Friday, October 17, 2008

CESTL paper-Integrating Technology in the Classroom

Integrating Technology in the Classroom

By Vanessa Rangel
EDCI 6304 Learning & Cognition
School of Education
nUniversity of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College

We are living in a digital era today. Whether we are at home, school, or work, we are surrounded by technology day in and day out. Technology tools have been identified as inseparable part of good teaching (Pierson, 2001). During the 1990’s, schools began to spend more money on technology than capital goods with a rapid growth of available types of technology tools in schools (Staples, Dugch & Himes, 2005). However, although billions of dollars have been spent on the enhancement of teaching and learning through the purchase of various technology tools for teachers and students, technology’s impact on teaching and learnging has been minimal (Sandholtz & Reilly, 2004) and technology integration in the classroom is not growing in the field of education.

Why does technology have minimal effect on education? This question has been explored by various researchers. Some say that teachers lack the preparedness to integrate technology in the curriculum. Insufficient preparedness to integrate technology in the classroom is caused by the lack of technical and professional developmental support provided by the schools. Staples, Pugach, and Himes (2005) state that teachers lack technical support on how to use the technology tools. Therefore, mechanical functioning and maintenance of (technological) equipment was a major barrier of teacher preparedness. Most importantly, the lack of preparedness of integrating technology into education is most affected by a lack of professional developmental support. The U.S. Office of Technology Assessment found schools use no more than 15% and as low as 3% of its technology budget towards profession development, even though it is suggested that professional development of technology integration should be close to 30%. Even though, some professional developmental support is available to teachers, time spent on professional development is not being utilized to its full potential (Staples, Pugach, & Himes, 2005). Research shows that “(Professional developmental) training emphasizes computer literacy, with a focus on fundamental computer operation and standard application rather than preparation on how to use technology as a teaching tool” (Sandholtz & Reilly, 2004). With more available technological and professional developmental support by experts, teachers could learn how to use and apply technology into the enhancement of their own teaching and the learning of all students.

However, contradicting research shows that teachers do receive adequate training in the integration of technology. For example, Pierson (2001) found that teachers received school and district-level support for technology use with sufficient staff development opportunity.
Teacher attitudes and beliefs on the application of technology into teaching is identified as another factor in determining the effect of technology integration in education. A belief is defined by Levin and Wadmany (2006) as “a person’s subjective probability that he or she will perform the behavior in question.” A teacher can have the technology skills and ideas to implement technology in education and still may or may not use technology to integrate in the classroom. Teacher unsupportive attitudes and beliefs towards the integration of technology are one of the causes of its superficial impact on education. Sandholtz and Reilly (2004) state that even teachers with well-developed plans for integrating technology in instruction often abandon or reduce these plans of technology integration. Teachers’ beliefs also vary on how strongly they view technology as a necessary tool in the development of learning. According to Li (2007), teachers feared that using technology would harm students’ understanding, be overly dependent on technology, and not be effective as an instructional tool.

Much emphasis on technology in education continues to be a pressing issue for good reason. Not only is integration of technology in education demanded by the state of Texas, but also fosters positive skills for learning. Texas Education Agency (2007) states that integration in instruction expands ways of learning, divergent thinking, problem solving methods, creativity, communication skills, and collaboration among students. Technology integration supports constructivist classroom practices that are most beneficial to student-centered learning, and students are more responsible and independent in their individual learning. Student-centered learning is defined as a facilitation of learning rather than the transmission of knowledge (Levin & Wadmany, 2006). A student centered approach, according to Matzen & Edmunds (2007), ‘“emphasizes the development of higher-order reasoning and problem-solving skills."’ Matzen & Edmunds (2007) further argue that technology is a catalyst for the changes in the content, roles, and organizational climate to shift from traditional to constructivist instructional practices. Learner cconstructivism is defined as “ student-oriented with student participation in the learning process” (Levin & Wadmany, 2006). In essence, these theoretical views mean that learning and teaching is designed solely around all students in a classroom. Therefore, integration of technology is ideal and beneficial for students and teachers alike.

Definition of Technology Integration

According to the Texas star chart by TEA (2006), technology is defined as tools that include: computer workstations, projectors, white boards, wireless computers, digital projectors, video cameras, etc. Texas star chart is both a guide for planning and survey for self assessment of technology integration says that “designed to help teachers, campuses, and districts determine their progress toward meeting the goals of the Long-Range Plan for Technology” (Texas Education Agency [TEA], 2006).

The Texas star chart under the Texas Education Agency (TEA) defines technology integration as (2006) as the “use of technology by students and teachers to enhance teaching and learning and to support curricular activities.” According to Pierson (2001, page number), “a teacher who effectively integrates technology would be able to draw on extensive content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge, in combination with technological knowledge” This definition means that for true technology intergration in the classroom, a teacher should have 1) a strong foundation of content (subjects/disciplines) as well as 2) pedagogy knowledge (knowledge about learners, learning styles, and curriculum) with the support of technology knowledge (technology skills and types of tools for application to teaching and learning process). This definition on technology integration will be used to measure the effectiveness of technology integration in the classroom in this study.

Purpose of the Present Study

The purpose of my study was three-fold: 1) to understand teachers’ attitudes and beliefs of technology integration in education.; 2) to examine how integration of technology is taking place in the classroom; and 3) to discover how integration of technology is practiced in today’s classrooms


I have chosen to conduct a qualitative research approach. Although I intend to answer if teachers are using technology, my primary focus is to discover how teachers are integrating technology in instruction. Qualitative method of investigation will allow me to understand technology integration’s role in the daily interactions of teacher and students in their natural school environment.

Research Questions
For my research study, I investigated the following research questions:

1. Are teachers integrating technology in their classroom instruction?
2. How are teachers integrating technology in their classroom instruction?
3. What are teacher and student views/beliefs on technology integration?


The research site of my research took place in a Valley High Elementary bilingual school. The criteria for choosing a school had to at least one technology tool provided in each classroom. However, Valley High elementary school had at least four technology tools present within each classroom. Every class had at least three desktop computers and/or an overhead projector, digital Elmo projector, whiteboard, or television set.


Participants in my study were randomly chosen. Mrs. Luke, the facilitator of the Valley High Elementary school, placed me in different classrooms to observe teacher and student interaction. I had no control on what classes to observe prior to my observations, and I did not know which teacher and students I would observe until Mrs. Luke told me. However, I only requested to observe bilingual students and teachers. Grades observed ranged from pre-kinder through fourth grade. Although all classes observed had verbal communication between student and teachers in Spanish and English language, some classes observed strictly used either Spanish or English language. (You can provide a little more information about the participants here, such how big each class is, how many students, their age, gender, ethnicity…)

Data Collection

The type of data was collected through natural classroom observation. I observed the class activities, presence or absence of technology integration, as well execution of integration. In addition to classroom observation, I also conducted interviews with teachers and students. I interviewed a first grade teacher language arts teacher and a third grade bilingual student to understand their perspectives of technology and their attitudes of integration of technology in the classroom.

Data Analysis

To analyze class observations, I measured my findings with both definitions of technology integration. For example, when analyzing the data, I asked myself these questions: Was technology integrated to enhance learning and teaching to support activities in the classroom? Was the content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge integrated into technology? I also calculated the frequency of the integration of technology occurred within these classroom observations.

For the teacher and student interview I evaluated a teacher’s beliefs interpretation of what they believe technology integration is. I also evaluated the student’s responses of how he has seen technology used in the classroom, how he defines technology, and how he values technology.

The analysis of my data suggested that most teachers are not integrating technology in the classroom. To maximize the number of observations I completed, I observed at random times to best capture any interaction between student and teacher in the integration of technology. I observed during the earlier part of the school day because students in the afternoon have special programs, such as, music, computer time, or physical education (P.E.). However, the one hour of observations in the library formed part of my analysis and did showed how true integration of technology could be applied to a regular classroom. The time I spent in various classrooms varied, due to the fact that students had to go to lunch or any special programs (library, music, art, and etc). The chart listed below summarized the observations I completed which shows the technology use and integration of technology in all the classes I observed.

Classes Observed
Time & Date
Technology Used
Integration with Teacher/
1st Grade
Story time at Library
30 mins.
Elmo, TV
1st Grade
Review of Call Numbers at Library
30 mins.
Smart Board, PowerPoint, Video Clip
3rd Grade
Lectura - Problema/ SoluciĆ³n
1hr., 15 mins.
Calendario y Abecedario
1hr., 15 mins.
Supplemental Group Instruction/ Art
30 mins.
3rd Grade
Math Story Problems/ Estimation
40 mins.
2nd Grade
Self Art Project
30 mins.
1st Grade
Calendar/ Bar Graph
55 mins.
1st Grade
Geometry/ Measurement
30 mins.
4th Grade
Math Story Problems
35 mins.
Naptime & Recess
20 mins.
3rd Grade
Multiplication Methods
15 mins.
2nd Grade
Identifying & Applying Verbs
25 mins.
Hrs. Observed
8hrs, 40 mins.
5 out of 13 observations
4 out of 13 observations

Integration has been limited – 4 out 13 classroom observations

Technology used, but not integrated in learning – 1 out 5 observations with technology
This research had two important findings. First, it clearly shows that technology integration in classroom instruction is very limited. Out of 13 observations, I only observed four classrooms that truly integrated technology. Out of the five classrooms that used technology, one classroom did not truly integrate technology while the other four truly did integrate technology. I will illustrate on this with more details by comparing and contrasting my second observation of a first grade classroom to my third observation of a third grade classroom.

In the observation of a first grade classroom, the librarian, Mr. Salazar portrayed content knowledge, pedagogy knowledge and technological knowledge. He presented a PowerPoint via whiteboard about the different types of call numbers, while maintaining a continuous dialogue with students during the presentation. Mr. Salazar was familiar with the location of fiction, nonfiction, and autobiography books. The librarian obviously has a strong knowledge of technology because he knows how to use the whiteboard, which he demonstrated to me how to connect it with a digital projector. He also has knowledge of the creation of PowerPoint with graphics, sounds, and pictures to illustrate the different categories of books found in the library. Mr. Salazar also demonstrated pedagogy knowledge because he adhered to different visuals, audio, and tactile learners. He used visuals in the PowerPoint to indicate the difference between nonfiction, fiction, easy fiction, and autobiography books. By showing how a book is labeled, a student could find a book in the library. For example, identifying a Beverly Cleary book can be found by looking at the spine of the book labeled with a letter “F” that stands for fiction. Under the letter f (fiction) were the first three initial letters of the author’s last name. Students were also asked to reinforce their knowledge by providing example of books they have found under each category. At the end of the presentations students had to choose a book that they could read for a week, and they knew where to go to find the book by physically walking to the different sections of the library to pick up a book. Students were active participants in class discussion where the media was a facilitator of learning. Students also practice their knowledge by executing what they learned and discussed in the library by using the information they learned to find a book. Mr. Salazar had all areas of content, pedagogy, and technology knowledge to engage students in learning and therefore effectively integrating technology. He used multi-sensory media and activities to address different learner styles, so his pedagogy knowledge was demonstrated. He had strong content knowledge of the material and sequencing of lesson. He had strong technology knowledge of its use and purpose in learning by enhancing student learning, so they understand content. He used technology as a tool that facilitated multi-learning styles.

In my third observation of a third grade class the entire lesson (e.g., the interaction, communication, and student work) was conducted in Spanish language. Mrs. Lopez asked the students to open their reading practice book to read and practice answering questions about the problem and solution to the problem. Initially, Mrs. Lopez used an Elmo project device to project the story onto the screen for students to follow along with her finger as she pointed to the words she was reading. Every now and then she would pause to ask a student, where does the story take place, who is the main character, or what is the main character’s problem? However, as the story continued, Mrs. Lopez walks away from the Elmo and monitors students’ reading by randomly selecting students to read and walking by their desks. Students seem to follow along better with the Elmo than without it because students frequently were not following along with the story and when asked to participate in the reading, more students were lost when Mrs. Lopez stopped guiding them with the Elmo. Students could have continued following along with the reading if Mrs. Lopez followed along with the reading while pointing to the text and using the Elmo. Technology was present, but not used as a tool of visual aide for the students to be able to follow along fluently with the reading. There was little engagement in learning because students were lost when answering questions or finding their place in their reading. Teacher knew what to ask and what the story material had to be discussed, but did not know how to adequately address her students, so that they are engaged in the reading. Overall, she has adequate content knowledge because she knew what she was teaching and the material involved, but lacked pedagogy and technology knowledge. She lacked pedagogy knowledge because she did not engage students in learning or addressed the students with difficulty in understanding the content. She lacked technology knowledge because she did not see how the tool kept students in pace with the reading and discussion, and how the engagement of the classroom changed when it was no longer used.

However, I also wanted to find out how teachers use technology and what opinions they have about technology. I conducted an interview with Mrs. Saenz, an elementary teacher that allowed me to get a better scope of how an elementary teacher would integrate technology and how she values technology integration in the classroom. Mrs. Saenz is a first grade language arts teacher at Longoria Elementary. As the above literature review mentions, this particular elementary teacher sees the important of technology integration

“Advantages [of integration] are that children see another approach of delivery of instruction and it facilitates the learning process. I can’t think of any disadvantages” (Teacher Interview, November 7, 2007).

However, Mrs. Saenz does not fully understand what technology integration means or how to accomplish technology integration.

“Usually, for science after we have our lesson I reinforce the lesson with a united streaming video that the students view on the computer. Also, at the computer lab they individually work on assignments that are on an online website on skills that they review that are correlated with what is being taught in the classroom” (Teacher Interview, November 7,2007)

“[Technology integration] is to use the computers and the Elmo/projector almost on a daily basis, and the other items as needed depending on the lesson being taught” (Teacher Interview, November 7, 2007).

According to Mrs. Saenz, technology integration in her classroom has been limited due to the lack of support in her teacher preparation program and school. At the same time she feels that she has not had enough training to be able to apply and practice technology integration in a classroom.

“[My ability to integrating technology in the classroom is] somewhat [limited], because we sometimes get trainings in our school or provided by the district, but I feel there is not enough time to practice what they train us on and I feel that before you feel comfortable enough to use it in the classroom you need time to practice” (Teacher Interview, November 7, 2007).

My other interviewee was conducted with a third grade bilingual student, Andrew, at the same school as Mrs. Saenz. I found that the student views technology solely as computer use, but values technology as an asset to education.

“Yes, because [computers] are important to learn more from. It’s smarter than people and it has more information than people. I think I will use it when I grow up. You can learn people’s thoughts because they put them in the computer” (Student Interview, November 15, 2007).

To also understand how the student views the use of technology in the classroom, his response suggests that integration of technology is limited. According to Andrew technology does not occur during the frame of teaching. His teachers do not use technology when teaching a lesson, which supports my previous definition by the Texas Star Chart (2006) which states“[the] use of technology by students and teachers to enhance teaching and learning and to support curricular activities.”

“I use computers in reading and in math class by myself.” “My teacher uses technology a lot, but by herself” (Student Interview, November 15, 2007).

Rather than engaging Andrew as a student with the technology skills his teachers possess, they do not incorporate technology as a tool during teaching and learning. It is used as a drill practice of skills already learned and only reinforced over and over.

In conclusion, my research found that integration was limited based on the classroom observations I conducted. Although, the school has high availability of technology tools, technology could have been integrated in some lessons I observed, but was not accommodated into lessons. Through my teacher interview I found that Mrs. Saenz is unaware of what technology integration really is or knows how to accomplish the task by integrating technology into classroom instruction.

Limitations and Directions for Future Research

Although my findings show that integration is significantly limited in the classroom, my sample observations were conducted with a small number of participants. I did not observe other various schools to determine if technology is or is not limited in elementary schools. My findings are also limited to a school that has high availability of technology, whereas other schools might not have the availability of technology in order to observe how integration can take place.

For future research, more classroom observations should be conducted, researched, and analyze in order to fully understand how technology is integrated in education. This research also shows that technology integration should be redefined, so that the role of the student and teacher is better understood within environment of a technologically integrated classroom. Furthermore, technology integration should be redefined to encompass student engagement and interaction within that environment as well.


Clausen, Jon M. (2007). Beginning Teacher’s Technology Use: First-Year Teacher
Development and the Institutional Context’s Affect on New Teachers’ Instructional Technology Use with Students. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 39 (3), 245-261.

Levin, Tamar & Wadmany, Rivka (2006-2007). Teacher’s Beliefs and Practices in Technology-
based Classrooms: A Developmental View. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 39 (2), 157-181.

Li, Qing (2007). Student and Teacher Views about Technology: A Tale of Two Cities? Journal
of Research on Technology in Education
, 39 (4), 377-397.

Matzen, Nita J. & Edmunds, Julie A. (2007). Technology as a Catalyst for Change: The Role of
Professional Development. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 39 (4), 417-430.

Pierson, Melissa E. (2001). Technology Integration Practice as a Function of Pedagogical
Expertise. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 33 (4), 413-426.

Sandholtz, Judith Haymore & Reilly, Brian (2004). Teachers, Not Technicians: Rethinking
Technical Expectations for Teachers. Teachers College Record, 106 (3), 487-512.

Staples, Amy, Pugach, Marleen A., &Himes, Dj (2005). Rethinking the Technology Integration
Challenge: Cases from Three Urban Elementary Schools. Journal of Research in Technology in Education, 37(3), 285-311.

Texas Education Agency. (2002). “Texas Star Chart.” Retrieved 27 October 2007, Texas
Legislature in 1 Tex. Admin. Code Section 206.50. (TAC 206.50), from Website:

Texas Education Agency. (1997). “Constructivism.” Retrieved 11 December 2007, 19 TAC Chapter 150, Subchapter AA, from Website

No comments: