Examining the Technology Integration Planning Cycle Model of Professional Development to Support Teachers’ Instructional Practices
by Amy C. Hutchison & Lindsay Woodward - 2018
Background: Presently, models of professional development aimed at supporting teachers’ technology integration efforts are often short and decontextualized. With many schools across the country utilizing standards that require students to engage with digital tools, a situative model that supports building teachers’ knowledge within their classrooms is needed.
Purpose of Study: The purpose of this study was to examine how teachers’ instructional planning and delivery, as well as their perceptions of their proficiency with technology integration, changed when they participated in a model of technology-focused professional development titled the Technology Integration Planning Cycle Model of Professional Development. The researchers also examined the relationship between students’ (N = 1,335) digital literacy skills and teachers’ participation in the Technology Integration Planning Cycle Model of Professional Development.
Program: The TIPC Model of PD comprised whole-group professional development sessions, long-range planning, access to instructional coaches, professional learning communities, digital tool resources, observations with reflections, and a comprehensive project website.
Research Design: This mixed-methods study combined numerous quantitative and qualitative data sources and data analysis techniques to answer the research questions. Pre- and posttest comparisons were used to examine changes in students’ digital literacy skills and changes in teachers’ perceptions of their pedagogical expertise for integrating digital technology. Daily diaries, classroom observations, interviews, and field notes were analyzed to understand the role of the professional development in teachers’ instructional planning and their perceptions of their proficiency.
Findings: Results indicate that students in classrooms with participant teachers performed significantly better on a digital literacy assessment, the Survey of Internet Use and Online Reading, than did control group students. Selective exposure to digital tools, professional learning communities, and opportunities for reflection were the most transformative elements of this model for teachers. Teachers were better prepared to envision their roles in the classroom and the purposes for integrating technology because of the TIPC framework.
Conclusions: The results of this study provide important implications for professional development, particularly in regard to (1) providing a model in which to ground discussion and application of technology integration; (2) situating digital tools within context-driven instruction; and (3) using multiple modes of teacher engagement.
The importance of technology in classroom instruction has changed both the expectations for what students should know and be able to do, and the learning experiences designed by teachers. With many schools across the nation using standards that require students to develop and demonstrate knowledge of how to create, communicate, and learn using digital tools (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010), teachers preparation to facilitate learning that meaningfully integrates technology becomes even more critical. At present, much of this preparation for in-service teachers has taken the form of short, decontextualized workshops that are most often focused on the introduction and use of a specific digital tool (Blocher, Armfield, Sujo-Montes, Tucker, & Willis, 2011; Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007), not on how to use that tool to meet specific classroom instructional goals. Further, current models of professional development (PD) do not address important barriers that teachers experience when seeking to use digital technology to facilitate learning (Ertmer, 1999; Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik, Sendurur, & Sendurur, 2012; Kopcha, 2012).
The changing role of teachers in the digital classroom may be a useful foundation on which to build new PD models that meet the needs of practicing teachers. Shaffer, Nash, and Ruis (2015) suggested that teachers in digital classrooms adopt new roles that connect to traditional teaching, but that function to decentralize teachers in the learning process through their work as coordinators, mentors, translators, learners, and experts. Although recent research indicates that teachers do work toward shifting their roles when they are integrating technology into learning experiences (Dwyer, 2016; Hutchison & Woodward, 2014a; Tour, 2015; White, 2016), there is a paucity of research that explores how teachers can be supported in these efforts. Therefore, this study explores a PD approach that focuses on (1) building teachers knowledge about the pedagogy associated with using technology (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) and (2) supporting teachers as they seek to overcome barriers to integrating technology (Blocher et al., 2011).
The PD approach explored in this study prioritized how teachers could develop pedagogical knowledge of using digital technologies in their classrooms, rather than focusing exclusively on single digital tools. Teachers were engaged in opportunities that supported a range of possible pedagogical approaches to using technology in their classrooms (Ertmer et al., 2012; Jonassen & Reeves, 1996), as well as in how to plan instruction that effectively utilizes digital tools to create meaningful learning experiences for students. The Technology Integration Planning Cycle (TIPC; Hutchison & Woodward, 2014b) was used as a framework for supporting teachers planning efforts and also as a tool to foster an understanding of the importance of the instructional goal when designing learning opportunities for students (Ertmer et al., 2012). The TIPC is a tool to guide teachers in planning instruction that integrates technology through a recursive process that directs teachers in identifying their instructional goals before selecting their digital tools. This emphasis on identifying the instructional goal is intended to ensure that teachers uses of technology are aligned with their curricular goals. The TIPC also guides teachers through a process in which they identify the contributions of the digital tool, the potential barriers created by the tool, and other instructional considerations that may change as a result of using technology, such as assessment, physical space, and teacher role. Through exploring a new type of PD on technology integration, the Technology Integration Planning Cycle Model of Professional Development (TIPC Model of PD), a greater understanding of the complexities of the roles that teachers take on when teaching in a digital classroom and how those teachers are best supported can be developed.
A situative perspective of the teacher learning that takes place through PD supports a focus on the individual teachers and their learning, as well as the context in which they are learning, the structures and routines that exist to either support or constrain teachers development, and the context within which they are planning to use their new knowledge and experiences (Borko, 2004; Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Ertmer, 2005). Borko (2004) called for using a situative approach to understanding teacher learning because of the close connections between the knowledge a teacher is gaining through PD and the context in which the teacher is both learning it and will apply it. In this study, teachers participating in PD were planning to meet instructional goals within their specific contexts with a variety of supports designed to respond to specific barriers. These practices were also embedded within their existing practice and were not expected to be in addition to their existing work. Postholm (2012) noted that although courses and workshops may be useful for teachers to acquire content, that learning within ones own school context may contribute to the important exploratory and reflective work that is representative of high-quality PD. Situative PD has important potential to develop sustained changes in teachers practices and can be responsive to teachers needs and the demands of their classroom contexts (Kopcha, 2012). Therefore, situative perspectives of learning provide a lens for examining the multiple elements of the PD in the current study and how this PD informed teachers knowledge, beliefs, and classroom instruction.
EFFECTIVE TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION IN INSTRUCTION
Research on technology integration in instruction indicates that it is important for teachers to use pedagogically relevant digital tools rather than focus on simply digitizing existing work or seeking exclusively to engage students (Hutchison & Woodward, 2014b; Leu et al., 2015; Smolin & Lawless, 2011). The TIPC Model of PD focuses on the selection of appropriate digital tools, which align closely with the articulated instructional goal and the intended instructional approach. By situating PD within a reflective cycle that prioritizes instructional goals and student outcomes, and clarifies that technology is a possible tool to achieve that goal, technology integration can be much more effective in classroom instruction. Specifically, this design allows teachers to see a variety of pedagogical possibilities with each digital tool rather than designing lessons to incorporate a specific tool (Ertmer et al., 2012; Jonassen & Reeves, 1996; Roblyer, 1993).
This approach becomes especially important when considering the landscape of current digital tools used in educational settings. With more than 720 iPad apps updated or released in the first half of 2016, teachers are inundated with new and constantly changing possibilities for instructional technology in their classrooms. Leu and his colleagues (2015) claimed that the importance is not using digital tools themselves, but rather how the tools can be used to create meaningful learning experiences for students and afford new and different ways to communicate, which can better prepare them for their future lives. Although the tools themselves may change, the goal of technology integration remains the same: to support teachers efforts to create meaningful and authentic learning opportunities through technology (Ertmer et al., 2012). The focus of the TIPC Model of PD on the instructional goal instead of particular digital tools resonates with this aim.
Further, students can use technology to interact and communicate in ways that support and extend existing instructional goals. For example, Dalton (2012) discussed using a digital writers workshop to incorporate K5 Common Core State Standards involving traditional writing with those that call for an expanded understanding of communication in multiple modes. Crippen and Archambault (2012) discussed the importance of integrating technology, such as data mash-ups, into science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instruction to better support students understanding of the practical problems that can be addressed through STEM instructional goals. Finally, Miller (2013) found that providing opportunities for secondary students to compose digital videos in response to specific instructional goals resulted in the creation of authentic spaces for learning, increased focus on the dimensions of multimodal design, and collaboration for instructional purposes. The importance of situating technology use within the classroom is further supported by a recent study of fourth- and fifth-grade students that explored the types of digital activities they engaged in both in and out of school. Hutchison et al. (2016) found that not only are preadolescent students engaged in a wider range of digital tasks while in school than out of school, but they also preferred to use digital tools, in spite of believing that it was more challenging to learn from the Internet. Supporting teachers in effectively integrating technology for instructional purposes benefits students not only in classroom settings but in out-of-school contexts as well.
Although incorporating technology to support instructional goals is a critical aim of technology integration, articulating specific goals for using digital tools throughout the year can scaffold students abilities to use digital tools in increasingly complex and robust ways. One important component of the TIPC Model of PD is the creation of a long-range plan that reflects instructional goals and development of skills with digital tools. The importance of sustained attention and reflection on the integration of technology is highlighted by Mouza (2009) in her longitudinal study of elementary teachers. The teachers in that study reported envisioning sustained projects that involved supporting their students in developing skills with multiple digital tools in order to accomplish multiple instructional goals, as well as affective goals such as fostering self-efficacy, engagement, and increasing equitable access to digital tools in the classroom. Thus, teachers need opportunity and space to develop and reflect on their long-range goals for using digital tools to accomplish multiple goals for supporting students.
Barriers to Technology Integration
PD in technology integration should be aimed at overcoming barriers that may prevent teachers from being able to fully use PD experiences in their classroom (Ertmer, 1999; Ertmer et al., 2012; Kopcha, 2012). The TIPC Model of PD targeted specific barriers in order to support teachers in their technology integration efforts. Ertmer (1999) discussed first- and second-order barriers, in which first-order barriers are largely external and skill based, such as operating a digital tool, while second-order barriers are internal and involve pedagogical and personal constraints. The TIPC Model of PD attempts to provide a framework for addressing second-order barriers, such as teacher beliefs and motivation to integrate, through helping teachers see the value of technology-enabled learning and providing support for them to integrate digital tools into their planning by using the TIPC rather than just teaching them tools. This approach resonates with the importance of inviting teachers to both recognize and confront their perceptions and beliefs about technology integration in order to consider how integrating technology into instruction is useful in their own contexts (Ertmer, 1999). Ertmer recognized that uncertainty about the relevance of technology in their [teachers] prescribed curricula can cause cultural incompatibility (p. 51). Further, she noted that strong beliefs and pedagogical approaches to integrating technology into instruction can minimize the impact of first-order barriers. Thus, providing opportunities for teachers to recognize and overcome second-order barriers can reduce the impact of first-order barriers.
TEACHERS ROLES IN DIGITAL CLASSROOMS
A specific element of supporting teachers abilities to conceptualize how digital tools support their instruction is to identify and explore the role that teachers take on in the classroom. Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, Castek, and Henry (2013) argued that using digital tools fundamentally changes the role of the teacher in the classroom and that PD is an important part of helping teachers situate themselves in digital classrooms. Recent research has explored the role that teachers take in classrooms where digital tools are used for instructional purposes. Dwyer (2016) explored a classroom in which students used specific strategies in an online inquiry environment and noted the importance of the teachers role in the classroom as promoting mutual interdependence and respect between teacher and student. White (2016) examined her own practice and how she positioned herself in the classroom when using Internet reciprocal teaching and found that she needed to fluidly adapt from providing whole-class direct instruction to individual support, and recognize the important part she played in establishing a collaborative space within both the physical space of the classroom and the digital spaces in which students were interacting. Tour (2015) reported how three teachers digital mindsets differently shaped their classroom instruction and beyond. Teachers who viewed technology as superfluous to their daily lives approached technology integration as a nonessential option for students, whereas a teacher who valued technology personally integrated digital tools meaningfully as the primary mode for accomplishing multiple instructional goals. Finally, Hutchison and Woodward (2014a) examined the role of an English language arts teacher as she sought to integrate technology instruction into her sixth-grade teaching and how the different roles she took on in the classroom were connected to whether or not her instruction involved a digital tool. This growing body of research indicates that how teachers orient themselves toward integrating technology influences how they position themselves in the classroom. The TIPC Model of PD aims to support teachers in understanding their role in the classroom when using digital tools for instructional purposes and to provide opportunity for reflection on the teachers roles in the classroom.
PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES
In addition to teachers roles in the classroom, professional learning communities (PLCs) were integrated into the TIPC Model of PD. Drawing on the existing model of PLCs established in the participant district (DuFour, 2004), our PD sought to support teachers efforts to integrate technology by situating specific elements of our PD model within the PLC structure. Drawing on Fullans (2002) claim that teachers must have opportunities to create dialogue to make meaning from new information, teachers were supported in being able to use their time to meet as a PLC to support their technology integration efforts. Specifically, Green, Donovan, and Bass (2010) proposed four factors that influence the success of technology-focused PLCs: school climate, communication, collaboration, and progression of use. The design of PLCs in this project provided opportunities for teachers to share and discuss first- and second-order barriers and work together to plan instruction. Cifuentes, Maxwell, and Bulu (2011) found that through participating in a larger sustained PD project that included targeted PLC involvement, teachers not only increased the digital tools they were using in the classroom but also changed how they viewed their role in the classroom and a switch from teacher-driven to student-driven instruction.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION
Table 1 reflects how each of the elements of the TIPC Model of PD aligns with the five characteristics of high-quality PD as described by Lawless and Pellegrino (2007) in their discussion of PD in integrating technology into instruction. They synthesized research that identified the following five characteristics of high-quality PD: are longer in duration, provide access to new technologies for teaching and learning, actively engage teachers in meaningful and relevant activities for their individual contexts, promote peer collaboration and community building, and have a clearly articulated and common vision for student achievement (Lawless & Pellegrino). Table 1 highlights the situative nature of the TIPC Model of PD through several outcomes and elements designed to respond to multiple factors affecting the quality of PD.
Table 1. Technology Integration Planning Cycle Model of Professional Development Elements and Their Connection to Quality Professional Development
Each of these elements of the TIPC Model of PD were intended to contribute to our overarching goal of improving students digital literacy skills. Figure 1 illustrates our theory of action for the TIPC Model of PD.
Figure 1. Theory of Action for the Technology Integration Planning Cycle Model of Professional Development
The current study was designed to answer the following research questions (RQs):
How do teachers perceptions of their proficiency with integrating technology into instruction change when they participate in the TIPC Model of PD?
How do teacher instruction and instructional planning change as teachers participate in the TIPC Model of PD?
What is the relationship between students digital literacy skills and teachers participation in the TIPC Model of PD?
Table 2 provides an overview of the data sources that were used to answer each research question and how data were analyzed for each question.
Table 2. Overview of Research Questions, Data Sources, and Analysis
DESCRIPTION OF THE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT MODEL
The Technology Integration Project was a yearlong PD project in which teachers participated in the TIPC Model of PD for the course of a school year. The purpose of the PD was to support teachers in integrating digital technologies into their literacy instruction to support their instructional goals and to improve students digital literacy skills. The authors both designed and implemented the PD and served as the researchers who collected data on the various elements of the model. Although previous research has been conducted to study how pre-service teachers use the TIPC to plan instruction (e.g., Beschorner & Kruse, 2016; Hutchison & Colwell, 2016), the current study represents the first effort to study how teachers use the TIPC systematically over the course of a year as part of a larger model of PD. The components of the PD model included the following.
Whole-Group PD Sessions
The purpose of the whole-group sessions was to introduce the TIPC (see Figure 2), which served as the foundation for the project. During these sessions, teachers were introduced to the educational philosophies and theories guiding the TIPC and given opportunities to practice using the model with the support of peers and the session facilitators.
Figure 2. The Technology Integration Planning Cycle
To encourage teachers to think about technology integration as an ongoing, skill-building, and long-term activity, teachers were asked to develop a long-range plan for introducing different skills and types of technologies into their instruction. The purpose of the long-range plan was to guide teachers in gradually introducing technologies into instruction in a way that would align with their instructional goals, systematically build students digital literacy skills over time, build on what students already knew, create variety in the types of tools students used, and ensure that technology was integrated throughout the year. The long-range plans were intended to be flexible and serve as a guide and a reminder to integrate a range of tools over the course of the year and were not intended as rigid plans to be followed. Even when using the long-range plan as a guide, teachers were asked to continue using the TIPC to ensure that the planned use of technology supported the teachers instructional goals. A portion of a sample long-range plan, aligned with a teachers instructional goals, is provided in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Sample Long-Range Plan for Integrating Technology into Literacy Instruction
Access to Instructional Coaches for Support for Instructional Planning, Resources, Etc.
A key part of the TIPC is for teachers to carefully consider if and how their use of instructional technology supports their instructional goals. Teachers are encouraged to seek additional support and resources when they have difficulty determining how technology may support their instructional goals. Thus, an important part of this PD model was for teachers to have access to instructional coaches to support their instructional planning. The instructional coaches were employed by the district and would have normally been available to the teachers even if they did not participate in the PD study. However, to better support the teachers technology integration, these coaches also received PD on how to use the model and how to support teachers in using it. The coaches were not considered to be experts at technology integration. Thus, their primary role was to guide teachers in asking important questions about their instructional planning and instructional standards, and to guide them to relevant resources.
Teacher Participation in a Professional Learning Community
All teachers in the study participated in a PLC that was focused on integrating technology into literacy instruction. PLCs were made up of teachers from the same grade level who worked in the same building. Thus, these teachers saw each other daily and had shared standards and school guidelines. Each PLC also had an instructional coach who facilitated discussion and served as a resource for the teachers. Each PLC met with his or her coach twice weekly for 45 minutes. As a group, each PLC created goals to address the question, What do we want students to know and be able to do? Additionally, each week, every PLC was asked to address the questions listed in Figure 4. The purpose of these questions was to help teachers assess their progress toward their goals.
Figure 4. Weekly Professional Learning Community Questions
In addition to the weekly PLC meetings with an instructional coach, we also met with each PLC an average of three times throughout the year to provide additional support and to gauge the needs of the PLCs as they related to the project.
Weekly Digital Tool Resources With Accompanying Lesson Plan Examples
Each week, project participants received an Appy Friday email that included an App Integration Snapshot with an accompanying lesson plan. The App Integration Snapshots were documents that introduced a single digital tool, provided comprehensive instructions on how to access and use the tool, and included brief suggestions for how to integrate the tool into classroom instruction (see Figure 5 for an example). Each snapshot was accompanied by a lesson plan that was designed using the TIPC and was aligned to Common Core English Language Arts standards. The lesson plans were intended to serve as examples of how instruction could be supported and enhanced through technology integration. Teachers were encouraged to use the examples to create their own plans appropriate for their individual contexts.
Figure 5. Example of App Integration Snapshot Sent with Appy Friday Email
Teaching Observations With Individual Teacher Reflection and Reflective Feedback Session With the Observer
Participating teachers were observed implementing a lesson they had planned using the TIPC. All teachers were observed at least once, but many were observed more frequently depending on scheduling availability. During each observation, we used an observation protocol to look for components of instruction related to the TIPC. At the end of each observation, we scored teachers lessons using a rubric. The teacher delivering the instruction also evaluated his or her own lesson using the same rubric. Teachers were then asked to explain why they rated the lesson the way they did and to reflect on what they could change in future instruction. Subsequently, the researcher who conducted the observation met with the teacher to discuss the lesson and reflect on the instruction.
The Whole Shebang Website
A central website for the project, titled The Whole Shebang Website for its comprehensiveness, was developed as the main hub for everything related to participation in the PD project. The intent of creating the website was to make it a centralized place that participants would visit often for project resources, ideas, and social networking. Specifically, it included (1) digital video recordings of the PD sessions that participants could access at any time; (2) additional information about the TIPC; (3) copies of the weekly App Integration Snapshots and lesson plans; (4) project documents and handouts such as sample long-range plans, PLC questions, and planning templates; (5) a digital signup sheet to invite us to join PLC meetings or observe classroom instruction; (6) a link to the project Pinterest page where we posted resources; (7) a running feed of Twitter posts made to the project Twitter page or using the project hashtag; (8) links to a few carefully selected digital tools and websites for locating digital tools, which were intended to reduce the time teachers would need to spend looking for resources; and (9) a social forum where participants could post questions, ideas, resources, and so on.
DATA SOURCES AND ANALYSIS PROCEDURES
Numerous data sources and data analysis procedures were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the PD model and are described subsequently. Figure 6 provides an overview of the relationship among the research questions, the data, and the data analysis.
Figure 6. Description of the Relationship Among Data and Analysis
Teacher Pre- and Post-Questionnaire
Teachers completed a modified version of the Survey of Technology Use in Literacy and Language Arts (Hutchison & Reinking, 2011) at the beginning and end of the project to provide information about the extent of their technology integration, their perceptions of the importance of integration, and their skill with technology use and integration. Results from the first administration of the survey were used to design the whole-group PD session. The session was designed with consideration of teachers prior experiences integrating technology into instruction and to address barriers to integration that teachers had identified in the survey. Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed-rank tests were performed to determine if there were significant differences in teachers perceptions of their proficiency with integrating technology before and after participation in the PD.
Student Survey of Internet Use and Online Reading
To understand how teachers participation in the PD may have influenced students digital literacy skills, fourth- and fifth-grade students in a control group and fourth- and fifth-grade students in the participating teachers classrooms (experimental group) took the Survey of Internet Use and Online Reading (see Hutchison & Henry, 2010; Hutchison et al., 2016). Only fourth- and fifth-grade students were selected to complete the survey because the majority of teachers in the study taught fourth or fifth grade, and the digital skills assessment is most appropriate for those grade levels. The Survey of Internet Use and Online Reading is a valid and reliable instrument designed to measure the following three constructs related to digital literacy: (1) Use of Internet Tools; (2) Online Reading Material; (3) Internet-Based Literacy Skills. Originally developed in 2010, face validity for the instrument was established through a content validation procedure (Netemeyer, Bearden, & Sharma, 2003) in which seven experts in the field of new literacies evaluated the items and mapped each item to the constructs to be measured. Principal axis factoring using oblimin rotation was used to determine the factor structure of the instrument and test for internal reliability. Item analysis was conducted to determine if item difficulty was appropriate. Minor revisions to the instrument were made by one of the original authors in 2016 to reflect changing technologies, and internal reliability procedures were repeated. The revised version of the survey was used in the current study.
The first construct of the survey, Use of Internet Tools, is designed to identify the types of digital tools students use to read, write, and communicate online. The second construct, Online Reading Materials, is designed to gauge students perceptions about reading online and their self-perceptions of their skill at reading and writing digitally. The internal consistency of these items was evaluated because they were intended to collectively provide an understanding of students perceptions related to online reading materials. Cronbachs alpha for these items was 0.82, which confirms that the items are closely related and that the scale is reliable. The third construct, Internet-Based Literacy Skills, is designed to measure students abilities to navigate digital environments and to locate, evaluate, synthesize, and communicate digital information. Because the third construct was slightly modified from the original version, a principal axis factor analysis with varimax rotation was conducted and led to the identification of two factors within this construct. The first factor was labeled Vocabulary Knowledge of Digital Terms, and item loadings for this factor ranged from 0.53 to 0.73. This factor includes items related to understanding of vocabulary terms related to working online, such as URL and PDF Download. The second factor was labeled Internet Search, Evaluation, and Communication Skills, and items loadings for this factor ranged from 0.54 to 0.71. The second factor includes seven items related to formulating questions to search online, locating relevant resources, evaluating resources, and communicating information online.1
The first two constructs of the survey were analyzed descriptively to provide information to teachers participating in the study that could guide their instruction. Item scores from the third construct of the survey were summed to create a digital literacy skills score. The digital literacy skills scores were analyzed with analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) tests to determine if the posttest means, adjusted for pretest scores, differed for the control and experimental groups. This analysis ensured that any difference in the posttest means were not an effect of pretest differences between the groups.
Lesson Observation and Reflection Rubric
Every teacher was observed conducting a lesson that was planned using the TIPC and evaluated with a common rubric. Teachers also completed the rubric to evaluate and reflect on their own lesson. Our scores and teachers rubrics were compared and discussed, and the conversation was recorded and transcribed. Field notes were taken during observations.
We attended one or more PLC meetings for each PLC to understand how teachers were using the TIPC to guide their instruction and to observe teacher interactions during the meetings. Field notes were recorded during the meetings.
Each PLC was interviewed at the beginning, middle, and end of the project to learn about their initial goals and how those changed over time, to gauge their progress toward their goals, and to assess their needs as they related to the project.
Teacher Daily Diary Check-Ins
Teachers were asked to keep a digital daily diary for one week of the month throughout the project period. Teachers were randomly assigned a week each month in which they recorded all their uses of digital technology every day for that week by clicking on a link sent to their email and completing a checklist to indicate which technologies they had used. The purpose of the diary was to understand how teachers uses of technology changed over time. Teachers completed the diary for a period of one week in the months of October through April. These data were analyzed descriptively to look for trends over time.
All qualitative data were analyzed using an inductive approach (Thomas, 2006). To facilitate this approach, we initially read all field notes, observation notes, teacher reflections, and interview transcripts. We then wrote memos describing general impressions of the data relative to the research questions. Next, data were split into segments and labeled to create categories related to the research questions. Segments were created around complete thoughts or ideas and left in original thought segments to create a context for each instance. Each category was then further reduced and labeled with descriptive codes. Labeling continued until no new ideas were found in the data. Descriptive codes were then again compared with the research questions and conceptual framework and grouped to develop themes related to each research question. This process resulted in 15 descriptive codes, which were grouped into six themes, described subsequently in the results section.
SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS
The Technology Integration Project took place in a suburban school district in a midwestern state in the United States. The school district was selected because it had a new 1:1 laptop program through which many students received a Chromebook for both in-school and out-of-school use. Thus, the district identified a need for support for these teachers, many of whom were transitioning to using technology in the classroom for the first time. Thirty-three teachers completed the yearlong study, representing a range of teaching experience (228 years) and teaching assignments (second through ninth grade). Teachers participated as part of a PLC, and it is important to note that each PLC was diverse in the age and range of teaching experience of the teachers. As such, teachers interest in and experience with technology integration varied widely within and across PLCs. Table 3 reports teachers ages and range of teaching experience within each PLC.
Table 3. Teacher Participants by Professional Learning Community
Though the PD was focused on the teachers, fourth- and fifth-grade students in control and experimental classrooms completed the Survey of Internet Use and Online Reading to determine if students digital literacy skills improved when teachers participated in the TIPC Model of PD. Classrooms in the control group were identified by the school district because students in those classrooms were the same grade level as experimental group students and also had access to 1:1 Chromebooks. Control group classes were in the same school district, but not the same schools as teachers who participated in the PD. Table 4 provides a profile of the student participants, including their access to digital devices outside of school. Students completed the survey in the fall (pretest) and the spring (posttest). As a group, these participants were predominantly White (86%), which is reflective of the school district as a whole. The percent of students eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch ranged from 7.8% to 33.1% in the participating schools.
Table 4. Digital Profile of Pre- and Posttest Control and Experimental Student Participants (total N = 1,335)
RQ 1: How do teachers perceptions of their proficiency with integrating technology into instruction change when they participate in the Technology Integration Planning Cycle model of PD?
Teachers were asked to rate their perceptions of their proficiency in teaching with Chromebooks before and after participating in the PD. Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed-rank tests were performed to determine if there were significant differences in teachers perceptions before and after participation. The PD that was provided did not formally offer any support for becoming more technically proficient with Chromebooks, but rather focused on helping teachers integrate technology into their instruction. Table 5 reports pre- and posttest comparisons of teachers perceptions of their proficiency with instructional uses of Chromebooks and indicates that teachers perceptions of their proficiency with using Chromebooks for instructional activities significantly improved in six out of eight areas.
Table 5. Teacher Perceptions of Proficiency in Teaching With Chromebooks Before and After Professional Development
To further understand teachers perceptions of their proficiency with planning instruction into which technology is integrated, we examined data from interviews, field notes from PLC observations, and field notes from the reflection meetings that followed our observation of teachers. Our open coding revealed the following two themes related to teachers perceptions of their proficiency: (1) Selective Exposure to Digital Tools, and (2) The Professional Learning Community as A Support System. Each theme is subsequently explained.
SELECTIVE EXPOSURE TO DIGITAL TOOLS AND RESOURCES
An important component of the PD that teachers reported as helpful for improving their proficiency with integrating technology into their instruction was the ongoing exposure to carefully curated resources that they received. Specifically, teachers received weekly emails that introduced them to one new digital tool and a sample lesson plan that was designed with the TIPC and aligned with the Common Core State Standards, which illustrated how the tool could be used to support the selected instructional goal. The weekly resources also aligned with the example long-range plan for integrating technology into instruction; thus, the resources were timely for teachers who were following the long-range plan. Additionally, the project website archived the weekly resources and provided links to a few carefully selected resources for identifying various types of digital tools. Rather than external lesson plan sites, we guided teachers to sites where they could learn about various tools associated with their goals so that the focus remained on designing instruction around each teachers individual instructional goals rather than simply finding existing lesson plans to use. For example, if, by using the TIPC, a teacher determined that the instructional goal could be supported by having students create digital videos, the teacher could then access the resources we provided to find an array of video recording and editing tools that might work for the lesson. Further, teachers received updates on how other participants in the project were integrating technology into their instruction, and numerous classroom examples related to the digital resources were shared. This selective exposure to resources was intended to provide a broad range of high-quality and relevant examples without overwhelming teachers with too much information. Analysis of our qualitative data indicates that this selective exposure supported teachers in important ways. One example of how the selective exposure helped was that the Appy Friday emails stimulated conversations among PLCs and gave them a common idea to discuss. A fifth-grade PLC explained this idea in relation to the Appy Friday emails:
John (all names are pseudonyms): The Appy Friday email encouraged self-reflective
practice, and sometimes it stimulated conversation in our PLC.
I agree. It [the Appy Friday emails] encouraged self-reflective practice, and sometimes it stimulated conversation in our PLC about, Did you see that one thing that we saw on the Appy Friday? Or Hey, have you tried this? Sometimes it wasnt even on Appy Friday, it was just about being mindful of how technology becomes a way to enhance instruction and student learning.
John: Talking about these things with our PLC changed my mindset on it a little bit, or just helped keep that clear for me, when Im trying to think about what I want to teach and how to teach it.
Another teacher explained that receiving the weekly Appy Friday resources gave her PLC members a common language for discussing digital tools and created a connection among her group. She stated, It [Appy Friday emails] gave us that connection. When youre talking with them about lets collaborate, you could say, lets use that app. I know you saw it. It was in last weeks email or whatever. It gives you a common language kind of thing (Audrey, fourth-grade teacher, interview).
Further, in their final interviews, nearly every teacher reported on the usefulness of the project website as a central hub for accessing project resources and staying focused on the project. An important resource that many teachers took advantage of was the online version of the face-to-face PD sessions from the beginning of the project. Videos related to each individual component of the TIPC were available for teachers to access at any time. Thus, teachers could watch short videos focusing on any component of the planning cycle to refresh their understanding as needed. Nearly all teachers commented on the usefulness of having the weekly lesson plans and App Integration Snapshots archived on the site to access as needed. The site also contained digital sign-up sheets where teachers could sign up to check out a set of iPads made available through the project or invite us to come observe their classroom instruction or visit their PLC meetings. The digital sign-up sheets were used regularly and provided an additional way to inform us of happenings in teachers classrooms. In the following interview response, Ryanne, a fifth-grade teacher, explained the value of the website for her, which was similar to that of many teachers in the project:
I thought the website was good because if you went on it you see a summary of all the projects and find out where the iPads are. Also, I dont feel like I would have done as much with the Chromebook had I not had those emails every Friday, forcing me to look at the different apps. Like Cara said, I didnt use all of them, but I know in the future, its just nice to have somewhere to look rather than spending time searching. Sometimes when you just do the Chromebook search for apps, theyre not very good onesyou cant find what you need. I could find everything I needed on your website.
THE PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITY AS A SUPPORT SYSTEM
Another reason that teachers perceived they improved their proficiency with integrating technology was that participation in their PLC provided the support and encouragement they needed to consider technology integration. A fifth-grade PLC explained how they believed participating in the project with their PLC was the most valuable aspect of the project and that it gave them a sense of camaraderie and improved their perceptions of what they could accomplish.
Christine: I would say as a PLC the most valuable thing is that were all in the trenches together. It brought us all together with some of the technology things and bringing us the good and the bad. Like the things we liked about the program we could all share that together. So I think when you decide again or you offer this up again have it be a PLC thing. PLCs are what you need because if you just have one person doing it . . . if I was just doing it, it wouldnt make that big of a difference. Like I would have felt better about trying things with a PLC, like that exiting thing [exiting the planning cycle and not using technology if it does not align to instructional goals]. But I dont think I would have gotten half as much out of it if. . .
Nobody to bounce ideas off of. . .
Christine: And we push each other. Like, hey we should try this because this is something appropriate for our goals.
Another way that participation through a PLC helped is that it provided teachers with peers whom they could ask questions. In some cases, these were more knowledgeable peers who were able to play a mentoring role. One of the groups that participated in the project was an unlikely pairing of teachers with vastly different experiences. Jenni had extensive experience integrating technology into her instruction and had previously taught in a district in which every student had a laptop, but she was new to her current school and district. Kerri was a veteran teacher who believed that she needed to integrate technology into her instruction but felt overwhelmed by the idea of learning how to do that. They explained how working together was important for both of them:
Kerri: Jenni is very knowledgeable with technology, so I had her in the pod to go to when
I didnt understand or when I got stuck.
Jenni: I appreciate that you let us do this together because it was good for me because she had the early childhood background, which I didnt have. I came from One-to-One [one laptop per student], but I did One-to-One at a middle school and high school level. Bringing it down, it was like, Okay, do you think. . .? . . . I need to rethink how Im going to approach this with younger students. I think it helped to have a partner in it so you can talk through different things.
And a partner that was close.
Yeah, in proximity. . . . If I were to do it again, I would definitely partner up with somebody who has the strength in an area that I dont. I just felt like that was a great give and take. I felt like that really grew me.
Kerri: I learned that this is a long process that takes continued effortit takes collaboration. One teacher working by himself or herself is not going to go as far as the team working together can. It really takes time, its not even a one-year experience, this is a career experience.
RQ 2: How do teacher instruction and instructional planning change as teachers participate in the Technology Integration Planning Cycle model of PD?
To address the second research question and understand the role of the PD on teachers use of digital tools and instructional planning, PLC observations, meeting memos, interviews, daily diaries, and lesson observations and reflections were analyzed.
RESULTS FROM PLC OBSERVATIONS, MEMOS, AND INTERVIEWS
An analysis of PLC observations, memos, and interviews revealed how teachers used the TIPC in their instructional planning and its influence on their thinking about integrating technology into instruction. This finding is explained in the subsequently presented theme titled Using the TIPC to Understand Instructional Planning.
Using the TIPC to Understand Instructional Planning
A component of the PD that teachers identified as changing their instruction and instructional planning was learning about the TIPC. In particular, teachers indicated that it provided a starting point for conceiving how instruction could and should be designed when integrating technology. For example, a fourth-grade teacher, Audrey, explained that integrating technology into instruction is not something that she thinks about or is naturally inclined to do, and she needs a structure to help her do that. She stated,
I went to college when I didnt have a computer in college. Im that old. Email wasnt invented. We had no email when I was in college. I mean, can you even imagine? Trying to intentionally plan things like this, I need to be more deliberate about thinking when Im lesson planning.
She went on to compare herself to her colleagues, stating,
I would think, I guess, as youre lesson-planning [referring to her colleague], you would think, Oh, this would be a great place to throw in VoiceThread. Oh, this would be a great place to throw in that. My brain just doesnt work that way yet. Probably its because Im ancient too.
Audrey further explained that because teaching with technology was new for her, and she was not accustomed to thinking about how to integrate technology into her instruction, she appreciated having the TIPC as a tool to support her planning. She explained that her exposure to the TIPC helped her to feel more confident with technology integration. She finished her final interview by saying I would like to just say thank you because I just think things like this have forced me to think about it [technology integration]. Its what you need. A push.
Other teachers explained that using the TIPC helped them to think about integration differently and helped them to feel confident in the ways that they were integrating technology into their instruction. For example, in her final interview, Ryanne, a fifth-grade teacher, explained,
In the last few years, you know technology has been coming our way obviously, but Ive always kind of been looking at it like, Oh, heres a fill in the blank. Like Storyboard. Where can I plug it into my day? Where this [the TIPC] was a shift in the mindset. . . . Yep, we started with the standards. We looked at that standard, and then we thought, Now, what can we do for this project?
Ryannes PLC members went on to explain how much more positively they felt about the ways that they were integrating technology into their instruction and how they were inclined to integrate technology more because they were now having successful experiences with integration.
Many teachers expressed how the exit points in the TIPC had improved their perceptions of how they integrated technology into their instruction. In the following exchange, Becky, Chris, and Lacey, members of a fifth-grade PLC, are discussing how using the TIPC as a guide helped them understand that it was okay to exit the cycle if needed, but they also believed that it encouraged them to continue thinking about their instructional goal and how to best meet it.
The cycle helped us be more positive about, if we had to get out. That it was okay to exit. Were so likepush technology, technology, technology. But, really, its okay to exit!
Chris: I think thats the biggest thing for me . . . and you know, trying to figure out another way to still come back to meet that goal. . .
Lacey: End goal! Exactly, yeah.
Becky: That youre still working on the same goal
Becky: That you dont just abandon the whole thing.
At another point in the TIPC, teachers are asked to consider possible barriers they might encounter when they try to integrate technology in the way they have planned, such as students needing individual accounts and sign-in information to use an app or website. Teachers in the current study explained how planning instruction with the TIPC helped them anticipate barriers. For example, Sandy, a fourth-grade teacher, explained how finding ways to overcome some of these barriers in advance gave her the confidence to try something new:
So I did all the accounts beforehand. That was just another time thing. But then we found that that went smoother for when kids were rolling it out on their own. We had the address. This is your login, password, and all that. I think with technology, theres just more opportunities to get sidetracked too with adding pictures, or transitions, or different things like that, or noises. When Im like, all I really want right now is information, and then we can put in some of the extras.
Sandy went on to explain that, for her, the best part of participating in the PD was just being brave enough to try to something new that you hadnt heard about or didnt really know. Take a risk and try it. For the most part, I think, kids were like, Oh, thats really cool!
Overall, there were many ways that teachers reported that their use of the TIPC influenced their perceptions of their abilities to integrate technology into their instruction. Though teachers across all grade levels described how they changed their instruction as they participated in the PD, the fifth-grade teachers described the biggest changes. We hypothesize that this difference may be because the fifth-grade teachers were already using the Chromebooks more than teachers at other grade levels (based on observations and meeting memos) and thus had more existing practices that could be changed. The kind of change that teachers reported is best summed up by Ryanne, a fifth-grade teacher:
This was a change for me. Before, I was excited about having Chromebooks . . . and taking the technology and then trying to integrate it into instruction. Now, its more that you have your expected outcomes and then youreOh, is there a way that we could integrate the tech to meet our goals? Not that the excitement has died down, but the instructional goal for me is now more in mind.
By using the TIPC as a guide for focusing on instructional goals rather than just the digital tools they were using, teachers felt more confident in the instruction they were planning and were able to increase the frequency with which they integrated technology.
RESULTS FROM DAILY DIARIES AND LESSON REFLECTIONS
Results from the daily diaries, which were kept for one week of each month throughout the project period, and lesson observations also informed our understanding of how teachers instruction and instructional planning shifted during the project. Figure 7 shows the trends in teachers technology use at three different time periods (beginning, middle, and end) of the project. The numbers on the left side of the figure indicate the number of responses for each activity during the period in which teachers use was measured. Figure 7 indicates that, for most of the activities, teachers use of digital tools increased throughout the project.
Figure 7. Teachers Use of Digital Tools Over Time
The Unexpected Role of the Daily Diaries
An unintended outcome of using the daily diaries was that completing them caused teachers to reflect on what types of technologies they were using and challenged them to try new technologies. Although the purpose of the diary was to track the extent and variety of teachers technology use over time, teachers reported that the assessment played a direct role in helping them consider the types of technologies they were using and might use in the future. Nearly every teacher in the project commented on how completing the daily diaries caused them to reflect on their technology use and consider making changes. Molly, a fourth-grade teacher, stated,
I like the awareness I got from the survey [referring to the daily diaries]. The awareness of what Im doing and if I need to mix it up, or some things that, there are some possibilities that I dont think of. Just the awareness, looking back its like, Oh, I did that three times this week. Am I going to do that same thing? With those surveys, it just kept me aware of what am I using. Is it apps? Are they using it for research, or just simply for publishing, or Google docs. . .
Other teachers commented on how the daily diaries encouraged them to explore technologies that they were unfamiliar with or to find out what they were. Becky expressed this idea in her final interview, stating:
When you go and you do the tech diary and youre clicking on the things that youre doing and a lot of times youll be like, What is this fan fiction all about? or Oh, these are lots of things I wish I could be doing that I didnt get to explore. Yeah, the fan fiction thing always catches me when Im recording my diary.
Although it was unintended, the daily diary assessment played an important role by reminding teachers of the types of digital tools they might consider using and by providing an opportunity for them to regularly reflect on their instruction.
RESULTS FROM LESSON OBSERVATIONS AND REFLECTIONS
Another source of information was direct observation of instruction followed by a reflective feedback session with the researcher. The goal of the observation was to determine the extent to which teachers were applying the elements of the TIPC to their instruction. More important, the observation provided an opportunity for the teachers to reflect with us and to discuss their instructional goal(s) for their lesson and their learning regarding technology integration that might also inform their future practice. Figure 8 illustrates the percentage of teachers who scored not proficient, proficient, or advanced for each component of the planning cycle.
Figure 8. Percentage of Teachers Scoring at Each Level During Instructional Observations
As Figure 8 indicates, teachers proficiency varied for each component of the instructional cycle. We analyzed the teachers written reflections and the transcripts of the researcher-led reflective sessions to explore how teachers recognized the strengths and weaknesses of their instruction and instructional planning. The teachers reflections on their instruction and instructional planning are explored through two themes that were revealed through the analysis: (1) Intentional Alignment of the Digital Tool and the Instructional Goal; and 2) Shifting Roles in the Classroom.
Intentional Alignment of the Digital Tool and the Instructional Goal
In their reflections, many teachers situated their integration of a digital tool within the larger landscape of the TIPC Model of PD through attending to their long-term goals for students digital literacy skills as well as considering the constraints of the tool on instruction. For example, Donna described her instructional goal and the multiple outcomes that she believed were a result of integrating a digital tool:
I was using Padlet as I thought it would be an engaging way to review, but also because they [students] will be going back to that Padlet to review and decide on which text features they would like to incorporate into their nonfiction magazine. I thought Padlet would be a great way to be able to visualize different formats for the same text features to inspire my young writers.
Ben also used a digital tool to build on his long-term goals of collaboration and respectful disagreement through evidence-based discussion. Reflecting on a lesson in which students worked together to create a presentation that highlighted the pros and cons of multiple topics, Ben stated,
The way the students used the technology allowed them to collaborate with their teammates, and it forced them to be respectful of their opponents since both teams were using the same Google Slide presentation. This is the first time I have tried to use the slide program this way, by combining all group members. The students had to work it out a few times, but in the end, the presentations came out very well and enhanced their writing and their debate.
Other teachers were able to focus on the constraints they considered before and after their instruction. Jeremy stated, Initially, I had intended to connect students through Symbaloo, but found I would have had to do significantly more work to establish and maintain that. Listly seems to be a much better fit for what I wanted to accomplish. Symbaloo is a tool that Jeremy had used previously for student conversations around text recommendations, but he incorporated Listly, an app provided to him through the Appy Friday emails, because he found it to be more relevant to his instructional goal. He was able to recognize the potential constraints of Symbaloo and instead made use of an app that had been shared with him through the project. Similarly, Linda reflected on her future instructional planning as a result of her instruction and stated, I realized I need to focus my thinking more on the standards and objectives more [sic] in my planning stage to make sure I am utilizing the best methods and technology to reach my ultimate goal for the lesson.
Shifting Roles in the Classroom
Several teachers used the lesson reflection to consider how integrating technology into their instruction shifted their traditional role in the classroom and invited them to envision different approaches to student learning. Elizabeth discussed the importance of integrating technology into her overall approach to instruction and the challenge of incorporating technology meaningfully:
First of all, since this is my first year teaching fifth grade and my first experience with 1:1 Chromebooks, I tend to not use them as often as I should or would like to. It is very ingrained in me to use traditional methods of teaching and student presentations that I often forget to use them [the Chromebooks]. Having the end result of this unit be a project using technology forced me to have that part of the lesson in place.
Laurie focused specifically on her own role in the classroom and how integrating specific digital tools on the iPad transformed her instruction. She noted that integrating technology into her instruction not only allowed for students to problem-solve independently, but also produced a more sophisticated outcome than she had expected for her instructional goals: I learned that sometimes the students need to take the lead. I did not plan for them to use their notecards to take a picture of but in the end it saved time and added a lot more detail to the project. Because she had allowed for the potential for student-directed learning, she was able to observe how they used and combined digital tools to enhance their understanding of her instructional goals.
RQ 3: What is the relationship between students digital literacy skills and teachers participation in the Technology Integration Planning Cycle Model of PD?
Results from the pre- and posttest measures of students digital skills indicate that students of teachers who participated in the PD (experimental group) performed better overall on the posttest than did students of teachers who did not participate in the PD (control group). An overall indicator of students digital skill is the digital literacy skills score from the Survey of Internet Use and Online Reading. ANCOVA tests were conducted to compare posttest means among the two groups, controlling for the pretest scores to ensure that any difference in the posttest means are not an effect of pretest differences between the groups. Results indicate that the mean digital literacy skills score for students in the experimental group (M= 14.00) was significantly higher than that of students in the control group (M= 12.39), F(1, 839)=39.64, p<.001, hp2=0.45. Table 6 reports individual pretest and posttest scores for each group.
Table 6. Differences Between Digital Literacy Skills Scores by Classroom Type
DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS
Overall, the results of the current study reveal our theory of action to be correct. As teachers participated in a situative model of PD (Borko, 2004) focused on supporting them in understanding and developing pedagogically appropriate uses of technology and overcoming traditional barriers to effective technology integration, teachers shifted their perceptions of their abilities to effectively integrate technology and the role of technology in instruction, shifted their instruction and instructional planning, and ultimately improved students digital literacy skills while also teaching their existing (nondigital) standards. Teachers shifts in their perceptions of the role of technology and their abilities to integrate technology in pedagogically appropriate ways, as well as shifts in understanding of their roles as teachers in digitally rich classrooms, led to new ways of designing and delivering instruction. Most important, it led teachers to carefully consider the purpose of technology integration and taught them to design instruction in a way that used technology to support their instructional goals rather than simply using technology for technologys sake, which has historically been problematic for teachers (Hutchison & Reinking, 2011). This finding is particularly important given that teachers often perceive PD on technology to be ineffective and irrelevant (Hutchison, 2012), and the effectiveness of this model of PD is especially encouraging when considering that it helped to gain teacher buy-in from teachers who did not have a lot of experience with integrating technology and were not particularly interested in technology integration. Gaining teacher buy-in for technology integration has historically been one of the biggest challenges to technology integration (Hew & Brush, 2007; Kim, Kim, Lee, Spector, & DeMeester, 2013). Thus, that teachers voluntarily continued to engage in the deep thinking necessary for effective technology integration and increased their integration is an important development in regard to designing PD aimed at technology integration.
This study also confirms findings that sustained PD implemented in small steps (Kanaya, Light, & Culp, 2005) and over a long period of time (Brinkerhoff, 2006) can improve teachers confidence toward using technology. These are particularly important aspects of the PD model because they address broader issues in teacher PD. In her meta-analysis of teacher PD studies, Avalos (2011) noted that the situated nature of teacher learning is widely recognized to be influenced by school culture. These factors can include support and dispositions as well as time and space for collaboration. Postholm (2012) elaborated on critical issues in teacher PD in an additional meta-analysis that drew on Desimones (2009) five characteristics of teachers learning (content focus, active learning, coherence, duration, and collective participation), as well as teacher dispositions, school context, and the availability of internal and external resources. This study highlights two particular aspects of the PD model that contributed specifically to addressing many of these critical issues: the approach to integrating the PD into PLCs and the role of the TIPC.
PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES CHALLENGE TEACHERS TO REFLECT AND INTEGRATE
The situated nature of the current study proved to be an important component of its success. It provided teachers with the opportunity to reflect on their instructional decisions, and they did so readily and voluntarily. These reflective opportunities, which occurred both with us and within PLCs, facilitated growth in both teachers perceptions of their own skill and their understanding of pedagogically appropriate uses of technology. The PLCs in particular provided opportunities for focused dialogue about using technology to support grade-level standards and objectives. Green et al. (2010) identified four factors that led to PLCs supporting teachers in their technology integration efforts, which serve as a useful frame for understanding how PLCs operated within the TIPC Model of PD.
The school district had an existing model of PLCs that used instructional coaches and guiding questions to facilitate teacher development (DuFour, 2004). Therefore, this model was integrated into the existing PLC context by communicating with instructional coaches and providing targeted questions designed to promote dialogue around the potential for technology integration and identifying first- and second-order barriers to integration. Teachers incorporated this work into their existing PLC time and were additionally supported by us throughout the project. Through addressing the PLC questions provided as part of the PD, teachers were able to consider how to overcome first-order barriers, such as understanding of standards and existing support for new digital tools, together as a group and noted that this led to a feeling of support rather than one of isolation.
Communication and Collaboration
For the teachers in the current study, their dialogue and collaboration were integrated within their PLCs; teachers noted they would bring goals or obstacles for discussion, expecting the group to collaborate on solutions. Teachers noted that scheduled and consistent dialogue with their grade-level peers was essential to their successful integration of technology. This is an important distinction from models that do not include opportunities within PLCs for teachers to work together to continually address goals and obstacles; several teachers noted they would not have continued to work on developing their technology integration skills had it not been for the support of their peers. Further, Smith (2001) found that teachers confidence in their abilities to integrate technology can be developed through positive experiences with technology, which can be personally experienced or experienced vicariously through other teachers. Thus, the sharing of their successful technology experiences within PLCs may have played an important role in teachers perceptions of their abilities to integrate technology.
Progression of Use
The guiding questions provided to PLCs who participated in the PD project were focused on continually inviting teachers to reflect on what obstacles they are encountering and how to overcome those obstacles in order to move forward with their goals. These questions were situated within teachers current practice and encouraged them to reflect on the resources available to them. The reflective questions were integrated into the long-range plans that teachers developed to guide their technology integration efforts and were intended to facilitate reflection on their progression toward their goals. Questions such as, How can I get what I need to take the next steps?; What, if anything, is stopping me from moving forward?; and Am I following my long-range plan meeting my integration goals? were explicitly designed to support teachers in the necessary reflection to overcome obstacles (Ertmer, 1999) and envision how to best integrate technology into their existing context. The inclusion of PLCs also allowed us to implement the PD in small steps and over an extended period of time, both of which have been found as important for improving teachers confidence toward using technology (Brinkerhoff, 2006; Kanaya et al., 2005).
THE ROLE OF THE TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION PLANNING CYCLE
The TIPC also played an important role in supporting teachers development because it provided an anchor that had previously been missing in many technology integration efforts. Many technology integration efforts focus on helping teachers understand the types of knowledge used to integrate technology into instruction through tools such as the technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) framework (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) or focus on levels and types of integration based on ideas such as the Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) model (Puentedura, 2008). Though these models are useful for helping teachers see how technology could and should transform learning, they do not provide a method or approach for achieving integration. Results from the current study illustrate the importance of providing teachers with a process and common language around which to situate their planning efforts. The planning cycle also played an important role because it privileges the instructional goal over the technology by placing the identification of the instructional goal at the beginning of the planning process and requiring teachers to identify their instructional goal before selecting the technology they will use. This planning approach played an active role in ensuring that teachers were achieving true integration by not only exposing students to digital technologies and new digital skills but also teaching their content-area goals, or what Hutchison and Reinking (2011) called curricular integration. This shift in the teachers focus from using technology to enhancing and transforming the teaching of their existing instructional goals with technology is perhaps the most hoped for and best possible outcome of technology PD. Thus, we believe that the emphasis on the TIPC as a central focus of the PD is a key feature of the PD models success.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
The results of this study provide some important implications for PD, particularly in regard to (1) providing a model in which to ground discussion and application of technology integration; (2) situating digital tools within context-driven instruction; and (3) using multiple modes of teacher engagement. First, the TIPC was central to all the different activities in the PD model. Thus, teachers had an opportunity to consider how the model was useful in a variety of contexts depending on their needs. For example, each digital tool and sample lesson plan presented to teachers included a discussion of the elements of the planning cycle; discussion and feedback after lesson observations centered on how the cycle illuminated lesson elements; and PLC questions were designed to support a deeper understanding of how to use the cycle to effectively plan instruction using technology. Using a consistent framework throughout all the PD activities fostered a common language and approach among teachers, while also enabling them to use instructional goals and digital tools that matched their specific classroom contexts and skill with integrating technology. Future PD efforts around technology should include a consistent framework around which to organize ideas and should promote common language around which to situate discussions.
Another important facet of the TIPC Model of PD is that discussion of digital tools was consistently embedded within specific instructional goals. Teachers in the study, especially those with 1:1 Chromebooks, had previously had PD about digital tools without the opportunity to explore how to situate the use of those tools in their own classs instructional goals and population of students. Activities that involved an explicit discussion of digital tools in this PD model incorporated specific instructional goals, which addressed potential affordances, constraints, and contributions to instruction. The TIPC Model of PD, overall, was designed to support teachers in adopting an approach that would lead to robust learning of instructional goals using technology; therefore, ensuring that digital tools were always discussed as situated within teachers potential practices was critical and may be beneficial to future PD efforts.
Finally, rather than relying on a single mode of PD delivery, teachers were invited to engage in multiple activities centered on the same goal. This allowed teachers to find meaningful ways to engage in the PD through discussion with PLCs and with us, self-reflection on practices and specific lessons, reporting their perceptions and digital tool use, using the project website, and interacting with social media posts. By providing multiple opportunities to engage in the project and reflective thinking practices central to the TIPC, teachers could engage in activities that best fit their needs and experiences, while remaining engaged in the overall goals of the project. Teachers experiences with the TIPC Model of PD highlight the importance of, and potential for, situative PD that is intentionally designed to overcome barriers and support teachers where they are.
LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH
It is important to note that this study is limited by both the population being studied and the broad scope of data being collected. First, although participants represented a range of age and experience, the district itself is socioeconomically advantaged and lacks significant diversity. Therefore, it would be important to explore this PD model in a variety of contexts to ensure that it engages teachers in different contexts and with different characteristics in the same way. For example, exploring this PD model in secondary schools where teachers have multiple sections of different students throughout the day, and often varying access to digital tools depending on the time of day, will be important. Further, relevant elements of this model, such as selected resources, the TIPC, and instructional observations and reflection, may be useful for instructors in preservice teacher education programs. Hutchison and Colwells (2016) findings that preservice teachers are unable to skillfully use the TIPC to plan technology-rich instruction suggest that such a model is needed in preservice teacher programs. Finally, exploring the experiences of individual participants as they engaged in the multiple activities of this PD would provide important insights into the subtleties of how the activities worked together to support teachers and potential adaptations that might be made to strengthen the efficacy of individual PD activities.
This study provides a useful starting point for understanding situative models of PD but also highlights many areas in need of further study. For example, it would be illuminating to examine individual teacher cases and instructional planning practices, to further explore which aspects of integration are most challenging for teachers even within successful models of PD, and to understand if the success and challenges that teachers encounter differ according to the grade level taught. This study also highlights the need for operationalizing existing research on supporting teachers technology integration efforts through PD that is designed to overcome existing and perceived barriers to success. The TIPC Model of PD is an example of how to begin this work and provides several essential elements that may illuminate future PD design in technology integration.
1. See http://bit.ly/2lUGCqw for the full survey.
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