Technology used in student-centered ways is said to enhance curriculum, motivate students to learn and improve student learning of subject-specific content (Cited in Kopcha, 2010). As we have been discussing in this blog, technology integration poses a challenge for education. Integration does not only have to do with technical or logistic resources. There are some other barriers such as teacher’s vision, beliefs, time and professional development. This is evident for example, when a teacher opts not to integrate technology even when the equipment is available, or when “integration” is just about showing some PowerPoint slides or videos. “There is an apparent gap between the amount of technology available in today’s classrooms and teachers’ use of that technology for instructional purposes” (Kopcha 2011).
Inan & Lowther identify three levels of integration: Technology for instructional preparation, technology for instructional delivery and technology as a learning tool. Most of the times, teachers who try to incorporate technology just manage to reach the first two levels. They might use a PC to design worksheets and other material. They might also use technology to deliver a specific content. But very few of them exploit technology as a tool to enhance student-centered projects.
Inan & Lowther used an advanced statistical technique called “Path Analysis” in order to understand how dependent and independent variables relate to each other and how these variables affect the whole process. Some variables to be considered were teachers’ beliefs and attitudes, demographic characteristics of teachers, availability and access to computers and school support structure. These authors base their analysis on some data collected from teachers employed at 54 schools in Tennessee.
These researchers found out that “teachers’ readiness had the strongest effect among the variables having a significant direct effect. The direct effects of teachers’ beliefs and computer availability can also be considered as strong and medium, respectively.” In other words, teachers’ attitudes and willingness to integrate technology are salient elements.
Another interesting finding was that the direction of effect from years of teaching to readiness was negative. That is to say, the more years of experience a teacher has, the less likely he is to integrate technology. Although teachers’ age was found to have no significant direct effect on teachers’ readiness, the pattern is an indication that new graduates have more knowledge on technology integration and feel better prepared compared to more experienced peers (Inan & Lowther, 2010).
From my experience as a teacher in Colombia, the trend is pretty much the same. Some schools leave integration up to teachers’ own free will. Some other schools are starting to implement technological tools for administrative and instructional purposes. Sometimes, schools just want to use technology as a marketing strategy to show they are “modern” (schools of the 21st century) and maybe, offer more flexible learning solutions and attract more “customers”.
I have seen some senior teachers struggling with technology. Integration could turn out to be a way of discrimination against computer illiterate teachers. Teachers adopt technology at different rates and school support becomes a key element to achieve successful integration. Kopcha (2011) suggests that situated professional development such as mentoring is a promising way to prepare teachers to negotiate the common barriers and improve their use of technology for instruction.
T.J. Kopcha (2010) presents a system-based model of technology integration that uses mentoring and communities of practice to support teachers as they develop the skills, pedagogy, and beliefs needed to integrate technology in a student-centered manner. He proposes four stages of technology integration in the model: initial setup, teacher preparation, curricular focus and community of practice. Each of the four stages deals with the same four areas related to technology integration: mechanics, systems, culture, and curriculum.
In his article published in 2011, T.J. Kopcha analyzed the common barriers to technology integration under a program of sustained and situated professional development in the context of an elementary school. Teachers transitioned from full-time mentoring to teacher-led communities of practice over a two-year period. This kind of scaffolding proved to be very effective and it had a positive impact on teacher’s beliefs, skills, and instructional practices.
After having analyzed some of the issues that technology integration implies, we could say that initiatives trying to expand access to computers for education can barely be successful. More than technical resources, the real emphasis should be on more training and support for teachers and schools.
Inan, F., & Lowther, D. (2010). Factors affecting technology integration in K-12 classrooms: a path model. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(2), 137-154.
Kopcha, T. J. (2010). A systems-based approach to technology integration using mentoring and communities of practice. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(2), 175-190.
Kopcha, T. J. (2011). Teacher’s perceptions of the barriers to technology integration and practices with technology under situated professional development. Computers & Education, 59(4), 1109-1121.