Monday, August 06, 2007

What Makes Teachers Technology Users?

I'm in Ann Arbor this week for the Project IDEAL conference on distance learning in adult education. One advantage of traveling is time on the plane to read the stuff that piles up on your desk because you want to read it but you don't have time. This morning I read an interesting research article from the Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, by Peggy Ertmer of Purdue and two grad students, that surveyed 25 teachers who had won awards for using technology effectively in their learner-centered classrooms.

The goal was to find out what these teachers perceived as the supports to their success, and whether they thought intrinsic or extrinsic factors were more important. Extrinsic factors were things like access to computers, software, administrative support and tech support. Intrinsic factors were things like attitude towards technology, confidence and previous success with technology.

The interesting thing about the results was that teachers rated intrinsic factors as more important to their success than anything else. Even if they had limited computer or Internet access, or a lack of support from their administration, if they felt confident and committed, they found a way to overcome the barriers. So if you believe that using technology will help your students, and you have a strong commitment to helping your students, you will find a way to use technology in your classroom even if it is not well-supported in your program.

To me this indicates support for the mentoring model. Mentoring builds confidence and successful experiences with technology through support from a peer mentor. Workshops, seminars and conferences are great for introducing new ideas, and 76% of the teachers surveyed identified these as their preferred approaches to professional development. But workshops and conferences don't necessarily create positive attitude and commitment. Mentoring has a role to play in cheerleading, building confidence, analyzing challenges and celebrating successes.

The highest rated success factors were inner drive, personal beliefs, commitment and confidence. How do we build and support those qualities? There were differences between genders (good tech support was more important to women, and to teachers who had been teaching longer, perhaps because they were less familiar with the technology.)

I can't find the article online right now, maybe the ISTE server is having a hiccup, but I will keep trying.


tinkerbellchime said...

Along with mentoring, I wish districts offered 'tuition reimbursement' for teachers who want to take more advanced technology classes. Or at least they could put together more intermediate type in-services. I ended up going to the same offerings again and again because that was all that was being offered. This money could have gone toward a class where I learned new things and then shared them with others.

Ingrid Greenberg said...

I second the tuition reimbursement for teachers who want to take tech classes. I also recommend release time from our teaching, say 20% release time, to give teachers time to take a semester long class to immerse in the many technologies such as webct, united streaming, photostory, etc. I want to learn camtasia and webct so I can design and implement online VESL classes, but we're challenged by finding enough hours in the day/week to take these intensive trainings.

On another note, I'm the coordinator-elect for the Interest Group, TEW, CATESOL and I'd like to do a virtual meeting for San Diego. Do we have access to free virtual meeting software through SDCCD or OTAN?

I have used Genesys and Breeze for virtual meetings in the past and each one has their strengths.
Ingrid Greenberg
Assoc. Prof.

Marian Thacher said...

Christina and Ingrid, Good points about tuition reimbursement and release time. I think release time might be easier to come by, but maybe I'm wrong. It really is the key, though. You can't explore any of these new technologies without time to sit and play.

Marjorie Rapp said...

I see that you're very interested in finding new ways to integrate technology into ESL curricula and I was wondering if you might be able to help me. I'm researching the integration of cell phone technology in language curricula, specifically for literacy and ESOL classes. It came to my attention that some instructors, including a number in the UK, are able to use the multimedia capabilities of cell phones (pictures, videos, sound recordings, text messages, etc.) to share information with their students. I was wondering if you might know of specific programs either in the UK or elsewhere that include such integration or if you might have some information on organizations that have begun to use cell phone technology. I would greatly appreciate any information you could give me.