Learning to Teach with Technology: A Comparison of Teacher Development Programs

By Sandholtz, Judith Haymore | Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, Autumn 2001 | Go to article overview

Learning to Teach with Technology: A Comparison of Teacher Development Programs


Sandholtz, Judith Haymore, Journal of Technology and Teacher Education


This research uses comparative case methodology to examine the teacher development programs of two different organizations: a private computer company and a public school district. Both programs are considered effective when judged by participants' evaluations, gain in skills, and plans for classroom technology use. Differences in outcomes appear when we look beyond the program itself and analyze teachers' abilities to implement what they learned in their classrooms. In the article, eight common components of the two programs are identified and the differing ways in which they implemented these features are described. Then the program outcomes are compared along five dimensions: access to equipment, administrative support, technical support, collegial support, and classroom implementation. Finally, implications for teacher development programs are discussed.

The capacity of teachers to use technology in classroom instruction has not kept pace with the increased access to technology in schools. Teachers and Technology: Making the Connection, a comprehensive study from the Office of Technology Assessment (1995), portrays both opportunities and obstacles of technology use in US schools. Technology offers richer, more varied, and more engaging learning opportunities for students, but these practices tend to be the exception rather than the norm. Three common barriers cited in the report relate to access, training, and support. Many schools lack the necessary access to technology in areas such as wiring, amount and power of equipment, and location of computers within the building. In addition, funding frequently goes toward purchase of equipment rather than training teachers in using technology in the classroom. Added to these barriers is a lack of support, particularly time for experimentation and opportunities to talk with other teachers about technology. The repor t concludes that helping teachers use technology effectively is the most important task. Some experts suggest that providing every teacher with a computer is more important than providing equal access to students because, until teachers are comfortable using technology, the potential of technology use in classroom instruction will go unrealized (Pool, 1997).

Although the numbers of computers and Internet connections in schools has increased (Anderson & Ronnkvist, 1999; NCES, 1999a), the ability of teachers to incorporate technology into their daily practice is lagging. Only 20% of teachers report feeling well-prepared to integrate technology into their teaching (NCES, 1999b). For many schools and districts, the focus has been on acquiring hardware and software rather than preparing teachers to use technology. On the average, districts devote not more than 15% of technology budgets to teacher training (OTA, 1995). A study of teachers' Internet use reports that those who attended staff development on the Internet were more likely to use it in the classroom, yet only 30% of teachers had participated in such training within the past year (Becker, 1999). The report of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (1997) warns that the substantial investment in hardware, software, and infrastructure will be wasted if teachers are not prepared and sup ported to integrate technology to help students learn. Without classroom access to equipment, appropriate training, and ongoing support, technology is unlikely to enhance teaching or learning (Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997).

In addition to a lack of training, the typical content of technology instruction for teachers is limited (Willis & Mehlinger, 1996). Preparing teachers to use technology in the classroom goes beyond "computer literacy." However, much of the training provided to teachers emphasizes fundamental computer operation rather than preparation on how to use technology as a teaching tool and how to integrate it across the curriculum. Both preservice and inservice teacher education must address the issue of preparing teachers to not only use technology but to integrate it into instruction. …

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