Teacher Training Disconnect, Catch-22, Communication

The interviewee (otherwise identified as Teacher K) is a 24-year-old teacher who graduated from an out-of-province university in June 2016 and is currently in her first official teaching position.  Her current teaching load includes grade 6 – 9 math and grade 6 – 12 science.  All of the courses are split-level arrangements.  I am Teacher K’s coworker and mentor. The interview took place on the evening of Sunday January 22, 2017 by online chat.

Highlight #1:The Disconnect Between Teaching Training and Actual Practice

As Teacher K is a recent university graduate, I was interested to see her perspective on the connection or disconnection between the education she received and her own classroom practice.  While in her experience the importance of and theory behind technology use was emphasized, even basic examples of programs and apps were not readily offered by instructors.  As a result, unguided exploration was the primary option for finding ways to integrate technology into teaching practice.  Conversely, her current school division and colleagues offer many resources for tools and implementation options, including time with mentors.  As I am Teacher K’s mentor, it has been rewarding to see her growth over time in the area of technology.  Despite the theoretical–practical disconnect between her university training and practice, Teacher K has been able to find ways to meaningfully use technology tools in her classroom.  In science, technology allows students to see videos of situations we are unable to see in real life. For example, when studying ecosystems, we are unable to visit a desert. By using technology, students are able to see pictures and videos of the interactions that happen in different biomes all over the world.”   

 

Highlight #2: Catch-22 of Risk vs. Reward

Teacher K expressed an associated value with technology when it is used purposely and at the right time in instruction, but also a series of concerns regarding less effective use or challenges encountered by students.  These challenges can make it more difficult to incorporate technology tools she identifies as potentially useful as some of the students lack the self-regulation skills to engage with the tools properly.

“[Technology] can interfere with their learning if used inappropriately.”

If a student doesn’t already have knowledge on the topic, the use of technology can be confusing or distracting for them.”

“If I begin the class with students working with technological devices, they will not be able to do anything else afterwards. Therefore, if I use technology, I must incorporate it at the end of the class.”

“Another challenge occurs when there are not enough devices for each student. This causes arguments between students who are unable to share or wait their turn.”

Technology has many potential benefits to offer to the classroom; however, the challenges also need to be considered when determining on the best way to use tech tools with students.

Highlight #3: Technology for Organization

In addition to technology for the actual exploration and learning of concepts, Teacher K finds value in using technology for organizational and communicative purposes. With reference to her class website, she explained that it allows students to study from home without having to carry a textbook. This is especially useful for middle school students who often forget their notes or assignments at school.”  In this way, the technology enables students to learn more ubiquitously and continue to practice their math and science skills regardless of time or when absent from school. Using technology tools for communication and organization facilitates more effective use of instructional time, and helps students prepare for work and life in the 21st century world of electronic communication beyond that latest trends on their Instagram feeds.

 

As a whole, Teacher K has a positive view of technology use in her math and science classroom, despite the challenges. Her own determination to learn will continue to serve her well as she dives deeper into her teaching career.

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Transcript of Responses:

  1. In what ways did your teacher education training prepare you (or not prepare you) for the use of technology in your teaching?

In my teacher education training, we were taught the theory behind using technology in our classrooms. We were taught that it is important and it is something we should strive to do, however we were never shown how to incorporate it into our lessons or specific examples of programs we could use in our classrooms.

  1. Do you feel that technology enhances your students’ learning experiences in science and math? Why or why not?

Technology can enhance the students’ learning, but it can also interfere with their learning if used inappropriately For example, using interactive games on the computer, Ipad or Smartboard allows students to manipulate and interact with the problems. This can allow them to better visualize and understand the problem in front of them.

In science, technology allows students to see videos of situations we are unable to see in real life. For example, when studying ecosystems, we are unable to visit a desert. By using technology, students are able to see pictures and videos of the interactions that happen in different biomes all over the world.

  1. From your perspective, what are the most significant challenges students face when using technology in math and science learning?

If a student doesn’t already have knowledge on the topic, the use of technology can be confusing or distracting for them. For example, when using an online fraction game, a student without an understanding of fractions will just drag objects around the screen and guess to get the answer correct. By doing this, they are not learning the concept.

4. From your experience, what are the shortfalls or challenges of using technology to teach science and math?

Technology must be used at the most appropriate time in a science or math class. If I begin the class with students working with technological devices, they will not be able to do anything else afterwards. Therefore if I use technology, I must incorporate it at the end of the class. If students like using technology, it can be used as a reward if they show positive behavior during the first part of the class.

Another challenge occurs when there are not enough devices for each student. This causes arguments between students who are unable to share or wait their turn.

5.Do you have any advice for colleagues wanting to bring more technological approaches into their practices but are not sure where to start?

My advice would be to start small. Introduce technology in very small ways for a short period of time. By doing this, the students get a small introduction to it and the teacher gets to see how the students handle it without it taking up all the instructional time.

  1. Can you think of any examples of when using a technology-based approach yield a positive outcome that would not have happened otherwise?

In my classroom, we have a class website. This allows me to post messages, information, notes and assignments for students and their parents. I post upcoming test dates,assignment due dates, pages from their textbook, and all notes required for students to prepare themselves for tests. This allows students to study from home without having to carry a textbook. This is especially useful for middle school students who often forget their notes or assignments at school. With use of the class website, students are still able to complete their work and study for tests despite not having their school books with them. This also allows students and parents to keep up to date with classes and study when needed. This is also great for when students miss class, they are able to stay caught up with their classmates.

7 comments

  1. Hi Stephanie, Your subject has already had some significant realizations regarding technology use in her class. The shortfalls she listed are spot-on. I think it is negligent for new student teachers to not be shown any practical applications during their course work at the university level. I wonder when technology enhancement will become a required course? Hmmm… maybe universities will be looking for some MET graduates soon!!! ~Dana

  2. Hi Stephanie,

    I have experienced many of the comments you expressed in Highlight #1. I too have noticed that while there is a great emphasis for pre-service teachers to use technology in the classroom, especially during their extended practicum, there seems to be little support or training. For instance, while my previous teacher candidates have been pressed to use technology in the classroom, they are often uninformed in how or even why to effectively use technology. Like, Dana, I wonder when technology use will become a component of their coursework.

  3. Hi Stephanie,

    What a great experience for both yourself and the new teacher as you mentor and she continues to grow in her experiences.

    I found it interesting the challenges that Teacher K was facing with her students when using technology. Teacher L in my interview also experienced similar challenges with technology becoming a distraction, particularly if students were unfamiliar with the technology to be used, or confused with how to access the appropriate content. Teacher L also found that her students would start rabbit trailing through the amazing interactive web that is available once students get online! I also found it interesting that Teacher K felt that she had to use technology only at the end of class as it was challenging to redirect students’ attention after technology use. I wonder if this is more a classroom management issue than a use of technology concern, or if other teachers have experienced a similar behaviour?

  4. Hi Stephanie,
    I would like to touch on the point made by the “new teacher” you interviewed regarding students she stated “If a student doesn’t already have knowledge on the topic, the use of technology can be confusing or distracting for them.”

    This comment brought me back to think about the video case study in the physics classroom and the video case using the Graphing Calculator. In both of these cases students brought up that they were frustrated when they first started to use the technology because they really had no idea what they were doing or how it all worked. The teacher using the graphing calculator said he started introducing it to grade eight students so that they would be prepared by the time they really needed to use the graphing functions in class. The young girl in the physics class said that the previous year she spent a lot of time frustrated because she did not know how to work with the technology but it was easier the second year because she got the hang of it.
    The physics teacher also said if he had students working in groups he wanted the student with the least experience using the technolgoy to be the one clicking the buttons and navigating the group through the program.
    All of these points are really important when you come right down to the bottom line. Of course, we as educators have to allow time for students to learn to use and understand how the technology works so they can properly utilize it. We wouldn’t just hear about a program and throw it at our students without trying it out first. I wonder if a lot of us just expect our students (digital natives) to be more tech savvy than they are and then become frustrated when we realize not only do we need to help them learn the curriculum but also the technology. I can hear people shouting from the rafters “there just isn’t time”. But without the training on the tech is it truly valuable?
    Catherine

  5. Hi Stephanie,

    I appreciated your Teacher K’s views on the organizational benefits technology can provide. Just this past week I found myself in a situation of having left my computer charge cord at a meeting and not being able to access my computer files while I waited for over a week for it to be sent to me. If I had been used cloud-based storage or even just Google Docs I would have been totally fine.

    I find it very interesting that your district (or school?) has a mentoring program in place and see great value in that. How exactly does it work if you don’t mind sharing? I was lucky enough to have my first full time position at a school where a senior teacher was teaching the same grade I was and was very open and willing to share resources, advice, and ideas, but I know many new teachers do not experience that luxury. There seems to also be a disconnect between our teacher education programs and providing the tools, resources, and opportunities to put theory into practice.

    Allison

  6. Hi Stephanie,

    One of the major themes that came out of my interview was the ability to control workflow. The teacher that I interviewed taught the students how to organize themselves electronically. This helped them keep tabs on what work them had to complete through their electronic calendars and manage each step of their work along the way.

  7. Hi Stephanie,
    I like how your questions prompted the interviewee to think about digital technology’s affordances for learning science:Technology can enhance the students’ learning, but it can also interfere with their learning if used inappropriately For example, using interactive games on the computer, Ipad or Smartboard allows students to manipulate and interact with the problems. This can allow them to better visualize and understand the problem in front of them….In science, technology allows students to see videos of situations we are unable to see in real life. For example, when studying ecosystems, we are unable to visit a desert. By using technology, students are able to see pictures and videos of the interactions that happen in different biomes all over the world.”

    Equally, the interviewee supplied an example where it might appear that learning has occurred with the math fractions drag and drop game. This speaks to how do we know when learning has occurred when digital technology is employed?

    Thank you for your thoughts,
    Samia

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