Sample Education Paper: TEACHERS? BELIEF SYSTEMS REGARDING CLASSROOM TECHNOLOGY USE ? PLANNING FOR PERCEPTIONS

| January 11, 2017

Title: Teachers’ Belief Systems Regarding Classroom Technology Use: Planning For Perceptions

Introduction

This interpretive qualitative study aims to explore the relationship between the belief systems, perceptions, and attitudes of teachers towards technology and its effects on the way technology is used in classroom instruction. Not all high teachers utilize technology in the classroom. The reasons that are often offered for this situation range from lack of technology training, lack of reliability of computer systems to lack of time for incorporating modern technology into lesson plans.

According to Park (2009), a person’s belief system is simply a set of beliefs regarding what he takes to be right and wrong, and what they consider true and false. In a story of five cave people, Hutchins (1998) illustrates the enormous impact that beliefs can have on the way people perceive the world and the way they undertake their daily activities. In Hutchins’ (1998) story, the five cave people believed that the world ended at the mouth of the cave. This made them always live and sleep with their backs turned against the wall of the cave. Their beliefs were so strong that Boggie, one of the characters, had to be thrown out of the cave for raising a simple, legitimate question in which he wondered what could be outside the cave. Belief systems define the roles that people consider to be acceptable in organizations, institutions and in social settings. In the school setting, some teachers have negative attitudes towards technology, which are shaped by certain belief systems. Such attitudes eventually make them technophobic, thereby inhibiting their progress in technology training.

This literature review examines various teacher perceptions, barriers and beliefs regarding technology use within the classroom as well as its actual causes and effects. An analysis is carried out on the phenomenon whereby millions of dollars are being spent on technology-related academic initiatives that end up failing to achieve the objectives for which they were started. The failure of the efforts made by educational stakeholders is inherent in the reluctance by teachers to use educational technology. Some of the technologies that these teachers avoid include laptops, Turning Point Technologies, student workstations, and interactive technologies.

This review also delves into the history of technology integration in public schools as well as how various teacher beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes are formed. Moreover, the global value and ultimate significance of technology use among teachers is assessed. Literature on the reliability of technological equipment and effect on teacher usage is explored in great detail.

This qualitative study zeros in on the state of Georgia, whereby a single public high school is subjected to a purposeful sampling of teachers. The aim is to examine what their beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes are towards technology and how they influence the way they use technology during classroom instruction. Pertinent information is sought from various areas, including statistics from the Department of Georgia Education in efforts to quantify the technology inventory already in place in various schools and teachers’ perceptions towards it.

History of technology use in the classroom

General historical overview

Instructional computing has come a long way to be in the shape that it is in today. During the 1960s and 1970s, instructional computing was being conducted on large mainframe computers, which were largely text-based utilities that only large universities could afford to install. The introduction of the Apple II microcomputer made it easier to avail instructional technology in high schools, although it quickly became obsolete with the introduction by IBM of the personal computer in 1981.  The remaining Apple II microcomputers were completely phased out with the introduction of the Apple Macintosh in 1984.

According to Valdez (2000), the process of evolution of educational technology has occurred in three phases: print automation, rapid expansion of learning opportunities, and the contemporary data-driven virtual learning. During the print automation phase, majority of teachers simply sent students for drill and practice in computer labs, where tutorials were based on the existing behavioral learning principles. In the second phase, the use of technology shifted towards the quality of learning on the basis of learner-centered approaches. During the third phase, virtual learning was made possible by the vast resources available on the internet. This phase also made multimedia presentation capabilities of today’s powerful computers possible, such that it is easy for teachers to exploit various data-driven opportunities.

The spread of computers in schools, just like in the outside world, has been a swift process, particularly in recent years. However, as Cuban (2001) observes, statistics paint a clouded picture. Cuban highlights a few statistics that give a broad picture of the development of computer technology in schools. In 1981, 18% of all American schools had computers, while by 1991, 98% of the schools had introduced them. In 1981, only 16% of schools made use of computers for instructional purposes, while by 1991, this proportion had increased to 98%. Whereas 125 students shared a computer in 1981, this number drastically reduced to 18 by 1991 (Cuban, 2001). These figures give a fairly accurate image of the general trend on how the technological base has continued to expand in schools. However, upon a closer analysis, it is clear that even those students using computers spend, on average, about one hour every week with them, which constitutes about 4% of the total instructional time (Cuban, 2001). Moreover, the activities in which students engage using computers vary a great deal. For instance, it is highly likely that an eleventh grade student will use a computer only when learning about it.

On the overall, since the introduction of the computer more than two decades ago, persistent efforts have been made towards improvement of schooling (Becker & Ravitz, 2001). However, the glaring impression created over the years is that although access to computers continues to expand, there is marginal activity in schools with regard to their use by administrators, teachers, and students. Meanwhile, for those who understand how machine technologies have been used in school contexts in the course of history, the positive-negative picture of computer usage is not a new story. This is because a similar scenario presented itself with the introduction of film and radio in schools during the 1920s and 1930s as well as the instructional television in the 1950s (Cuban, 1999).

Meanwhile, despite the returns on technological investments being meager, billions of dollars continue to be used in educational computer systems (Cuban, 2001). So far, these technologies have been in use only for purposes of maintaining as opposed to altering the existing teaching practices. Cuban (2000) notes that out of every ten teachers, just two are serious computer users in classroom contexts; three are occasional users; while the rest never use computers during instruction. The gravity of the usage problem is compounded by the fact that the type of usage mostly involves low-end applications and word processing (Cuban, 2009).

However, just like in all other industries, there are some teachers who are very technology-savvy and are able to use high-end computer software that revolutionize various teaching tasks (Cuban & Kirkpatrick, 2001, Albion, 2008). In most cases, such teachers have no problem with the learning process being student-centered. However, such teachers constitute a very tiny minority in the profession. Yet policymakers who are enthusiastic about technology use in instruction have to look no further than to such teachers. Whenever teachers lack sufficient preparation at universities, they easily acquire the problem of technophobia (Hixon, 2009).

Cuban (1993) observes that computers are used less often within classroom contexts compared to other organizations. From this observation, Cuban (1993) infers that computers have never really been a central aspect of national school improvement programs. In Cuban’s view, the dominant cultural belief regarding teaching, learning, as well as proper knowledge and the way in which schools are organized is the main inhibiting factor for computer use. Becker & Ravitz (2001) concurs with Cuban regarding the issue of computers not playing a significant role in the instructional practices of today’s teachers. Becker & Ravitz (2001) use a national survey data targeting the instructional environment and computer use among more than four thousand teachers. In this study, the researchers showed that in a statistical sense, Cuban’s views are correct. However, they fault him regarding the implications that he draws on the proper place of computers within the American K-12 schooling in the course of the next decade.

Becker & Ravitz (2001) point out that the greatest role that technological developments have played in the past decade has been in ensuring that constructivist pedagogy is reinforced, where learning activities are made more meaningful to students. In this case, the role of technology goes beyond the shallow aim of just transmitting content. In the course of technological developments, the influence of teacher peers should not be ignored. Teachers who are actively engaged with their teacher peers in leadership roles end up influencing these peers Becker & Ravitz (2001). This kind of influence sometimes translates into an increased use of this technology and computer resources during classes.

Cuban (2001) made several observations regarding the use of computers by teachers one of them being that out of ten public school teachers, eight have computers at home, which they use for preparing lessons, communicating with colleagues, searching the internet, and even conducting personal business. Additionally, majority of teachers make use of computers more often while away from school than while at school (Cuban, 2001). Although computer use by teachers within school environments is still generally minimal, teachers believe that their use in school improves both teaching and learning. However, many questions remain regarding why so much money is being invested in buying computer software and hardware yet the resulting technology only sustains teaching practices instead of altering and transforming them.

According to Cuban (2001), the main problem arises because schools have intractable working conditions, technology that is inherently unreliable, and external groups that make constant demands upon teachers. A combination of these factors work together to contribute to more computer usage at home compared to classroom settings (Cuban, 2001).

Regarding intractable workplace conditions, it is clear that although information technologies continue to transform majority of today’s corporate workplaces, the schedule and working conditions of today’s teacher have not changed much (Creswell, 2009). The teaching schedule is mostly a very tight one, one that leaves very little time for the teacher to think about the need to overhaul his teaching system into one that is computer-based. Moreover, there are many external demands, whereby a great responsibility is shouldered on him on issues such as maintaining order in classrooms, ensuring that students pass all high-stake tests, and being friendly and demanding in the face of every student. This situation is made worse by the fact that today’s technology keeps changing, making a sizeable proportion of it highly unreliable. In most schools, onsite technical support is an unaffordable venture, yet even the most dedicated teachers tend to be held back by frequent software and hardware breakdowns (Cuban, 2001).

History of instructional technology use in Georgia state high school contexts

Like all other states, Georgia has been investing a lot of money in computer technology, especially in high schools. However, the state has not been fully investing in measures aimed at improving student learning. This is a problem that affects not only this state but also many others across the nation. In 2005, the Department of Education published a report that put Georgia in the leading position in terms of use of technology in education. This is the only state that received an “A” in the ‘Technology Counts’ report released by the Department of Education (Hu, 2009). This report scored states in three main areas: use of technology, access to technology, and capacity to use technology. During the release of the report, the Georgian Superintendent of Schools states that the aim of the state’s education department is to both enlighten students about technology and use technology for teaching students.

In Georgia, 65% of the student population has access to a classroom computer, which is higher than the national average (Hu, 2009). Moreover, the state represents one of the only four with standards that are testable with regard to the use of classroom technology. Additionally, one of the 23 states with a statewide virtual school complete with computer-based assessments and tests is Georgia. The state is also famous for having introduced technology requirements for administrators and teachers who seek certification and recertification.

How beliefs, perceptions and attitudes are formed: biological versus psychological perspectives

Every teacher holds certain beliefs regarding classroom technology. Bai & Ertmer (2008) note that upon entry into teacher education, majority of service teachers already possess certain beliefs shaped largely by various events in their lives. These beliefs are normally based on cultural convictions that are extremely difficult to change (Oxford & Yilmazel-Sahin, 2004). Moreover, different teacher education programs tend to also inculcate in teachers a lot of informal knowledge regarding the learning and teaching processes. The informal perspectives also bring to the fore many psychological concepts relating to pedagogy. These beliefs may be related to both teachers and students, methods of instruction and student learning, schools as social institutions, as well as curricular (Meskill & Mossop, 2009).

According to Dennis and Wartella (2007), the kinds of thoughts that we harbor in our minds determine the extent to which we succeed or fail, love or fail, or whether we perceive the glass as half full or as half empty. An individual teacher’s thoughts and beliefs form his attitudes, which influence the way he reacts to his environment and the way he behaves (Deemera, 2006).  Theoretically, the concept of attitude is multidimensional, and it can be analyzed from either a biological or psychological perspective. Both the biological and psychological perspectives have been widely used to account for individual differences and to better understand as well as predict frequent changes in human behavior.

Dennis and Wartella (2007) points out that attitudes and beliefs among teachers often involve preconceptions regarding the presence of situations that go beyond their control. Moreover, they to rely heavily on evaluative and affective components while at the same time conceptualizing ideal scenarios which are withdrawn from reality. The beliefs also tend to be shaped by memories of certain significant events, whereby the resultant attitudes are closed to outside evaluation and critical examination. These characteristics of teacher beliefs clearly demonstrate their cognitive-psychological nature.

From a psychological perspective, one of the most commonly used theories is the self-perception theory. In this theory, Bem (2009) postulates that human attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions are chiefly as a consequence of one’s behavior. Bem asserts that people evaluate their beliefs and attitudes before making internal or external attributions on the basis of what they believe might have caused them. For this reason, both our stimulus conditions under which an overt behavior occurs and previous experiences are of great importance. Inferring beliefs and attitudes from behavior may most likely happen whenever an individual lacks any prior knowledge about, or an already-formed attitude towards a certain situation, for example new technology.

In contrast, Harmon-Jones (2009) explains the cognitive dissonance theory, which emphasizes the need to engage teachers in activities that arouse dissonance so as to change their beliefs. Cognitive dissonance refers to an individual’s perception of incompatibility between two cognitions, such as emotion, attitude, belief, or behavior. According to Harmon-Jones (2009), the main source of dissonance is ‘past experience’ that collides with new cognitions. Simply put, cognitive dissonance theory founded on the premise that it is psychologically uncomfortable for an individual to hold contradictory cognitions. For this reason, dissonance, being very unpleasant, motivates an individual to change his cognition, belief, attitude, or behavior. Proponents of cognitive dissonance argue that contradicting cognitions drive the mind into acquiring and inventing new beliefs or to modify the ones that already exist in efforts to reduce conflict between cognitions. In essence, therefore, Harmon-Jones’s (2009) theory explains more about ways of motivating teachers on how to overcome beliefs than about how such beliefs occur in the first place.

Like Bem (2009), Goethals (2009) expounds on the psychological perspective to explain how beliefs, perceptions and attitudes are formed. Goethals (2009) uses the social comparison theory, which states that people possess an instinctive desire to keep comparing their ideas, opinions, and abilities with other people to evaluate and improve their own behavior. The tendency by an individual to adjust his attitudes is always greater when his reference group is made up individuals whose opinions one values and with which he can identify (Goethals, 2009). According to Franklin (2009), this perspective may explain why, in some cases, teachers’ attitudes are more likely to be shaped and influenced by their peers than by their mentors, supervisors, and other superiors.

Research trends and gaps in literature

There is plenty of literature on the belief systems of teachers and its impact on the way classroom technology planning initiatives are carried out. However, whereas some areas have received a lot of scholarly attention, others appear to have been neglected (Hew, 2008). The issue of factors influencing classroom use of computers has been widely explored. In such a study, Johnson (2006) carried out a study to investigate the factors influencing use of computers within the curriculum. An analysis of a training program known as Georgia Framework for Integrating Technology (InTech) enabled the researchers to determine its effects on technology integration and teachers’ computer self-efficacy. The study showed that the teachers’ perception of quality of the program and personal computer use significantly contributed to the computer self-efficacy of teachers. However, Johnson (2006) also noted that the current instructional practice had yet to reach the threshold of statistical significance.

Since 2000, American public high school administrations, including those in Georgia, have been in the process of integrating national technology standards that (ISTE) International Society for Technology in Education drafted. This has led many schools to begin seeking out effective ways of teaching and using classroom technology. In effect, college-level teachers are required to find out, evaluate, and incorporate different aspects of information technology into learning activities. This requirement is aimed at addressing the state and national state technology standards that future students have to meet.

It is often acknowledged for a fact that in order to learn, live, and work well in today’s information-rich society, students as well as teachers have to effectively use classroom technology (Hew, 2008). The teachers have to set up the classroom environment and prepare all the learning opportunities that create stimulate the urge by students to use computers for learning as well as developing knowledge products. Casey (2008) observes that the key to appropriate technology use is the teachers’ satisfaction and comfort in the course of using hardware and software, their understanding of technology as a crucial method of curriculum delivery, and a complete change of mindset. This change of mindset enables them to embrace numerous possibilities for the future, which technology brings into the classroom.

In Georgia, the InTech program was instituted by the state board of education. InTech is a 50-hour training program used for preparing teachers to assist their students to accomplish certain performance objectives and standards using technology. The InTech program presents one of the key initiatives being taken within the state to change the perceptions, beliefs, views and attitudes towards classroom technology. Programs of this nature enable teachers carry out a critical examination of their instructional practices so as to determine how technology can enhance the knowledge acquisition process. The programs also help teachers to use their freshly acquired technological know-how to meet all their curriculum objectives.

In recent years, there has been a massive influx of education-related, computer-based technologies mainly for administrative and instructional purposes (Mueller, 2008). The abundance of technologies has created the impression of impending dramatic changes in teaching methods and student learning (George, 2009). The commonplace expectation among teachers has been that they are readily going to use these new technologies as well as to integrate them into their classroom curricular. This necessitates the need for these teachers to be proficient in the way they use educational technology, including the use of computers and related technologies for both instruction and student evaluation. However, according to Casey (2008), lack of adequate training remains one of the main problems that many teachers face in the integration of technology. Casey observes technology training is rightly viewed as a long-term process, and many high school teachers are uncomfortable with such a long-term engagement.

Beyerbach (2007) observes that the common belief among many policymakers on the integration of technology into classroom instruction is that the more time a teacher spends with technology, the more comfortable he becomes, and he acquires more skills on ways of implementing instructional changes that relate to the instructional technology. As many schools across the state of Georgia continue to implement instructional technologies into their curricular, it becomes continually important that the efficiency of such an approach is continually assessed (Institute of Educational Sciences, 2011). However, few studies have been done to determine whether such training programs lead to an increase in technology use level at high school levels (Institute of Educational Sciences, 2011).

In most cases, negative perceptions arise because teachers are subjected to new sources of pressure, yet they have already been certified to teach their respective subject areas (Ringstaff & Kelley, 2008). This pressure takes the form of technology training requirements and the high level of expectation that the training will lead to an improvement in the way classroom instruction is handled. Moreover, technology continues to change very fast, such that the training that one gets hardly grounds the teacher sufficiently onto his area of specialization for many years. Technological skills can become obsolete within a very short period of time, a tendency that inspires many teachers to end up being technophobic.

Many studies focus on various barriers that prevent teachers from integrating technology into the contemporary curriculum. In such studies, it is clear that teachers have a negative attitude towards technology, not because they do not appreciate their value, but because they think that in the present circumstances, they are simply not up to the task of handling various applications of technology into the curriculum (Abbott & Faris, 2000). In relation to this problem, many questions have been asked regarding the level of technology that is required before teachers can acquire sufficient confidence of integrating it into the curricula (Abbott & Faris, 2000).

A study by Nisan-Nelson (2001) found out that teacher-training programs often fail to challenge teachers to think critically about all the requirements of technology integration. Nisan-Nelson (2001) also found out that the level of technology integration depends on whether it is viewed as an integral component of instruction or just a mere addendum to it.

In a study on the teachers’ perceptions of use of instructional technology, Zheng (2008) sought to shed light on the patterns that could facilitate the development of an effective in-service training program. The most dominant areas that touch on in-service teachers which were addressed in the study include the varying levels of expertise in the use of computers, glaring infrastructure problems, and teacher training in technological skills. In Zheng’s (2008) study, drill-and-practice was identified as the major use of educational technology. Moreover, the level of the innovativeness of the teacher was found to be directly related to their tendency to make use of technology. Moreover, the study found out that there were inadequate time, instructional software, and even computers. Interestingly, teachers acknowledged that in-service training was important for preparing them integrate computer technology into the classroom curriculum. The suggestion made in Zheng’s (2008) study is that all these concerns should be addressed whenever administrators design sessions relating to the use of technology.

However, Ertmer (2010) takes a closer look at the teachers as agents of change in efforts to increase access to computer technology training. In Ertmer’s view, technology is currently not being properly used to support the variety of instruction that many opinion leaders in the sector believe to be the most powerful. As agents of change, Ertmer (2010) appreciates that certain characteristics and qualities are necessary for enabling teachers leverage technology resources as useful pedagogical tools. For this reason, Ertmer (2010) chooses to zero in on literature relating to four key variables of teacher change: self-efficacy, knowledge, subject and school culture, and pedagogical beliefs. In Ertmer’s view, teachers must change their mindset so as to include the idea that teaching cannot be effective in the absence of the appropriate utilization of information and communication technologies in order to facilitate student learning. The implications assessed by Ertmer are assessed on the basis of both professional development and teacher education programs.

It is often acknowledged that just like other professionals, teachers are expected to use educational technology in efforts to extend and increase their instructional effectiveness. It seems quite inappropriate to claim that the needs of the 21st century learner can be achieved through teachers’ low-level use of technology. Such a line of thinking leads to the inference that using modern technology as a mere support to lecture-based instruction by far falls short of the recommended best practices (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). Survey data from the study by Lawless & Pellegrino (2007) suggests that the teaching process is changing since professional development continues to take teachers from merely learning how computers work to using instructional technology to change the way they teach.  However, current data from various classroom observations do not offer any support to this view (Andrew, 2007).

The need for teachers to change their perceptions and attitudes towards instructional technology has been appreciated in a large body of literature on classroom technology (Chan, 2006). Indeed, issues of teacher change continue to take a central position in any discussion on technology integration. According to Ertmer (2010), one of the main dimensions where teacher change is needed touches on attitudes, beliefs, and pedagogical ideologies. The second dimension regards content knowledge while the third one entails pedagogical knowledge of key instructional practices, methods, strategies, and approaches. Fourthly, teacher change is also needed in novel and altered instructional resources, materials, and technologies. Therefore, when teachers fail to be technologically innovative, they are in essence acting in resistance to the much-needed teacher change.

However as indicated by Zhao (2008), not all researchers agree on the notion of technology being an agent of innovation and change. For example, Fisher (2006) cautions against perceiving technology this way since the agency role must be taken up by teachers. The drift of Fisher’s argument is that using technology as an agent of educational has never succeeded expect in a minority of K-12 contexts. Ertmer (2010) borrows heavily on Fisher’s point of view to assess educational change from the perspective of the individual teacher as an agent of change. This necessitates an analysis of the characteristics and qualities that teachers need to have in order to be able to leverage ICT resources as beneficial pedagogical tools. Ertmer also presupposes the existence of a need for teachers’ efforts to be supported by schools in order for success to be achieved. In the absence of such support, teachers are highly likely to be hesitant to adopt any curricular and instructional innovations (Ertmer, 2010). Moreover, the support is necessary, considering the constant changes that continue to take place in the world of technology tools and resources.

In a related study, Straub (2009) notes that teachers might easily believe that technology enables them accomplish professional and personal tasks in a more efficient manner. However, in spite of this belief, a significant proportion of these professionals are still reluctant to incorporate these same tools into the classroom setting. This reluctance is caused by various reasons, including lack of knowledge, existing belief systems, low self-efficacy, and existing belief systems (Mueller, 2008).

A theoretical basis for the study (underlining theories)

Various theories have been expounded in the discussion on teachers’ belief systems regarding classroom technology use. Koç (2006) highlights two of these perspectives: constructivist and behaviorist perspectives. Koç’s (2006) aim is to determine the ways in which these perspectives can facilitate technology integration into different pre-service teacher education programs. The ultimate aim of such theories should ideally be to improve pre-service and in-service teacher training as well as student learning (Bakar, 2008).

From the behaviorist perspective, technology integration is viewed as representing learning from technology. According to Koç (2006), the behaviorist perspective is not a very effective way of improving learning even though it enables learners perform all lower-level skill automatically. On the other hand, the constructivist learning perspective represents learning with technology, thereby encouraging learners to process and organize information through the use of internal cognitive connections. In Koç’s (2006), this perspective can be a very effective way of technology integration.

Indeed, the question of which one between constructivist and behaviorist perspective is the ideal theoretical framework for the integration of classroom technology has been widely explored (Di Benedetto, 2007). In most cases, most of the support goes to constructivist perspectives, which are viewed as critical in ensuring that technology facilitating learning and teaching. This makes the consideration regarding teacher beliefs very important. Some beliefs inhibit the use of technology by teachers in facilitating learning. As it sometimes turns out, the decisions that teachers often make regarding what to do with technology in the classroom is not always informed by empirical considerations; rather, it is guided by beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions. Koç (2006) observes high-tech teachers tend to engage their students in project-oriented work, collaboration, discovery-based learning, and hands-on activities. In Koç’s (2006) view, such a hands-on approach is the best way of transitioning from the traditional paradigm to today’s technology-intensive instruction.

There is an obvious correlation between what teachers believe about effective uses of technology and knowledge acquisition and the ways in which they make use of technology in their classrooms. From a constructivist perspective, there is a remarkable difference between learning with computers and learning from computers. A significant portion of early research on the role of technology on educational development considered the ways in which learning could be enhanced when computers played a key role in the delivery of content and creation of learning opportunities. In such contexts, the role of the teacher was distinctly diminished (Koç, 2006). Such an approach ended up being counterproductive, whereby the computer ended up being the objective of the learning. In essence, therefore, teachers lost the ability to make an opportunistic use of technology as a learning aid (Mueller, 2008).

The constructivist learning environment enables learners to use technology purposefully in their day-to-day activities, without ever becoming the object of instruction. This enables students to use the technology to explore relationships, manipulate data, construct shared meanings, actively process information, and reflect on the learning process. In such ways, the technological applications are seen to perform the role of cognitive tools. When teachers view classroom technology as a cognitive tool, they are able to make sense of such applications as databases, calculators, communications software, spreadsheets, knowledge construction tools, and semantic network tools (Mueller, 2008). When used as cognitive tools, their most relevant attribute is the learner activity that they encourage and not the knowledge and information that they carry. For these tools to be effective in amplifying and distributing cognitive tasks in the classroom situation, their design should be informed by input from teachers.

From the behaviorist perspective, technology use mirrors the traditional classroom practice. In such contexts, the repertoire of expected acceptable responses is limited and the user-software interaction is predetermined. Facts are acquired through drill, rote memory, and repeated practice. In other words, the underlying goal is to learn from the technology. Majority of the early classroom technologies, including Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI), assessment software, computer-based tutoring systems, and drill-practice systems were designed on the basis of the behaviorist learning theory (Mueller, 2008). Today, both CAI and integrated learning systems continue to be adopted in schools across the US mainly because of their close semblance to the traditional routine of classroom instruction.

In explaining the benefits of classroom technology from the perspective of behaviorism, (Koç, 2006) goes into great depths to explain the benefits of CAI. In this process, his investigation leads him to realize that hundreds of research studies have already been conducted on the effects of CAI. A rather striking finding in one of the studies is that while using CAI, students tend to learn more in less time. This achievement is attributed to the automaticity of lower-level skills that comes with extended practice. Moreover, the immediate positive reinforcement that comes with a successful completion of a new task motivates students to learn more.

Ertmer (2010) found out that majority of high school teachers in the US perceive technology chiefly as a behavioral reward for motivating students to complete all their assignments and making lessons interesting to students. In the study by Koç (2006), teachers were found to use technology mainly as a presentation tool and as drill-and-practice activities for supporting their lessons. The uses that teachers described as well as those that researchers observed involved the application of informational CD-ROMs or instructional games.

Ertmer (2010) observes that even among teachers claiming to be using constructivist approaches, their use of technology is described as not being powerful and innovative enough. For this reason, Ertmer (2010) feels that teachers must be accorded help in understanding how to employ the 21st century technology in to facilitate meaningful learning. In this case, meaningful learning is one that helps learners construct deep and connected knowledge that can be applied in real-life situations.

Lawless & Pellegrino (2007) observe that in related studies, the consensus among researchers is that although technology can make it easier to teach the same old things in routine ways, it also has the power to adopt new, better instructional approaches, while at the same time changing the context of instruction, learning, and assessment. However, as Lawless & Pellegrino (2007) observes, these latter uses are the ones that most teachers of today find extremely challenging. Although not much research has been carried out to determine why this is the case, Lawless & Pellegrino (2007) thinks that this is because they require the highest degree of instructional changes. In fact, most of them require a near-complete overhaul of the existing instructional practices.

Zhao (2007) notes that there is a lack of empirical studies on the reasons why teachers refuse to use technology in their classrooms. However, there is abundance of assumptions on this situation, which act as a theoretical base that underlies concerted efforts aimed at helping teachers integrate classroom technology with their teaching (Zhao, 2007). In his contribution, Zhao (2007) introduces the Perceptual Control Theory (PCT), a novel model based on goal-oriented behavior. Zhao hopes that this theory will serve as a framework for a greater understanding of dynamics of technology by teachers. This theoretical framework differs from external-oriented approaches by attempting to derive an insider understanding of how teachers adopt technology. In the PCT theory, the goals of teachers are examined in great detail. Moreover, an assessment is carried out on how their use technology helps or hinders their goals. However, Zhao admits that it is still too early to offer systematic findings showing how PCT can be applied usefully. Nevertheless, Zhao (2007) goes on to use it in his study in the synthesis and interpretation of findings of several studies on teachers and technology.

From a PCT perspective, there are three conditions that need to be present if a teacher is to use technology (Levin, 2007). First, teacher has to believe that a higher-level goal can be achieved more effectively using technology than what has already been previously used. Secondly, the teacher must hold the belief that the use of technology will not lead to disturbances to any other higher-level goals that he considers more important than the one being presently maintained. Thirdly, the teacher has to believe that his ability is sufficient and resources are adequate for making use of technology.

In a related study, Straub (2009) examines the process of adopting computing processes by individual teachers through four adoption theories: the Concerns-based Adoption Model, Roger’s innovation diffusion theory, the United Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology, and the Technology Acceptance Model. After a careful analysis of these theories, Straub (2009) observes that technology adoption is a highly complex, inherently social, and developmental process. In this process, individuals have to construct unique perceptions that are malleable enough to influence their adoption decisions (Straub, 2009). Therefore, underlying emotional, cognitive, and contextual concerns have to be put into consideration for successful facilitation of technology adoption. For purposes of the present study, the greatest limitation in Straub’s study is failure to zero in on teachers’ perceptions. Moreover, Straub’s article focuses only on the adoption of technology in informal environments (Lumpe, 2010).

Anderson (2008) notes that the Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) remains a very widely applied theory for studies on the process of educational change implementation among teachers. After reviewing recent research studies where CBAM was used in Canada and the US, Anderson (2008) discovered a curious absence of any theoretical critical and development of this model since the late 1980s. In Anderson’s view, there are many promising directions for further research on CBAM theory. Further theoretically motivated and applied research is no doubt required so as to refine the model before it can become relevant in studies on teacher perceptions regarding classroom technology.

In one study, Dirksen (2007) surveyed 27 pre-service teachers in all urban public schools within Colorado Front Range. The questionnaire used provided a quantitative measure of all the intensities of the 7 stages of concern dimensions. The stages included: awareness, information concerns, personal concerns, management concerns, consequence, collaboration, and refocusing. Thirty five items constituted the seven stages and respondents had to rate each of them on a scale of zero (not true of me) to seven (very true of me). Dirksen (2007) found out that for students who were entering into the student teaching experience, self-concerns (informational, awareness, and personal) tended to be high, whereas task and impact concerns seemed less evident. However, as indicated by Ertmer & Bai, 2007), this expectation was forecasted in previous studies. In these studies, the reasons being given included feelings of potential inadequacy, uncertainty about the situation they expect to face, and self-doubts about the level of knowledge required (Ertmer & Bai, 2007).

In Roger’s innovation diffusion theory, diffusion is defined as the process through which innovation is communicated over time through certain channels by members of a social system. Sahin (2006) points out that the innovation diffusion theory has emerged as the most popular adoption models since studies on adoption of new innovations began over 30 years ago. According to Sahin, it is the most appropriate theory for any investigation on the adoption of technology in both higher education and educational environments. Moreover, Sahin (2006) observes that most diffusion research studies involve technology innovations; and Rogers himself uses the terms ‘technology’ and ‘innovation’ interchangeably.

In an investigation of the attitude of pre-service teachers towards computers, Teo (2008) used the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM). Within this framework, Teo (2008) incorporated subjective norms and conditions that play a facilitating role as external variables. The study’s results suggested that perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, and subjective norm constituted significant determinants of the attitudes of pre-service teachers towards computers. Moreover, facilitating attitudes were found not to have a direct influence on computer attitude but through perception of ease of use (Teo, 2008). A rather interesting finding in Teo’s study was that both social norm and facilitating conditions constitute potential variables for use in extending the TAM framework for further research on teachers’ attitudes towards computers.

Similarly, Hu (2009) made use of the TAM model, only that focus here was restricted to public schools and the methodology used involved longitudinal testing. In this study, 130 teachers were subjected to a 4-week Microsoft PowerPoint training program. Microsoft PowerPoint is a common presentation technology that is of great importance in classroom situations. On the basis of this study, it is clear that the TAM model can be used successfully to identify all key determinants, influence patterns, and magnitudes of classroom technology adoption. In the end, Hu (2009) concluded that a highly significant core influence path is responsible for resistance among teachers in public schools. This influence path is made up of aspects such as job relevance, perceived usefulness, and then technology acceptance. Specifically, teachers were seen ton consider ‘a rich set of factors’ before putting into consideration fundamental determinants. Fundamental determinants such as perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness were useful in the teachers’ decision regarding continued acceptance.

Elsewhere, Lee (2010) reflected on the Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) and observed that previous studies aimed at explaining the intentions of teachers to use technology have yielded inconsistent findings. According to the TPB theory, behavioral intention is predicted by the attitudes towards the behavior, subjective norm, and the perceived behavioral control. Lee (2010) attributes the inconsistent findings to the overly broad definitions assigned to the target behavior. As a consequence, Lee (2010) decided to investigate this potential weakness by first defining a specific target behavior, making use of computers only in the creation and delivery of lessons, and finally employing the TPB theory to investigate all teachers’ decisions. In terms of methodology, Lee (2010) used an elicitation study to identify all the teachers’ salient beliefs as well as develop a closed-ended questionnaire. The findings of the questionnaire showed that behavior, subjective norm, and the perceived behavioral control all were relevant predictors of teachers.

Gaps and inconsistencies in research

Many scholars have dedicated a lot of their time and resources to research on teacher belief systems regarding classroom technology. Whereas some areas have been explored in great detail and consensus achieved, others remain highly underdeveloped. Yet others continue to generate controversies and inconsistent findings. For instance, Ertmer (2008) observes that previous researchers agree that teachers’ beliefs regarding classroom instruction are highly influential. However, these same researchers have done very little research to establish similar links with regard to teachers’ use of classroom technology.

Ertmer (2008) argues that the first step in efforts towards planning on use of classroom technology is to research on teachers’ beliefs on the use of classroom technology. Once the nature of teacher beliefs has been defined and described, researchers should address the various ways in which these beliefs can impact on the teachers’ classroom practice. Lastly, focus should be shifted towards crucial implications for the professional development of teachers and suggestions for future research.

On the positive side, researchers agree that all the conditions necessary for successful integration of technology finally seem to be in place, mainly in the form of increased training of teachers, ready access to technology, and a very favorable policy environment (Finley, 2009). On the negative side, they agree that the level of classroom technology remains surprisingly low, and teacher belief systems, perceptions, and attitudes play a critical factor in this situation. For instance, Ertmer (2010) argues that teachers need to act as agents of change by possessing the necessary characteristics that help them leverage all technology resources available to them as meaningful pedagogical tools. The subject of Ertmer’s (2010) is an analysis of the point of intersection of four main variables: knowledge, pedagogical beliefs, self-efficacy, and subject and school culture.

According to Hew (2008), research studies in education clearly show that technology use among students can greatly help in their learning process, although its use is always affected by many barriers, particularly in K-12 schools. The main problem, notes Hew, is on the issue of integrating technology into the curriculum for purposes of classroom instruction. The most striking thing about Hew’s analysis, however, is that he avoids laying the blame on teachers. The problems identified by Hew include institution, resources, attitudes and beliefs, subject culture, assessment, and knowledge and skills. The strategies offered by Hew (2008) for overcoming these problems include a change of attitude and beliefs, reconsidering assessments, having a shared technology integration plan, and conducting professional development. Additionally, Hew notes that there are many knowledge gaps with regard to the barriers and strategies of integrating classroom technology, which need to be addressed.

Unlike Hew (2008) Mueller (2008) puts most of the focus on the teachers’ perspective regarding the integration of classroom technology. His survey focuses on a heterogeneous group of elementary and high school teachers in efforts to offer a comprehensive summary of the variables and characteristics that discriminate teachers who integrate computers and those who fail to do so. Through discriminant function analysis, Mueller determined that six variables for high school teachers and seven variables for elementary teachers discriminated between low and high integrators. The key variables in the study included teachers’ comfort with computers, positive teaching experience with the use of computers, training, support, motivation, beliefs that support the use of computers during classroom instruction, and teaching efficacy.

Similarly, Chen (2008) found out that the belief systems of high school teachers play a crucial role in the way they make decisions on the different ways of integrating technology into the classroom. Through the use of qualitative research methods, Chen was able to explore numerous relations between technological integration and pedagogical beliefs. Chen (2008) focused on 12 Taiwanese high school teachers, and the findings revealed an inconsistency between the expressed beliefs of these teachers and their practices. Consequently, Chen (2008) thinks that the reasons for inconsistency among high school teachers can be grouped into three interrelated aspects: (1) the influence of different external factors, (2) limited or improper understanding of theoretical frameworks by teachers, and (3) other conflicting beliefs among teachers.

Judson (2006) dwells on the debate on constructivist teaching styles. According to Judson, teachers who easily integrate classroom technology into their instruction are highly likely to possess constructivist approaches to teaching. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest the existence of a parallel between the student-centered beliefs among teachers regarding their instruction and the approaches that the teachers use during technology-integrated lessons (Judson, 2006). Judson’s analysis of the connection between constructivist pedagogy and the use of technology constitutes an area into which very few researchers have focused. In this regard, there is need for further research on the circumstances under which constructivist-minded teachers are able to maintain dynamic student-centered instructional settings where technology is used as a powerful learning tool.

Judson (2006) expresses disaffection with the fact that much of the research carried out to date has tended to rely on self-reported data obtained from teachers. This type of data, according to Judson (2006), presents an inaccurate picture of teachers’ belief systems and willingness to integrate technology into classroom learning. For Judson, direct observations are more preferable since they can gauge precisely the constructivist way in which teachers go about the task of integrating technology, even though they involve protracted measurements.

In the study by Judson (2006), 32 classroom teachers were asked to complete a survey to determine their beliefs regarding instructions. The teachers were also observed directly and rated using a tool known as FIT: COM (Focus on Integrated Technology: Classroom Observation Measurement). This tool is designed to measure the extent to which technology-integrated lessons have been aligned with constructivist principles. The analysis did not indicate any significant relationship between classroom practices and beliefs. These findings contradict the views that many researchers have held in the past (Valdez, 2000).

Grainger (2006), like many other researchers, agrees that the contexts in which high school teachers operate tends to affect the extent to which they use ICT to achieve the best teaching and learning outcomes. However, Grainger zeros in on just organizational factors and their influence on the way teachers use and perceive ICTs as well as today’s new learning management systems. Just like in the study by Judson (2006), Grainger’s study is based on a survey of high school teaching staff members. The study also involved a subset of both teachers and personnel of the school system. Through document analysis, results interpreted on the basis of school-system planning.

However, Grainger (2006) seemed to focus more on what happens outside the classroom, that is, within the organizational context. There is little focus on the teacher’s perceptions and beliefs, particularly that those that override the existing school management systems. According to Grainger (2006), the three main factors that affect the use and perception of classroom technology integration include the nature and relevance of training, characteristics and perception of school leadership, and management approaches to IT system implementation.

Moreover, Grainger (2006) casts the net too wide, thereby failing to narrow down to the classroom technology component. This is clearly evident in his choice of the term ‘information and communication technology’ and not ‘classroom technology’ or ‘technology integration’. Similarly, the learning environment that Grainger (2006) has in mind extends beyond the classroom curricular context to cover all other contexts within the bounds of high schools.

Like Judson (2006), Chen (2010) focuses on the constructivist approach and a critical analysis on student-centered learning. Chen’s aim, however, is to address two limitations that have already been identified in previous research on factors influencing teachers’ integration of classroom technology into their teaching. Moreover, Chen tested the Structural Equation Model (SEM) with regard to the relationship among the main variables influencing the use of classroom technology by pre-service teachers to support student-centered learning. SEM refers to a statistical technique used to test and estimate causal relations through a combination of qualitative causal assumptions and a combination of statistical data. Structural equation models are important for both exploratory (like in the case of Chen’s study) and confirmatory modeling.

Methodologically, Chen’s literature review led him to a path model that offered the study’s design and analysis. In the study of 206 pre-service teachers in the US, Chen (2010) found out that the SEM model fitted moderately to the data that was observed. Unlike many other researchers who have in the past used self-reported data, direct observations were employed in Chen’s study. Most importantly, though, the study provides a foundation for further testing of the SEM model.

Additionally, Chen (2010) interestingly found out that the self-efficacy of teaching using technology among pre-service teachers exerted the greatest influence on the use of technology in high schools. This self-efficacy tended to be mediated by these teacher’s perceptions and belief systems regarding the importance of teaching and learning with technology. Chen also analyzed the school’s contextual factors, and, like Grainger (2006), observed that they had a ‘moderate’ influence on the use of classroom technology among teachers. Chen suggests that teacher preparation is very necessary, whereby collaboration should be enhanced between field experience and teacher education program, with focus being put on classroom technology uses.

The importance of, and need for ongoing technology training for teachers

Technology keeps changing all the time. This is the reason why there is need for ongoing technology training among for teachers. Moreover, as Bitner (2009) notes, there are many issues relating to the successful use of classroom technology. Some of these issues include the development of dynamic plans, and decisions on platforms, software, and hardware (Paraskeva, 2008). Additionally, Bitner (2009), and Colace & De Santo (2007) note that the position of the teacher is often overlooked, yet it is a crucial determinant of whether technology is going to succeed or fail in the classroom.

In Christense’s (2008) view, ongoing training is a necessary measure of ensuring that teachers overcome negative beliefs that revolve around fear of change, technology support challenges, and teaching models. Christense (2008) argues in support of ongoing needs-based technology integration in the K-12 system. Christense (2008) argues that such an approach tends to have a rapid, positive impact on teacher attitudes, including perceived importance of computers, computer anxiety, and computer enjoyment.  Indeed, there is abundance of literature in support of ongoing training and its positive impact on teacher attitudes (Wood & Mueller, 2006).

Technology training in Georgia

Georgia is one of the states that led the move towards mandating the integration of classroom technology in the US (Keengwe, 2010). The state got off to a high-powered start by issuing teaching recertification guidelines. All K-12 teachers were required to participate in a comprehensive staff development program. For most of the teachers in the state, this requirement was met through a staff development program known as InTech (Integrating Technology). Moreover, following the rather successful implementation of the 2007-2012 Georgia State Technology Plan, the state is in the process of developing the 2013-2017 technology plan, which will be applicable for all Georgia schools.

The aim of the 2007-2012 Georgia State Technology Plan was to facilitate an increase in the achievement and test scores among students. However, in a ‘needs assessment’ reported in the 2007-2012 Plan by the Georgia Department of Education, about half of the state’s educational leaders (56%) were unconvinced that student technology would achieve Georgia Performance Standards. Thirty five percent of the technology leaders surveyed believed that only half of the student technology use in school is relevant for the achievement of state learning standards. The impression created in the 2007-2012 Georgia State Technology Plan is that there are many barriers to integration of classroom technology in spite of millions of dollars being invested in integration efforts. The main barriers are seen to exist in the performance of wireless networks with regard to support to various educational applications, including educational software, database applications, and video. Other barriers include security concerns, lack of equipment for utilizing a wireless environment, and inexperienced staff.

Year Total federal spending Spending in Georgia
Total funding in 2004 $659,438,400.00 $20,179,473.00
Total funding in 2005 $479,840,235.00 – $15,158,492.00
Total funding in 2006 264,343,625.00 $8,462,015.00
Total funding in 2007 $262,890,721.00 $8,291,373.00

Table 1: total EETT (the Enhancing Education through Technology program) federal spending in comparison to spending in Georgia. (U.S. Department of Education, 2003).

It seems rather unfortunate that the issue of teacher beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes towards technology use has not been accorded the sufficient emphasis that it deserves in the 2007-2012 Georgia State Technology Plan. Most emphasis seems to have been put on only the ‘concrete’ issues that can easily be solved using millions of dollars while leaving out more difficult, abstract ones that greatly contribute to failure by teachers to use technology in the classroom. This omission is epidemic because the society will continue to ineffectively spend dollars inappropriately until these issues are fully addressed.

However, even after taking the lead in the introduction of classroom technology, the state continues to face many challenges. Technology training remains a key challenge. Teachers rarely have sufficient time to incorporate technology components into lesson plans. Additionally, software and hardware systems are not always reliable, something that greatly frustrates teachers (Niederhauser, 2007). Apart from InTech, there is the School Improvement Grant 1003(g), which aims to overhaul classroom technology use in high schools across the state.

At Stewart County High School, for instance, the mandatory School Improvement Grant 1003(g) is already in place (Zhao, 2007). The program was introduced after a comprehensive needs assessment. This assessment indicated the areas that need improvement, particularly with regard to flexible grouping, instructional technology, professional learning, and community involvement. Focus was on building capacity and improving student achievement. Timelines and detailed actions were part of the plan, which aimed to continue connecting and aligning practices with the wider School Improvement Plan. A sense of urgency was created through the creation of support structures for the conscious and consistent implementation of action on a daily basis.

The administration of Stewart County High School intended the classroom technology integration program to be an extreme makeover. Efforts to achieve this makeover are being made through increasing the learning time so as to improve student achievement, consultant support on the areas identified in the needs assessment, and behavioral change as opposed to regulation. Regarding the attitudes and beliefs of teachers, the plan has been to retain the most effective teachers and do away with the ineffective ones. In this strategy, a thorough integration of new instructional technology is mentioned as just one of the subject areas of the extreme makeover, and it is aimed at supporting teaching and learning. In this case, the program at Stewart County High School seems to be rather insensitive to both the needs of teachers and the subtleties of introducing classroom technology. Instead, the School Improvement Grant 1003(g) seems to follow in the traditional trend of assigning resources in the target areas of equipment, technology, and supplies without dealing with the problem of teachers’ beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions.

At McNair high school administrators have also applied for the School Improvement Grant 1003 (g), whose one of the key components is technology use in the classroom. In the school’s Grant Application Form, administrators at McNair High school put a strong case for the need to train teachers on the effective use of technology so as to offer real-world applications that enhance research skills among students. The administrators appreciate the crucial role that classroom technology can play in differentiating instruction so as to maximize student learning. However, the school management fails to indicate how the problem of inadequate training, insufficient time for teachers, and unreliability of the technology will be addressed. Indeed, there is need for further research on how such problems can be addressed so as to dispel the emergence of any negative perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes by teachers towards technology.

In both McNair and Stewart County High Schools, though, there is a provision for hiring an Instructional Technology Specialist (ITS), whose work is to train teachers on how to use the computers purchased across the county. Although this arrangement seems to offer a workable solution, there is the problem of displaced priorities, whereby more efforts are made to coordinate training at the county level as opposed to the classroom level. The mistaken assumption here is that students will naturally come to learn how to use classroom technology for researching, creating documents, and demonstrating a more in-depth understanding of learning goals.

In the Dekalb County School Stem, where both McNair and Stewart County High Schools fall, the Instructional Technology Department is responsible for assigning the local school system personnel handle classroom technology integration strategies.  This assistance takes the form of new designs for learning, curriculum implementation, and support to schools in the utilization of various technology resources available. However, the department seems not to have much to do with ensuring that teachers are given opportunities for gaining hands-on experience in the use of instructional software designed for curriculum integration.

NCLB: Improving Technology Initiative versus Integration

NCLB (No Child Left Behind) is an act that often comes into perspective whenever issues of improvement of technology initiatives and integration into classroom settings (Cradler, 2010). The NCLB act became law in 2002 and its aim was to guarantee accountability as well as provide freedom for schools and more choices for parents. McColl (2008) points out that in the US, control over education is reserved for individual states by the constitution, and not for the federal government. For McColl, however, the theme of his research is whether NCLB is constitutional or not. The basic principles of this legislation, though, sound very relevant both at the state level and at the federal level. The act’s main tenets include accountability for results, increased parental options, research-based education programs, and expansion in local control and flexibility. At a glance, this act seems to have an immense potential in facilitating the introduction of classroom technology. However, as McColl (2008) points out, the low uptake of classroom technology is used by critics as a case in point of showing that the NCLB has become a failure. According to McColl (2008), it is not clear what the role of the Department of Education is with regard to addressing ambiguities in the law.

The NCLB act ensures that a higher percentage of special education students who have traditionally failed to achieve the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) are pushed from the basic level of performance to the proficient level. However, from this perspective, it is clear that the question of technology integration is not a priority area for the implementers of NCLB. On the whole picture, NCLB has elicited mixed reactions from teachers, implementers, and policymakers alike. As Cullen (2008) points out, the requirements of this act have come with special challenges and opportunities, especially for rural schools. Lee (2006) reports some researchers’ suggestion that one of the ways rural schools may overcome challenges is through a rapid increase in technology integration levels in their schools.

In Cullen’s (2008) case study a report is provided on an attempt by one school to utilize grant money provided through NCLB to integrate certain instructional technology so as to increase student achievement. Cullen used interviews and observations to explore the roles, attitudes, and difficulties of all teachers and administrators in the implementation of a technology initiative within a local middle school. Cullen identified the main problems as being: lack of teacher ownership of technology, lack of feelings of power and participation among teachers, and differences between the goals of teachers and those of administrators. There were also technical difficulties, disruptive changes in school culture, and insufficient school-wide support.

The efforts being carried out in Georgia towards integration of technology into classroom learning are undoubtedly aimed at achieving the goals espoused in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. During the implementation of NCLB, many controversies have arisen. This situation has been worsened by the failure in the takeoff of the nationwide classroom technology overhaul program. Specifically, the training needs of teachers have not been fully addressed, and teachers continue to face time-related constrained during instruction. Additionally, software and hardware programs are not fully reliable.

If one carefully examines the results obtained from the InTech program on the basis of the NCLB mandates as well as other guidelines supported by research, it would appear that most requirements have been addressed. The program would be seen to have reached the threshold required for increasing learning through effective utilization of classroom technology. The main elements of compliance in this case would be adequate computer access, on-site professional development, proper implementation, teachers who integrate the way students use technology, and administrator support. However, on the other hand, student gains have continued to be mixed. This paradox is currently the main source of inspiration in current research on classroom technology, particularly with regard to planning and perceptions in Georgia.

According to Lowther & Strahl (2009), the main reason for the mixed gains for students is that even though believe in and engage students in high-order technology use, students also use computers to perform low-level tasks. This mixed approach ends up having a limited effect on student learning. Moreover, teachers may be using computers primarily due to subjective norms. Subjective norms are the expectations that are placed upon them by those who monitor classroom technology. Whenever subjective norms exist, there are less rigorous efforts because of lack of personal choice. The notion of subjective norm is supported by Teo (2008) in his study of pre-service teachers’ attitudes using the TAM model. In this regard, the concept of subjective norm seems worth investigating further so as to determine whether it correlates in any way with the persistence of certain teacher belief systems in Georgia.

Lack of intensity and focus may also be a major contributing factor for subjective norm. Whenever the amount of intervention given does not adequately prepare teachers to be able to develop lesson plays that are optimally supported by classroom technology, teachers may fall into using technology only as a matter of duty and not as a personal choice (Bai & Ertmer, 2008). In Georgia, this shortfall in training has been addressed by the Instructional Technology Department, which offers assistance regarding technology integration strategies and approaches for curriculum implementation. However, although specific courses continue being funded by the Instructional Technology’s Professional Learning Budget, the amount of funds going into the initiative is too high compared to the results being achieved (Teo, 2008).

In high schools within Georgia, most of the funds set aside for training teachers are channeled into the use of various instructional technology equipment, including webinars, video cameras, instructional videos, and I-Pads. It appears that too much time is dedicated to implementation of the training programs and little or no time is dedicated to follow-ups, feedback, and improvement of quality (Ertmer, 2010). This means that most of the training responsibilities are shouldered on leadership and instructional coaches. These coaches have to perform tasks such as focus walks and multiple evaluations. The stipend that teachers get for attending the mandatory training may not be doing the trick of positively changing their perceptions about the whole idea of technological integration.

At Ridgeland High school, the situation with regard to the use of classroom technology is not much different from that of McNair and Stewart County High Schools. In the school’s application for a School Improvement Grant 1003(g), most emphasis is on student engagement in transforming the school into a technology-centered institution of learning. It is striking how the crucial position of the teacher is ignored, thereby creating the impression that the administrators’ intention is to adopt technology for the sake of doing it. This is the type of approach that inspires subjective norm among teachers on issues of classroom technology. In other words, the underlying aim of technology in the curriculum has not been clearly defined at Ridgeland High School. In the Grant Application Form of Ridgeland High School, the only mention of teacher training has to do with responses to the influx of technology into the institution. In this regard, the need for regular analysis of curricular-related data is identified, whereby teachers need to determine why they are being trained by relating it to the possible classroom applications (Mumtaz, 2010).

Georgian High school teachers’ belief systems: possible contributions of the present study

There are many contributions that the present study can make in relation to the belief systems of high school teachers in Georgia regarding planning and use of classroom technology. First, the research design used in the present study will undoubtedly have to address the limitations that were identified in previous studies. For instance, in the study by Johnson (2006), the main limitation was that the voluntary participation in the study resulted in a return rate of just 53%, which was much lower than what had been anticipated by the researcher. The glaring limitation of self-reported approaches being relied upon would also have to be avoided. Instead, direct observations would be preferred since they lead to more credible results.

Moreover, a problem arises with regard to the population to whom the results of a study can be generalized. For example, in the study by Johnson (2006), focus was only on those public teachers employed within Walton County School District, who had undergone the InTech Training Program. Therefore, it would not be palatable to generalize the results to all the public school teachers working in other school districts.

Other than generalization problems, threats of internal validity need to be addressed in the present study. Internal validity is simply the extent to which the research design exerts control over all extraneous variables. Normally, the main threats include history, sample selection, instrumentation, as well as experimenter effect. The threat of history is self-evident, considering the amorphous nature of technology-oriented training programs such as InTech. Most research works dealing with problems such as those addressed in the present study make use of purposeful selection of the sample so as to reduce any threats internal validity (Johnson, 2006). Similarly, the instrumentation threat can be avoided by ensuring that the interviewer also acts as the observer. Many changes in the instruments being used to collect data only end up increasing the chances of internal threats being present in a study.

Chapter summary

In summary, many changes have occurred in the use of classroom technology over the last three decades. Today, most of the efforts being made towards technology integration dwell on the use of computers in the classroom. Millions of dollars are being spent in the process of installing information and communication technology tools for instructional purposes in Georgia as well as around the country. Lately, many concerns have arisen regarding the appropriateness of spending millions of dollars in technology integration while ignoring abstract issues relating to negative teacher beliefs and attitudes towards classroom technology.

The issue of factors influencing classroom use of computers has been widely explored. However, research trends indicate that there are many gaps in literature on the issue of teacher beliefs regarding technology integration. This may be attributed to the massive influx of education-related, computer-based technologies mainly for administrative and instructional purposes. There is a commonplace expectation among teachers that they are readily going to use these new technologies as well as to integrate them into their classroom curricular. However this is not always the case since there are many barriers and long-established beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes to contend with, especially from peers.

Unfortunately, technology leaders rarely focus on abstract issues such as teacher beliefs when allocating funds for use in the integration of classroom technology. Yet this is an area that requires continuing investment, especially in training programs. It should be borne in mind that today’s technology is changing very rapidly and it is understandably difficult for adult teachers, who have already developed long-standing beliefs, to live up to this change of pace.

Many theoretical frameworks exist for explaining teacher belief systems and attitudes towards classroom technology. The main adoption theories include the Concerns-based Adoption Model, Roger’s innovation diffusion theory, the United Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology, and the Technology Acceptance Model. Of these, Roger’s theory seems to be the one that has been most widely used, mainly because of the way in which it addresses various underlying emotional, cognitive, and contextual concerns on the subject. However, while putting all these theoretical perspectives into consideration, Judson expresses great disaffection with the tendency by contemporary researchers to rely only on self-reported data in their studies.

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