Reflections on a technology integration project.
Emphasis on the use of technology for learning by school administrators, state departments of education, and federal government programs has led to the development of policies, plans, and associated reform efforts that strongly support the use and integration of technology (Means, Blando, Olson, Morrocco, Remz, & Zorfass, 1993; Mellon, 1999). Since adoption and diffusion models suggest all participants must be included in decisions regarding an innovation (Ellsworth, 2000; Holloway, 1996), administrative directives or technology projects that urge teachers to implement these technology plans and policies in the classroom often meet with mixed results due to the complex nature of the schooling enterprise.
Teachers find that integrating technology requires attention to dimensions beyond those normally associated with planning instruction. These dimensions include the need to select and evaluate software and other technology resources, determine if students have the necessary technology skills or need to learn them, modify or develop appropriate instructional plans, juggle classroom management issues, and define ways to adequately assess student work. The combination of these tasks can be daunting since they tend to be time consuming and are typically done "in addition to" rather than "instead of' teachers' normal responsibilities.
The use and integration of technology also is being strongly encouraged in teacher education programs. While most teacher education programs are able to equip their students with basic knowledge and skills in the mechanics of using technology (Milken Exchange on Educational Technology, 1999), there is not widespread success in equipping students with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively integrate technology to improve student learning (Ertmer, 1999; Parks & Pisapia, 1994; Schrum, 1999; Willis, Thompson, & Sadera, 1999).
Collaborative partnerships between K- 12 teachers and undergraduate education students may be one way to address these technology integration issues. TELO is a project funded by the Ohio Learning Network that uses collaboration to achieve technology integration. The TELO project paired teams of undergraduate students with K- 12 classroom teachers to develop technology-enhanced instructional units. The undergraduate students were enrolled in a technology course. The K-12 teachers taught second, third, and fourth grades in a suburban school district.
RATIONAL FOR THE PROJECT
The TELO project was devised to build partnerships between classroom teachers, undergraduate students, and higher education faculty.
The partnerships were structured to provide to classroom teachers curriculum-specific instructional units that effectively integrated technology. Classroom teachers would benefit because they often find it difficult to integrate technology, even though they have the necessary knowledge and skills, due to the time required to design or modify instruction to incorporate technology into lessons that match their curriculum. Institutions of higher education, on the other hand, with courses in technology-related skills, instructional strategies, and learning theory, can benefit from the active participation of classroom teachers to help undergraduate teacher education students translate theories learned into classroom practice. Similar partnerships have been shown to be successful in applying educational technologies to classroom settings (Dawson & Norris, 2000; Ertmer & Hruskocy, 1999) and may help undergraduate students gain knowledge and skills to effectively use technology in their future classrooms (Ertmer, 19 99; Glennan & Melmod, 2000; Sheingold & Frederiksen, 2000).
Bringing these potential partners together in a collaborative effort may help build better learning environments for K-12 students. In addition, projects of this type may be one way to begin an effective change process because its products build on what teachers already know about their students and already do in the classroom, essential elements for educational change (Cuban, 1986). One assumption made by the project director was that the undergraduate students would be well versed in how to develop solid lesson plans since they were at the end of their educational programs and soon would be student teaching.
This is a case study whose participants were 20 undergraduate teacher education students in a technology applications course and four elementary classroom teachers. The 20 undergraduate students were divided into five teams and paired with a teacher. Since there were five student teams and only four teachers, one of the teachers volunteered to work with two student teams. Each undergraduate student team produced a technology-enhanced instructional unit.
The purpose of the case study was to investigate the nature and quality of TELO instructional units. The instructional units were examined and critiqued by the technology applications course instructor, an instructional designer, and the respective classroom teacher. The course instructor evaluated the instructional units according to Praxis criteria (Educational Testing Service, 2000), the instructional designer evaluated the units according to instructional design principles, and the classroom teacher evaluated the units based on their usability in an actual classroom. Due to the poor quality of the instructional units, there were no "scores" given to the instructional units by the evaluators. If scores had been used, all the units would have failed to meet even minimum requirements. Instead, the evaluators wrote narratives detailing strengths and weaknesses of the units. These critiques were given to the student teams for their reaction and comments.
THE TECHNOLOGY APPLICATIONS COURSE
The undergraduate education students who participated in TELO were near the end of their studies and would be student teaching the following semester. These students were enrolled in a technology applications course that includes instruction in technology (database, spreadsheet, advanced word processing, electronic communication) as well as an introduction to numerous topics related to the use of technology with K- 12 students. These topics include computer equity, technology planning, technology and assessment, ethical concerns, and instructional uses of the Internet. Assignments in the course previously included the design and development of three lesson plans, each one focusing on a different technology. For example, one lesson was to include a productivity tool (word processing, database, or spreadsheet), one was to use a commercial educational software package, and the third was to incorporate e-mail or the Internet. While these lesson plans allowed students to demonstrate their ability to design technol ogy-enhanced lessons, many plans were contrived, or were modified versions of lesson plans students found on the Internet. The instructor was aware when Internet-based lesson plans were used since the course contains a component on copyright, and most students included citations for any websites they used.
For the TELO project, a team project was required instead of three individually-developed lesson plans. This change to the course assignments was made because the instructor felt that a real world technology integration project, addressing the needs of a specific teacher and developed for a particular group of students, would be relevant and engaging for undergraduate students since they soon would be in their own classrooms, facing the need to integrate technology into their curriculum. In addition, a team project was used since many school systems engage in team-based curriculum planning, so the TELO project could replicate what these future teachers may encounter when they begin teaching.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECT
Although TELO was originally designed to solicit participation from any K- 12 teacher in the partner school district, a school administrator limited access to only teachers in one elementary school. This limitation forced a change in the project since it meant that undergraduate teacher education students who were planning to teach at the middle school or high school level, would not be able to work with a teacher at their targeted grade level. This limitation was addressed by carefully structuring the undergraduate student teams as described in the following section.
Prior to the beginning of the semester, a letter was mailed to all teachers in one elementary school. The letter sought teachers willing to work with undergraduate education students on a technology integration project. The teachers were told they would receive a stipend for their efforts. Four teachers indicated their willingness to participate in the project and each was asked to identify an area in their curriculum where they wanted technology to be integrated.
Of the four classroom teachers, two were first-year teachers, one had three years of experience, and one had been teaching for eight years. One of the first-year teachers taught second grade, the other first-year teacher taught fourth grade. The teacher with three years of experience taught fourth grade and the teacher with eight years of experience taught third grade. All four teachers were comfortable using computers.
At the beginning of the semester, undergraduate students were informed about the TELO project that would involve elementary teachers in a suburban school district. Five student teams were formed. Each team had at least one student who planned to teach at the elementary level, one student who planned to teach at the middle school level, and one student who planned to teach at the high school level. The student who planned to teach at the elementary level was designated as the leader of the group because he/she was presumed to have a solid understanding of the cognitive development of early learners. The other team members served as subject matter experts in their respective areas of concentration.
The groups were purposefully structured to include representation from as many subjects as possible. For example, one group contained one student majoring in elementary education, one student majoring in middle school education, and two students majoring in secondary level education. Our middle level program requires two areas of concentration, therefore, the student majoring in middle level education brought knowledge of mathematics and science, while the students in secondary education brought in-depth knowledge of English and social studies, respectively. By having multiple subject areas represented in each team, the instructor felt the teams would be able to produce instructional units that spanned multiple subject areas rather than developing a unit for a single subject area. Students were encouraged to apply theories, strategies, and methodologies learned from previous education courses as they designed and developed their projects. The instructor hoped student projects would, for example, employ variou s reading strategies, use alternative assessments, and reflect learner-centered environments.
In the third week of the semester, the university class met at the elementary school so that the undergraduate students and the classroom teachers could meet face-to-face to begin discussion of the projects and to hopefully begin to build working partnerships and identify common goals. This session was open-ended and designed so that the undergraduate students could get to know their respective classroom teacher and learn about the curriculum topic they would be working on. The classroom teachers had used their respective "course of study" to identify a curriculum area that the undergraduate students were to address. Topics chosen by the teachers were Native Americans (second grade), dinosaurs (second grade), Japan (third grade), spreadsheets and graphing (fourth grade), and countries of the world (fourth grade). Teachers gave the undergraduate students latitude to work within the topic area, because the teachers were reluctant to specify too many requirements. This latitude gave the undergraduate students fr eedom to be creative in designing and developing the instructional units. The instructional units were to cover approximately two weeks, incorporate multiple subject areas, integrate technology, and match the teacher-specified learning outcomes.
At the fourth meeting of the university course, students had many questions about the projects. Student questions ranged from "What are we supposed to do?" to "What is my teacher's e-mail address?" Following discussion and clarification of the project, some students still appeared to be confused by the project. Students were encouraged to maintain weekly contact through e-mail with their classroom teacher for assistance in project definition, further clarification of what the project was to accomplish, and to establish a communication channel for pertinent and ongoing feedback. The course instructor purposely used a "hands off" approach with this assignment to see if the undergraduate students would assume responsibility for the project.
To assist the undergraduate students, resources were provided to help them design effective technology-enhanced lessons. These resources included National Educational Technology Standards for Students, National Educational Technology Standards for Students: Connecting Curriculum and Technology, and National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers, all publications from the International Society for Technology in Education (2000a; 2000b; 2000c). In addition, each student received a copy of So Each May Learn: Integrating Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences, a publication from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (Silver, Strong, & Perini, 2000). The undergraduate students also were able to review several examples of student-developed lesson plans that integrated technology, but no examples of instructional units (covering multiple days and multiple subject areas) were available since this was the first time students in the technology applications course were given this assignment.
An instructional plan format structured on Praxis (Educational Testing Service, 2000) was to be used to document the instructional units. The Praxis format was selected since graduates will be evaluated according to Praxis criteria during their first year of teaching. The instructional plan format includes 11 sections that students need to address. The 11 sections are instructional planning, objectives, grouping, prior knowledge, learner analysis, students with special needs, model of instruction/instructional strategies, discipline-specific concerns, materials, activities, and evaluation/assessment. Each section includes a series of questions that students need to consider as they document that portion of the instructional plan. For example, the questions under the "Grouping" section are "How will you group students for instruction?" "Why have you chosen this grouping?" "What are other students doing if you are instruction a small group?" "What do you do if groups get done early?" "What does a student do is she/he finishes before the rest of the class?" These questions are provided as guidance, rather than as a series of questions that students are to answer in a linear fashion.
Undergraduate students were told that the instructional units would be given to their respective teacher to implement in the classroom. Students were reminded that the finished products needed to be professional and reflect their best effort. The instructional units were to be complete so that the K- 12 teacher they were paired with could pick up the unit and use it effectively.
Every week, team leaders were sent an e-mail from the course instructor asking if there were any questions or concerns from their team. Students seldom responded to these e-mails. Teams were given approximately 20 minutes at the beginning of each class period to work in their groups and, in addition, two entire class sessions were devoted to the projects. The course instructor encouraged undergraduate students to electronically communicate with their K- 12 classroom teacher on a regular basis.
Several weeks prior to the end of the semester, students turned in their projects. The course instructor reviewed and assessed the projects and also had an instructional designer review and critique the projects. These two reviews were combined into one written assessment for each team. The completed instructional units and the written assessment were then given to the respective classroom teachers. Each classroom teacher was asked to critique his/her instructional unit and provide that critique to the course instructor. Undergraduate students were given the critiques of their projects at a subsequent class meeting and were asked to respond in writing to the critiques and determine a final project grade for their group.
Each student team turned in an instructional plan that covered a period of approximately two weeks. Quality varied, but overall, student products did not meet intended outcomes. The units lacked cohesiveness, relied on traditional teacher-centered strategies, and used technology in predictable, low-level ways. The majority of the daily lessons did not contain clear goals and objectives, nor did assessments match objectives. Technology was present, but was neither critical nor essential to the lessons. The units tended to be collections of lesson plans loosely tied to the main topic, instead of being clearly connected to and built upon one another. In other words, it appeared as if the daily lessons were created by individual students in isolation, then, the day before the project was due, each team member submitted his/her lesson plans to the team leader who assembled all the components into one notebook. Based on the quality of the instructional units, it was apparent that none of the teams had established a working partnership with their respective classroom teacher.
Based on the content of the instructional units, the "integration" of technology typically amounted to elementary students using the Internet to gather information about a particular topic or to answer a predetermined set of questions. Often, the text of the chosen web site was inappropriate for the age of the students, in that the site contained too much information (much of it irrelevant to the topic) or was written at too high a reading level. There was little creativity in the units and they tended to focus on low-level, isolated factual knowledge instead of creating situations that would encourage elementary students to engage in higher order thinking or problem solving.
Although the instructional units were not of high quality, two teachers were able to implement a portion of their respective units. The implementation of part of the unit on dinosaurs for second graders was observed and documented by the TELO project director. Another teacher who used portions of her instructional plan had to add essential components to build a cohesive unit. Due to this teacher's efforts, she feels she now has a solid unit on graphing for fourth grade students. The main weakness of the graphing unit was that is focused almost exclusively on the acquisition of the skills needed to enter and manipulate spreadsheet data. The instructional unit did not address basic concepts about graphs such as what graphs are, why graphs are used to depict information, different types of graphs, and reasons why one type of graph may be preferable over another to illustrate data (e.g., why one might use a bar graph instead of a scatter plot).
In general, activities in the instructional plans were not appropriate for the learning outcomes specified by the classroom teacher. For example, in the unit on "countries of the world," undergraduate students were told, by way of an e-mail from the classroom teacher, that the focus was to "compare the way Ohioans live in relation to other people, both past and present." In this unit, fourth grade students choose one foreign country to learn about so that they are "then able to compare and contrast it to Ohio's culture." The classroom teacher suggested that fourth grade students could create "a poster, booklet, or travel brochure" to help them prepare for the task of comparing their foreign country to Ohio. The classroom teacher also mentioned that she thought a web scavenger hunt was a good idea and provided an example of a web site she felt was appropriate for her students. The web site she provided was on Japan (http://www.jinjapan.org).
Undergraduate students appeared to ignore the teacher's comments. One objective they included was "After having a discussion about characteristics of the United States, the student will be able to get on [sic] the Internet and find characteristics of other countries." Notice that the objective did not say that the discussion would be about characteristics of Ohio, but rather of the United States. The instructional plan then stated that students would complete a scavenger hunt using the Internet to find characteristics of foreign countries. Unfortunately, the scavenger hunt consisted of 20 isolated questions. The questions were poorly written, were based on factual knowledge, and dealt with specific countries. Examples of the scavenger hunt questions include "What continent is Argentina on [sic]?" "What major ethnic groups in [sic] France?" "This country is slightly less than twice the size of Texas?[sic]" and "This countries [sic] national holiday is on October 3? [sic]"
Rather than write a series of questions that could be used to learn about any foreign country, the undergraduate students on this team instead chose to ask a series of unrelated, factual questions that were specific to a country. A better approach may have been to ask general questions that would help students learn about the country they had chosen to study. Questions that correspond to the above examples could have been written as, "Identify the continent in which your country is located." "What is the size of your country in square miles?" and "What are the major national holidays in your country?" Even though these questions also reflect accumulation of factual information, they are general so that they could apply to any country.
On the second day of this unit, students were to use information from the Internet to compare their country to the United States. As in the first day of the unit, the plan did not focus on comparisons to Ohio, even though the classroom teacher had specifically stated that comparisons were to be made with Ohio. For this day, the instructional plan contained another scavenger hunt. This second scavenger hunt consisted of 14 questions. These questions were more general and included "What is the capital of your country" "What type of government does your country have?" "Where is your country's location in comparison to the U.S.?" and "What colors are in your country's flag and how is the flag different from the U.S. flag?" The instructional plan allocated 15 to 20 minutes for this activity. It was surprising that with many Internet resources, the instructional plan included only one web site, the Central Intelligence Agency's World Fact Book [Available: http:/I www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html] f or days one and two of the instructional unit. It was apparent that the undergraduate students wrote the scavenger hunt questions based on the factual information available from this web site.
On the third and fourth days of the unit, fourth grade students were to draw a map and the flag of their chosen country, respectively. The instructional plan stated that on the fifth day, "Students are to take the information that has been compiled in the above lessons and put together their presentation to complete for the class [sic]." In other words, students were to create a presentation for the class on their country. Unfortunately, no guidelines, explanation, description, or evaluation criteria for the presentations were included in the instructional plan. Days six and seven of the unit were devoted to student presentations. Undergraduate students missed an opportunity to create a unit that supported student investigation and in-depth analysis of a country. Also lacking in the unit were strategies to help students compare their chosen country to Ohio.
The unit on Japan also had several weaknesses. The Japan unit covered multiple subject areas, however, each day was discreet and not related to prior or subsequent days. The quality of objectives ranged from being adequate ("The student will be able to calculate the difference between high and low temperatures in Japan with the city they live in.") to not even being objectives ("The students will view the PowerPoint slide presentation.") The "procedures" section of the daily plans relied on teacher-directed strategies rather than creating learner-centered environments. Statements such as "Teach the students the climate and the hottest and coldest temperatures in Japan" and "This lesson requires a lot of listening skills. It is best if the children work at their own desks to insure they get ALL the instructions [emphasis in original]" indicate that the undergraduate students were unable to devise ways the students could assume responsibility for their own learning. Assessments in the Japan unit centered on dai ly journal entries students were to write. However, no guiding questions or criteria for evaluating the journal entries were provided in the instructional plan.
For all teams, the use of electronic communication was problematic. Undergraduate students claimed that the classroom teachers did not respond in a timely fashion to e-mail. Classroom teachers, on the other hand, indicated that the undergraduate students rarely sent e-mails. Weekly progress reports between the teams and the classroom teachers did not occur primarily because the teams had little progress to report. As the due date for the instructional plans neared, undergraduate students did begin to communicate with their classroom teacher, but, by that time, undergraduate students felt it was too late for them to make major revisions to their projects in accordance to comments and suggestions. Clearly, the instructional units did not reflect any type of collaborative effort between undergraduate students and a classroom teacher to reach a common goal.
To assess the units and provide feedback to the undergraduate student teams, critiques of the projects were written and given to the students. Critiques contained positive comments, however, much of the critiques discussed areas where improvements could be made. Students were asked to respond to the critiques in writing and to determine, as a group, a fair grade for their instructional unit.
Students were hesitant to acknowledge that their instructional plans contained weaknesses even when faced with written critiques based on three different perspectives (the course instructor's, the instructional designer's, and the classroom teacher's). Groups tended to "blame" either the classroom teacher for not providing enough (or timely) information, the assignment (as being too vague and open-ended), or a group member who may not have done his/her share, as the main reason for their lackluster performance. Only one group's written response to the critique acknowledged awareness of the rather low quality of their work and offered an explanation as to why the work was less than optimum. This group stated, "We split the unit into four parts and went our separate ways and attempted to put it together the night before [it was due]." Members of this group also stated, "We did not use our time wisely. During group meetings we either left early or worked on other work." Interestingly, at the end of the semester, two members of this group told the course instructor to keep the project as a course requirement since it was, in their opinion, exactly the kind of project preservice teachers need to be able to complete successfully.
Work done in other settings has shown that collaborative partnerships between K-12 schools, perservice teachers, and higher education institutions for the purpose of technology integration have been highly successful (e.g., Dawson & Norris, 2000; Schrum & Dehoney, 1998). The fact that the TELO project did not meet all of its intended outcomes does not mean that its results were insignificant or inconsequential.
The classroom teachers felt positive about the process of having undergraduate students design instructional units that matched the curriculum even though the products they received were not of high quality. These teachers felt the project is worth continuing and were supportive of trying it again. Generally, they appreciated being able to identify a portion of their curriculum that they felt could benefit from technology integration and they felt the experience of writing an instructional unit could be very beneficial for undergraduate students. The classroom teachers welcomed the university faculty member to visit their respective classrooms and were willing to help improve the project.
Initial discussions with some of the undergraduate students indicated that they felt the project was worthwhile and that they could have done quality work, but failed to do so. Some students attributed this failure to their own inability to be self-directed learners. Most students wanted more direction from the course instructor or the classroom teacher. This desire for the instructor to control and direct all aspects of instruction is common when students are confronted with the expectation that they assume responsibility for their own learning (Rath, 1999).
One issue raised by the results of this project is the apparent difficulty undergraduate students had in transferring knowledge and skills gained in prior education courses to the project. Students had completed courses whose content covers characteristics of learners, teaching strategies, classroom management, instructional resources, diversity, and the creation of lesson plans. In addition, students had completed many of their subject matter content courses. However, the knowledge gained in these prior courses was not apparent in the instructional units students produced. For example, although students "know" that there are numerous instructional strategies, the instructional units relied almost exclusively on teacher-directed lecture. Work that the elementary students were to complete was largely focused on the completion of worksheets. The use of technology centered on reading content from a specific web site. These lesson attributes do not connote authentic, rich, student-centered learning environments, but rather adherence to traditional models of education.
Students may have difficulty in transferring knowledge due to an educational system that tends to keep courses isolated and separate instead of connected and interrelated. Typically, students take a predetermined sequence of courses that culminates in an undergraduate education degree. Even though the courses may be sequenced such that course "A" needs to be completed before course "B" (presumably because content learned in course "A" is relevant and necessary for course "B"), there is rarely an instance when the sequence truly effects student ability to earn a "good" grade. In other words, the instructor of course "B" will most likely not explicitly identify when connections to, or use of, content from course "A" occurs. Therefore, students have little opportunity to recognize and experience transfer of knowledge in meaningful ways. Clearly, little transfer of knowledge occurred from foundations, theoretical, and methods courses to the work that was required to successfully complete the project for the techn ology applications course. It appeared that students treated the project as merely another assignment to be completed rather than taking ownership of the process to produce a product that could have been a significant component in their professional development.
A second issue became apparent after reflecting on the course assignment, namely, the arduous task of critiquing student work, especially if the critique includes negative feedback. University instructors often want to support the positive aspects of student work while downplaying areas of weakness, especially since assessment is subjective rather than objective. The students involved in this project were not atypical in being unaccustomed, and somewhat unreceptive, to receiving negative feedback on the quality of their work.
Unfortunately, many of the students tended to offer excuses to explain why their work was deficient rather than to carefully analyze their work in light of the critiques. Because the critiques represented three different perspectives on the instructional units, the course instructor believed the critiques identified areas of strength and weakness and were structured to help students learn from the experience. A process for peer critique will be introduced early and used often in subsequent semesters in an effort to combat the resistance to, and difficulty of, creating and dealing with feedback for students and the course instructor.
A number of barriers may have hindered successful project outcomes. Possible barriers include inadequate specifications for the instructional unit assignment, an assumption that undergraduate students knew how to develop instructional units, lack of specific instructions on how groups should function, and the physical distance between the university and the school. Each of these barriers is discussed briefly.
First, students may have needed a more teacher-directed approach to the project. The instructor intentionally elected to shift much of the responsibility for defining the group projects as well as determining the scope and sequence of the instructional units to the student teams. The required components and the format for the instructional plans were provided, but the instructor did not engage in elaborate descriptions of each component. It was believed that the materials were self-explanatory and provided adequate structure for the students since sets of questions to guide the thought and decision-making process were included for each component of the instructional unit. For example, under the heading "Prior knowledge" in the instructional plan, students need to address these items:
* List the prior knowledge students must have to be successful in the learning experience.
* How did you obtain information about prior knowledge students must have?
* How does this information about prior knowledge help shape your instructional plan?
* Do you need to find out if your students have the necessary prior knowledge? If so, how will you find out?
These sets of statements and questions are posed to help students think about the complexities inherent in the learning process, identify essential components, and explain choices and decisions.
Second, it was assumed that students in the class knew how to develop instructional units. The technology applications course is not a course in how to develop effective lesson plans or build effective instructional units. Additionally, since most students take the technology applications course in their senior year, immediately prior to student teaching, the instructor felt students would have already gained the necessary prerequisite skills to adequately create instructional units. This project was structured as a culminating opportunity for students to apply what they had learned throughout their educational programs to a specific project. In other words, it was hoped that students would draw from what they had learned from prior courses (cognitive psychology, characteristics of learners, general teaching strategies, and content specific methods courses), to create meaningful lessons. However, from the beginning of the semester, students seemed unsure of how to approach the project and had difficulty in de fining the parameters of the instructional unit. For example, most teams failed to investigate instructional materials that may have supplemented their unit (books, videos, realia, pictures, posters), relying instead on information found on the Internet. It was evident from the final products that most teams gave little thought to essential steps in the instructional process, steps such as gaining the attention of the learner, helping build connections between new information and prior knowledge, and devising appropriate assessment strategies.
Third, little guidance was given to the undergraduate student teams in relation to the mechanics of group work nor how to build a strong working relationship with the collaborating teachers. When teams were formed, one student majoring in elementary education was given the responsibility to be team leader while others in the group were to be subject matter experts. However, few other directions were given to students on how to act within their groups or how to reach common goals with their respective classroom teacher. Additionally, there was no clear accountability for individual work that contributed to the final product. The project "grade" was designated a group grade rather than a combination of group and individual grade. Even though students had participated in group projects throughout their educational programs, it may have been beneficial to clearly describe roles and expectations for each group member and how these responsibilities would contribute to a successful group project.
Fourth, many undergraduate students expressed concern about the distance of the elementary school from the university. This particular aspect of the project was unanticipated since students were paid mileage expenses to and from the elementary school, and since the distance did not seem to be excessive to the instructor. Using major roads, it takes approximately 35 minutes to travel between the university and the elementary school, a total of 27 miles one way. Even when a school visit was scheduled to coincide with class meeting times (students could leave the university when class was to start and return to campus by the time the class was scheduled to be over), students balked at traveling to the school site. This reluctance to visit the school meant that students did not observe in the classroom and therefore had no firsthand knowledge of their target learners. As stated previously, the school was selected for this project due to the technology skill level of the teachers and the adequacy of technology res ources. It was ironic that some students indicated that their lessons may have contained weaknesses because they did not know the students in the target classroom nor the teacher's teaching style, when it was for these very reasons that classroom visits were strongly encouraged (but not required).
Although there may have been other factors, the combination of, and interactions among, the previously mentioned barriers most likely impeded the project. These barriers were identified through hindsight and reflection, creating a perspective that can and will be instrumental in informing future collaborative efforts that pair undergraduate education students with classroom teachers for technology integration efforts.
For future work in this area, the assignment for the instructional unit will be modified. In modifying the assignment, careful attention will be given to how directions, procedures, and guidelines for the group project are detailed for undergraduate students. Candid and explicit discussions will be conducted to define requirements of, and set standards for, group work. Assessment of the final product will be separated so individual effort as well as group effort, will be evaluated. In addition, undergraduate student teams will be required to submit their "work in progress" for review and critique several times throughout the semester. Even with these changes in the structure of the assignment, however, students will still be expected to assume much of the responsibility for the definition, design, and development of the instructional unit and to communicate on a regular basis with their classroom teacher.
With the support of the teachers in the school system who feel that collaborative projects for technology integration are worthwhile and need to be continued, changes will be made to the TELO project. The initial implementation was a learning experience for the project director, the undergraduate education students, and the classroom teachers. Effort is underway to modify the project and to build in additional discussions and activities that will better define project components, project requirements, group work, and the process of final assessment of completed projects.
The TELO project was supported by a grant from the Ohio Learning Network. The data presented, statements made, and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and no endorsement by the funding agency should be inferred. The project described in this research did not take place at the author's current institution. The author wishes to thank Randy Nichols for his critique of, and suggestions for, this manuscript.
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|Publication:||Journal of Technology and Teacher Education|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2003|
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