Teacher Needs in Anticipation of the Instructional Use of Technology

[I've appreciated recent attempts made to define various needs that teachers have of their school administrators. By way of contribution to the discussion, I thought a few paragraphs from a literature review I recently conducted might be beneficial. As a side note, I think it's unfortunate that there still remains such a disconnect between traditional academic literature and the thinking distributed so easily throughout the blogosphere. Not sure why this disconnect exists - other than TTWWADI, pride, and my brain can beat up your brain - but here's my stab at building a bridge. Too bad my references don't link as well as other online papers do. :) ]

In preparing to understand the needs teachers might have with regard to realizing the instructional use of technology, it’s important to understand what needs have already been dentified by teachers in other locations, as documented in the academic literature base.

To begin with, as teachers begin to introduce technology into their pedagogy, they are naturally forced to change instructional behaviors, and as a result, associated attitudes. Fabry and Higgs (1997) have articulated this concept well.

To integrate technology into classroom practice in the manner envisioned by ardent proponents, teachers must make two radical changes - not only must they learn how to use technology, but they must also fundamentally change how they teach. (p. 386)
As result, teachers not only need to understand how to use the technology, they must also understand how to use it to enhance the curriculum. The grandeur of this need, and the tasks associated with its support, cannot be overemphasized.

Levin and Wadmany (2008) shed additional light on teacher needs through their exploratory, longitudinal study that examined six teachers’ views on the factors that affect technology use in the classroom. The needs exhibited by those in their study included:
  • Formal training at an early stage of new classroom experiences with technology.
  • Educational opportunities at subsequent stages of professional growth that facilitate collaboration with colleagues on authentic routine classroom issues.
  • Collaborative opportunities devoted to personally-directed inquiry.
  • Feedback customized for individual circumstances.
  • Mentorship often in the place of authoritative training, particularly in later stages of professional growth.
The results of the Levin and Wadmany study also support arguments by researchers that follow-up mentoring systems, programs for enhancing professional growth, and informal collegial collaboration are necessary after formal technology integration training. Such follow-up sessions have been shown to foster collaboration and support, address daily challenges, and increase the overall effectiveness of instructional technology use (Sahin and Thompson, 2007; Di Benedetto, 2005).

To continue, other researchers have identified a wide range of teacher needs, specific to the instructional use of technology. While I've found no extensive reviews of academic findings related specifically to the needs of teachers, many of these needs can be gleaned from the reports that other scholars have provided. Culling from the research on barriers inhibiting teachers from the pedagogical utilization of technology, these needs include:
  • Adequate time to acquire and transfer to practice the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively and completely infuse technology into their curricular areas (Hawkins & MacMillan, 1993; Kinnaman, 1990).
  • More time to prepare technology-facilitated resources for lessons, experiment with technology as a learning tool, and create technology-related assessments (Preston, Cox, and Cox, 2000; Lam, 2000).
  • An increase in positive experiences using technology as a productivity tool (Hope, 1998; Snoeyink & Ertmer, 2001).
  • Help in overcoming feelings of anxiety on the part of teachers and a genuine fear of technology (Li, 2007; Stone, 1998) • More confidence in the use of technology and in incorporating new innovation (Hardy, 1998; Dawson & Rakes, 2003).
  • A mechanism for overcoming feelings of intimidation, in light of the possibility that students might know more than them (Fryer, 2003).
  • More ongoing support from specialist mentors and online resources (Sherry, Billig, Tavalin, and Gibson, 2000; Hardy, 1998).
  • An increased ability in dealing with the changing nature of technology itself (Zhao and Frank, 2003).
  • More convenient access to computers and better planning for the use of technology (Smerdon and Cronen, 2000).
  • A better understanding of the advantages that technology integration can provide (Scrimshaw, 2004).
In summary, teachers “need an attitude that is fearless in the use of technology, encourages them to take risks, and inspires them to become lifelong learners” (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 1997, p. 11). Fulfilling these needs through whatever means possible might work toward technology integration taking place in schools on a more widespread basis.

No discussion of teacher needs would be complete without considering also the things teachers need to know in order to appropriately incorporate technology into their teaching. This question of what teachers need to know has received a great deal of attention lately by scholars, government agencies, and educational organizations alike (Smerdon and Cronen, 2000; International Society for Technology in Education, 2008; National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, 1997; Zhao, 2003; U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1995).

The National Educational Technology Standards and Performance Indicators for Teachers by ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008) has become a widely accepted set of benchmarks for the kinds of things teachers need to be able to know and do in order to effectively integrate technology. According the these standards, teachers need to:
  • Facilitate student learning and creativity
  • Design and develop digital-age learning experiences and assessments
  • Model digital-age work and learning
  • Promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility
  • Engage in professional growth and leadership
While on the surface many of these standards appear to reside independent of technology, subtasks developed in ISTE’s list of standards clarify the need for teachers to possess a strong technical background in a wide variety of technology tools.

Having made it this far:
  1. How are you still awake?
  2. Can you think of any needs teachers might have that aren't included in the list?
BTW, a list of references - if you're interested - can be found here.

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