Technology as an Instructional Tool for Teacher Educators
Southeast Missouri State University
Cape Girardeau, Missouri
In today’s world technology is seen as an important tool to improve professional efficiency in various fields including education. There are, however, some concerns about how pre-service elementary teachers are prepared to integrate technology into their classroom instruction. This research was carried out to determine the usefulness of online videos as a tool in elementary teaching methods classroom. This study was part of a U.S. Department of Education funded project which included video scenarios of Pre K-12 teachers effectively integrating technology, along with components of quality education, in a variety of grade levels and content areas. The participants in the study were 57 juniors and seniors majoring in elementary education at a regional Mid-Western university. The data were collected from spring 2001 to spring 2002. First the pre-service teachers watched three videos, available online, to see the use of technology in real classroom settings. They wrote a critique on each of the three videos commenting on the teaching style and student behavior and their motivation toward learning the content. The student comments were very positive and no negative comment was seen. They admired the teaching style and appreciated the use of technology that motivated the students. Looking at the student critiques and their positive comments, it was inferred that the watching of the videos helped reinforce the ideas that the use of technology is an effective tool in the elementary teaching methods classroom. Subsequent observation in the field confirmed the inference. Most of the students used student-centered teaching approaches in their elementary classrooms. Several of them also used technology quite frequently to aid their teaching.
Technology as an Instructional Tool for Teacher Educators
Few people would argue today that information technologies are having and will continue to have major impacts on how we in education view schooling, teaching, and learning. Most people see technology as the driving force for all that will be good about education in the future. They are, however, concerned about how pre-service elementary teachers are prepared to apply the tools of technology into the teaching learning process.
Educators have been questioning the ineffective instruction in pre-service teacher education programs. They claim that such ineffective teacher education programs are producing future elementary teachers that are not equipped with the appropriate teaching tools for the new millennium (Khalid 2001). Lord (1999) describes the reason for this ineffectiveness and says because of ineffective classroom instruction, our pre-service teachers do not retain the information that they learn in their science classrooms. Lord cites Shymansky (1992) and says,”…in many of the most celebrated teacher-training programs in the nation, science education professors are schooling students about innovative and effective methods of teaching but doing so in a pedantic, traditional teacher-centered fashion”(p. 24). Recent advances have made possible the use of various tools to improve the teaching-learning process in the classrooms.
Technology is a set of the powerful tools that the teacher and learner can use to facilitate the learning process (International Society for Technology in Education, 2000). Technology resources can be used to provide opportunities for learning and create the conditions that optimize learning (Switzer, Callahan, & Quinn, 1999). As the technology is getting more and more popular in daily life activities, the need to include technology in the classroom instruction is increasing even in the elementary classrooms (Martin, 2000). Moreover, technology can be used to access an enormous amount of information for children. Some tools of technology are simple and safe that can be used by young children (ibid). That’s why the National Science Education Standards describe technology such as computers as “exciting tools” (p. 24) to do inquiry activities in the classroom (National Research Council, 1996).
In order to help pre-service teachers learn how to make use of the technology tools, a project entitled Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) was launched at the University of Northern Iowa. The INTIME (Integrating New Technologies Into the Methods of Education) project is a part of the PT3 project. This project is intended to bring about changes in teacher education programs in various ways. First, it has generated new learning resources on the web to support new teaching and learning processes in education methods courses. New learning resources include video scenarios of Pre K-12 teachers effectively integrating technology, along with components of quality education, in a variety of grade levels and content areas. These videos are accessible online. Second, the methods faculty in various subject areas revised their courses to model technology integration using the video scenarios and online discussion forum, requiring the pre-service teachers to apply technology in their field experience. This change will provide pre-service teachers with an opportunity to see how classroom teachers use innovative teaching methods to enhance their students’ learning. They will learn various instructional strategies and their impact on student learning in a real classroom situation. This will enhance pre-service teachers’ understanding of various instructional processes they discuss in their methods of instruction class.
The INTIME project uses the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education (TFQE) model. This model includes seven major dimensions organized in a circular fashion to their interconnections: 1) Students at the center of their own learning; 2) Principles of good learning; 3) Aspects of information processing; 4) Standards from content disciplines; 5) Tenets of effective citizenship in a democratic society; 6) Teacher knowledge and behavior; 7) Technology.
In this study we concentrated only on the two dimensions: 1) Principles of good learning; and 2) Teacher knowledge and behavior. The use of technology was an integral component in these two dimensions. One objective of this study was to determine the usefulness of videos in enhancing pre-service teachers’ understanding of various innovative teaching styles and their effects on student learning. The second objective was to determine if the pre-service teachers are able to use the technology in their classroom teaching.
Design and Methodology
In order to determine the effectiveness of online videos as a technological tool in a teacher education classroom, an elementary teaching methods course was revised and taught. The major aspect of revision was the inclusion of online videos. The course was made more web-supported. Most of the assignments and their rubrics were put online for easy access by the students. The course was taught for three semesters from spring 2001 to spring 2002 at a regional Mid-Western university. The participants were 57 junior and senior students majoring in elementary education. During the course of the semester, the pre-service teachers were first provided with hands-on knowledge of how to use technology in elementary classrooms. Then the pre-service teachers were given an opportunity to watch the online video clips. As this was a teaching methods class, the students were looking for teachers’ knowledge and behavior, students’ learning, and the use of technology in real classroom settings. All the students watched three online videos. In those videos, the teachers were teaching various subjects such as science, math, and social studies using various types of technology. They were also modeling the student-centered approaches in their teaching. After watching each online video, the students filled out their assignment sheets in which they talked about the teaching style and their impact on student learning.
The students wrote a critique on each of the videos they watched. The student comments were on various teaching methodology used by those teachers, and as a result, student behavior and their motivation toward learning the content. In their critiques, not a single student gave any negative comments. They admired the teaching style and appreciated the use of technology that motivated the students. A majority of the students said that they found some useful teaching ideas that they would certainly use in their own classroom. These pre-service teachers were amazed to see how excited the students were to do their class work. They noticed that the students were able to construct their own knowledge without a long and “boring” lecture. In their comments several students said that the teachers were not really teaching, they were acting as facilitators. However, students were learning and were actually having fun. They also said that the students were enjoying their work. Comments such as “I will use such strategies in my class” were also noted. Some of the student comments are the following.
Comments on Teaching Methodology
The students described various teaching styles and methods in their comments on the online videos. They said that the teachers in their teaching:
- Used student background knowledge.
- Used examples from daily life—Meaningful learning was taking place in the classroom.
- Provided supportive and corrective feedback to their students.
- Continuously assessed their students’ progress.
- Used technology frequently in enhancing student learning.
- Encouraged student reflection and ideas.
- Encouraged group work, and monitored student performance.
- Used lecture, hands-on, problem-solving and cooperative learning strategies.
- Involved students in decision making, challenged the students to think critically.
- Used no textbook, teacher was not teaching, students were learning.
- Used no horrible “W” in the classroom. (W=worksheets)
- Integrated various content areas, and technology in her teaching.
Student Learning and Their Behavior
The pre-service teachers described the classrooms they watched in the online videos as providing a very good learning environment that was evident from the students’ behavior during the classroom activities:
- Actively involved in learning, asking questions.
- Self motivated, excited, enjoying their work, eager to learn, and creative.
- Having a positive interaction among each other
- Involved in decision making.
- Working well in democratic fashion.
- Using technology– doing research on the internet to find the results.
- Using technology to compile their data and prepare presentations.
- Well behaved, no time to goof around.
Overall Comments on the Videos
The pre-service teachers were also asked to give their overall opinion on each video they watched. Some of their comments are given below.
- I would like to use this type of active learning project in my classroom because I think the students would gain more from this type of learning than from reading textbooks or listening to a lecture.
- The ideas given in the video are fantastic and worth using in my future classroom. After watching this video, I would encourage my colleagues and other pre-service teachers to consider the concepts of this lesson in future planning.
- I enjoyed this video. As I watched the video and saw the excitement of the children, I found that I could also use this lesson in upper elementary grades with some adaptations.
Looking at the student critiques and their positive comments, it is quite obvious that the watching of the videos helped enhance the ideas given in the class that the use of technology is an effective aide in the elementary classroom. Subsequent observation in the field confirmed the prediction. Several pre-service teachers did use computers including internet sites, CDs, videos, PowerPoint during their teaching in the elementary classrooms. It also confirmed that the pre-service teachers learned innovative strategies more by watching the use of this strategy in a real classroom than by reading a book or by listening to their teacher.
These findings were presented at various national and international conferences. At the annual meeting of National Science Teacher Association, the audience was very appreciative of the scenarios in these videos. They considered these videos as a good professional development tools that could be used anytime anywhere. Many teachers expressed views that they could watch these videos at home also and learn the new teaching strategies. Those teachers thought it was a very good idea to present these teaching strategies in real classroom situations. Some teachers were willing to link the INTIME website to their own websites. This positive feedback indicates that these online videos are not only helpful for pre-service teachers but also a good professional development tool for in-service teachers. It is also hoped that after watching the videos and writing critiques on them, the pre-service teachers will be able to retain most of this information, which they will use in their classrooms in the future.
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Martin, D. J. (2000). Elementary science methods: A constructivist approach.Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
National Research Council (1996). National science education standards.Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Shymansky, J. (1992-Cited in Lord 1999). Using constructivist ideas to teach science teachers about constructivist ideas, or teachers are students too! Journal of Science Teacher Education, 3, 53-57.
Switzer, T. J., Callahan, W. P., & Quinn, L. (1999, March). Technology as facilitator of quality education: An unfinished model. Paper presented at Society of Information Technology and Teacher Education, San Antonio, TX.