Where should we start when seeking to effectively integrate technology in K-12 school systems? Oftentimes, we gravitate towards tools, hardware, and processes. While those are necessary and important I think we need to lay a more secure foundation when thinking about teachers and their classroom technology integration. Effective technology integration begins with one’s attitudes and beliefs.
Just as our attitudes and beliefs impact our decision making processes throughout daily life, the same is true with technology integration. For example, think about the complex decision making factors that go into your decision to exercise. One of the foundational and most important factors is if you believe it to be necessary and if you have a positive attitude towards exercise. This example correlates well to technology integration. The first step towards effective technology integration is if the integrator believes technology to be useful and they have a positive attitude towards technology use. To put it another way, the teacher’s attitudes and beliefs serve as a filter through which they take in and apply relevant information. This demonstrates the direct impact attitudes and beliefs play in the technology integration process (Chen, 2008). It is not only theoretical, but attitudes and beliefs are directly applicable.
There are three primary beliefs that teachers must uphold in order to effectively integrate technology.
- Teachers must believe that technology can help them achieve higher level goals more effectively.
- Teachers must believe that technology will not disturb higher level goals.
- Teachers must believe that they will have adequate ability and sufficient resources to implement technology (Chen, 2008).
These beliefs highlight the need to focus on higher level goals, and to not get bogged down with how to tutorials. Too often, the first two beliefs are skipped when attempting to integrate technology. The third belief is also significant, and emphasizes the need for teacher training to utilize technology and resources to accomplish the intended goals. The three beliefs work together to formulate a solid foundation for effective technology integration.
Contextual factors also play a significant role in a teacher’s beliefs about technology integration. Some of the examples include school culture, demonstrating the tool, and policy (Chen, 2008). This shows that to best understand teacher beliefs they need to be considered along with contextual factors. Oftentimes, contextual factors are guided by school leaders such as providing avenues for teachers to observe technology integration in another classroom or contextual examples can come from the school community that encourages or discourages technology integration.
An interesting dilemma occurs when some teachers attempt to integrate technology. Espoused beliefs towards student centered learning do not translate when they utilize technology. A teacher creates engaging hands on activities where students produce powerful demonstrations of their learning, but when that same teacher utilizes technology the classroom activities transform into a worksheet or drill based exercise (Ertmer et al., 2012). This brings to the forefront an important point for consideration about transitioning a teacher’s pedagogical beliefs within their technology integration. A teacher needs time and assistance when applying their teaching practices within the scope of technology integration.
Intentions and the perceptions of control are two of the strongest influences on beliefs and attitudes (Salleh, 2006). In order to guide or shape teacher beliefs and attitudes intentions and control must be taken into account. Intentions deal with the planned use. Applying this to technology integration results in providing teachers time to plan out the use of technology, collaborating around ideas to implement, and providing examples for them to envision how technology integration should appear. Perceptions of control allow the teacher to feel as if they are in control of technology integration. There should not be forced integration. Teachers can be guided to a final destination, but in order for the attitudes and beliefs to embrace technology integration the teacher needs to be the one in control, part of the conversation, and not feel as if the control lies with administration.
Attitudes and beliefs are complex and nuanced. As educational leaders we are not going to resolve the many dynamics. However, including attitudes and beliefs in respect to technology integration will build a solid foundation that will help lead towards continued success.
Matthew Downing is a K-8 technology coach in a large public school district outside of Philadelphia, PA. Currently, he is a doctoral student at Northeastern University with a focus on effective technology integration. Matt is most interested in the way professional development can lead to transformative learning experiences.
Chen, C. (2008). Why Do Teachers Not Practice What They Believe Regarding Technology
Integration? The Journal of Educational Research (Washington, D.C.), 102(1), 65-75.
Ertmer, Peggy A, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Anne T, Sadik, Olgun, Sendurur, Emine, & Sendurur,
Polat. (2012). Teacher beliefs and technology integration practices: A critical
relationship. Computers and Education, 59(2), 423-435.