Technology integration in P-12 schools: challenges to implementation and impact of scientifically-based research.

Author:Schrum, Lynne


Currently our schools exist in an environment that demands accountability and evidence based performance. In the area of educational technology, hardware and software have been in our schools in substantial concentration for almost two decades, and considering the heavy investment required to put it into schools, it is important to base its implementation and use on proven best practices. The body of usable research currently available, however, is scant and scattered. To date there have been few documented systemic increases in student achievement and learning that are directly attributable to technological innovation. The high expectations for improved student achievement have largely been due to extraordinarily high hopes and due to the massive, ongoing expenditure on providing a low computer-to-student ratio and connectivity to the Internet. The potential for educational technology to revolutionize education has been described repeatedly and yet the promise has not been delivered (Conlon & Simpson, 2003; Cuban, 2001; Sandholtz, 2001). The most recent report on this subject by the U.S. Department of Education concludes:

 We have not realized the promise of technology in education. Essentially, providing the hardware without adequate training in its use--and in its endless possibilities for enriching the learning experience--meant that the great promise of Internet technology was frequently unrealized. Computers, instead of transforming education, were often shunted to a "computer room," where they were little used and poorly maintained. Students mastered the wonders of the Internet at home, not in school. Today's students, of almost any age, are far ahead of their teachers in computer literacy. (U.S. Department of Education, 2004, p. 10) 

This article is intended to identify the barriers to implementation of technology for instruction in our classrooms, by examining the literature. It also seeks to create a dialogue among members of our community for the purpose of identifying a more proactive research agenda. Two forces are currently challenging our traditional research in the field of educational technology. At the national level, past research has been examined closely in an effort to determine if the enormous expenditures have been worth the costs. Overall, our community has helped understand the complexity of the challenge, and yet, we continue to ask some of the same questions.

At the same time, certain types of research are currently required from our community, and it is possible that this model may not allow us to answer the lingering questions of our field. To gain an understanding of researchers' response to the current demand for scientifically based research (SBR), data were gathered from researchers in this field. Finally, this article calls for the development of a proactive research agenda.

Theoretical Lens

It is important to begin with a theoretical lens through which to think about implementation and the effort and energy required to integrate technology into curriculum and activities. Fullan (2001) guided our conception about the challenges to changing educational practice. His notion of a complex, non-linear, and difficult process included three stages: initiation or adoption, implementation, and continuation or institutionalization. It is important to recognize the culture of most schools, in which individual teachers are free to choose from a wide range of teaching practices, unless a systemic effort is underway to infuse technology into the school environment. Additionally, Fullan suggests that teachers as learners require time to gain knowledge and then weave that knowledge into what they know and do in their instructional lives. Further, McLaughlin's (1991) research on staff development described the reality that each teacher responds to many elements in the school, including students, goals, norms, etc. With these thoughts in mind, we examined literature on the challenges of technology implementation for teaching and learning.

Challenges to Implementation

The research into the uses and challenges to integrating technology in our P-12 classrooms and curriculum has been extensive and yet it appears researchers continue to ask the same questions, struggle with conceptualizing appropriate research models, and report findings similar to those from other studies (Pollard & Pollard, 2004-05). In a metaanalysis of over 600 studies on ICT in education, Lagrange, Artigue, Laborde and Trouche (2001) concluded, "Research struggles to tackle the complexity of the integration of the evolving technologies" (p. 122). In 2003, Roblyer and Knezek (2003) outlined the topics and issues as they relate to theory on which "new research should focus"(p. 60) and Strudler (2003) questioned the strength of the authors' statements surrounding theory and research in technology in education, yet it seems little has changed since this exchange. This ongoing challenge in conceptualizing research questions has consistently plagued the field (Pollard & Pollard, 2004-05; Roblyer & Knezek 2003; Strudler, 2003). This section begins with a review of the most frequently cited barriers to implementation and then examines the most recent research in this area.

One effort to organize and characterize the research was undertaken by the Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET), a joint project between the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and Educational Support Systems (ESS). An analysis by CARET's researchers demonstrated,

 Much of the research available and examined by CARET is descriptive And based on surveys, interviews, and ethnographies and case studies. Although the educational significance of what was discovered in many of these studies is emphasized, the research methodologies and statistical treatment fall short of what is demanded by NCLB. On the other hand, there are methodologically rigorous studies in which the use of appropriate statistical methods demonstrates that large groups of students using computers or video significantly, in the statistical sense, outperformed

their randomly selected control-group counterparts. The difficulty

with many of the statistical studies is that they do not provide a sufficient basis for consumers (e.g., school districts) to evaluate

the educational relevance of the results. (Cradler, Cradler & Clarke, 2003, p. 51)

Many research studies have repeatedly found that common issues present challenges to implementing technology in curricular and integrative ways. These include inadequate funding, access to equipment, lack of time, and comfort or knowledge about the technology (Hardy, 1998; Lam, 2000; Sandholtz, 2001; Schrum, 1999; Simonsen & Dick, 1997). In general terms, the literature offers little support for the popular rhetoric about technology revolutionizing teaching and learning or teachers fundamentally re-working their lesson plans and pedagogy (Cuban, 2001). As early as 1995, Goodson and Mangan found "evidence of reshuffling the pack of cards, but little evidence of anybody trying a new game" (Goodson & Mangan, 1997, p. 119).

In 1999, Schrum described the results of surveys of teachers' use of technology as resulting in "contradictory" information (Schrum, 1999, p. 84), and in 2000 the National Center for Educational Statistics found that less than 20% of current teachers reported feeling comfortable and prepared to integrate educational technology into classroom instruction (NCES, 2000). Although the availability of computer technology in schools has increased rapidly in recent years, national surveys of teaching practices show that a small percentage of school teachers use computers to teach concepts during (mathematics) instruction (Weiss, 2000). In one study (Kupperman & Fishman, 2001-2002) an online project was designed to completely transform collaborative activities. Unfortunately, they found

 ... little evidence of this happening in the LAB project. Original plans included activities where students shared data and responded to each other's conclusions from home, but enactment difficulties led to these activities being stripped down until they were simply traditional assignments that happened online. (p. 209) 

Teachers' use of technology may also vary widely depending on the grade level or content. Burton (2001) found that most high school art teachers use technology to make handouts and keep grades and only about half use the web to find instructional materials. Barron, Kemker, Harmes, and Kalaydjian (2003) found, in a large-scale study on technology in schools, that elementary teachers used computers more frequently than middle or high school teachers (29% to 23% and 20% respectively). Sandholtz and Reilly (2004) investigated one school district that focused on curriculum rather than technical skills and concluded,

Our research offers a paradox for furthering the use of computers in classrooms--if we take away expectations for technical skills and allow teachers to focus on developing curriculum, evaluating

learning materials, and thinking about how to provide better learning opportunities for their students, teachers are likely to

use technology more effectively and creatively in their teaching.

(p. 487)

Teachers' Attitudes. Another significant aspect involves attitudes and beliefs, which appear to play an important role in what teachers do in their classrooms. "Every teacher has a theory. Even the educator who cares only about practical strategies is operating under assumptions about human nature. ... These assumptions color everything that happens in classrooms" (Kohn, 1996, p. 1). Teachers' technology beliefs are influenced by their teaching philosophy. Resistance to adopting new technologies stem from teachers' existing teaching beliefs (Norton, McRobbie & Cooper, 2000). Moreover, Bitner and Bitner (2002) found that teachers' attitude toward using information and communications...

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