Monday, March 21, 2011

21. Technology and Its Affordances

Teacher Technology Change: How Knowledge, Confidence, Beliefs, and Culture Intersect
Peggy A. Ertmer, Anne T. Ottenreit-Leftwich
JRTE, Vol. 42, No. 3, pp.255-284

This article appears to provide a fundamental and comprehensive approach to the idea of change into adoption of technology for teachers. It begins with one basic premise: using technology for teaching is no longer a marginal and potentially "forgettable" activity that teachers can dismiss or excuse themselves from adopting in education.
"Teaching is not effective without the appropriate use of information and communication technologies (ICT) resources to facilitate students learning" (page 255).
Even though the use of technologies seems to be quite present in the life of teachers, administrative uses as well as more direct, lecturing style uses of technologies seem to be predominant. But this mode falls short of best recommended best practice as stated in the article, while technology should support real life learning and active knowledge building for learners.

The article proposes a model to address teacher change that includes beliefs, content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and resources as key dimensions. Ultimately it explains why and how teacher change can occur and in fact is not,  from the following angles/perspectives:

  • knowledge and skills of teachers - teachers need knowledge of the tools and in-context understanding of how the technology can be used for pedagogical purposes. Practical examples are required and continuous support must be in place for this knowledge to become foundational. This specific element of the approach is fundamental for all other steps to be incorporated, and it truly becomes the initial step towards change. PD experiences, high in intensity and followed up with peer consultations are also part of this process.
  • self-efficacy - this point stresses the fact that even when teachers feel they know the tools the guiding and instrumental step towards implementing the use of technologies in meaningful ways relates directly to their own sense of confidence in actually experimenting with the tools. Personal mastery  and positive successful experiences can increase this confidence. Adequate time to experiment and deepen the knowledge are paramount. Research suggests a minimum of 90 hours over a period of two years in the right context have borne visible improvements in some cases. Vicarious success and sharing of stories also add to the positive outcomes.
  • pedagogical beliefs - experienced teachers need to shift their well formed beliefs that using technology can in fact deepen the learning experience and bear positive fruits in learners. This is a fundamental step that teachers need to work towards. Seeing is believing! Teachers who witness colleagues successfully using the technology on a continuous basis tend to be more open to shifting their own approaches to pedagogical design and instructional methods. The key seems to be presenting teachers with plausible, strong cases that demonstrate that uses of technologies increase students chances to reach learning outcomes. When their beliefs align with the achievements (potential) of the technologies teachers may be more ready to adopt the.
  • culture - teachers like all other individual members of the society, need to maintain their membership of a group. And groups form cultures. From the perspective of cultural "meme", repeated values and processes come to play a very imposing role in the way teachers operate in a particular school setting, district or educational environment. As the article considers, the use of technology comes to destabilize one very important "meme" which is the idea of consistency, order and predictability of more traditional educational approaches. So adopting technologies often introduces elements that are not easily embraced by those who wish to remain part of the group. One way to address this issue is to ensure that positive reinforcement, school-wide support, management lead beliefs and encouragement are in place to present teachers with positive alternatives to the more walked paths.

The article goes on suggesting actual paths to attending to these steps, both from the pre-service and inservice teachers perspectives. These include situated professional development; in-depth sessions; vicarious experiences with opportunities to share and discuss and reflect; lesson studies; the presence of strong school leadership; adequate resources and support.

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