Inquiring into Technology Integration in Teacher Education
Elizabeth L. Strehle
Karen A. Kurz
(2002) The Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 10(1), 25-45.
Recent reports from a host of task forces, national commissions, and accrediting bodies have focused on teacher preparation for the twenty-first century. Each report offers numerous recommendations which, when combined, require the virtual redesign of existing teacher education programs. Although these reports provide rationales and serve as directives for aligning programs in teacher education with the changing times, they offer little advice to the people responsible for implementing these changes: teacher educators. This paper addresses the need for professional development of teacher educators to answer the growing call for redesigned teacher preparation.
In the fall of 1997, four teacher educators at a small liberal arts college came together to examine our own needs for professional development. Although we came from diverse disciplines and experiential backgrounds, we shared three common epistemological standpoints: a constructivist philosophy of teaching and learning; a belief in the benefits of collaboration; and a commitment to qualitative, interpretivist inquiry. These shared standpoints made us unique at our college and within our department (and often placed us on the margins). Our group formed and met weekly to support one another in our teaching and research as we faced the challenge of implementing departmental policy within our own philosophical frameworks.
This challenge was intensified when we were given the mandate to incorporate multimedia into our classes and coursework. Although our group initially formed to support our individual teaching questions and research interests, it quickly took on a technology focus. This occurred for several reasons. First, with all of the demands placed on the time of faculty members at a small institution, we simply could not envision a way to increase our technological proficiency and address our individual professional development goals. Second, we felt that because we were all being asked to implement multimedia into our courses, although diverse, we could share ideas with and learn from the experiences of one another. Third, one of our group members was an educational technologist who left after the first year of the study. For her, inquiry into technology was self-chosen as well as required. For the rest of us, we decided to inquire into a problem chosen for us (integration of technology into our teacher education courses) through means that we chose ourselves: collaborative self-study. However, while combining the study of a program-imposed problem with self-determined methods seemed a reasonable compromise, the tension between our own desired directions for professional development and those mandated to us has remained in the foreground of our inquiry.
Of course, we all realized the ever-growing role of technology in teacher education. The need for incorporating existing and emerging technologies in teacher education (Brooks & Kopp, 1989; Moursund & Bielefeldt, 1999) and adequate integration of instructional technology into classroom teaching practices (Northrup & Little, 1996) has been well documented. Recommendations of various task forces studying technology in teacher education (NCATE Task Force on Technology and Teacher Education, 1997) formed the impetus for our departmental directive to integrate multimedia into our courses. With this requirement came an incentive. Our school dean purchased laptop computers for all faculty members who would agree to develop multimedia presentations for their classes. So we had an additional reason for answering this challenge.
We quickly found that no model exists for selecting media components and applying critical questions in developing and using multimedia as an instructional tool in teacher education. Additionally, the members of our research group were committed to incorporating technology within a constructivist approach to teaching and learning. We continually questioned how this could best be accomplished. We saw technology, and specifically multimedia, as only one of many tools to enhance learning. According to research, metacognitive skills are necessary to aid learners in knowing how and when to use specific tools (Flavell, 1971; Palinscar & Brown, 1984). This argument is based on the belief that “no tool is good or bad in and of itself; its effectiveness results from and contributes to the whole configuration of events, activities, contents, and interpersonal processes taking place in the context of which it is being used” (Salomon, 1993, p. 186). As Steffens (1997) in his analysis of learning with multimedia points out, “To teach then, not only means to provide students with a tool kit, it also becomes necessary to show them and train them how and when to use these tools” (p. 19). The faculty in our research group continually questioned how and when multimedia would be the most appropriate means to improve our teaching and our students’ learning.
Method: Narrative of Collaboration
As teacher educators committed to qualitative research in a quantitative world, we felt the need to support each other. The questions we ask and the ways we inquire drew us together to become both professional friends and critical colleagues, able to encourage and critique one another. Each of us told our stories from our different disciplinary perspectives and, through collaboration, came together to develop both individual and collective narratives. Our group supported our self-study and telling of stories as we struggled to be true to our philosophies of teaching and learning.
Bruner (1990) suggests there are two fundamental ways of knowing. One is the paradigmatic way, the search for universal truth. The other is through narrative, which is observing and knowing about the world and looking for particular connections between events. A narrative involves individual events that are understood contextually and situationally. Stories are narratives written in a subjective manner and reflect the experiences of people. Heilbrun (1988) asserts that we live our lives by stories that we have read or heard and that, indeed, stories are the only models we have for living. Narrative becomes “both phenomenon and method” (Connelly & Clandinin, 1990, p. 2).
Although narrative research has long been the standard practice of a variety of disciplines, only recently have narrative methodologies been used for inquiry into the nature of teaching (Butt & Raymond, 1989). A growing number of educational researchers are now beginning to see the fit between narrative methodologies and the study of teaching. Qualitative researchers in education have begun turning to teachers as sources of knowledge about what goes on in classrooms (Carter, 1993; Elbaz, 1991).
Teacher educators are also teachers working within their unique context. Writing stories can provide a way for teacher educators to understand their own practice. Goodson (1994) argues that teachers’ work can only be understood in relation to the interaction between their life and work. Few studies exist that help us understand issues and situations within the lives of teacher educators. However, more teacher educators have recently begun answering the call for research that includes “a fundamental and essential personal voice” that “the literature in the teacher education field is missing” (Casanave & Schecter, 1997, pp. ix-xx).
Recent accounts by teacher educators have attempted to make explicit the “connections between real-world issues and the academic demands of teaching, service, research, and scholarly productivity” (Willis, 1998, p. 487) that compose their lives. Some of these accounts have been individual studies, while others are collected vignettes. One such study was conducted by Deborah Trumbull (1990), a teacher educator at Cornell University. Trumbull retrospectively examined her experiences as a beginning teacher, how her beliefs about teaching and learning changed during the course of her career, and thus, how her professional identity was formed as the result of these changes. In her dissertation completed at the University of Arizona, Barbara Thompson (1993) examined how her own “personal, practical” knowledge of education shaped her teaching of an undergraduate children’s literature course. Through audiotaping each class session and keeping daily journals, she analyzed how her teaching represented her educational beliefs and, in turn, how those beliefs were formed by her life experiences.
Narrative collections focus on a variety of aspects of the lives of teacher educators. One collection focuses on the stories of a group of doctoral students and teacher educators engaged in reciprocal mentoring of one another during graduate study (Mullen, Cox, Boettcher, & Adoue, 1997). Another group of doctoral students and teacher educators wrote narratives specifically describing their dissertation research and writing (Cole & Hunt, 1994). A recent issue of Teacher Education Quarterly included narrative accounts of four first-year professors of teacher education, Karen Guilfoyle (1995), Mary Lynn Hamilton (1995), Margaret Placier (1995), and Stefinee Pinnegar (1995). A collection of 16 personal essays, some written by teacher educators, highlight the experiences of educators in the field of literacy (Casanave & Schecter, 1997), while a group of 11 autobiographical narratives tells the stories of “accomplished women researchers in education” (Neumann & Peterson, 1997, p. 243) and how their inquiry is situated within their life histories.
Grumet (1992) points out that experience alone has no meaning. Instead, experiences become meaningful in retrospect and through reflection. Preskill (1998) identified five types of narrative forms that teacher educators can exploit to help develop new and veteran teachers. “The best teachers spend much time thinking about their teaching—what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how they can do it better” (Preskill, 1998, p. 346). Preskill calls this the “narrative of reflective practice,” the ability to reflect self-critically and constructively on everyday practices. Our collaborative work as teacher educators led us to identify a sixth narrative form.
An important source of learning for us was collaborating. This led to what we called the narrative of collaboration, the ability to submit self-narratives to discussion by groups of colleagues. Collaborative inquiry attempts to make meaning out of human actions through a holistic approach in which individuals work together to understand their roles in specific situations (Hunkins, Wiseman, & Williams, 1995). Experience is a narrative construct that is likely to change throughout an individual’s life (Grumet, 1992, p. 32). Recognizing and valuing the experiences of each of us were our primary reasons for using narrative research. Narrative inquiry allowed us to retain our uniqueness while recognizing those commonalties we share with others.
Obviously, narrative inquiry is dependent upon relationships. Some of these are abstract like the relationship between experience and the interpretation of that experience or the relationship among one’s many selves. Our narrative of collaboration includes a relationship between individual narrative and our group as collaborative readers of our narratives. Through telling our individual and group stories, this research examines the relationship between our beliefs and practices as teacher educators and the incorporation of technology as a new medium of instruction.
Our qualitative research study group met on a regular basis to research, discuss, and synthesize integration of technology into our teacher education practice. Our group adopted a focus group format, a form of qualitative research based on group interviews. The power of such research methodology lies in the interaction within the group (Morgan, 1988). In addition to verbal interaction, our group had the responsibility of analyzing our individual technology use through a year, compiling that information, and synthesizing the individual studies into themes that cut across disciplines.
The study team was comprised of four college faculty members, each specializing in a different area of teacher education. Liz Strehle is a literacy instructor in middle grades and early childhood education teaching reading, language arts, and children’s literature. After Liz was provided with a new laptop computer, two hours of reassigned time, and a technology assistant, she began to explore ways to access information and facilitate communication through using technology as a tool in the literacy classes she taught. Three questions were posed that directed her personal inquiry: How does PowerPoint enhance communication in a literacy course? Does the integration of technology increase teacher-student interaction? How can the use of video in recording student performances encourage methods of instruction?
April Whatley, a new teacher educator, began her career excited about all the challenges she faced. The laptop computer given to her by her dean was a faculty benefit with which she was especially pleased. With this gift came a promise on April’s part to use this technology to incorporate multimedia into her teaching. She had depended upon her computer for a variety of functions throughout her graduate studies so the thought of using it as a tool for teaching rather than learning did not seem daunting. Then, reality struck. April’s enthusiasm for technology was dampened, almost permanently.
As a science teacher educator, Sam Hausfather struggled with using multimedia in a constructivist manner in the methods courses he taught. Science education presents unique challenges given the emphasis on hands-on experimentation within the classroom. During the direction of this study, his approach to incorporating technology revolved primarily around creating multimedia presentations. Sam’s struggles to use technology centered on four concerns: time, active learning, constructivist teaching, and visual representations.
Karen Kurz , a physical education teacher educator, took on the challenge of incorporating multimedia into her methods courses as a means of bringing the world of teaching into the college classroom before students went into public school gymnasiums. She struggled with the constructivist use of technology, given minimal time for development for course activity/lectures and her own fears of modeling technological skills in front of her students. Her excitement soon faded as time constraints overwhelmed the development and use of various forms of multimedia in an active learning environment.
This group met every week over two semesters, initially designing the data collection methods and procedures, then discussing concerns and impacts as the data collection proceeded, and finally collectively interpreting the data and sharing stories of practice. Patton (1980) describes the process of inductive analysis where the salient categories emerge from the data. The researcher uses the categories constructed to reflect a classification scheme used by the people in the settings under study. The process of data analysis entails uncovering patterns, themes, and categories that reflect what is significant and meaningful in the data (Marshall & Rossman, 1989).
To capture detailed descriptive information, group members engaged in focused reflections after each use of technology in the teacher education classroom using a journal format. These open-ended journal entries were guided by questions developed in collaboration with an educational technologist. Questions included:
1. Why (how) did you decide to develop multimedia with this part of your curriculum?
2. How long did it take to prepare the multimedia presentation?
3. What component of your multimedia presentation encouraged or discouraged direct student interaction and why?
4. What aspects of multimedia presentations were inflexible?
5. What went especially well?
6. What did you learn today?
7. What would you do differently?
8. How else are you using the computer in your teacher education activities?
9. How else are you using multimedia presentations in your teacher education activities?
Journaling continued throughout the first semester of the study. Group members also took field notes during weekly meetings, recording common issues and concerns related to the impact of technology on us as teacher educators.
After completing the journaling of the first semester, group members developed their individual narratives. These narratives discussed the process of infusing technology and identified its impact on them as teacher educators. Group discussion and examination of individual narratives led to the team identifying commonalties. These commonalties were described as four major themes: commitments toward change, obstacles to using technology, struggles in using technology within instructional contexts, and attitudes toward technology use. The group then went back to the individual narratives and coded responses according to theme.
An analysis of the stories of faculty members integrating technology across the curriculum of a teacher education program revealed four themes that cut across all the narratives. Commitment toward change describes the background attitudes and beliefs that propelled us to explore changes to our practice as teacher educators. Obstacles to using technology involved challenges in the teaching and learning environments where we attempted these changes. Struggles in using technology within instructional contexts deals with shared pedagogical concerns. Finally, attitudes toward technology use outlines shifting understandings and their effect on our attitudes as teacher educators. In the following discussion we describe each of these themes and their impact on instruction in teacher education. Excerpts from our individual narratives support and give life to each theme and are referenced to the individual author of the narrative.
Commitment to Change
Several factors were seen as important backdrops to our shared commitment to changing our practice toward using technology. Primarily, our increased use of technology began through an initiative from our dean of education. All education faculty were given laptop computers if they agreed to incorporate technology into their instruction. Clearly, the school of education saw technology use by faculty as important in creating a vibrant teacher education program and supported it through hardware, software, workshops, and opportunities for reassigned faculty time.
As an instructor of literacy, I have been exploring the use of instructional models as a medium to capture complex ideas. Developing instructional models offered a visual presentation for class discussion as well as a medium for illustrating concepts. The use of multimedia has given me a visual medium to present relationships between ideas (Liz).
Accrediting agencies and professional association standards likewise have made clear the need for infusing technology into teacher education (NCATE, 1997). College students are coming to us with increased technology skills, often surpassing us in their technological literacy.
Both NCATE and the National Association of Physical Education and Sport set standards for teachers to model the use of technology in courses. I took the challenge of using the laptop, presentation software, and the projection system as a means to demonstrate to my students how technology could be used in a classroom. When I had difficulty with the hardware or maneuvering through presentation software, I panicked. But several students who were more technically advanced than I graciously walked me through the steps to get back on track (Karen).
With the assistance of our students, we became active participants in moving toward technological change.
Being willing participants meant breaking down the lines between our personal reactions and professional responses. Personally, we needed to be risk-takers, willing to analyze our resistance to technology and move forward in areas in which we were not comfortable. We all shared a belief in learning by doing and were ready to learn technology while doing it in our classrooms. As professionals, our underlying commitment was toward the learning of our students.
Despite its heavy time demands, creating multimedia presentations helped me organize and analyze the material to be presented. I was able to find quotations and visual representations to support the points and make them more succinct. I found myself excited to be using technology it invigorated my teaching! For example, importing drawings of the universe as drawn by Ptolemy in the second century AD and by Copernicus in the 1500’s for a presentation on the nature of science challenged me to investigate in more depth the differing paradigms. It also allowed students to see actual artifacts that represented these very different ways of looking at the world (Sam).
We shared commitments toward staying current and modeling the use of technology in our particular disciplines in ways that could enhance student learning.
I made the commitment to infuse multimedia technology into lessons as much as possible in this course to set an example for my students and to justify the expense of the equipment. This commitment required struggling with when to use technology and what form would be most appropriate for the intent of the class session (Karen).
The study group was important in supporting and encouraging each other to take risks and maintain this technology commitment despite the embarrassment of using technology without clearly knowing the results.
Based on numerous technical difficulties and negative attitudes of students, I made up my mind to give up on incorporating technology into my classes. Almost. I had been given both hardware and software with the stipulation that they would be used to enhance my teaching. I could not totally abandon that commitment without suffering a very guilty conscience. Instead, I decided to analyze my resistance to using multimedia in the classroom. I discovered that because our institution had focused so much on PowerPoint as a methodology, I had convinced myself that it was the only technology available to me. When my colleagues in our research group reminded me that I had not abandoned technology altogether, I began to focus on how I was using multimedia in the classroom rather than how I was not (April).
Openly sharing in a collegial atmosphere, we were able to focus on the ways technology supported our individual teaching style within our discipline.
Obstacles in the teaching and learning environments challenged our ability to effectively incorporate technology into our instruction. Time pressures were continually seen by all of us as the greatest impediment to our use of technology. We had neither the time to explore the software nor to understand how to adapt these applications to our own instructional methodologies.
My laptop did not actually arrive until six weeks into the semester. By that time, the skills I had learned during a two-hour workshop seven weeks before had all but vanished, and all of the other demands of being a new assistant professor had taken precedence over increasing my technological proficiency. My classes, though time-consuming, were going well. Why invest the time and energy required by this “multimedia experiment” unless it was guaranteed to increase the effectiveness of my teaching? In fact, there was every indication that doing so produced opposite outcomes of those desired (April).
Some of us struggled with the gap between training in technology and getting the proper hardware and/or software to use in our classrooms. All of us felt we did not have enough time to create the multimedia presentations or other forms necessary for regular classroom use. For courses meeting two to three times a week, the time involved incorporating technology sometimes did not appear to justify the result.
I am not sure my students were all that thrilled with this new method of delivery. I often questioned if the students appreciated the amount of time I spent in development of slides. As one student told me, ‘It’s just a fancy overhead.’ A fifty-minute class typically takes me three to five hours of preparation depending upon the technical base of the topic. This may have been partly due to my limited format at that point in time (Karen).
Time appeared as a concern for students who were hesitant to use technology to dialogue to us through electronic communications.
The use of email initiated by the instructor resulted in a response limited by the question the instructor posed. Students read the messages but did not respond unless they were experiencing a problem or there was a point of confusion about a class assignment. I was surprised the students did not take time to engage in a dialogue about their teaching experiences (Liz).
Environmental obstacles in the teaching environment involved physical and equipment challenges. We were confronted with using 1990’s technology within 1930’s buildings. We wanted to be able to use presentation software without being in the dark or tethered to the laptop. Classroom arrangements often restricted our ability to move about the classroom.
To accommodate the cart that holds the projector, furniture had to be moved every class session so that the projector fit on the screen and could be viewed around the cart. I initially rearranged the room for collaborative partner or small group activities. The students seemed more accustomed to a lecture format and rearranged the furniture back into straight rows as they were getting ready for class. As the semester progressed, a few students who arrived early began to rearrange the room so they could observe the screen from a staggered semi-circle rather than from desks in straight rows (Karen).
Hardware and network connections were not always dependable. Students did not all have access to the Internet, especially nontraditional and graduate students.
Although I truly desire for my students to engage in assignments such as electronic dialogues that require incorporation of technology, limited access to these capabilities currently prevents me from making such assignments (April).
As teachers, we wanted to be able to plan our instruction with the certainty that the technology worked. Our technological environment remained unpredictable.
Environmental obstacles in the learning environment included both our expectations and the expectations of students. Using technology was not our highest priority. Most important to us as teachers were strategies that actively involved our students in learning.
Science teaching is inherently hands on and should not be an attempt to replicate preordained results. As a science teacher educator, one of my primary objectives is to model a form of instruction that involves students actively in the manipulation of the materials of science. Multimedia presentations do not easily support active learning, instead reinforcing the traditional role of passive student and active teacher (Sam).
Using multimedia presentation technology did not easily support the active use of materials nor respond to the flow of the class or changing needs of students.
The immutability of multimedia presentations constricts the ability to generate conclusions from experiments. The chalkboard seemed better for listing the unique responses a group generated as a result of experimentation. The chalkboard was located in the front of the room, was easy to manipulate, and required no prior planning. I continue to struggle in creating multimedia presentations that allow for the student generation of knowledge (Sam).
Students did not appear especially tolerant of their professor learning technology ‘on them.’
The intolerance expressed by my students heightened my own apprehension. While theirs was not an attitude I wished to cultivate, it was one I understood. They said, in so many words, that they did not like being used as guinea pigs, and that they wished their professors would stop using multimedia until they could implement it smoothly, without any mistakes. I knew that my expertise was far below their expectations. However, in every other learning situation, I encourage my students to be risk-takers. I talk to them continually about the need to experiment instead of always playing it safe and to learn from those experiences that do not go perfectly as planned. Yet, I modeled for them exactly the opposite attitude related to technology and my own teaching. It took me the better part of the semester to come to terms with this (April).
Some students were more computer literate than us, challenging our role as educational guides when we took the risk of trying new technologies.
In the classes I was teaching, I saw college students who were much more computer literate than me, their instructor. In elementary schools, I saw teachers and students playfully engaged in the use of technology through exploring software, updating computer equipment, and dialoguing with colleagues and peers about the possibilities of an Internet hook up. I saw teacher educators around the state using Websites for posting class assignments and disseminating information (Liz).
As a study group, we shared various struggles in implementing technology use in instructional contexts. Creating presentations and using technology in instruction sometimes presented information overload or distractions for our students. We often felt locked into the pre-design of some technological products, and we worked to find mixes of color, sound, text, or design that could free us to create learner-friendly approaches.
Another difficulty for me was trying to use this media in a more constructivist style of teaching. After several class sessions, I decided to use font color and/or visual effects to emphasize important points and use of key information. This helped me to remember where I had built in construction so that I did not fall into lecture mode. I initially had a tendency of slipping into pure lecture standing in front of the class, struggling with how I pose ‘doing’ activities. The students thought the sound effects were annoying and distracting. Several of the templates were too ‘blah’ in our bright, white classroom making it difficult to see slides. I also gained information about the amount of text that I tried to squeeze into a slide. By the end of the semester my presentations contained more slides but were easier to view since there was less text to deal with (Karen).
More often we struggled with apparent constraints to our teaching philosophy. Where we wanted active engaged learning, technology seemed to inhibit student interaction.
Although the one PowerPoint presentation I gave was fine, students were not engaged. In fact, the addition of technology seemed to inhibit the amount of interaction that normally occurred in that particular class. Students were overwhelmed by the amount of information covered in each slide and how quickly the information was covered. Special effects were distracting. When one student remarked that unless PowerPoint was going to be used to do something that could not be accomplished by an overhead projector, it “seemed like a big waste of money,” I have to admit I agreed with him (April).
While it tended to promote lecture modes of teaching, we were determined to use technology in constructivist ways.
Creating multimedia presentations that encouraged constructivist approaches was a daunting task. At first, I woefully neglected the constructivist nature of learning in creating the presentations, mostly because I either could not conceptualize how to accommodate constructivist learning or because I did not have the time to create the multimedia effect that would engage students’ multiple modalities. I struggled to come to terms with how to actively involve students in the presentations. To keep students active I found that every fifth slide should involve some form of student interaction, such as discussing a question in groups, brainstorming prior experiences, drawing/modeling understanding, predicting pupil responses, etc. (Sam).
We began sharing our struggles to incorporate hands-on activities or discussion into multimedia presentations and to create visual models to represent complex concepts.
I found that exploring the use of visuals embraced more imagination in the presentation of ideas and consequently invited more class discussion. Visual models continue to be a focus of my instruction, either for demonstrations, presentations, or as a medium to capture ideas. These finely tuned visuals of instruction create an outline that ensures me content will be presented clearly (Liz).
Technology helped us become more organized and prepared for lessons.
Through this process, I became much more organized and prepared for my lessons. I became more effective at designing presentations that involved active learning. As the semester progressed, I involved the students more by discussing questions, analyzing video clips, and constructing instructional materials to connect field experiences with the course content (Karen).
Beyond our own struggles to incorporate technology into instruction, we were concerned with moving our students to become more proficient in their use of technology, despite their occasional resistance.
I have encouraged any of my students who have expertise in technology to design their own projects that showcase their abilities. A number of students used multimedia to make presentations in our classroom and in the elementary classrooms where they are based for field experiences. One extremely proficient graduate student even taught his middle school students to design and present their own PowerPoint slide shows (April).
Our goal moved from modeling the use of technology as a tool to empowering students to individually explore technological applications across their studies.
The second issue I explored was the use of email. This project began by creating a distribution list of the students in my class. Messages about assignments and updates on class events were communicated with the students. A third area of investigation was the use of video. Clips of students demonstrating literacy strategies, literacy circle presentations, portfolio presentations, and mock interviews were captured on video and then replayed for group discussion and peer feedback. In capturing various stages of performance on video, students were documenting their teaching effectiveness and developing a visual portfolio (Liz).
Our attitudes toward technology use changed as we progressed through our study. We started off enthusiastically, thinking there would be few problems in incorporating technology into our instruction. Despite our lack of personal competence with technology, we felt free to ask for help and see the possibilities over the pitfalls. Much new learning came along the way.
I realized that I did not have to create multimedia presentations “from scratch” in order to implement them effectively, and there were people available to assist me in this development (April).
We were able to see technology as a tool to access information, to facilitate communication, and provide a medium beyond words.
During the course of the semester I scanned materials from our texts into presentation slides. When I asked students for examples of their created materials to scan for whole class observation, interest intensified as these students took some ownership of the course. The projector also allowed me to demonstrate how to use word processing and database and spreadsheet software to create instructional materials. Students commented that these demonstrations aided them in their use of the software to complete course assignments (Karen).
Technology had the potential for changing our professor role to more that of a resource, and students to more risk-takers in their own knowledge construction.
Yet, I also realize that this semester was only one step, and I have so many more to go before various forms of multimedia technology are fused into my teaching repertoire in a way that supports my strong belief in ‘learning by doing’ (Karen).
We all moved forward to broader understandings about the need to use technology in ways that reflect our beliefs in constructivist methodologies. However, many questions and concerns persist. How high a priority should technology have in our squeezed schedules? Is it worth the investment? Can it improve student learning?
I have yet to model the use of the computer as a tool to the degree I would like. I have not developed classroom experimental activities that include the use of Websites, spreadsheets, or databases that could be created by students (Sam).
These questions still remain to be answered as we realize technology has become a necessary medium of instruction and communication.
I am encouraged by the progress I have made in incorporating technology into the college classroom through the use of visual models, email, and video. I know that technology is a necessary part of the twenty-first century, and I am developing a user-friendly relationship with all technology. I also look forward to all of the ways that my students will continue to lead my own learning (Liz).
The research group used this inquiry as an opportunity to explore the impact of technology on our own instruction and our collective understanding of the place of technology in teacher education. Working as a support group provided the vehicle to understand and enhance our instruction. Three conclusions emerged from our study: the match between the use of technology and the goals of instruction; the narrative of collaboration; and the tendency of technology to make a task more complicated.
Match Between Technology Use and Instructional Goals
A match between the use of technology and the goals of instruction was necessary. Locked into presentation software, we felt confined to a direct instruction approach to teaching. As teacher educators sharing a constructivist philosophy of learning, our individual classrooms are routinely filled with modeling, demonstrations, and simulations. Within this methodological approach to our teaching, we all struggled with limitations of the medium and the time required to develop and present our content. As we became more competent in the use of the technology as a tool, we began using technology in other ways, such as email, distance learning, and use of video. Feeling comfortable within the parameters of our study, we began to move forward individually to explore the use of technology within our own subject areas.
Technology Can Make a Task More Complicated
Technology tended to make tasks more complicated, limiting our ability to incorporate technology into our teaching. We wanted to explore the use of electronic communication, distance learning, and Internet access. Our physical environment and the server at the college curtailed our focus on distance learning and using Internet in the classroom. Our college classrooms are not equipped with multimedia hookups, and the computer labs were not equipped to handle the extra traffic our classrooms brought. April tried to use electronic journals and found the medium did not enhance the communication she desired. Liz found that with the chat room discussions the students were so impatient with the technology one student asked, “why can’t we just turn around and talk to one another.” Sam found that before a perfectly planned technology lesson, his computer shut down. In Karen’s classroom, any inclement weather disabled Internet access. Clearly it would have been simpler not to use technology in our teaching, given the uncertainties it engendered. Yet we were committed to the need to make technology use a vital component of our ongoing teacher education practice.
Narrative of Collaboration
Perhaps more important than our exploration of technology as an instructional tool, however, was the insight we gained into our own philosophies of teaching and learning through participation in a group of teacher educators committed to reflection and self-study. As we came together to share our individual narratives, we jointly created new narratives that were truly collaborative. We voiced our frustrations about our technological failures and shared one another’s pride in our technological triumphs. Each of us learned new pedagogical approaches from our group discussions and experimented with these approaches in our classrooms. Most importantly, we supported each other as we each developed our own beliefs about the limitations and possibilities of integrating technology into our teaching, rather than unquestioningly accepting a mandate to do so in a prescribed way.
Not insignificantly, our research group also provided a place for us to share our concerns, both professional and personal, in a supportive and nonthreatening context. Each time we came together, to question, to complain, to celebrate, and to empathize, we were offered opportunities to make connections between our real lives and all of our varied roles as teacher educators. In sharing our stories, we “humanized the academy” (Willis, 1998, p. 487) and our places within it.
The impact of exploring technology in each of our content areas resulted in understanding our own commitment to constructivist methodologies and became a continued focus on the use of technology in our classrooms. After a year of looking at ourselves, we are still struggling with integrating technology into our content areas. The daily demands of our own course loads, coupled with the lack of technological support, make difficult our continued commitment to this inquiry. However, as teacher educators, we believe strongly in active participation of our students and in consistency between our beliefs and our classroom methodologies. We have collaborated on adapting technology in ways that align our instructional practice with our theoretical beliefs (Fang, 1996). Adapting instruction allowed us to promote the slow dance between technology and student participation in our teacher education classrooms.
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