You are on page 1of 15

Supporting Teachers and Teacher Educators

in the Implementation of Instructional Technologies

Melody J. Elrod
EME 6055
University of South Florida
Though technological advancements seem to race by at lightning speed, educational
reform often feels more like the sands of time, shifting inexorably at its own pace. Looking
ahead to the year 2020, technology may take us into a world that looks like science fiction from
the perspective of 2014. Educationally, the scene may be a bit more familiar.
The difference in these expectations results not from the advancements available, but
from the beliefs of end users. Classroom teachers are the end users of educational reforms and
are but a small subset of those who will adopt new technologies. These teachers are unified by
their desire to help students learn, but divided by their beliefs about how that goal should be
accomplished. Though learning is a cultural activity (Stigler & Hiebert, 1999), various (and at
times, contrasting) learning theories are evident in the day-to-day activities, assignments, and
instructional methods used in classrooms. These enacted beliefs about learning and teaching are
the backbone of education and demonstrate the very personal stake teachers have in teaching. In
this way, the beliefs of classroom teachers rule the implementation of educational reforms. For
example, though it may be reasonable to expect the current implementation of the Common Core
State Standards to be completed by the year 2020, we cannot guarantee that all teachers will be
doing so as the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (2010) intended.
The development of new applications and platforms for tablets, phones, and other
devices, however, is not as dependent upon the end users beliefs. In the world of technology,
users are looking for convenience, speed, and ease of use. With the exception of scientific and
medical advancements that challenge religious and political beliefs, day-to-day technology is not
ruled by users beliefs, but by efficiency and effectiveness, ideas that are not as dear to educators
as they are to programmers.
Technology for Teachers and Teacher Educators
Technology, then, will not permeate day-to-day classroom life in 2020 (or in 2090)
unless the use of technology to improve students learning is integrated into teachers beliefs
(Chapman, 2012; Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Glazewski, Newby, & Ertmer, 2010). Deliberate,
respectful, ongoing teacher education is needed to (1) help teachers see the value for technology
in the classroom and (2) empower teachers to seek out and implement technology that meets the
needs of their students. As such, it is my intention to use this position paper to focus on the view
of technology for preservice teachers, in-service teachers, and teacher educators.
Value of Technology for Educators
Teachers beliefs play a pivotal role in the choices they make about teaching and
learning. Those beliefs, however, may be harder to identify than one might expect. Professed
beliefs and enacted beliefs are often at odds. [T]here is not always a direct relationship between
beliefs and practices. Even though teachers may espouse student-centered technology beliefs,
their practices many not necessarily follow those beliefs (Ottenbreit-Leftwich et al., 2010, p.
1322). In order for technological tools to impact the enacted beliefs of educators, teachers must
be able to put those tools to use on a daily basis.
Organizing day-to-day tasks. The simplest entry into the day-to-day worlds of teachers
is by way of organizational tools. Teaching is an intricate profession filled with overlapping
tasks and management systems. From taking attendance and creating seating charts to lesson
planning and grading, teachers are required to organize a vast amount of information. Already
teachers value computer programs and school-mandated systems to organize their work.
Many other systems are also available for lesson planning, collaboration, and
organization. For example, PBWorks (Industrial Toys, 2014), an online team collaboration
program, equips users to create webpages, link resources, and add comments to the work of
others. Programs like Trello (Fog Creek Software, 2000), offer both website and mobile
application uses so that users can update their work in real time. Zotero (Takats, Stillman,
Kornblith, & Cheslack-Postava, 2014) and other citation programs allow users to store
documents, citations, videos, and other resources in a synchronized online environment with
access online, through a desktop program, and on mobile devices either in isolation or with
These tools and an endless list others can empower educators to find organizational
systems that are immediately applicable to their own classrooms, research endeavors, and
collaborations. By establishing value in this way, educators can begin to incorporate emerging
technologies into their everyday lives.
Sharing the lived experience. It is also important to note that teachers do not operate in
a vacuum. Classroom teachers are accountable to subject or grade level teams, school
administrators, district personnel, state assessments, and national standards. As such, it is
essential that educators share their experiences with others, offering expertise to and seeking help
from colleagues through collaboration, lesson study, teacher research, and self-study (Hamilton,
1998; Loughran & Northfield, 1998; Loughran, 2006; Stigler & Hiebert, 1999). Though team
meetings, faculty meetings, and in-person mentoring and lesson study offer opportunities to
share information and experiences, technology offers additional means of communication.
Synchronous and asynchronous communication online and through mobile applications
offer educators a way to reach out in several innovative ways. Synchronous focus groups can be
formed to include educators from disparate geographic locations (OConnor & Madge, 2003).
Asynchronous message boards and forums offer educators a way to ask questions or provide aid
to others who are not necessarily within their immediate community. The online environment
also afford users anonymity to discuss frustrating, painful, or sensitive topics that might
otherwise go unexplored (James & Busher, 2009; Robinson, 2001; Salmons, 2010; Shields,
In addition to online resources, mobile applications are becoming more readily available
to facilitate capturing and sharing experiences in real time (e.g., Merlien Institute, 2014). Rather
than waiting until the end of the day, users can quickly login and jot down a few notes with
journaling websites with accompanying applications like (Penzu Inc, 2014). Mobile
applications for iPhone, iPad, and Droid devices such as QualBoard (20/20 Research, Inc.,
2014), MyInsights (Mobile Market Research, 2014), and Ethos (Ethos, 2014) allow users to
capture text, video, and pictures in real time. With these applications, qualitative researchers can
also gather participants to study particular classroom phenomena for educators throughout large
geographic areas.
Ready access to the experiences of educators across the country and around the world can
have an impact on the day-to-day lives of classroom teachers and teacher educators. Educators
sharing their experiences with one another in real and immediate ways will certainly have an
immediate impact upon educational research as well through action research (Chapman, 2012;
Pajares, 1992; Philipp, 2007), lesson study (Brodie, 2010; Stigler & Hiebert, 1999), and self-
study (Koch & Suurtamm, 2012; Loughran & Northfield, 1998; Russell & Loughran, 2008).
As they experience the benefits of technology in their own lives, educators will begin to
assign value to emerging technologies. Supporting educators in using such tools can empower
them to experiment with new programs and incorporate technology into their classrooms and
research studies. As teacher educators, then we must dedicate ourselves to encouraging the
ongoing use of technology in the classroom.
Meeting the Needs of Students
The current educational climate calls for educators to attend to the needs of students in
new and innovative ways. Differentiated, inquiry-based instruction challenges the ideas of
equity and equality in the classroom and empowers students to step outside the restrictions of
lecture and practice and construct knowledge for themselves (Becker et al., 2013; Brodie, 2010;
Elrod & Strayer, under review; Institutes on Academic Diversity, 2009). Culturally responsive
teaching requires teachers to go beyond the bounds of equity to appreciate and include students
cultural backgrounds and experiences (Ladon-Billings, 2014). Embedded assessments
encourage teachers to use formative assessment as a part of instruction to inform teaching and
learning (Anderson, Zuiker, Taasoobshirazi, & Hickey, 2007; Clark, 2008; Guskey, 2003). All
of these reform initiatives can be supported by technological innovations.
Differentiated, inquiry-based instruction. Inquiry-based instruction (sometimes called
standards-based instruction or problem-based learning) can be aided by games and tasks that are
designed to allow students to make decisions, exercise reasoning and sense-making, and draw
conclusions independent of standardized rules and procedures. These tasks become
differentiated when they include multiple entry points for students of various ability levels,
needs, and interests. The online world offers educators a wide variety of such tasks and games.
For example, I designed a task using Second Life (Linden Research, Inc., 2014) that requires
students to explore various geometric theories and produce a geometric work that uses one of
those theories. By allowing students the freedom to explore and providing them with a wide
variety of difficulty levels, the task is both inquiry-based and differentiated.
Culturally responsive teaching. Beyond a specific application or program, the online
environment offers students the opportunity to be global citizens, providing access to cultures
across the country and around the world. Websites dedicated to service learning and cultural
responsiveness, like Teaching Tolerance (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2014), provide teachers
with resources for use in the classroom. Other sites, like YouTube (YouTube, LLC, 2014) and
Teacher Tube (Teacher Tube, 2014) provide a myriad of videos that grant students access to
disparate cultural perspectives. Still other sites connect students directly to other cultures around
the world (e.g., PenPal World, Inc., 1998)
Embedded assessment. Rather than relying only on summative tests and quizzes to
demonstrate student learning, embedded assessments make use of instructional tasks, discourse,
and activities to assess students and inform instruction (Anderson et al., 2007; Clark, 2008;
Wiggins & McTighe, 2005; William, 2007). Technology can aid this process by taking
discourse online and supplementing it with pictures, videos, and other artifacts that allow
classroom teachers to gather data about student knowledge while driving learning forward.
Applications and programs like those described previously can allow students (as well as
educators) to collaborate with one another while offering teachers new insights into students
understanding (e.g., 20/20 Research, Inc., 2014; Fog Creek Software, 2000; Takats et al., 2014).
Recommendations for Supporting Educators in the Use of Technology
It is not enough, however, to simply expose educators to instructional technology.
Teachers and teacher educators alike must be supported in their exploration and use of any new
tool (Hiebert & Morris, 2009; Loughran, 2006; Pajares, 1992; Philipp, 2007). Much like the
need to allow students to struggle with problem solving through inquiry-based instruction,
teachers must also be allowed to struggle with new technologies, exploring their uses and
relevancy for everyday life. Teachers, then, must receive careful introduction to technology as
well as ongoing support.
Initial Use
Recently, I interviewed a middle school teacher whose school had issued an iPad to every
student and faculty member several years ago (Susan**, 2014). The iPads were to be used
during instruction, but other than an initial training session in the weeks preceding the fall
semester (that was not mandatory), teachers received no support as to their implementation in the
classroom. After three years, her class used the iPads for note taking, organizing files and
pictures, and accessing the electronic version of the textbook. Though she had taken advantage
of a few online resources, she said that she simply did not have time to research uses for the
iPads in her classroom without neglecting the scope and sequence already established by the
Susans experience could have been aided by a greater level of comfort with the iPad for
everyday use. Educators who are unfamiliar with the technology thrust upon them will not be
effective in implementing that technology and may have a great deal of resistance in doing so.
Professional developers need to be sensitive to this issue. First engaging teachers in a voluntary
capacity for the use of technology will improve the rate of implementation and empower teachers
to explore and utilize these tools in their classroom (Sowder, 2007). Change is difficult and
often wrought with emotion and frustration. Developing a culture of change must be the first
task of educators who wish to impact teaching and learning at the classroom level (Fullan,
Cuttress, & Kilcher, 2005; Fullan, 2001).
Ongoing Support
Change in education is not a quick process. Educators seeking to implement technology
must do so with a long eye, recognizing the steps and stages of change, including the inevitable
implementation dip that occurs while teachers and students alike struggle with new ideas and
structures (Fullan, 2002). It is not enough to schedule a PD Day and consider the job done.
Educators require support throughout implementation and teacher educators would be wise to
assess the progress of the implementation to move learning forward. Just like the embedded
assessment in the classroom discussed above, professional developers must intentionally create
structures within the implementation process that will both support teachers in exploring
technology and inform teacher educators about the progress of implementation. Indeed, some of
the same tools would be useful in doing so. By using collaborative resources such as Trello (Fog
Creek Software, 2000) or Zotero (Takats et al., 2014), teachers can share ideas and experiences
with their peers while giving their trainers new perspectives on their understanding of
Ongoing training will also help to support teachers who are having difficulty with
technology. With such a wide variety of resources, it is inevitable that teachers will have
technical difficulties, trouble with lesson plan ideas, struggles with choosing an appropriate
application or program, or even issues with safety and propriety. It is beyond the scope of this
paper to discuss precisely the ways and means instructional technology tools should be assessed
and vetted, but those structures should be in place to support the efforts of classroom teachers
(e.g., Green, Hechter, Tysinger, & Chassereau, 2014). Long-term structures designed to support
teachers during implementation will provide teachers with more immediate relief for frustrations
and encourage them to persevere in exploring and using technology that may still be somewhat
foreign to them. An ongoing connection with their trainers may also be pivotal in preventing
teachers from giving up on these new ideas (James & Busher, 2009).
Discussion and Conclusions
When schools, districts, or states implement the use of technology in the classroom, they
must do so with the understanding that teachers beliefs guide their actions in the classroom.
Some teachers may embrace new instructional technologies, eager to lead the way into
innovative tasks and assessments. Others, however, may be resistant and uncomfortable with the
unknown. Research shows that steamrolling over the reluctant and mandating new initiatives is
not the answer, however. Teachers whose beliefs do not encompass these initiatives will find
contrived or shallow ways to incorporate technology into their established practices, stripping the
new ideas of their power (Loughran, 2006; Ma & Singer-Gabella, 2011; Ottenbreit-Leftwich et
al., 2010). Teachers must be able to see value in new instructional technologies and be able to
use them easily. Carefully designed and implemented ongoing teacher education is needed to
support teachers in using new tools.
It is important to remember, too, that it is teachersnot toolsthat enact changes in
education. It is true that technological advancements have the potential to positively impact
teaching and learning in a myriad of ways. Without the actions of teachers, however, those tools
cannot be implemented effectively in the classroom. Every teacher who earns certification is
entrusted with the welfare and learning of our students. We must equip teachers to approach
technology in a professional way and trust them to make instructional decisions that will benefit
students. We must empower teachers to determine which tools are appropriate for their unique
classrooms and support them in their efforts to do so.

20/20 Research, Inc. (2014). QualBoard Mobile. Nashville, TN: 20/20 Research, Inc. Retrieved
Anderson, K. T., Zuiker, S. J., Taasoobshirazi, G., & Hickey, D. T. (2007). Classroom discourse
as a tool to enhance formative assessment and practise in science. International Journal
of Science Education, 29(14), 17211744.
Becker, N., Rasmussen, C., Sweeney, G., Wawro, M., Towns, M., & Cole, R. (2013). Reasoning
using particulate nature of matter: An example of a sociochemical norm in a university-
level physical chemistry class. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 14, 8194.
Brodie, K. (2010). Pressing dilemmas: Meaning-making and justification in mathematics
teaching. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 42(1), 2750.
Chapman, O. (2012). Challenges in mathematics teacher education. Journal of Mathematics
Teacher Education, 18.
Clark, I. (2008). Assessment is for learning: Formative assessment and positive learning
interactions. Florida Journal of Educational Administration & Policy, 2(1), 116.
Elrod, M. J., & Strayer, J. F. (under review). Standards-based mathematics instruction and
sociomathematical norms: Facilitating change in an undergraduate classroom.
Investigations in Mathematics Learning.
Ethos. (2014). Chatham, United Kingdom: Ethos. Retrieved from
Fog Creek Software. (2000). Trello. Trello. Retrieved July 3, 2014, from
Fullan, M. (2001). The new meaning of educational change (3rd ed.). New York: Teachers
College Press.
Fullan, M. (2002). The change leader. Educational Leadership, 59(8), 1620.
Fullan, M., Cuttress, C., & Kilcher, A. (2005). 8 forces for leaders of change. Journal of Staff
Development, 26(4), 5464.
Green, L. S., Hechter, R. P., Tysinger, P. D., & Chassereau, K. D. (2014). Mobile app selection
for 5th through 12th grade science: The development of the MASS rubric. Computers
and Education, 75, 6571.
Guskey, T. R. (2003). How classroom assessments improve student learning. Educational
Leadership, 60(5), 611.
Hamilton, M. L. (1998). Reconceptualizing teaching practice: Developing competence through
self-study. Bristol, PA: Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from
Hiebert, J., & Morris, A. K. (2009). Building a knowledge base for teacher education: An
experience in K8 mathematics teacher preparation. The Elementary School Journal,
109(5), 475490.
Industrial Toys. (2014). PBWorks. PBWorks. Retrieved June 1, 2014, from
Institutes on Academic Diversity. (2009). Differentiation Central. Differentiation Central.
Retrieved June 25, 2014, from
James, N., & Busher, H. (2009). Online Interviewing. London: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Retrieved from
Koch, M., & Suurtamm, C. (2012). Teachers working collaboratively to further develop their
assessment practices in mathematics: Turning rubrics into non-rubrics. In Proceedings of
the 12th International Congress on Mathematical Education, Topic Group 33 (pp. 6641
6650). Seoul, South Korea.
Ladon-Billings, G. (2014). Culturally responsive teaching 2.0: a.k.a. the remix. Harvard
Educational Review, 84(1).
Linden Research, Inc. (2014). Second Life. San Francisco: Linden Research, Inc. Retrieved from
Loughran, J. (2006). Developing a pedagogy of teacher education: Understanding teaching and
learning about teaching. New York: Routledge.
Loughran, J., & Northfield, J. (1998). A framework for the development of self-study practice. In
M. L. Hamilton (Ed.), Reconceptualizing teaching practice: Developing competence
through self-study (pp. 820). Bristol, PA: Taylor and Francis.
Ma, J., & Singer-Gabella, M. (2011). Learning to teach in the figured world of reform
mathematics: Negotiating new models of identity. Journal of Teacher Education, 62(8),
Merlien Institute. (2014). A quick review of mobile apps for qualitative research. Market
Research in the Mobile World. Retrieved July 3, 2014, from
Mobile Market Research. (2014). MyInsights. Amsterdam: Mobile Market Research. Retrieved
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, & Council of Chief State School
Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. Washington, DC:
National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School
OConnor, H., & Madge, C. (2003). Focus groups in cyberspace: Using the internet for
qualitative research. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 6(2), 133
Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T., Glazewski, K. D., Newby, T. J., & Ertmer, P. A. (2010). Teacher
value beliefs associated with using technology: Addressing professional and student
needs. Computers & Education, 55(3), 13211335.
Pajares, M. F. (1992). Teachers beliefs and educational research: Cleaning up a messy construct.
Review of Educational Research, 62(3), 307332.
PenPal World, Inc. (1998). PenPal World. PenPal World. Retrieved from
Penzu Inc. (2014). Retrieved from
Philipp, R. A. (2007). Mathematics teachers beliefs and affect. In F. Lester (Ed.), Second
handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 257315). Reston, VA:
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Robinson, K. M. (2001). Unsolicited narratives from the Internet: A rich source of qualitative
data. Qualitative Health Research, 11(5), 706714.
Russell, T., & Loughran, J. (2008). Self-study in the context of preservice teacher education
programs. Studying Teacher Education, 4(2), 9394.
Salmons, J. (2010). Online Interviews in Real Time. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications,
Shields, C. (2003). Giving Voice to students: Using the internet for data collection. Qualitative
Research, 3(3), 397414.
Southern Poverty Law Center. (2014). Classroom Resources. Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved
Sowder, J. T. (2007). The mathematical education and development of teachers. In F. Lester
(Ed.), Second handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning. Reston, VA:
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
Stigler, J., & Hiebert, J. (1999). The Teaching Gap. New York: Free Press.
Susan**. (2014, May 19). Instructional Technology.
Takats, S., Stillman, D., Kornblith, S., & Cheslack-Postava, F. (2014). Zotero. Fairfax Virginia:
Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Retrieved from
Teacher Tube. (2014). TeacherTube. Teacher Tube. Retrieved from
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
William, D. (2007). Keeping learning on track: Classroom assessment and the regulation of
learning. In F. Lester (Ed.), Second handbook of research on mathematics teaching and
learning (pp. 10531098). Reston, VA: Information Age Publishing.
YouTube, LLC. (2014). YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved from