Sunday, August 30, 2009

Technology using teacher characteristics:

It is hoped that the work I do towards my doctorate will be a “little something” in the great and wonderful pool of work that has gone before me. It has occurred to me many times that this historical knowledge is the foundation and the firmness upon which I stand with strength. However if all of us do not take a moment to think about why we think what we think we get nowhere in our understanding about what we bring to the table of life. The world is rich and our understanding of our place on this planet is complicated by our experience with it. We need to take moments to ponder and question historical thinking.

That being said I wonder today just when did we think that a tool such as we call technology could change the way people work and think? What philosophy of technology is at the root of this thinking? Has technology become not just a tool for us to work with but also a place we live inside of?

I have noticed many school leaders and policy makers acting as if technology as a tool could be a catalyst for change in teacher practice. This action suggests that putting expensive technology in classrooms will shift the role of teachers and their students. That somehow the technology in the room will cause teachers to act more as facilitators by helping students access information, process it, and communicate their understanding. As a learning leader in the 21st century learning project that was not my experience. Placing technology at their doorstep even with professional support became more of a source for frustration for many teachers in their busy professional lives.

Literature for Technology as a catalyst for change:
Collins, A. (1991). The role of computer technology in restructuring schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 73, 28-36.
Means, B., Olson, K., & Singh, R. (1995). Beyond the classroom: Restructuring schools with technology. Phi Delta Kappan, 77, 69-72.
Mehlinger, H. (1996). School reform in the information age. Phi Delta Kappan, 77, 400-407.
Newman, D. (1992). Technology as support for school structure and school restructuring. Phi Delta Kappan, 74, 308-315.
Sheingold, K. (1991). Restructuring for learning with technology: The potential for synergy. Phi Delta Kappan, 73,17 –27.

I have seen much money, time and energy being spent on technology and professional development that seems to have adopted the philosophy, ‘build it and they will come”. So I am left to wonder when historically has a tool been a catalyst for change? As well to complicate this conversation not all teachers view technology only as a tool, and some teachers’ eagerly welcome technology into their classrooms.

I do not wish to approach my work looking at this problem dualistically but rather a succession or a non-linear continuum that I would like to think of as a field. The research on technology-using teachers characterizes different ways teachers use technology in their classrooms. Data that I have encountered so far suggest that technology-using teachers range along a continuum of instructional styles from instruction to construction.

On this continuum we find teachers who use technology only to instruct and then teachers who use technology to construct knowledge. As with continuums we find many teachers at different points employing vastly different philosophies of technology.

Instructional Classroom:
In instruction, the research tells us that teachers conduct class in a teacher-centered way. They impart facts and procedural skills to students and integrate technology as a complement to this style. They use technology mainly for drill and practice. Technology is a means to an end. I believe historically this type of teaching comes from the notion that information and knowledge is limited, sorted and easily found by a “hide-an-seek” method of presenting the curriculum. Embedded within this notion is the philosophy that the technology should make us more efficient and more productive.

Constructional Classroom:
Research also tells us that in construction or student-centered classrooms, teachers are encouraging students to use software and information technologies to make personal connections in active ways. The technology supports the active learning; it becomes a tool with which the students may construct or grow knowledge. Technology can become a place for exploration and the means and ends are endlessly connected. I believe this type of teaching comes from the notion that information and knowledge is vast and complex, that we also need to learn strategies to navigate through it. Embedded within this notion is the philosophy that technology will connect us democratically. It is these constructivist characteristics we find in the 21st century classroom.

Literature for Technology using teacher characteristics:
Becker, H.J. (1994). How exemplary computer-using teachers differ from other teachers: Implications for realizing the potential of computers in schools. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 26, 291-321.
Hadley, M., & Sheingold, K. (1993). Commonalties and distinctive patterns in teachers’ integration of computers. American Journal of Education, 101, 261-315.
Honey, M., & Moeller, B. (1990). Teacher’s beliefs and technology integration: Different values, different understandings. CTE Technical Report Issue No. 6. [Online ] available:
Means, B., & Olson, K. (1995). Technology's role in education reform: Findings from a national study of innovating schools. Menlo Park, CA: SRI International. [Online] available:
Wiske, M. S., Zodhiates, P., Wilson, B., Gordon, M., Harvey, W., Krensky, L., Lord, B., Watt, M. & Williams, K. (1988). How technology affects teaching. Cambridge, MA: Educational Technology Center. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 296 706)

My final question at the end of this conversation today is this: If the goal is for teachers to use technology with their students in a constructionist or democratic manner should we not first explore this issue with them in the same manner? What if we used a constructivist model rather than a scientific one as has often been done for this exploration. What if we began thinking of teachers as learners and then began a dialogue? Dialogues can provide important opportunities for constructing knowledge in collaboration because they may open opportunities for professional discourse to expose scrutinize and contest deeply ingrained assumptions and philosophies about the way they use technology.

The constructivist model emphasizes that new understanding occurs when a learner seeks, acquires and organizes new information to share with others. This new learning shapes and is shaped by prior knowledge. Prior knowledge is thus shaped by the experiences and beliefs of the learner in addition to the place in which learner constructed this understanding. The literature on the constructivist model of learning along with the literature on teacher professional development and dialogue all suggests that classroom teachers, over time, construct knowledge about which instructional approaches produce the effects they want with their students.

While I call myself a constructivist I do recognize that there are many occasions in a regular teaching day that I would use technology as a stand and deliver tool. It is because of this complexity that I would call the instruction-construction continuum a field of play rather than a succession.

It is my desire to take much of this sort of historical knowledge with me in my interpretive inquiry on how teachers use technology in a 21st century classroom. The goal of this work is to come to a deeper understanding by accessing the experience of teachers. It is my hope that this understanding will provide valuable insight for those responsible for supporting the shifting of teacher practice. I recognize that this topic is temporal and that my task is interpretive but also my interpretation is connected to my own experience as a classroom teacher as I embark on the exploration of the life-world of teachers in the emergent 21st century classroom.

Literature for constructivist model in teacher professional learning:
Cole, M. (1996). Cultural psychology. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Dexter, S., Anderson, R. E., & Becker, H. J. (1999). Teachers' views of computers as catalysts for changes in their teaching practice. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 31(3), 221-239.
Eisner, E. W. (2002). The kind of schools we need. Phi Delta Kappan 83(8): 576-583.
Fosnot, C. T. (1996). Constructivism, theory, perspectives, and practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
Fullan, M.G. (1992). Successful school improvement. Bristol, PA: Open University Press.
Fullan, M.G., & Steigelbauer, S. (1991). The new meaning of educational change. New York: Teachers College Press.
Hargreaves, A. (1994). Changing teachers, changing times. London: Cassell.

Literature for philosophy of technology:
Feenberg, A. (1999). Questioning technology. London ; New York, Routledge.
Feenberg, A. (2003). What is Philosophy of Technology? Retrieved February 18, 2009, from
Feenberg, A. (2008). From essentialism to constructivism: philosophy of technology at the crossroads. Retrieved Febrary 21, 2008, from
Heidegger, M. (1977). The question concerning technology, and other essays. New York: Garland.
McLuhan, M. and Q. Fiore (1967). The medium is the massage. New York, Bantam Books.
Postman, N. (1992). Deus Machina. Technos Quarterly, 1(4).
Price, Y. (2008). In a mother's voice: on transformation and graduate education. Unpublished Thesis M Sc --University of Calgary 2008, University of Calgary Division of Applied Psychology, Calgary.
Seimans, G. (December 12, 2004). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. from

Literature on dialogue in professional development and Hermeneutics:
Freeman, M. (2006). Nurturing dialogic hermeneutics and the deliberative capacities of communities in focus groups. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(1), 81-95.
Gadamer, H.-G. (1999). Truth and method (2nd ed., J. Weinsheimer & D. G. Marshall,Trans.). New York: Continuum. (Original work published 1975)
Hargreaves, A. (1994). Changing teachers, changing times. London: Cassell.
Jourard, S. M. (1978). Education as dialogue. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18(1), 47.
Kalliola, S., Nakari, R., & Pesonen, I. (2006). Learning to Make Changes: Democratic Dialogue in Action. Journal of Workplace Learning, 18, 464-477.
Orland-Barak, Lily. (2008). Convergent, divergent and parallel dialogues: Knowledge construction in professional conversations. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 12(Feb 2006), 13-31.
Penlington, C. (2008). Dialogue as a catalyst for teacher change: A conceptual analysis. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24(5), 1304-1316.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The love of story

As I have said before, I feel I carry with me as I walk in the world a backpack. Within it I pack a certain view of the world I find myself in. The fabric is weaved with both my own experience and the tradition of those who came before me. The contents contain the notion that our nature of reality is fluid and socially constructed.
I also carry with me the assumption that as people we are born into the world with a need to understand our place in it. As well, to truly understand this place, we must participate democratically with in it. As a researcher I believe that I will be the primary agent for data collection and its analysis, yet if I am to truly come to an understanding I must work in collaboration with my participants to construct the data I will use. I believe that technology lends it’s self to exploration and democracy but not unless they are first valued. But why is this? I think I sit in the world this way as a result to of the mixing of the ingredients I was born with and the experiences I traveled through. As I child in the 60’s I struggled to learn to read. My parents hired a tutor to help me cope in school. The Tutor introduced me to “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis (1950). I identified with Lucy she was about my age and no one seemed to believe in her. She was overlooked. (If you have not read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe it is time you did.) We can learn from Lucy that people are much more capable than what others may think at first glance. With courage we can tell our stories. She can also teach us that there is a power in community when we join together we may produce a power capable of actually moving mountains. I have since read the story many times and shared it with my children when they where young. It of course was different through adult eyes but I am still reminded to never go out my front door with out some sense of the mystery that awaits me with the possibilities of each step.
I have discovered the transformative power in telling and listening to each other’s stories. The power lies in the possibility of growth, for both the teller and the listener. School did not come easy to me but I believe my real education in life has had nothing to do with explanations of what I know or my marks on a test. It has been more about wanting to know and diving in to find out. When I learned to read it was a Dick and Jane world. As a young child I had no love of story. It was just something we had to learn to do in order to live in the world. That tutor that introduced me to “The Lion Witch and the Wardrobe” encouraged me to crawl inside a story. To see it, smell it, and touch my way through the pages. I will never forget the magic she revealed to me by reading, drawing and talking about each character. This struggle gave to me a gift. It is the gift of story. I believe this is why I feel a need to approach my research as a listener and interpreter of story.

Monday, August 3, 2009

What do you bring to the table?

I was reminded today that we all have gifts to bring to the table. It does not matter what you bring, it is sufficient. It does not matter how much to take, what is on the table is sufficient. It also does not matter what you leave behind. What matters is that you are there. All is well... it is all good. There will be days when life's burdens will feel heavy and perhaps what you put on the table will be less than yesterday, we will adjust. The giving and the taking is a dance and often can be a joyful one. What matters is that we talk and listen to each other and that we live well together.
Happy Holiday.