Technology Integration in a Science Classroom: Preservice Teachers’ Perceptions

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  • Technology Integration in a Science Classroom: PreserviceTeachers Perceptions

    Abeera P. Rehmat Janelle M. Bailey

    Published online: 17 July 2014

    Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

    Abstract The challenge of preparing students for the

    information age has prompted administrators to increase

    technology in the public schools. Yet despite the increased

    availability of technology in schools, few teachers are

    integrating technology for instructional purposes. Preser-

    vice teachers must be equipped with adequate content

    knowledge of technology to create an advantageous

    learning experience in science classrooms. To understand

    preservice teachers conceptions of technology integration,

    this research study explored 15 elementary science meth-

    ods students definitions of technology and their attitudes

    toward incorporating technology into their teaching. The

    phenomenological study took place in a science methods

    course that was based on a constructivist approach to

    teaching and learning science through science activities

    and class discussions, with an emphasis on a teacher beliefs

    framework. Data were collected throughout the semester,

    including an open-ended pre/post-technology integration

    survey, lesson plans, and reflections on activities conducted

    throughout the course. Through a qualitative analysis, we

    identified improvements in students technology defini-

    tions, increased technology incorporation into science les-

    son plans, and favorable attitudes toward technology

    integration in science teaching after instruction. This

    research project demonstrates that positive changes in

    beliefs and behaviors relating to technology integration in

    science instruction among preservice teachers are possible

    through explicit instruction.

    Keywords Preservice teacher attitudes Qualitativeresearch Technology integration Teacher beliefs

    Introduction

    Technology in todays society is rapidly evolving, influ-

    encing many aspects of our social and professional lives.

    In a classroom setting, a crucial factor for successful

    integration of technology is the teacher, as she directly

    determines the best instructional practices for her students

    (Hite 2005; OBannon and Judge 2004). Given that

    teachers are the instructional drivers in the classroom, it is

    important to help prepare and assist preservice teachers in

    acquiring technological expertise to better facilitate

    learning for todays diverse student population (Pan and

    Carroll 2002).

    Once preservice teachers move into their own class-

    rooms, what might their technology accessibility and use

    look like? Work with in service teachers can provide some

    insights on what we might expect. For example, it is

    common to see teachers use technology for a variety of

    purposes such as keeping records, creating lesson plans,

    and communicating within the school as well as with

    parents. Even with such a widespread use of technology in

    the schools, however, it seems that teachers are hesitant to

    use technology to support higher-order thinking, student-

    centered learning, or student enrichment. Ertmer (2005)

    stated that most teachers, regardless of whether they are

    veterans or novices, have limited understanding and

    experience about how technology should integrate into

    education to facilitate teaching and learning.

    A. P. Rehmat (&)Department of Teaching and Learning, University of Nevada,

    Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Box 453005,

    Las Vegas, NV 89154-3005, USA

    e-mail: rehmata@unlv.nevada.edu

    J. M. Bailey

    Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

    123

    J Sci Educ Technol (2014) 23:744755

    DOI 10.1007/s10956-014-9507-7

  • Gray et al. (2010) report that 97 % of US public school

    teachers have one or more computer available in their

    classrooms every day, and 54 % can bring additional

    computers into their classrooms (such as through laptop

    carts). Ninety-five percent of those computers are Internet

    accessible, although access may be limited by filters, fire-

    walls, and the like. Just because the computers may be in

    the room, though, does not mean they are used in such a

    way that directly supports student learning. In fact, earlier

    reports suggested that, at the time of their writings, teachers

    primarily used computer technology for communications

    (50 %) (Barron et al. 2003) or for classroom management

    tasks rather than for increasing student achievement (Litt-

    rell et al. 2005). Likewise, a survey conducted by the

    National Snapshot indicated that only about 18 % of K-12

    public schools teachers utilized computers for instructional

    purposes (Norris et al. 2003).

    Many researchers agree that the use of technology for

    instructional purposes can improve students learning (e.g.,

    Hite 2005; OBannon and Judge 2004). Thus, it is dis-

    couraging that the use of technology in the public schools

    is so limited despite school officials increasing investments

    in computer technology for classrooms (OBannon and

    Judge 2004). This begs the question, why are teachers

    reluctant to use technology where it can greatly assist

    them?

    One possible reason for the lack of change toward a

    technologically enhanced student-centered pedagogy could

    be the viewpoints that teachers hold. Chen (2008) states

    that teachers refer to their preexisting beliefs and experi-

    ences when trying to integrate technology into their

    instructional practices. Such beliefs can influence the

    development of new ideas regarding technology integration

    and related instructional practices. If those beliefs focus

    only on using technology for administrative tasks or to

    enhance traditional content deliveryrather than to sup-

    port a more student-centered view of learning as an active

    construction of knowledgethen it should come as no

    surprise that technology use is limited. Hite (2005) sug-

    gests that a transformation in the behaviors of traditional

    teachers is necessary to increase the integration and use of

    new technology in curriculum.

    The present study provides an account of changes with

    respect to beliefs about technology integration encountered

    among preservice teachers in an elementary science

    methods class. The following questions will be addressed:

    How do preservice teachers define technology integra-tion, and how has their interpretation of technology

    with respect to a science classroom changed over the

    course of instruction?

    What tools did preservice teachers use to effectivelyintegrate technology into their science lessons?

    After learning about the various methods of integratingtechnology into the K-5 science curriculum, was there

    positive momentum toward intent to incorporate tech-

    nology into their lessons?

    A Working Definition of Technology Integration

    in Science

    Integrating technology into instructional practice presents a

    challenge for most teachers. As teaching methodologies

    evolve, technology provides copious resources and poten-

    tial to enhance the teaching and learning process. The

    technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK, later

    TPACK) framework provides an understanding of the

    knowledge required by teachers for effective technology

    integration (Harris et al. 2009; Mishra and Koehler 2006).

    In the TPACK model, a Venn diagram illustrates the

    interactions that exist among content, pedagogical, and

    technological knowledge. Technology skill training alone

    leaves teachers without the knowledge of how to use

    technology to teach more effectively, disregards the rela-

    tionship between technology and content knowledge, and

    does not address curriculum content standards with stu-

    dents while using technology (Harris et al. 2009). The

    application of TPACK by preservice science teachers can

    aid them in establishing a modern set of tools and strategies

    to effectively integrate technology, science content, and

    pedagogy in their teaching (Jang and Chen 2010). Foulger

    et al. (2012) state, standalone courses are ineffective in

    providing teacher education candidates with appropriate

    preparation to successfully integrate technology into their

    instruction (p. 48). Thus, it is essential that teacher edu-

    cation programs refocus their attention toward providing

    preservice teachers with the experiences, knowledge, and

    skills that can promote teaching and learning in their

    content areas rather than knowledge of technology in

    standalone courses. As stated, it is teachers with tech-

    nology who will make the difference. Students are third

    partner. All three are co-essential (Fullan 2012, p. 72).

    The TPACK framework for science helps us define

    technology integration for the purposes of this study: the

    appropriate selection and use of technology within a sci-

    ence lesson or unit to facilitate or enhance student learning

    of the content. Technology integration requires a more

    sophisticated understanding of technology use than what is

    described in previous studies (Barron et al. 2003; Gray

    et al. 2010; Littrell et al. 2005; Norris et al. 2003)it is not

    simply limited to the selection of, for example, an elec-

    tronic slide show presentation rather than writing notes on

    the board. Instead, it must include understanding of the

    content at hand and effective instructional practices and

    J Sci Educ Technol (2014) 23:744755 745

    123

  • build upon those strategies through the inclusion of rele-

    vant technological tools. Examples of effective technology

    integration might include students use of probeware to

    collect and analyze data in a lesson on forces and motion or

    the use of interactive simulations to model earthquakes.

    Theoretical Framework and Background Literature

    Learning and teaching require implementation of effective

    instructional practices. Teachers knowledge and beliefs

    play a vital role in their practices, shaping the learning that

    goes on inside their classroom (Pan and Carroll 2002).

    According to Loucks-Horsley et al. (1998), beliefs are

    defined as ideas people are committed tosometimes

    called core values. They shape goals, drive decisions,create discomfort when violated, and stimulate ongoing

    critique (p. 18). Pajares (1992) and Bandura (1997) assert

    that beliefs lead to action agendas or goals that guide

    peoples decisions and behaviors. Teachers beliefs are

    formed during their time spent in the classroom either as

    students or teachers as well through their experiences. In

    order to adapt new educational innovations, i.e., technol-

    ogy integration, teachers must think in new ways about

    students, subject matter, and the teachinglearning pro-

    cess (Pan and Carroll 2002, p. 38). Fostering technology

    integration in the classroom requires educational programs

    to be designed such that they change teachers beliefs.

    These changes should be facilitated through practices that

    emphasize reflection about those personal beliefs and

    hands-on experiences (Park and Ertmer 2007).

    Preservice Teachers Beliefs Regarding Technology

    Teachers individual beliefs guide their teaching practices.

    According to Chen (2008), the types of applications and

    to what degree technology will be integrated into a class-

    room depend on each teachers beliefs (p. 67). Limited

    technology integration by a teacher can be associated with

    three reasons: (a) external factors (e.g., lack of funding,

    lack of administrative support), (b) lack of understanding

    of constructivist instruction (e.g., pedagogical content

    knowledge), and (c) conflicting beliefs (e.g., pedagogical

    beliefs) (Chen 2008). Additionally, interactions between

    these three reasons can contribute to inconsistency in

    teachers technology integration.

    An educational technology course can aid in under-

    standing and changing teachers beliefs regarding technol-

    ogy integration, leading to increased content knowledge and

    self-efficacy. Abbitt (2011) examined the relationship

    between preservice teachers TPACK and their self-efficacy

    beliefs about technology integration. He found a dynamic

    relationship between the variables, with technological

    knowledge predicting self-efficacy beliefs at the start of a

    technology integration course, but multiple factors (tech-

    nological knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, technologi-

    cal pedagogical knowledge, and pedagogical content

    knowledge) predicting self-efficacy at the end. Anderson

    and Maninger (2007) investigated the changes that occurred

    over an educational technology course among preservice

    teachers abilities, beliefs, and intentions, and the factors

    associated with preservice teachers intentions to use a

    variety of software in their future classroom. All of the

    measured variables were found to improve over the

    semester, and self-efficacy beliefs were the strongest pre-

    dictor of intentions to use technology in teaching.

    These two studies (Abbitt 2011; Anderson and Maninger

    2007) clearly support the need for the inclusion of an

    educational technology course that provides preservice

    teachers with effective methods and skills required to

    incorporate technology in their classrooms. Hernandez-

    Ramos (2005) stated that students exposed to technology

    use in preservice education programs are knowledgeable in

    the use of software applications and have constructivist

    beliefs concerning the use technology in classrooms.

    However, the nature of the course can make a difference:

    In a study examining the level of technology instruction

    students received in preservice education programs, Littrell

    et al. (2005) concluded that the instruction was more about

    technology rather than adequately preparing future teachers

    on how to use technology. Therefore, the more exposure

    we give to our preservice teachers, the more knowledge

    and confidence they can gain, potentially improving their

    beliefs about technology integration.

    A positive attitude develops with knowledge and com-

    petency. Thus, for teachers to have increased self-efficacy

    in technology integration, they need to have a positive

    attitude and be motivated; only then are they able to absorb

    information. Sang et al. (2010) found that Chinese student

    teachers attitudes, computer self-efficacy, and construc-

    tivist teaching beliefs were the strongest predictors of

    intent to use instructional technology. Likewise, Cullen and

    Greene (2011) found that positive attitude was a major

    predictor of technology use in the classroom and that

    motivation is related to teachers self-efficacy.

    Wang et al. (2004) explored how a vicarious learning

    experience and goal setting can influence preservice

    teachers self-efficacy for technology integration into the

    classroom. The findings revealed that preservice teachers

    who were exposed to vicarious teachings in the treatment

    groups experienced significant increases in self-efficacy for

    technology integration in the classroom compared with

    those in the control group. Wang et al. (2004) therefore

    argue that vicarious learning experiences are integral to

    developing self-efficacy among preservice teachers for

    technology integration.

    746 J Sci Educ Technol (2014) 23:744755

    123

  • The studies described in this literature review emphasize

    the practical significance for improving the quality of

    teaching and learning through technology. We have also

    seen how teachers belie...

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