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An Analysis of Instructional Technology Use and Constructivist Behaviors in K-12 Teachers

Glenda C. Rakes, University of Louisiana at Monroe
Beverly F. Flowers, University of Louisiana at Monroe
Holly B. Casey, University of Louisiana at Monroe
Ronnie Santana, University of Louisiana at Monroe

Abstract

If constructivism and technology are to play a role in current school reform efforts, it is important to determine if the availability and use of technology in classrooms can encourage teachers' demonstration of constructivist behaviors in their classrooms. This exploratory study examines the relationship between teacher perceptions of their constructivist behaviors and their use of technology in their classrooms. Results indicate that integrated technology use in the classroom and strong technology skills among teachers may be factors that encourage teachers to use constructivist practices. Implications for technology training for K-12 teachers are discussed.

Introduction

School Reform and Constructivism

There is much disagreement on how to correct the perceived problems associated with school reform. There is widespread public dissatisfaction with the performance of students in the United States on various standardized assessments. Employers are increasingly concerned that high school graduates do not possess the necessary skills to be successful in the workplace. Classroom teachers are increasingly frustrated and are leaving the profession.

Some researchers suggest that school reform efforts need to focus on the root causes of school problems. Mehlinger (1995) reports the conclusions of a California study by Poplin and Weeres (1992)which is based on extensive observation in representative classrooms. "One major conclusion the investigators reached was that many of the school problems emphasized by education reformers (e.g. low test scores, high drop out rates, low morale among teachers) were in fact indicators of more deep-seated problems." (Mehlinger, 1995, pp. 49-50). One of these problems involved the fact that students and teachers saw little meaning in what they were asked to study. Students wanted more activities and more opportunities to share ideas with classmates.

Reforming education is not a simple matter. Few would suggest that the teaching of basic skills is unimportant, but many feel that today's schools do not venture much beyond the teaching of basic skills in providing school-to-work transition for graduates. One important starting point is to identify the skills students need to participate in the modern workplace and the skill levels that entry-level jobs require. In 1990, the secretary of the Department of Labor established the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) to address these issues (Whetzel, 1992).

According to the commission, to find meaningful work high school graduates need to master certain workplace skills referred to as "foundation skills" and "competencies." Workers use three foundation skills, consisting of academic and behavioral characteristics, on which to build competencies. These foundation skills include:

  • basic skills - reading, writing, speaking, listening, knowing arithmetic, and knowing mathematical concepts.
  • thinking skills - reasoning, decision making, creative thinking, problem solving, seeing things in the mind's eye, and knowing how to learn.
  • personal qualities - responsibility, self-esteem, sociability, self-management, integrity, and honesty.
Competencies describe what people actually do at work. The five competencies include:
  • resources - identifying, organizing, planning, allocating time, allocating money, allocating materials and workers.
  • interpersonal skills - negotiating, exercising leadership, working with diversity, teaching new skills to others, serving clients and customers, participating as a team member.
  • information skills - using computers to process information, using computers to acquire information, using computers to evaluate information, using computers to interpret and organize information, using computers to maintain information, using computers to communicate information.
  • systems skills - understanding systems, monitoring system performance, correcting system performance, improving systems, designing systems.
  • technology utilization skills - selecting technology, applying technology, maintaining technology, troubleshooting technology.

The perception is that current educational practices have failed to meet many intellectual and occupational needs of many students (Airasian & Walsch, 1997). Specifically, there is a view that thinking skills are not receiving enough focus because of an emphasis on rote memorization.

The educational philosophy known as constructivism has an appeal as an alternative to traditional practices because it seems to address the criticism of current practices and promises to deliver higher levels of literacy, self-reliance, cooperation, problem-solving skills, and satisfaction with school (Brooks & Brooks 1999, Iran-Nejad, 1995;Larochelle, Bednarz, & Garrison 1998, Sprague & Dede, 1999,Windschitl, 1999). Constructivism presents possibilities for classroom strategies that vary dramatically from those used in the traditional information-transfer model of instruction and presents possibilities for producing students who possess the skills necessary for work and life-long learning.

Constructivism and Learning

Theories of instruction have shifted from a behavioristic orientation that emphasizes observable changes in performance to a cognitive orientation that emphasizes internal cognitive processing. The stimulus-response approach of behaviorism made teaching simply a question of how to get the desired behavior from the learner. In contrast, a cognitive approach emphasizes the mental elaborations that the learner performs more than the specific features of instruction (Bruning, 1983). From this framework, teachers can create learning environments that encourage achievement (Brezin, 1980). This point of view has been termed constructivism by a growing number of authors.

Constructivism borrows heavily from the work of Piaget (1977). Constructivism (Airasian & Walsch, 1997; Jaramillo, 1996) is a philosophical explanation about the nature of knowledge. It is a theory about how learners learn. Constructivism is based on the assumption that people create knowledge as a result of interaction between existing knowledge or beliefs and new knowledge. The role of the teacher, then, would be to encourage interaction between students' existing knowledge and new experiences. The emphasis is different from the transmission model in which teachers attempt to convey knowledge directly to students. There are several instructional approaches that can be derived from this philosophy. 

While many may debate the precise definition of constructivism, there are several instructional practices commonly attributed to the influence of constructivism (Brooks & Brooks 1999, Hirtle, 1996; Poplin & Weeres, 1992; Roblyer, 1996; Roblyer, Edwards, & Havriluk, 1997; Schifter, 1996). These include:

  • using problem-oriented learning activities relevant to student interests.
  • using highly visual formats.
  • encouraging active, not passive learning.
  • providing learning environments that use a wide variety of learning resources.
  • encouraging creativity.
  • encouraging collaborative and cooperative group work.
  • learning through exploration.
  • emphasizing the process of problem solving, decision making, and evaluation skills.
  • using authentic assessment methods along with quantitative methods.

Constructivism has several positive implications for teaching (Is it constructivism?, 1996; The practice implications of constructivism, 1996). First, teaching cannot be viewed as the simple transmission of knowledge; rather, teachers are guides who provide students with opportunities to test the adequacy of their current understanding. Second, if learning is based on previous knowledge, then teachers must become aware of that knowledge and provide learning situations that emphasize discrepancies between learners' current understandings and new experiences. Third, if students must apply their current understandings in new situations to form new knowledge, teachers must truly engage students in learning.

Technology can provide the vehicle for accomplishing constructivist teaching practices. Technologies accommodate the most meaningful thinking when used as tools (Jonnason, 1994), They can be given to the learner to use for representing and expressing what they know. Learners use the technology as tools for analyzing the world, accessing information, interpreting and organizing personal knowledge, and representing what they know to others. These tools are intended to engage and facilitate cognitive processing. Cognitive tools are both mental and computational devices that support, guide, and extend the thinking processes of their users.

School reform, constructivism, and technology

A move to instructional environments which are based on constructivist philosophies may be one way to accomplish meaningful school reform; reform that results in school graduates who are capable of assuming meaningful roles in the workplace (Whetzel, 1992). Constructivism also fits into the current emphasis on bottom-up instead of top-down approaches to educational reform (Airsian & Walsh, 1997; Mehlinger, 1995). With the increased emphasis on more teacher discretion over teaching and learning, the interest in the potential of constructivism in classroom practice has increased. Wise (1997 ), in his recent message to the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, said:

The introduction of computers and other technologies into schools is occurring at the same time that three decades of research in the cognitive sciences, which has deepened our understanding of how people learn, is prompting a reappraisal of teaching practices. We know from this research that knowledge is not passively received, but actively constructed by learners from a base of prior knowledge, attitudes and values. Dependence on a single source of information, typically a textbook, must give way to using a variety of information sources. As new technologies become more readily available and less expensive, they will likely serve as a catalyst for ensuring that new approaches to teaching gain a firm foothold in schools.
One problem with many school reform efforts is that teachers are told what they should do to improve classroom environments without provision of the tools they need to accomplish those changes. Technology, particularly in the forms of interactive computer assisted instruction and the information available on the Internet, may provide tools that can help teachers implement constructivist practices.

Another difficulty teachers face is a decrease in the flexibility many of them have to use such innovations in the face of state-mandated competency exams in the form of standardized testing. Some movement has been made, however, toward the use of performance assessment in order to more closely gauge a child's ability to succeed (Eisner, 1999). Performance assessment seeks to move away from testing practices that require students to select the single correct answer from multiple choices to a requirement that they create evidence through performance that will allow testers to evaluate what the students know and can do in important situations. The virtual demise of behaviorism, the emergence of constructivism, and the desire for concurrent and predictive validity have provided the ground for interest in this type of assessment, which offers educators a method for developing ways of revealing the distinctive features of individual students. This movement may ultimately enhance teacher's use of both technology tools and constructivist practices.

Mehlinger (1996)and others (McLellan, 1996; Nicaise & Barnes, 1996; White, 1996; Wise, 1997) suggest that the use of these new technologies will greatly influence schools. The basic relationship between teacher and students is changing because technology gives learners control over their own learning - one of the primary tenets of constructivism. The new technologies provide students access to information once only available to and controlled completely by teachers. This change makes the traditional transmission model of teaching and learning increasingly obsolete. Mehlinger (1995) further suggests that even though change rarely results from one event, sometimes one event is more powerful than others in the process of change.

The use of technology will have a profound effect on schools. It challenges the very relationship between students and teachers, because technology enables learners to gain control of their own learning. . . The new technology provides access to information that was once under the control of teachers (p. 94).

One of the few long-term studies on the use of technology in the classroom seems to support Mehlinger's views. Dwyer (1994)reports that a four-year study of seven Apple Classroom Of Tomorrow classrooms demonstrated that the dramatic impact of technology in these types of learning environments should not be underestimated. Researchers watched technology "profoundly disturb the inertia of traditional classrooms" (p. 7). There were noticeable differences in the behavior of students and teachers. The researchers reported that the use of technology in instruction

  • encourages fundamentally different forms of interactions among students and between students and teachers;
  • engages students systematically in higher-order cognitive tasks;
  • prompts teachers to question old assumptions about instruction and learning.

The Present Study

This study seeks to answer the basic question: Does the use of instructional technology tools have an effect on teachers' use of constructivist teaching strategies? The study investigated the extent to which technology-using classroom teachers report the use of constructivist instructional practices and the extent to which teachers and students use instructional technology as a part of the regular curriculum.

Many believe that the teacher is key to any school reform (Beck, 1997; Mehlinger, 1995; Mehlinger, 1996). If constructivism and technology are to play a role in current school reform efforts, it is important to determine if the availability and use of technology tools in classrooms has an effect on teachers' demonstration of constructivist behaviors in their classrooms. The present study identified differences in teachers' self-reported degree of constructivist behaviors based on technology use and technology availability.

Research Questions

1. To what extent do technology-using teachers report that they are demonstrating constructivist behaviors in their classrooms?
2. Do self-reported constructivist behaviors differ as a function of teacher self-reported level of technology skill (entry and adoption, adaptation, integration and appropriation, or invention)?
3. Do self-reported constructivist behaviors differ as a function of teacher characteristics such as experience, degree, and grade taught?
4. Do self-reported constructivist behaviors differ as a function of reported student-to-computer ratio?
5. Do self-reported constructivist behaviors differ as a function of classroom arrangement?

Limitations of the Study

1. Only K-12 teachers with Internet access were included in this study.

That is where the awkwardness of e-survey arises. Investigators generally cannot determine, nor even guess the size of the population they are interested in; cannot guess the number of subscribers sitting at keyboards exploring the internet. The awkwardness is also compounded by lack of representativeness; e-survey investigators are restricting their studies not just to those with computer equipment but to those of them who have connected their equipment to the outside world. (Hill, 1998).
In this particular case, the fact that the respondents were using the Internet is assumed to be indicative of the fact that they are indeed using technology in some way, making them ideal respondents for this survey.

2. Because a combination of random sampling and non-random sampling was used, the results must be generalized with caution.

3. Responses were dependent on the respondent's ability to recall their perceptions of past behaviors.

4. This exploratory study was designed to discover possible relationships among the variables. The study cannot establish cause-effect relationships between variables. There may be other factors affecting both technology use and the use of constructivist behaviors such as recent training on instructional methods or access to more interactive software that are not accounted for in the methodology.

Methods

Participants.  The target audience consisted of K-12 teachers who currently use some form(s) of instructional technology in their classrooms. All transactions were electronic. Teachers were randomly selected from email lists (Classroom Connect, 1998; ePals Classroom Exchange, 1998) and asked to participate in the study. Other teachers were invited to participate through announcement of the survey via technology-related Internet sites and online newsgroups (Classroom Connect, 1998; McKenzie, 1998). An announcement of the survey and request for participation by current K-12 teachers was sent to each teacher or newsgroup with a URL designating the location of the survey on the World Wide Web. Based on survey responses, some survey request information was circulated by recipients to their colleagues. Upon completion of the survey form, survey results were automatically emailed back to the investigators. Four hundred thirty-five complete, usable surveys were returned by active K-12 teachers, which is an adequate sample for this type of investigation.

There is seldom justification in behavioural research for sample sizes of less than 30 or larger than 500. Samples larger than 30 ensure the researcher the benefits of central limit theorem. A sample of 500 assures that sample error will not exceed 10% of standard deviation, about 98% of the time (Hill, 1998).
Materials. Specifically, this study combined two survey instruments to determine teachers' perceived implementation of constructivist behaviors and the degree to which technology is available and used in that teacher's classroom. The first part of the survey instrument was adapted with permission from McKenzie (1997)and Brooks and Brooks (1999) to determine how teachers perceived their own use of constructivist behaviors in their classrooms. The constructivist behaviors in the survey items represent those most frequently described in related literature. Fifteen items asked participants to describe their classroom behavior in constructivist terms. They reported their use of each behavior as used frequently (daily), often (weekly), fairly often (monthly), sometimes (during each semester), or never. One question asked them to select a sketch from three sketches of classrooms that most closely resembled their own classroom arrangement. Responses were summed to produce the individual's constructivist score.

The second part of the survey instrument was adapted with permission from the Forum on Education and Technology (STaR chart self-diagnostic tool, 1997)which was created to follow up on the excellent work done by the President's National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIIAC) in the area of educational technology. This organization developed an online instrument to help gauge the use of technology in schools. Three questions asked teachers to describe how their school/classroom is connected to the Internet and asked them to report on the availability of computer hardware - the student to computer ratio in their classroom and school computer lab(s). Seven items were yes/no questions that report specific types of technology use in the classroom. Three items asked teachers to describe patterns of technology use by their students and by the teacher. The survey is derived from Quality Education Data's (QED) Tech Measure (1997) which was created by Becker using a sample of nearly 80,000 public schools. The instrument results in a categorization of the technology level of each respondent as "high," "medium," or "low."

Data Analysis.  Each respondent was assigned a score for their constructivist responses and a rank for their technology use (high, medium, or low). For purposes of this study, the continuous raw scores were used as the dependent variable in the analyses. Using continuous scores rather than the categorical description increases the sensitivity of the tests and controls for the error caused by the creation of an arbitrary dichotomy. Analysis of variance procedures (p < .05) were used to determine significant differences in cell means. Duncan's New Multiple Range test was used for post-hoc analysis.

Results

Demographics.  Four hundred thirty-five complete, usable surveys were returned. There was at least one respondent from each of the 50 states. The percentage of respondents indicating that the highest degree earned was a bachelors degree was 40.7%; 30.8% had masters degrees; 22% had earned at least 30 hours above the masters degree; 1.8% had earned doctorates. The percentage of respondents who taught in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten programs was 2.1%; 23% taught in grades 1-3; 23.7% taught in grades 4-6; 17.2% taught in a middle school; 11.7% taught in grades 7-9; 22.3% taught in grades 10-12. Twenty-one point four percent of respondents indicated their schools were located in urban areas; 41.8% were rural; 36.8% of schools were in suburban areas. 

Research Question 1: To what extent do technology-using teachers report that they are demonstrating constructivist behaviors in their classrooms?

Respondents were asked, "How often do you as a classroom teacher. . ." with 14 constructivist behaviors as completers. Figure 1 shows the percentage for each possible response. The items endorsed by the participants are objective (i.e., behavioral). Scales such as these are less susceptible to error and produce relatively stable and accurate ratings (Murphy & Davidshofer, 1988).

Figure 1. Teacher Use of Constructivist Behaviors (D)

Figure 1. Teacher Use of Constructivist Behaviors

Research Question 2: Do self-reported constructivist behaviors differ as a function of teacher self-reported level of technology skill (entry and adoption, adaptation, integration and appropriation, or invention)? 

Data were analyzed with a one-way analysis of variance with the constructivist score serving as the dependent variable and the technology ranking (high/medium/low) serving as the independent variable. Table 1 presents a summary of ANOVA results. Post-hoc analysis indicated that those respondents with the "high" technology rank (M = 61.79) had significantly higher constructivist scores than those with "medium" (M = 58.95) and "low" (M = 56.28) technology rank.

Table 1. ANOVA Summary Table: Constructivist Score by Overall Technology Score
(D)

The overall technology ranking included a measure of technology skill level. To determine the technology skill levels of the respondents, each was asked to select one of four statements which best described their level of technology skills:

Level 1 = Entry and Adoption
I am just beginning to learn how to use basic applications such as word processors and drill and practice software. (4.6%);

Level 2 = Adaptation
I am familiar with a variety of applications and often require students to use technology to complete assignments. (17.6%);

Level 3 = Integration and Appropriation
I regularly use technology for collaboration, communication, and research and integrate these processes into the curriculum. (45.7%);

Level 4 = Invention
I use technology as a tool to craft new curriculum and new teaching and learning techniques (31.9%).

Data were analyzed with a one-way analysis of variance with the technology skill level, one component of the overall technology score, serving as the independent variable. The ANOVA indicated significant differences between the overall constructivist score and the teachers' self-reported technology skill level. Table 2 presents a summary of the ANOVA results. Post-hoc analysis indicates that respondents at the "invention" skill level (level 4 above; M = 60.99) had significantly higher constructivist scores than those at the "entry" (M = 56.85) and "adaptation" (M = 58.14) levels (1 and 2 above respectively).

Table 2. ANOVA Summary Table: Constructivist Score by Teacher Technology Skill Level
(D)

Research Question 3: Do self-reported constructivist behaviors differ as a function of teacher characteristics such as experience, degree, and grade taught?

Data were analyzed with a three-way analysis of variance. A three-way ANOVA was used to protect against the inflation of alpha associated with the calculation of multiple ANOVAs. This was not a concern in the previous analyses because the follow-up ANOVAs used independent variables that were used in the calculation of the independent variable used in the first, overall ANOVA. In a sense, these were used post hoc to further decompose the significant finding in the first ANOVA. The ANOVA was used to compare the constructivist scores by each of three teacher characteristics which served as the independent variables (years of experience - 0-5 years, 6-10 years, 11-15 years, 16-20 years, 21-25 years, and over 25 years); (grade level taught - PK-K, 1-3, 4-6, middle school, 7-9, 10-12); (highest degree earned - bachelors, masters, +30 hours, specialist, doctorate). Groupings were arbitrarily chosen.

Table 3 indicates that there were significant main effects. Higher order interaction effects were suppressed due to matrix singularity. Post-hoc analysis indicated that respondents with 0-5 years experience (M = 60.89), 6-10 years experience (M = 59.69) and 11-15 years experience (M = 60.92) had significantly higher constructivist scores than those with 16-20 years of teaching experience (M = 56.56). There were no significant differences found for highest degree earned. Respondents who teach in grades 1-3 (M = 61.85) had significantly higher constructivist scores than those teaching in middle school (M = 58.84), grades 7-9 (M = 57.31), and grades 10-12 (M = 58.28).

Table 3. ANOVA Summary Table: Constructivist Score by Experience, Degree, Grade Taught
(D)

Research Question 4: Do self-reported constructivist behaviors differ as a function of reported student-to-computer ratio?

Data were analyzed using a one-way analysis of variance. The ANOVA indicated significant differences between the overall constructivist score by classroom student-to-computer ratios (none, >25:1, 24:1­10:1, 9:1­5:1, <5:1) which served as the independent variable. Table 4 presents a summary of the ANOVA results. Post-hoc analysis indicated that respondents with classroom student-to-computer ratios of 24:1­10:1 (M = 59.82), 9:1­5:1 (M = 61.75), and <5:1 (M = 60.19) had significantly higher constructivist scores than those with classroom student-to-computer ratios of over 25:1 (M = 55.47). Respondents with classroom student-to-computer ratios of 9:1-5:1 had significantly higher constructivist scores that those with no computers (M = 57.74) in their classrooms.

Table 4. ANOVA Summary Table: Constructivist Score by Classroom Student-to-Computer Ratio
(D)

Research Question 5: Do self-reported constructivist behaviors differ as a function of classroom arrangement?

Respondents were asked to choose one of three classroom sketches that looked most like their own (see Figure 2). Fifty-four point three percent of the respondents selected a cluster-type classroom arrangement (see A on Figure 5), 21.3% selected an open, circular-type arrangement (see B on Figure 2), and 24.4% selected the traditional lecture-type arrangement (see C on Figure 2).

Figure 2. Classroom Arrangements (D)

Figure 2. Classroom Arrangements

Data were analyzed using a one-way analysis of variance. The ANOVA indicated significant differences between the overall constructivist score based on classroom arrangement which served as the independent variable. Table 5 presents a summary of the ANOVA results. Post-hoc analysis indicated that those respondents who selected the cluster-type arrangement (see A on Figure 2; M = 61.61) and the open, circular-type arrangement (see B on Figure 2; M = 59.09) had significantly higher constructivist scores than those who selected the traditional lecture-type arrangement (M = 55.85). In addition, those respondents who selected the cluster-type room arrangement had significantly higher constructivist scores than those who indicated that their classroom was in a circular-type arrangement.

Table 5. ANOVA Summary Table: Constructivist Score by Classroom Arrangement
(D)

Discussion

In recent years, research has shifted from the investigation of the impact of a technology product to how technology can impact important aspects of the teaching and learning environment, for example the nature of teacher/student interactions, ways in which a classroom functions, or types of unique learning experiences possible through the use of certain technology resources (McLellan, 1996; Roblyer, 1996). The primary focus of this exploratory study was to determine if the availability and use of instructional technology affects the use of constructivist behaviors in K-12 teachers. This study provides some evidence that the use of technology may provide a tool that facilitates constructivist behaviors in classroom teachers. As the amount of technology available, the use of technology, and technology skill levels increase, the use of constructivist practices in the classroom appears to increase, making technology funding and training even more important. Technology availability and skills can have a positive impact on the overall behavior of the classroom teacher.

Despite growing concerns that the use of drill and practice type software may produce less than the most desirable results, 66.4% of the respondents indicated that their students use this type of software as a regular part of the curriculum. This result may, in part, be related to the continuing emphasis on standardized test scores as primary quality indicators for schools and individual classrooms in most places.

Despite the emphasis on basic computer skills, 74.7% of the technology using teachers who participated in this survey say their students do not use word processing, spread sheets, or drawing programs as a regular part of the curriculum. However, 70.2% regularly use more advanced web publishing and presentation software for group work along with simulation software (77.5%). These responses present an interesting contrast. The results might indicate that teachers are concentrating on what they view as more "cutting edge" technology (i.e., the World Wide Web) that focuses on general information literacy skills instead of what may be perceive as more specifically targeted traditional technology tools such as spread sheets.

About two-thirds (66.2%) of those responding do not use CD-ROM research resources or World Wide Web information resources regularly. Only about half (55.1%) report the regular use of networked communications (e.g., email) and indicate regular individual and group use for communication and research tools. Progress has been made toward true technology/curriculum integration, but these results give an indication of the need for increasing efforts in this direction. Perhaps teacher training in technology needs to move beyond literacy skills to address more thoroughly application and curriculum integration issues.

A surprisingly large percentage of teachers (75.2%) reported Internet connections in their classroom, but this study provides continuing indications that computer labs have better student-to-computer ratios than regular classrooms with about 2/3 of the labs providing a <5:1 student-to-computer ratio while a <5:1 student-to-computer ratio exists in less than one fourth of classrooms. The results suggest that the investment in increasing numbers of computers may result in academic benefits for students because of the effects on teacher behavior. Respondents with classroom student-to-computer ratios of less than 25:1 had significantly higher constructivist scores than those with classroom student-to-computer ratios of over 25:1. More computer access in the classroom does seem to provide a tool which encourages constructivist behaviors among teachers.

Despite recent emphasis on constructivism, constructivist behaviors as reported by the respondents were used with much less than desirable frequency. Responses to eight of 14 behaviors on the survey indicate that over half of the respondents never use these behaviors. Responses to three other behaviors indicate that over 40% never use these behaviors. Respondents who teach in the lower grades (1-3 ) had significantly higher constructivist scores than those teaching in middle school and grades 7-12. A close examination of the classroom practices of lower grade teachers may be beneficial in designing training, especially technology training, for all teachers.

The results showed striking generational differences among teachers with those having 0-15 years experience having significantly higher constructivist scores than those with over 15 years of teaching experience. This may be indicative of changes that are taking place in teacher education programs - an indication that such programs are placing more emphasis on both technology and on constructivist practices. This result may indicate one criterion on which administrators may base decisions as to what type of technology-related professional development activities are more appropriate for certain groups among their teacher populations.

This study also add credibility to McKenzie's (1997) suggestion that the arrangement of a classroom indicates the type of activities that occur in that classroom and whether that classroom is technology/information-ready. He describes these classrooms as constructivist/student-centered environments with a primary focus on investigation, questioning, and research. Interestingly, teachers who reported using the two classroom arrangements which are more typical of classrooms in which computer technology is used (A and B on Figure 2) also report using constructivist behaviors more than those using the typical lecture-type arrangement for their classroom environment. If the arrangement of a classroom environment is indicative of the activities that take place there, perhaps teachers should be encouraged to experiment with a variety of classroom arrangements in order to influence classroom activities.

McKenzie (1997) sees these issues as representative of important staff development challenges if schools are to gain a significant return on their technological investments. Certainly, staff development initiatives concerning the integration of technology into the K-12 curriculum take on increased importance when viewed in this light.


There is no longer a question about whether the new technology will be used in schools. Many believe these technologies are necessary because competency in their use is an important feature of career preparation; others see equally important outcomes for civic participation. Most importantly, a growing research base confirms technology's potential for enhancing student achievement. What is less certain is how and when these technologies will change the nature of schooling itself (Wise, 1997).
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