drills and word processing" (Abdal-Haqq, 1995, p. 1). While there are numerous explanations for such limited instructional applications of technology in public education, not the least of which is lack of access to equipment and inadequate training (Bosch & Cardinale, 1993; Moersch, 1999), teacher beliefs and attitudes emerge as particularly critical variables (Zhao & Cziko, 2001).
Whetstone and Carr-Chellman (2001) conducted a comprehensive survey of preservice teachers' perceptions of technology and their future plans to implement instructional technology. Seventy-six percent (76%) of those surveyed claimed that computers have a substantial role in school reform. When asked to indicate the computer applications they felt competent to apply as future teachers, 94% felt prepared to use word processors, 75% felt prepared to use e-mail, and 65% felt prepared to use content area software. However, only 57% felt prepared to use spreadsheets and only 41% and 33% felt prepared to use internet applications and databases, respectively. Such survey results suggest diminishing preparation for more advanced applications of computer technology. Moreover, there is an absence of survey results for sophisticated school-based applications of instructional technology such as those supported by WebCT.
WebCT is a set of web-based course tools that provide instructors and students with a range of applications such as calculating and accessing grades, posting and accessing course material, developing and publishing presentations online, posting and taking tests and surveys, accessing course syllabi, and participating in online discussion (WebCT, 2003). The Homepage is the first page to appear following WebCT log in and is the page that allows users to link to all available WebCT tools. The WebCT Discussions tool enables the instructor to place students in groups for purposes of online discussion. Instructors use the WebCT Content Module to put course material online. …