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    Karin Sigrid Forssell

    August 2011

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    2011 by Karin Forssell.

    All Rights Reserved.

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    Karin Sigrid Forssell

    I certify that I have read this dissertation and that, in my opinion, it is fully adequate in

    scope and quality as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.


    (Brigid Barron) Principal Adviser

    I certify that I have read this dissertation and that, in my opinion, it is fully adequate in

    scope and quality as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.


    (Shelley Goldman) Co-adviser

    I certify that I have read this dissertation and that, in my opinion, it is fully adequate in

    scope and quality as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.


    (Hilda Borko)

    Approved for the Stanford University Committee on Graduate Studies.


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    For Nika.

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    Improving learning experiences for all students is the ultimate goal of research

    in technology use in education. The U.S. National Educational Technology Plan calls

    for the use of new technologies to provide engaging and powerful learning

    experiences, content, and resources, and assessments that measure student

    achievement in more complete, authentic, and meaningful ways (U.S. Department of

    Education, 2010, p. ix). With more availability and better usability of technology in

    schools, the potential for teachers to use these tools in their teaching is greater than

    ever. However there is well-placed concern that even when good technologies are

    available, they are not being used to their full potential to support students learning.

    A key factor determining whether new technologies are adopted is the extent to which

    teachers know how to use them to support students learning. The special knowledge

    of how technologies can support students learning of subject area content is known as

    technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK; Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

    The need to understand how teachers learn TPACK drives the research questions in

    this dissertation. I address this need through a study of accomplished teachers

    confidence in their TPACK.

    In this study I explore the relationship of accomplished teachers TPACK

    confidence to their use of technology with students and to their teaching and learning

    contexts. The analyses focus on the responses to an online survey by 307 teachers who

    achieved National Board Certification in California. These teachers, from across

    subject areas and grade levels and with a wide range of experience, provided

    information about the frequency and breadth of their computer use with students; their

    use of computers in their personal lives; the school, classroom, and personal resources

    available to them for learning; and the people in their learning networks who support

    their learning to use new technologies for teaching. Although the representativeness

    of the sample was limited and the measures self-reported, they provided rich

    opportunities to discover relationships and suggest avenues for supporting teacher

    learning of new technologies.

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    Analyses showed that these accomplished teachers confidence in their

    knowledge of how to use new technologies for teaching was different from their

    confidence in using technologies more generally. Further, TPACK confidence related

    to student use of computers in the classroom. Although there was a small positive

    relationship to frequency of computer use, a stronger relationship was found to

    teachers exploration of activities in class. Teachers with higher TPACK confidence

    were likely to have explored a greater breadth of activities related to 21st century skills

    with their students.

    Exploration of the teaching and learning contexts of teachers with different

    levels of TPACK confidence showed no significant differences between teachers of

    different ages, genders, grade levels, subject areas, or student populations. However,

    confidence in teaching with technology did relate to measures of the teachers learning

    resources. The range of different resources, number of supporters, the breadth and the

    amount of support provided were higher in high-TPACK teachers. Higher levels of

    school and classroom computers were also associated with higher TPACK confidence,

    suggesting that computers might be not only a resource for teaching, but for teacher

    learning as well.

    Analyses of teachers learning networks and the support accessed through

    them showed that the vast majority of learning supporters were in the school setting,

    and that the most common types of support involved sharing knowledge, modeling,

    and explaining a vision of technology use. The least common types of support

    involved providing physical and monetary resources for learning. Three more types of

    support involved initiative on the part of the teacher, and awareness of the teachers

    goals on the part of the learning partner. These types of support learning together,

    posing challenges, and connecting the teacher to others to learn from were

    significantly more common among high-TPACK teachers. Furthermore, learning

    partnerships within school and other professional settings were a key feature of the

    learning environments of high-TPACK teachers; further research is needed to

    understand whether higher confidence leads to more learning partnerships, key

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    partnerships lead to learning opportunities that increase confidence, or some other

    factor increases both.

    These findings suggest several potential leverage points for the design of

    learning opportunities for teachers. Because confidence in TPACK is different from

    confidence in using technology more generally, it is important to create opportunities

    for teachers to learn how new technologies support their specific goals in the grade,

    subject area, and school context in which they teach. The findings that TPACK

    confidence relates to a breadth of activities and to higher numbers of school and

    classroom computers suggest that exploration of new applications in situ may be a key

    part of developing confidence and exercising judgment about which technologies

    support student learning. The nomination of learning supporters from multiple settings,

    and the relationship between TPACK confidence and teacher laptops, suggest that

    flexibility in time and place of learning may be important.

    This dissertation supports current recommendations in teacher professional

    development for collaborative learning experiences for teachers, while recognizing

    that direct instruction in technology is the most common form of learning support.

    The findings suggest that key types of support from individuals in a teachers learning

    network may be particularly valuable, as they provide a collaborative, context-

    sensitive, and individualized support in a potentially long-term learning relationship.

    Based on the learning ecologies framework, this study points to ways in which

    learning partners outside of the immediate school setting might provide important

    forms of collaborative support, through connecting learners with others to learn from,

    and by posing challenges to learn something new.

    I conclude that TPACK is a useful and important construct. From all the

    perspectives explored, the TPACK confidence measure captures distinctions that we

    care about. However, the studys limitations point to important areas for future

    research. The correlational nature of these analyses raises questions about the nature

    of relationships, such as the one between TPACK confidence and resources to support

    learning. Do learning resources lead to confidence in knowledge, or does confidence

    lead to awareness of existing resources? The low response rate limits the

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    generalizability of the results to this sample, raising the question of how far these

    results apply to other groups of teachers, including those with less pedagogical content

    knowledge (PCK). Should TPACK be measured without first assessing the

    participants PCK? And the use of a self-rated TPACK measure raises questions

    about the relationship of participants confidence to objective knowledge measures.

    How might we develop survey measures that reliably capture the complexity of

    technological pedagogical content knowledge?

    Findings in this study point to ways we might further understand, and

    subsequently increase, teacher confidence in using new technologies to support

    student learning. Understanding TPACK and the conditions under which it develops

    is an important field of research, as we strive to help teachers learn to use new

    technologies effectively to support powerful student learning.


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