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Preservice Teachers Technology Competencies To Enhancing Effective Instruction

INTRODUCTION

The integration of computer technology into instruction and its effect on student learning is of increasing
interest to stakeholders such as policymakers, administrators, educators, students, and parents. Today, a major
part of most school budgets are directed towards technology funding and implementation (Oppenheimer, 2003;
Semich & Runyon, 2002). Further, as part of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, every student is required to be
technologically literate by completion of middle school. To provide for the needs of the Net Generation learners
(Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005) and to enhance effective instruction with technology, a National Educational
Technology Plan was established in 2004.

When used appropriately, technology applications support the development of students' high-order thinking and
problem-solving skills and help improve their attitudes toward and performance in their subjects (Wenglisky,
2006). As a result, ensuring technology competencies for teachers is critical to the success of the national
technology plan. Semich and Runyon (2002) argue that, "It is becoming increasingly important for teachers to
understand when and how to use technology to aid students' learning in classrooms and to understand and apply
the concepts and information for various content areas" (p. 1433). Further, teachers should be given appropriate
training that will allow them to become technology-proficient instructors (Smith, Smith, & O'Brien, 2002).

Teacher preparation programs have responded favorably to the national technology plan by integrating basic
educational technology training in teacher education curricula. Preservice teachers are now required to enroll in
instructional technology courses in partial fulfillment of graduation requirements. The primary objective of such
technology classes is to introduce students to a wide range of basic computer concepts and skills mostly in the
use of the Internet and the World Wide Web, Productivity Software, Presentation Software, and Multimedia and
Educational Software.

Majority of students in colleges and universities across the U.S. are competent in basic computer technology
applications (Keengwe & Anywanu, 2007). Not only are these students experts in word processing, emailing,
and Power Point production, but often these students are also ahead of the educational curve in the use of
technology tools such as ipods, wikis, blogs, and other applications which may have significant educational
value (Bitter & Legacy, 2006; Dralle, 2007; Hoffner, 2007). Even so, other studies (Duhaney, 2000; Weisner &
Salkeld, 2004) indicate that preservice teachers do not feel adequately prepared to integrate technology into
their teaching. This instructional crisis might be attributed to instructors who do not promote technology use in
a way that keeps up with the advances in how students are using technology (Project Tomorrow-NetDay, 2006).

Purpose of Study

National technology standards and guidelines were created by the National Council for Accreditation of
Teacher Education (NCATE) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) to ensure
adequate training of preservice teachers in instructional technology to enhance student learning. Being
technologically literate, that is being "capable of understanding--with increasing sophistication --what
technology is, how it is created, how it shapes society, and in turn is shaped by society" (NCATE/ITEA/CTTE
Program Standards, 2003, p. 1) is no longer considered a viable option for preservice teachers.

ISTE recommends that teacher education programs provide diverse opportunities for teacher candidates to
prepare them meet technology performance standards. However despite efforts by administrators and teachers
to prepare quality teachers who can teach well with technology, results from previous research indicate that
most preservice teachers do not meet the set technology standards and many do not even consider themselves
competent enough to teach with technology (O'Bannon and Puckett, 2007; National Center for Education
Statistics, 2000; Whetstone & Carr-Chellman, 2001). Educators and administrators are, therefore, charged with
the responsibility of ensuring that, by the end of their program of study, all preservice teachers have the
necessary skills to successfully incorporate technology into their instruction.

Bielefeldt (2001) and Brush et al. (2003) argue that although technology use has increased during the past
decade, educators are still failing at keeping abreast of teachers' technology literacy. Further, although the
advantages of technology use have been clearly documented (Keengwe, Onchwari, & Wachira, 2008), these
advantages would not be fully realized if teachers are not trained to use technology effectively. Therefore to
keep abreast of the technology standards, most teacher education programs have responded by offering
educational technology courses as part of their teacher education curricula.

As colleges of education strive to integrate technology into teacher preparation programs, there is need to
examine these technology programs and to determine whether they are having the necessary impact on students'
perceived technology competencies, especially for the Net Generation students. Therefore, the purpose of the
study was to evaluate preservice teachers' self-assessed technology competency to determine whether preservice
teachers perceived that their technology class enabled them to meet ISTE's required standards.
Research Questions

The following research questions were investigated in the study:

a. Do the educational technology classes that preservice teachers enroll in offer technology skills over and
above what students already know?

b. Do preservice teachers perceive that their technology competencies improve after enrollment in educational
technology classes required by their colleges?

c. Are the technology modules covered in the classes appropriate and adequate to ensure that preservice
teachers meet the necessary standards promulgated by ISTE?

Methodology

Setting and Participants

The study was conducted at a small private, four-year co-educational liberal arts college located in the
Midwestern region of the United States. The college consisted of 650 students who were either residential
students or local commuters.

The subjects of the study were 10 teacher candidates enrolled in the computer technology course offered as part
of the teacher preparation curriculum. These candidates ranged from ages 20 to 25. All the preservice teachers
were white. Seven were females and three were males.

Research Design and Data Collection

The study employed a pre-test post-test research design. Data sources used in this study comprised of a 5-point
Likert scale (1=Not knowledgeable to 5= Expert) class survey administered to the students before and after the
course, focus group discussions, observations, and student portfolios.

The Technology Course: ED410-Technology Integration into the Educational Curriculum

This course is designed for preservice teachers to integrate instructional technology into the educational
curriculum. A major objective for the class was that, by the end of the course period, preservice teachers should
be able to show evidence of meeting the ISTE National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers
(NETS-T) at both the General Preparation level and the K-12 level.

Before enrolling in ED 410-Technology Integration into Educational Curriculum, students were expected to be
already conversant with basic technology skills. The teacher education program required that students
accurately and honorably complete a Computer Operations Competency Checklist designed according to
NETS-T. Included in the checklist were a number of courses that student could complete to satisfy the
requirement. As evidence of meeting the pre-requisite skills, students needed to obtain an approved signature
from an instructor of the course in which the competency was demonstrated, a faculty advisor, work program
manager or a student worker in the computer lab who had been trained in various competencies and had
witnessed the competencies performed. Students were also provided with self-paced modules that provided
additional opportunities to meet the prerequisite for ED410.

Once the students met the prerequisite for the course, they were allowed enrollment. The course activities for
ED 410-Technology Integration into Educational Curriculum were designed and implemented with reference to
NETS-T. The instructional strategies for ED 410 were based on the constructivist philosophy of learning that
requires individuals to construct knowledge or give meaning to a situation based on their experiences. The
following proceedings describe the course topics, instructional strategies, and the extent to which the course met
NETS-T.

Electronic Portfolio and "Integrating Technology into Education Curriculum"

It is essential for preservice teachers to become conversant with the NETS-T early in the course. To facilitate
effective instruction, three instructional methods were used--presentations, discussions, and videos--that
demonstrate how K-12 teachers might integrate technology into their lessons in various content areas and grade
levels. To reinforce understanding, self assessment and attainment of the standards, the instructor provided
students with an Electronic Portfolio template based on the standards.

Upon completion of each assignment, students were required to read the performance indicators, identify the
standard(s) attained, write a reflection on how the assignment(s) meet that particular standard(s), create a
hyperlink to the assignment as artifact and write about future learning goals. Grading rubrics were designed
based on the performance indicators.
Integrating the Internet into the Curriculum

With reference to students' prior knowledge about the Internet, the instructional activities concentrated on:

i. How to evaluate a website using a web evaluation and

ii. Conducting internet searches with Directories and Search Engines and refining searches using Boolean Logic
(AND, OR and NOT).

iii. Planning and presenting a lesson that integrated the Internet.

Topics covered included: Copyright and Internet Use, Plagiarism and the Internet, Equitable Access to
Technology, Internet Etiquette (Netiquette), Student privacy, and Accuracy of Internet information. It was
anticipated that these activities could support the students to master NETS-T standards 2, 5 and 6.

Integration of Multimedia and Hypermedia into Teaching and Learning

Three areas were covered: (a) Multimedia/ hypermedia Software Packages; (b) Multimedia authoring tools; and
(c) Web Authoring Tools.

a. Multimedia/hypermedia software packages: Multimedia is a combination of more than one type of media and
media functions such as text, graphics, animations, audio and video to communicate a message. It was expected
that teachers could be able to integrate multimedia resources such as instructional software, interactive books,
ebooks, reference materials, and collections of developmental resources in their curriculum (Roblyer, 2006).
The instructional activities comprised of a presentation on introduction to PK-12 educational software. Students
were put into various groups based on their content areas and were asked to evaluate specific instructional
software. A software evaluation rubric was provided. Students were also required to install and uninstall the
software.

b. Multimedia authoring tools: Presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint is widely available and used in
education. Using information gathered on Integrating Technology Across the Curriculum from the course
textbook, Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching(4th ed.) by Roblyer (2006), student were required
to use PowerPoint to present topics relevant to their content area. Another program for multimedia presentation
was Windows Movie Maker. The learning activity required students to create a 2-minute movie that could be
used to teach a lesson in their content area. To assist with this project, the preservice teachers were introduced
to the use of SnagIt for screen capture, flatbed scanner, digital cameras and digital video cameras.

c. Web authoring tools: Using Microsoft Publisher, students were instructed and guided to create personal
webpages, educational websites to be used in their classes, or websites that inform their teaching profession.
The students were permitted to sit together in class according to their content areas to facilitate collaboration. It
was anticipated these activities students would help them to master NETS-T Standards 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6.

Integrating Productivity Software into Teaching and Learning

The activities under this area were aligned with NETS-T Standard 2, 3, 4 and 5. Different categories of
productivity software were explored that included:

a. Word processing: Students were introduced to a variety of ways by which the word processor could be
integrated into teaching and student learning in the different content areas. These included activities such as
journal-keeping, producing class newspapers, creating professional documents, using WordArt to design
posters, using the Word Web Wizard to create a website, creating forms, creative writing, preparing graphs and
charts, using the drawing tools to create basic shapes, writing and conducting surveys, quizzes and tests, writing
story problems using the Microsoft Equation Editor, etc.

b. Microsoft publisher: The learning activity required students to use Microsoft Publisher to create a school
flyer to be used for a field trip, display information such as emergency numbers, permission signatures, etc.

c. Database: Using the GradeQuick Software, students were instructed to create end of Semester Grades and
Attendance Report.

d. Excel: Students were instructed to use data provided to create a spreadsheet and then determine descriptive
statistics such as the mean, mode, and median, and draw graphs and charts. Another activity required students to
develop a lesson plan that incorporated spreadsheets into the curriculum for math, science, social studies,
language arts or other content areas.

The final project required students to submit an Electronic Portfolio demonstrating the attainment of the NETS-
T. The Portfolio process involved completing the NETS-T template by reflecting on how projects met the
required standards, creating a hyperlink to the projects and discussing future learning goals. Students were also
required to burn all projects on a CD and submit the finished product to the instructor.

Data Analysis

A paired t-test was applied to the class survey data to determine whether significant differences occurred in
students' perceived technology competencies before and after the technology class and whether their acquired
competencies ensured mastery of national technology standards set by ISTE. Data gathered from the focus
group discussions, observations, and students portfolios were analyzed qualitatively.

RESULTS

The Cronbach alpha coefficient for the pre- and post-tests were 0.91 and 0.95, respectively. The results of the
paired t-test results indicated that the overall post-test mean score (M=75.2, SD=8.69) was significantly greater
than the overall pre-test mean score (M=54.3, SD=8.71), t (14) =6.878, p<0.001. The statistically significant
results suggested an improvement in students' technological expertise and students' perception of attainment of
NETS-T. The standardized effect size index, d, was 0.84, which represents a large value. Figure 1 shows pre-
and post-test mean scores on the individual survey items.

Further comparison of the differences in pre- and post-test scores on the individual survey items also showed
changes in student perception of their mastery of each standard. For example, a measure of students' perceived
attainment of Standard 1 (teachers demonstrate a sound understanding of technology operations and concepts)
indicated a change in pre-test and post-test scores from 3.50 to 4.20, respectively. The improvement could be
attributed to students fully completing the checklist to learn the basic skills and concepts as a prerequisite to
ED410 and an opportunity to focus on more advanced tools during the course.

In response to using the Internet to collect and evaluate information, the mean score changed from 3.5 on the
pre-test to 4.5 on the post-test indicating that students acquired simple and efficient strategies for conducting
internet searches. Pre- and post test scores on understanding technology issues also improved from 3.3 to 4.1.
Again, a noticeable change was observed for students using content specific tools for learning and research; the
pre-test mean score was 2.8 and the post-test mean was 4.2. An examination of students' final electronic
portfolios confirmed that the preservice teachers had indeed attained the NETS-T standards, especially
standards 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6.

Although there was a significant difference in students' perception of attainment of the NETS-T, results from
the study noted that students were still lacking in one area even after the course. Majority of the students had
problems installing and uninstalling a program. Instructors of educational technology courses must allow
preservice teachers the opportunity to practice such simple skills to discourage dependency on Instructional
Technology staff.

The study also noted that the students enrolled were more comfortable and confident during class implying that
it was better to offer technology courses to students after their completion of all methods courses applicable to
their certification was mandated. By their senior year, preservice teachers would have acquired adequate content
knowledge, pedagogical skills, technology experiences and professional dispositions to creatively think about
ways to integrate technology into their content areas. Also, once they were accepted into the teacher education
program, it appeared that students were more committed to learning and were more focused.

Observations made during the course were that students seemed to work better when they had the opportunity to
collaboratively work on class projects. This fact is confirmed by Santrock (2008) and Swan, et. al. (2006).
Encouraging students to work in groups based on their content areas broadened understanding of the task. This
teaching principle was especially useful when students worked on QuickTime movies. The study also noted that
allowing students to make personal choices on contents for the websites provided a sense of personal
ownership. In addition, showing outstanding samples and providing grading rubrics challenged students to work
beyond expectations.

In response to the task of creating a website, most students initially perceived this as complex; the study noted
that selecting simple tools and then challenging students to debunk their naive conceptions and misconceptions
about technology was essential. Microsoft Publisher provided excellent webpage templates and easy to create
navigation buttons. Students were also provided with opportunities to learn from each other by requesting that
students show their project for feedback and final grading.

Slavin (2006) describes Word Processor as a computer application for writing compositions that can be easily
revised and edited and by far the most common application of technology in K-12 classrooms. It is not
surprising that word processor is mostly used by teachers. The researchers noted that students' initial perception
of Microsoft Word was just to write term papers. Student marveled at the different ways that Microsoft Word
could be integrated into their instruction. One student said that "I have really learned a lot like using the basic
programs, like word, using borders and shading and more ways to use word.

The focused group interview affirmed that students were competent and ready to integrate technology into their
lessons. One student said, "Excel with graphs and the QuickTime movie was fun. GradeQuick was also a
valuable exercise; I can now put students' grades into a computer and easy and quick, just make the teaching
experience easy."

According to another student, the course covered a lot of skills and programs. The student stated:

I didn't know how to use SnagIt, Kidspiration, make a webpage and this become easier dealing with parents,
like here are my class rules, and for some reasons if they cannot get hold of you, the parents can go to the
Internet and look at your website.

When asked how many technology courses students should take in order to meet NETS-T, one student
suggested that "one class should be enough to prepare preservice teachers to use technology if the focus is on
"how to integrate the technology in our classrooms instead of how to use the technology." One student stated
that in addition to technology integration, the preservice teacher should have some basic knowledge in "how to
trouble shoot stuff, like on my computer if something goes wrong how I can fix this without running for help."

Majority of the students strongly agreed that trouble shooting should be part of technology courses for teachers.
Hardware trouble shooting like connecting the computer to the projector and other accessories was also highly
recommended. Even though students' competencies changed by the end of the class, the students were still
concerned about how certain factors that were beyond their control could still affect their use of technology in
teaching and learning.

According to one student:

Even though we now know how to use technology, factors such as the school district not having enough money
for software and hardware, my lack of time to prepare, and scheduling computer lab hours in schools with one
computer lab could hinder our efforts to use technology in teaching.

Motivating factors to use technology listed by students included access to hardware and software, incentives,
appreciation, motivation, and excitement. Students also suggested that instructors model the use of technology
in their courses to encourage them to use technology too. Modeling technology use and integration is a powerful
way to get students to use technology in their future classrooms.

CONCLUSION

In summary, preservice teachers should be provided with the opportunities to use technology during their entire
course of study to become more proficient. Instructors must be able to use good teaching and learning strategies
to motivate students to learn and achieve course objectives. Instructors should also be able to effectively
demonstrate how to effectively integrate technology, model appropriate use and provide guidance (Santrock,
2008).

The study confirmed that current students have adequate knowledge and technological experiences and
therefore technology courses for preservice teachers should focus on "how to" integrate technology and less on
"teaching technology" so that they can acquire considerable knowledge about current technology applications in
their content areas (Roblyer, 2006). It is recommended that as part of their training, preservice teachers should
enroll in technology courses after completing their methods courses and after their acceptance into the teacher
education program. This ensures that students have adequate content knowledge to focus on how technology
could be used in their content areas.

Implementing successful technology practices requires instructors who posses the required technology
competencies. Further, these instructors need to model appropriate technology integration practices that include
planning, designing and experimenting with sound learning environments and experiences supported by
technology, and implementing curriculum technology integration plans and strategies to maximize student
learning.