Science Article about Technology Change

A Review on the study entitled: Technology as a Catalyst for Change: The Role of Professional Development
Mitchelle J.D
Introduction:
            Technology is perceived by many teachers as new and unfamiliar tool, so professional development plays a crucial role in its successful and effective use to promote a constructivist-compatible instruction in the classroom, and quality education as a whole.
            This paper presents a critical review of the study entitled, Technology as a Catalyst for Change: The Role of Professional Development, by Nita J.  Matzen and Julie A.  Edmunds.  Nita J.  Matzen, EdD, is the project director for the Technology in the Learning Program at the SERVE Center at the Universityof North Carolina, Greensboro.  Her research interests include the role of professional development in teacher learning and instructional change, and building educator capacity to conduct formative project evaluation.  (Address:  Nita J. Matzen, SERVE UNCG, 3329 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd., Ste 200, Durham, NC 27707; nmatzen@serve.org).  Julie A. Edmunds, PhD, is a senior research specialist at the SERVE Center at the Universityof North Carolina at Greensboro.  Her research interests include program evaluation, school reform, assessment and accountability, and reaching diverse student populations.  (Address:  Julie A. Edmunds, SERVE UNCG, 3329 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd., Ste 200, Durham, NC 27707; jedmunds@serve.org)
            The study focuses on the relationship between the professional development and teachers’ use of technology in their classroom and their general instructional practices.  It is based on the ground that when teachers are provided with professional development that presents technology within the context of student-centered instructional practices, teachers are more likely to change their instructional practices with the use of the technology. It seeks to answer the questions; Are there ways in which technology can serve as a catalyst for more constructivist practices? Is technology only used in a constructivist way when teachers are already engaged in constructivist-compatible instruction? 
            In this age of technology, teachers have to devise ways to make it work with them and not against them in veering students’ attention, interest, and passion on technology into more useful and productive ways.  Hence, this study is timely and indeed important.
Analysis:
            Methodology and Scope of the Study
            It uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies.  Participants underwent a seven-day, 50 hour intensive professional development program from Quality Teaching and Learning (QTL) that models the connection between instructional practices, the curriculum, and the use of computers.  The teacher participants assumed the role of students in a constructivist compatible environment and actively participating in instructional activities that integrate educational theories and practices with the use of technology.
            The qualitative data came from surveys of different case studies.  First, a collective case study of teachers from two schools, all the teachers participated in the QTL professional development training.  These 2 schools are located in the same region of the same state with similar demographic characteristics.  Data collected are as follows; structured interviews prior to the QTL professional development program and at the end of the year; and classroom observations prior to participating once a year and at the end of the school year.  Second, a case study of an individual teacher in another school located in the other half of the state.  The same survey data were collective from this case study, as the collective case study of two schools.  She incorporated the use of technology in her classroom, showed its effectiveness with low-performing student.  Out of the seven below grade level students, only one did not pass the reading test at the end of the school year.  It must be noted though that all her students had access to a laptop.
            Findings
1.     Observations and interviews with the case study teachers indicated that technology could be a starting point to experiment with new instructional practices.
2.     Technology did increase the frequency and quality of interaction among the students.
3.     Journal entries showed that some teachers reported making substantial change in their general instructional practices after participating in the QTL training.
            For the quantitative data, the sample consists of 148 elementary educators in grades K-5 that have undergone pre-, post, follow-up surveys.  The survey measured participants’ self-reported general instructional practices, technical skills, knowledge and awareness of educational theories and practices, and instructional use of computers in the classroom.  The results of these surveys were then subjected to Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient to test the linear relationship between the general instructional practices and the instructional use of computers in the classroom.  The “One-way repeated-measures ANOVA” was used to determine the changes in participants’ general instructional practices and in their instructional use of computers.  The paired t-test was conducted to assess which means differed from each other and the False Discovery Rate procedure was used to control for family-wise error.
            Findings
1.          The study did establish a positive correlation between professional development and instructional use of technology.
2.          Professional development training showed significant changes in the instructional use of computers in the classroom.
3.          Professional development training showed no significant changes in the general instructional practices of teachers.
            Establishing the correlation between professional development and instructional use of technology is crucial because this serves as a bridge to resolve the problem on how to make teachers comfortable in integrating technology in their instructional practices.  Lack of professional development for technology use is one of the most serious obstacles to fully integrating technology into the curriculum (Fatemi, 1999:  Office of Technology Assessment).
            Since technology is perceived as new and unfamiliar tool by teachers (Matzen et al., 2007, p 427), a well-planned, on-going professional development program that is tied to the school’s curriculum goals, designed with built in evaluation and staff support is essential if teachers are to use technology (Rodriquez, 2000:  Critical Issue:  Providing Professional Development for Effective Technology Use).  Further, he stated that a sit-and-get training sessions or one-time-only workshops are not effective in making teachers comfortable with using technology.
            There have been no significant changes in teachers’ general practices after the professional development. One of the reasons given by the authors of the study was that the changes that occurred in teachers’ general instructional practices may not have been substantial enough to be measured by the survey.  These changes should not be expected to be immediate, but gradual.  As showed by some of the teachers in the case study, technology is used in the classroom in exact manner as it was modeled in the professional development training. One possible explanation for this could be that teachers see technology as separate and different from their general instructional practices. Another reason could be that their knowledge on how to integrate technology is not yet sufficient.  This should not be treated negatively, though.  Instead, this could be the catapult with which teachers start to experimentally use technology.  Reinforcing this with an on-going professional development, teachers will eventually feel comfortable and continues to integrate technology in their instructional practices.  Hence an on-going and well-thought of professional development is necessary to help teachers comfortably and adeptly use technology in the classroom.
            It must be noted though that this study was conducted solely in schools located in America, which in many ways are in auspicious condition than most of the countries in the world.  First, the finances and facilities of both professional development and schools are well-supported by the government or a private institution.  Second, students have a better access of these technologies at home and in school.  Considering this, would the study gain the same results if conducted in other parts of the world?
            The methodologies used were appropriate.  But the scope of the study seemed limited.  The teacher participants seemed to have all come from stable and well-supported schools, which is not always the case.  The study covers only one side of the coin.  The outcome would have been a lot credible and realistic had they considered other factors such as socio-economic aspect to give the study an integral result.
Summary
            Finally, this study is timely and important in education.  To conduct a research study of this nature in other countries like Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, or Philippines which has a different economic, educational, and socio-cultural setting as Americawould present a broader view of the validity of the grounds of this study.   Along with this, it is essential as well to explore on some congruous topics such as; teachers and schools perception and readiness towards technology, availability of knowledgeable human resources, and quality of professional development in the country.
References
Allan H. K. Yuen ; Will W. K. Ma(2008). Exploring teacher acceptance of e-learning technology.  Retrieved September 18, 2008, from  artselearninglibrary.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/exploringteacheracceptance-of-e-learningtechnology/
 Rodriquez, Ginger (2000).  Critical Issue: Providing Professional Development for Effective Technology Use.  Retrieved September 16, 2008, from
Dave Nagel, “Are Schools Inhibiting 21st Century Learning?,” T.H.E. Journal, 4/8/2008, http://www.thejournal.com/articles/22407
Dave Nagel, “Classroom Technology ‘Woefully Inadequate,’ Study Finds,” T.H.E. Journal, 6/16/2008, http://www.thejournal.com/articles/22782

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