Training, Education, Indoctrination
Jerry P. Galloway
Associate Professor of Education
Coordinator of Computer Education
Indiana University Northwest
3400 Broadway - Gary, Indiana 46408
As the title of this paper suggests, technology integration is a pressing and important topic for today's educators. However, also suggested are issues that, depending on one's perspectives, can have a significant impact on the success of integration. It is important to distinguish "training" from "education" - two distinct notions that are often used interchangeably. Leading the call for a focus on computer integration is a recent study that accounts for the current status of teacher technology-training programs across the United States (Moursund & Bielefeldt, 1999). Available equipment and beginner-level courses are thought to be sufficient for the purpose they serve but the need for other training remains. The report recommends that computing instruction for teachers be integrated throughout the curriculum rather than isolated classes. Also, that instruction should specifically focus on integration issues, methods and models. While this author supports the need for broadening instructional computing beyond the confined courses which have evolved from the early computer literacy courses (which can still be important for many populations today), there are other issues in achieving integration.
Other research today underscores computer integration into the classroom with a usual focus on the available technologies (Barron & Orwig, 1995), effects on traditional classroom design and operation (Heide & Henderson, 1994), and the student learner (Dockterman, 1991). Unfortunately, there is little concern for what prerequisites or training is needed for teachers themselves.
Unlike current teachers, virtually all future teachers fully expect that they will use computers in teaching (Marcinkiewicz, 1994) and there are many elaborate planning models with protocols designed to yield successful technology integration. Heide and Henderson (1994) describe the advantages and disadvantages of the one-computer classroom, the lab or shared classroom, and a specialized multimedia or highly-developed technology room. However, while their integration guide is typical of most, severely neglected are the important areas of preparing novice teachers to adopt technology to use in teaching students.
Far too often integration programs are started with little or no planning, let alone an informed approach that takes into account facts about how teachers learn to use technology. Bailey and Lumley (1994) say "…one major problem stands as a stumbling block in the path of the impending technology revolution in education - lack of planning." (p. 35). They do stress the value of inservice training for staff development but with an emphasis on skills and the notion of training. There is virtually no mention of a more general education or development of a conceptual understanding of computing which might enable a teacher to adapt to changing and emerging technologies.
New and emerging technologies are as plentiful as there are ways to use them (unfortunately, sometimes more plentiful). An excellent review of technologies can be found in Barron and Orwig (1995) who outline in some detail a variety of technologies from audio to video, from hypermedia to CD-ROM, from networking to teleconferencing. However, the vast majority of teachers are, if not beginners, nevertheless still working to develop value and efficiency in computing. Teachers often feel thankful to have access to a word processor. For most, the many technologies available today are still an unknown and planning must take this into account. It is important not only to examine what teachers do with computers but also to consider how teachers learn those skills.
Unfortunately, the most popular notion in teacher education today when it comes to learning technology is that teachers are to be "trained," not "educated." That is, language tends to emphasize "showing teachers how to use" technology - rather than facilitating insight, understanding, and a sound conceptual base. Programs emphasize only what teachers are expected to use rather than what might develop good concepts. Teaching for conceptual understanding and to develop higher-order thinking skills is typical of programming (Tu & Falgout, 1995) but can also be a fundamental goal of instruction for beginners in more general computing. But, the notion that teachers will not do programming yields programs consisting exclusively commercial software. Teachers as end-users of software never see the construction process or design issues behind the experiences they are supposed to learn.
This regrettable trend in computer education today is toward skills and competencies. Ayersman (1996) accounts for skills in general tools use (word processing, spreadsheets, desktop publishing, graphics), the Internet, networking and on-line database access. While programming is included, an experience considered high-value in building strong concepts, the focus seems to be on performance in a variety of areas of applied technology. The point is that skills, competencies and even performance standards can still fail to account for important understandings, perspectives, concepts - integrated knowledge - that all contribute a fundamental and critical basis for problem-solving and adaptability.
Naturally, a program focusing on conceptual development will involve procedures, tasks, keystrokes, software, projects, etc., just as a focus on mere training and the mastery of a discrete set of tasks will likely yield insightful understanding for many. But, the difference is in the goal and the means to that end. Experiences and tasks should be designed to yield a more complete, sound and fundamental understanding of computing. Most programs - indeed, most perspectives of teacher educators and technology development programs - fail to recognize this important viewpoint and instead pursue skills and competencies to the detriment of understanding. While a report several years ago indicated that US students have weak concepts of technology, it failed to really address the nature of technology education and its impact on concept development (Zuga, 1994). Little has changed.
This problem seems localized to the learning of technology for teachers. It is common in other discipline areas to speak of "education" rather than "training." Conceptual development is often the primary focus in the study of science (Trumper, 1997). Even when the preparation of teachers is described in terms of "training," programs emphasize the integration of science concepts, not skills (Thompson & Schumacher, 1995). In spite of the procedures and skills inherent in science experimentation and discovery and of course in the study of mathematics and related fields, students are nevertheless guided toward the development of a sound conceptual understanding as they are "educated" - not "trained."
An encouraging note, although several years old now, Blandow (1992) recognized the importance of conceptual development in learning technology. As technology education continues to develop, it can be systematized to include the laws, principles and concepts of technology. Blandow accounted for cognitive development and basic principles in teaching technology students to think. But, this is the exception rather than the rule as most programs focus on the limited procedural rituals of training on popular software over the broader notion of conceptual development.
Teachers Learning and Integrating Technology
A total of 92 teachers and administrators responded to a survey targeting how they use computers, what kinds of software, other aspects of their teaching experience and more. Respondents had a variety of backgrounds and years of experience in education ranging from 1 to 35 years with an overall average of 18 years. Approximately 66 percent owned their own computer compared with approximately 17 percent owning none (17 percent no response to ownership). Although there were almost 4 times as many who owned a computer as not, ownership was spread evenly across the range of years of teaching experience.
Respondents had computing experience across the curriculum: all subjects mixed (32.6%), language arts (25%), sciences & math (18.5% each), miscellaneous (6.5%), administration & computer science (2% each). Clearly, the most used application of computing was word processing, generally twice as much, if not 3 to 1, over the next highest categories of dedicated educational software and graphics. For educators using computers in instruction with students, database activities were almost never included. This is disturbing in the sense that, if typical integration and training programs continue to focus on popular applications, then important data processing concepts and database software so widely used in the business world would be severely overlooked. Also, the application areas of spreadsheet, multimedia, desktop publishing, programming, hypermedia, telecommunications and more, all seemed neglected in instructional uses by teachers.
Most teachers had not learned to use computers from courses, seminars or workshops, inservice programs or college courses. Only 17% of respondents accounted for learning computing from all external sources, where as, over 83% of respondents taught themselves to use computers and to use the various software applications. This seems significant since virtually none of today’s integration planning models seem to take this phenomenon into account. Over 75% have a commitment to personal and professional usage of computers. It is significant that one does not tend to find teachers using computers with students who do not also have a real commitment to using computers themselves in their personal and professional lives. The majority of respondents used computers with their students to varying degrees but less than 10 percent did so without also having a significant personal involvement with computing.
The two most striking results from this study are (a)
that educators learn to use computers primarily on their own, and (b) that
it is unlikely that teachers will integrate computer technology into classroom
instruction without the inclusion of personal and professional usage. It
seems that planning models and integration programs should consider these
factors more heavily when addressing teacher training. Educators should
emphasize the importance of a personal commitment from teachers who are
learning to use computers or who intend to use computers in teaching. Integration
has failed to the extent that teachers have failed to personally adopt
the computer in their personal and professional lives. This must change
for integration to succeed.
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