Integrating Technology into the College Classroom:
Faculty are integrating technology into the college classroom. But what are they doing? What’s working? And how can we bring these ideas into other classrooms? As a result of questions like these the gap that currently exists between technology and effective teaching and learning strategies continues to widen (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). The integration of technology and proven pedagogy often suffers at the expense of each other. Yet, many studies conclude that faculty members continue to find ways to use technology that benefit both their fields of study and improving student learning. Recent ideas such as Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK), which adds “Technology” as a third form of knowledge to Shulman’s “Pedagogical Content Knowledge” framework urges educators to no longer focus on each area of emphasis independently, but instead where all three intersect or overlap (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). This shift demonstrates a new way of thinking in how we associate technology for the sake of teaching and its role in learning.
As newer technologies become increasingly more popular, a desire to incorporate them as learning tools will begin to mount in the name of good “instructional technology” practices. As a result, the selection and integration of these technologies into the college classroom can take many forms and directly impact the effectiveness of student instruction. Also, like most other aspects of education, technology is susceptible to a variety of complementary factors that influence its level of success such as adult learning principles, curricular limitations, pedagogical strategies, as well as personal, institutional and societal barriers. Identifying how faculty members are using technology in the classroom may prove to be invaluable in developing a catalog of current practices and new opportunities for integration that can span fields of study, as well as enhance new ways of learning.
Addressing these characteristics of adult learners into the design of the class enables the faculty member to minimize some of the barriers to learning and more deeply engage the student in the learning.
As learners, millennials are generally good students and apt to expecting success from hard work (Strauss & Howe, 2007). Their professional and social networks are constantly connected, and believe what is good for one is often good for all, in addition to looking to their peers for learning and professional development opportunities (Strauss & Howe, 2007). The millennial’s commitment to being group-oriented and willingness to collaborate separates them from a reputation of being self-centered or incapable of sacrifice. Instead they prefer not to stand out from their peers and lead only by example. They seek stream-lined resources that are easily accessible and in native formats, most of which they are already used to and comfortable with (Strauss & Howe, 2007). Millennial students expect all communication and information to be accessible and on-demand, as well as build communities around their similarities – rather than differences. As a result, their quest for achieving a well-balanced life has made them much more likely of having short attention spans and a reluctance to pursue endeavors that provide little value to their perceived greater good (Raines, 2003).
Generational Issues in Teaching and Advising
Technology and Learning
The manner in which identifying how technology can be interwoven into pedagogy and content reverses the already widely accepted practice of forcing each into an already selected (or pre-determined) technology, regardless of potential effectiveness.
In addition to re-examining how technology can be used to enhance learning, Selwyn (2007) states that little continues to be done in addressing the “limited, linear, and rigid terms” of how technology is currently being used in education. As a result, much of the innovation and creativity associated with developing successful instructional technology practices are often stifled by non-technological resistance and politics (Selwyn, 2007). Support and buy-in from faculty is also critical in ensuring that the role of technology continues to have a place in the effective classroom. Simply purchasing more technology will not increase effective use; instead a shift in confidence and strategy may be the most useful in fostering new and inventive technology integration practices (Surry & Land, 2000).
Technology in Education
Therefore there is a need for a systematic strategy and evaluation of technology’s role in education and faculty preparedness to best identify how to move forward in today’s classroom (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). This includes efforts such as identifying how technology is currently being integrated in classrooms, what increases school and instructor adaptation, and defining long-term evaluation strategies. These are possible steps in assessing not only the state of educational technology, but also its promise (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007). Because there is no one educational experience that will fulfill a student’s need to use technology, nor technology-infused vision of teaching and learning for an instructor (Ertmer, Gopalakrishnan & Ross, 2001). The best course of action for successful technology integration is to provide:
Data Gathering and Analysis
At the end of the survey participants were asked to share, in more detail, examples or stories of how and why they are integrating technologies into their classes. Knowing that some faculty may have a preference to share these stories verbally, rather than in written form, participants had the choice of writing their stories as part of a survey or completing the survey and then calling an online answering service to share their stories verbally. These recorded verbal stories were then transcribed and emailed back to the participant for member checking and editing.
Demographic information was analyzed using descriptive statistics. Qualitative data was analyzed for emergent themes in technology, use, and pedagogical intent.
Participants represented 20 different subject areas (Table 2) with the most participants in Educational Technology/Instructional Technology (28%) and Business/Management/Leadership (11%). Years of experience teaching in higher education averaged just over 14 years although the answers ranged from 1 to 40 years.
Most Effective Technologies currently used in the Classroom
Support teaching & information sharing. The 113 mentions of technology to support teaching and information sharing were described as helping faculty prepare to teach by using the internet and related resources such as Slideshare, graphic, photo and audio resources, and online quizzes. These technologies also helped faculty to enhance the in-class experience by using the internet as an “on the spot fact checker and question answerer” (Survey respondent). Faculty also used PowerPoint slides of their own or from Slideshare, computer projectors, smart boards, and clickers to “enhance lectures” (Survey respondent), illustrate key points, and bring discussion and interaction into the classroom. Videos and other internet resources were used to supplement the experience in the classroom and Second Life was used to create a hands-on, visceral experience as part of the classroom experience, but “without leaving home” (Survey respondent). Finally, the in-class learning experience was supplemented and extended outside the classroom by creating new and replayable lectures with capture software, faculty-created or other-created podcasts, and interaction with “experts at a distance” (Survey respondent).
Collaboration technologies. Although occasionally used in class, the 108 mentions of technologies used for collaboration were primarily described as supplements or extensions to the classroom experience. Some of these technologies were used as tools for students and faculty to have real-time, synchronous collaboration outside the typical classroom environment through real-time creation and editing of documents, as well as working together through videoconferencing such as Skype and chat. Most of these collaborative technologies, however, were used as asynchronous tools for collaboration. Using these tools students and faculty were able to share thoughts, ideas, and conversations back and forth through discussion boards, blogs, wikis, voicethreads, Twitter and email/voicemail. They were also able to use knowledge sharing tools like Delicious, Diigo, and hashtagging in other tools such as Twitter to identify, as they worked, the resources they found to be interesting and useful.
Individual technologies. The 45 technologies mentioned in this category were described as a way to support student assignment and project work. Equipment such as computers, digital cameras and recorders, scanners, iPods; and software such as mapping, inspiration, and image editing helped students complete assignments or create projects for class and in some subject areas provided them with hands-on experience with the tools of the field. Other resources such as e-reserves and file exchange provided faculty and students with updated tools for handling the traditional tasks of reading packets and paper grading/returning. E-portfolios gave students with a structure to document their learning and skill development throughout their college experience, in addition to being able to easily share their work with future employers and colleagues.
Why these technologies are effective. When asked why they consider these technologies effective, a few participants commented that technology offered the ability to ease logistical barriers for faculty and student:
Finally, several participants stated that “[technologies] are not an end, but a means to further my pedagogical goals” (Survey respondent).
New Technologies for the Classroom
Looking at the one year plans in Table 4, there is a focus on collaboration and learner generated/shared content. Participants described a desire for more collaboration and to foster a learning community including sharing knowledge and resources of faculty, external experts, students and alumni. They described plans to use this technology for digital storytelling, such as CSI-type projects where technology will be used as an investigative tool and video and audio analysis of student focus groups and practice counseling sessions. This collaborative approach, along with the mobile and non-classroom based technologies listed in Table 4, blur the lines between in-class and out of class learning. Several participants expressed a desire to move to blended (partly traditional classroom and partly online or distributed learning) or fully online classes. Responses also indicated an openness toward technology use and a willingness to “try anything I discover or about which my students tell me” (Survey respondent), while at the same time, “also emphasizing the potential usefulness of older technologies that people are already familiar with” (Survey respondent).
One striking aspect of the wish-list question (where money, time and support were not concerns), was that 11 of the respondents said there was no technology they would wish for and four respondents said they “couldn’t think of anything” for this category. But for the participants who did respond, the wish-list technologies again strongly reflect a desire for the collaboration and connection of students and others.
The technology rated highest among both the one year and wish list technologies was high quality at-the-desk video/web conferencing. Participants described using web conferencing to connect faculty to students for remote advising, lecturing and working sessions; connecting experts to students, student discussion groups to students in other colleges and countries, connecting existing professionals to pre-professional students, and to conduct virtual field trips, thereby connecting the student to the world and the world to the student.
Stories of Faculty Use of Technologies in the Classroom.
Each of the stories fell into two broad categories: stories that described how the faculty used technology in the classroom, and stories of how faculty had students use technology in the classroom. The stories in these two categories were further grouped into subcategories in an attempt to organize the data through common themes. There were a total of 120 stories shared by participants; far too many to share in this article. Three stories are listed below. A full list of stories organized by sub-categories is available at www.UCollegeTech.com/FacultyTechStories
Story 1: Posting information online for peer/faculty feedback. I have had a good experience using wikis for class presentations. Students must first post an outline an annotated bibliography, which receives a mark. They then replace the outline with a completed paper, which is heavily marked. Finally, they post their revised paper. They are also required to make helpful comments on the papers of others. I enjoy teaching with wikis because I become the editor rather than the teacher. When I mark a student's wiki page, my comments reflect this: "Your paragraphs must be more concise, readers won't understand your argument" or "You must use a more compelling topic sentence if you want people to read your post." Rather than being the judge of the worth of a student's writing, I am a coach, a supporter. I feel, and I believe the class feels, that we are working together on a project, and we all have a stake in its success. (Faculty, Women’s Studies and English).
Story 2: Online collaboration. I try to create a class environment based on social constructivist theory (e.g. Vygotsky), so students are involved in identifying specific topics of study through the use of Problem Based Learning. Groups determine how they want to investigate a topic and the resources they will use. I make available materials in a variety of formats, such as print materials, video, selected web sites, and people/experts. The students individually and collectively choose what to use (and are not limited to the initial resources I share). Student groups also determine how they want to communicate within their group--email, Blackboard group area, face-to-face meetings outside class, phone, text, etc. Students also choose the technology they want to use to teach peers (e.g. PowerPoint, simulations, video, audio, picture, etc.) All groups use some forms of technology during the research phase (e.g. web), but there are no requirements for use. (Faculty, Special Education).
Story 3: Connect with others. My favorite for this year was during a discussion of the role of research at the modern University. It was weekend class, and during the weekend the Researchers at the University of California were preparing biological slides. It is a process where they take very thin slices of tissue, and mount them onto glass plates for future analysis. The researchers broadcast their work live on the internet, and this class checked in from time, to time, to see how they were progressing. It is an opportunity for students to make a very real connection with the role of medical research at the modern university. Many of them commented on this in their weekly journals. (Faculty, Research and History).
This study focused on current practices and future plans of college faculty members who are actively integrating technology into their classrooms. We found a broad range examples of technology integration into the classroom from faculty in a variety of subject areas, and with a variety of years of teaching experience. These uses of technology fell into three broad categories: using the technology to teach and share information, using the technology to foster collaboration, and using the technology for individual learning, information access, and skill demonstration.
Of equal importance to how faculty use technology was why they felt it was effective. Through the multitude of answers several themes emerged. Faculty expressed that using technology is engaging because it allows for and often forces interaction on the part of the student. That technology can foster discussion, interaction and engagement among students and between the students and faculty. Also, that “education is more than being a sage on the stage" (Survey respondent) and that using technology can allow the faculty member to take the role of a collaborator rather than merely a judge of the learning. As a result, increased collaboration was used as evidence of the effectiveness of technology; increased collaboration among students and with faculty, as well as with other peers, experts, and professionals. The technology was also said to be effective because of the resource access and evaluation potential of technology. Students were able to demonstrate learning by creating online portfolios, as well as creating and posting other information online for the benefit and feedback of others.
It is not surprising that technology use that creates an environment of engagement, collaboration and resource access is judged by faculty as effective. This parallels adult learning theory which tells us that adults want an environment where they can contribute to and learn from others in a pragmatic, results oriented, and problem focused way (Knowles, 1980). It also fits with the archetype of the millennial generation student who wants to contribute and develop, while working in a group-oriented, connected environment with ready access to information and communication on his/her own timeline (Strauss & Howe, 2007). The integration of current and future technology in the classroom seems an easy way to address the needs of these millennial-adult learners. Easier in the sense that these technologies can be effective tools for learning; but difficult in that these tools, like all tools, are only as effective as the educator who uses.
Finally, it is interesting to note that most of the technologies and their applications listed by faculty who want to use them in one year or beyond (Table 4) are already being used effectively by faculty elsewhere (Table 3). This study did not inquire into how faculty learned or decided to integrate technology into their teaching. However, it seems we have a great opportunity to share these effective practices of using technology in the classroom with others. Rather than operating as islands of innovation, we need to find a way to connect with other faculty on our own campus and beyond in order to learn from each other. This should not only be about the technology…but also about how to use the technology to enhance the learning experience of our students. By sharing our knowledge and best practices with each other we can create even better practices for both ourselves and our students.
Recommendations for Further Research
This project is just one step towards assisting faculty in effectively integrating technology into their teaching. Faculty and others on campus will benefit from additional research such as, (1) gathering examples and more richly described stories from faculty that can serve as inspiration for others. There are many more ways, big and small, that faculty use technology in the classroom in addition to the 120 stories collected in this study. (2) Faculty would also benefit by hearing examples of how others are using technology to support learning in specific disciplines. (3) It is likely there are reasons faculty are not integrating technology into their teaching, or not integrating technology as effectively as they would like into their teaching. Understanding these reasons and barriers will make it easier to minimize or eliminate them.
As faculty we are obligated and committed to create effective learning experiences for our students. Current (and future) technologies have enormous potential as tools to enrich the learning for our students in a way that is pedagogically sound and that appeals to adults and the current millennial generation student.
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