English/Language Arts Education

Enhancing Parent-Teacher Communication Using Technology: A Reading Improvement Clinic Example

by Donna Merkley, Denise Schmidt, Carrie Dirksen & Carol Fuhler
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Effective communication between homes and schools can be essential in helping students experience success in the classroom. Unfortunately, the topic of establishing mechanisms for meaningful parent-teacher communication is often slighted during the preparation of teachers. New teachers entering classrooms need the opportunity to interact and communicate with parents during their preparation program. This article examines how one reading tutor used technology to communicate with parents about their child’s literacy growth while the child was enrolled in a university-based tutoring program called the Reading Improvement Clinic. Specific examples illustrate how this technology-based approach enhanced the communication process with parents while sharing tutoring information, student progress reports, and tutoring artifacts. Several advantages of using such an approach include easy access to student materials and assessments, timely postings of the child’s work and tutor comments, and a secure environment for sharing confidential documents.

Expanding the Conversation: A Commentary Toward Revision of Swenson, Rozema, Young, McGrail, and Whitin

by Troy Hicks
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As a commentary aimed toward revision of “Beliefs About Technology and the Preparation of English Teachers: Beginning the Conversation” (Swenson, Rozema, Young, McGrail, & Whitin, 2005), this paper encourages the authors to focus on the multiliteracies that technologies enable as a guiding theme rather than on technologies themselves. It also contends that revisions could be more congruent with current trends in K-12 literacy instruction, namely addressing how multiliteracies and design-based learning can connect with standards and assessment. In so doing, it suggests that the revision of this belief statement can expand the conversation from one primarily about technologies to one that focuses on the changing nature of literacy as well as the larger and long-term implications of this shift for English education.

Literacy Practices and Digital Literacies: A Commentary on Swenson, Rozema, Young, McGrail, and Whitin

by Jamie Myers
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The integration of digital tools and multimodal representations in the English classroom has the greatest potential when we define literacy as multiple socially constructed practices. If digital literacies are defined as autonomous tools and isolated symbolic systems, reduced to a set of skills and forms for students to reproduce, then school literacy practices will become further distanced from nonschool literacy practices. Instead, English teachers should engage school literacies in which digital and nondigital tools help students inquire into how multimodal symbols are used to construct and negotiate community identities, relationships, activities, and values. Digital literacies may be especially supportive of such critical inquiry practices.

Mathematics Education

The Effects of Mentor-Supported Technology Professional Development on Middle School Mathematics Teachers’ Attitudes and Practice

by Bonnie Swan & Juli Dixon
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This study investigated the influence of a mentor-supported model of technology training on mathematics teachers’ attitudes and use of technology in the classroom. The treatment included six training sessions, informal focus groups, and mentor-provided support.

The results indicated that mathematics teachers participating in mentor-supported professional development increased the amount and level of technology use in their practice. Teachers had a desire to learn about technology and understood it was important. Levels of accommodation, interest, comfort and confidence related to the use of technology improved. Teachers continued to be concerned with barriers such as lack of release time for training, planning and collaboration, and a need for ongoing support. It was also found that when teachers perceived there was not enough time for training or a lack of technological resources they did not make an effort to become technologically proficient.

Recommendations include providing teachers additional support when implementing new strategies and allowing more release time for training, planning, and collaboration. Recommendations for future research include investigating further the effectiveness of peer teachers and mentor teachers as trainers; ways to best change teachers’ perceptions and attitudes about technology; and ways teachers best learn to integrate technology into practice.

Science Education

Preparing Preservice Elementary Teachers to Teach Science Through Computer Models

by Nicos Valanides & Charoula Angeli
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The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which preservice elementary teachers were able to construct viable scientific models with a computer-modeling tool, namely Model-It, and design a science lesson with models. The results of the study showed that (a) Model-It, through its scaffolds (i.e., Plan, Build, and Test modes), enabled the majority of preservice teachers to build models that were structurally correct, (b) participants’ models were structurally correct but simplistic, and (c) 65% of the participants preferred to teach science using the explorative modeling method, 27% the expressive method, and only 8% both the explorative and the expressive methods. In essence, Model-It effectively scaffolded preservice teachers’ first modeling experiences and enabled them to quickly build and test their models. It is, however, recognized that systematic efforts need to be undertaken in teacher education departments to adequately prepare prospective teachers to teach science through computer models.

Social Studies Education

Technology and the Prospective Teacher: Exploring the Use of the TI-83 Handheld Devices in Social Studies Education

by Alicia Crowe & Mark van 't Hooft
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Using technology to enhance student learning in social studies has become an important area for discussion and study within the field of social studies education. Handheld devices are one of the recently emerging technologies. This article describes an initial study of the TI-83 handheld device in the education of preservice social studies teachers. In particular, this study examined data collected from one group of preservice teachers to determine how they viewed the TI-83 handheld device and how they used the handheld technology in their social studies teaching. Data was collected from surveys, interviews, lesson ideas, and observations. Some findings suggested that the design of the tool and the programs for it played a strong role in the preservice teachers’ views of and uses of the tool in lessons.


The Design of an Online Community of Practice for Beginning Teachers

by Anthony Herrington, Jan Herrington, Lisa Kervin & Brian Ferry
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Beginning teachers face enormous challenges in their first year of teaching. High attrition rates of teachers within the first five years attest to the difficulties inherent in commencing professional life as a teacher. This paper describes the design of a Web site developed to overcome many of the problems of professional isolation encountered by beginning teachers. The Web site allows new teachers to access curriculum resources that are dynamically updated through RSS feeds, to communicate with each other and expert teacher mentors through discussion boards, and to reflect on practice through weblogs. The paper describes the theoretical foundations of the approach, the features of the site in detail, and the plan for evaluation of the site.

Commentary: Expanding Notions of Acceptable Research Evidence in Educational Technology: A Response to Schrum et al.

by Kara Dawson & Richard E. Ferdig
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“Developing Acceptable Evidence in Educational Technology Research” (Schrum et al., 2005) and its precursor editorial, “A Proactive Approach to a Research Agenda for Educational Technology” (Bull, Knezek, Roblyer, Schrum, & Thompson, 2005), are unprecedented collaborative efforts by journal editors to influence research in our field. This response aims to highlight the inherent complexity within each of the four main issues addressed by Schrum et. al. and to expand the conversation. We appreciate both the editors’ efforts to be proactive with the problems and solutions as well as their open invitation to comment on their ideas for advancing the field. We look forward to continued dialogue.

Current Practice

Will Tomorrow’s Physical Educators Be Prepared to Teach in the Digital Age?

by Guoli Liang, Richard T. Walls, Virginia L. Hicks, L. Brenda Clayton & Lei Yang
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This study was conducted to determine how preservice physical educators feel about their level of competence to integrate technology effectively in their professional careers. Billions of dollars have been invested in curriculum and instruction reform and preparing tomorrow’s technology-proficient educators. Few grants or projects, however, have focused on helping physical education teacher education programs and K-12 physical education programs in preparing technology-proficient physical educators. International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) instruments were used for self-assessments on (a) basic computer skill levels and (b) integrating technology into their learning, research, and future teaching. By far, the greatest proportion of each of the three groups of preservice teachers (general preparation, pre-student-teaching/internship, and post-student-teaching/internship) rated their level of competence to be minimal. The findings of the present research demonstrated that preservice physical educators have not been well prepared to be technology proficient in order to teach in this digital age.