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K-12 Technology Use: From Instructional Goal, To Instructional Tool

Pam Winn, Susan Erwin and Melissa Becker

Tarleton State University
United States
Abstract: This paper delineates a collaborative, quasi-experimental research and
development project partnering two university professors with 11 public school
educators for the purpose of testing new models of technology-inspired K-12 science
instruction. Lessons developed and tested will feature use of digital devices
commonly used by students not as the goal of instruction, but as tools to develop
effective and engaging 21st Century learning. Questions that guide this study include:
What is the effect of implementing transformational technology-inspired instruction
on public school science students higher level thinking skills, level of engagement in
learning activities, and science academic achievement? Pre/post intervention data
(teacher and student surveys, class observations, academic achievement data) will be
digitally collected using Google Docs. ? Collaborative lesson development will be
facilitated through the use of Edomodo. The effectiveness of Edmodo as a
collaboration and professional development platform will also be evaluated.

Contemporary K-12 students adept at multitasking in fast-paced, multidimensional digital environments often
disengage from tradtional two-dimensional instruction when technology merely substitutes for paper/pencil tasks
(i.e. type an essay) or occasionally augments 20th Century instruction (i.e. view a YouTube video; Puentedura, 2008).
To re-engage 21st Century learners, digital instruction models that evolve from the latest technology are needed
(Taylor, 2005). Educators inspired to experiment with engaging new instructional models need support from school
administration and university researchers to develop and test the effectiveness of instruction not previously
experienced or observed (Hayes, 2010; November, 2010).
Review of Literature
Need for Improved Science Instruction
The literature supports improvement in science instruction in the US and in Texas (National Center for
Education Statistics, 2012; TIMSS, 2007). Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education is key to
ensuring American leadership among nations and continued scientific development (Dickman, Schwabe, Schmidt, &
Henken, 2009). STEM research recommends development of contemporary, research-based teaching strategies and
materials to support active, in-depth, global learning (Dickman, et al. 2009; Lapatto, 2007; National Research
Council, 2005; 2007; 2009; Public Policy F, 2009; Wood, 2009). Furthermore, STEM curriculum should challenge
students with open-ended assignments that are both personally meaningful and engaging (Barak & Asad, 2012).
Needs of Contemporary Learners
While some debate the existence of generational characteristics (Bennett & Maton,2010; Helsper & Eynon,
2009; Trzeniewski & Donnellan, 2010), many contend that contemporary learners think, behave, and learn
differently due to ubiquitous exposure to technology (Prensky, 2001; Tapscott, 1998; Taylor 2005). Contemporary
learners equipped with hyperconnected and multi-tasking digital brains, are unprepared to endure the slow pace of

instructional practices developed more than a century ago (Sprenger, 2009). Consumer and entertainment oriented,
intellectually disengaged in non-digital environments (Taylor, 2005).
Physical evidence corroborates brain differences resulting from exposure to digital media in terms of how
digital learners process, interact, and apply information (Juke, 2006). Stimulation and adaptability enables the brain
to constantly reorganize or rewire itself (Jensen, 2005; Willis, 2008). Brains of digital learners are physically
different from those of learners who have not experienced ongoing exposure to technology. Digital learners
fundamentally think and process information differently than their predecessors by using multi-tasking and parallel
processing; they prefer graphics to text, random access (hyperlinks), networking, instant gratification, frequent
rewards, and games rather than serious work (Prensky, 2001). Jensen (2005) recommends instruction based on
problem solving, critical thinking, relevant projects, and complex activities that stimulate the brain and challenge
learners. Interactive feedback must be specific, timely, and learner-controlled while addressing multiple modalities.
Combining digital learner processing skills and learning preferences with brain research further justifies
breaking from the current teaching/learning paradigm in which teachers control content, delivery, and products in
favor of authentic learner engagement. Carmean and Haefner (2002) suggest deeper learning principles are required
to help engage digital learners in meaningful content processing tapping into critical thinking skills.
Instructional Engagement
To evolve from passive content-consumers to active information-processors requires instructional engagement.
Engaged learners work collaboratively, transforming understanding through creative problem solving (Jones, Valdez,
Nowakowski, & Rasmussen, 1994). Wasserstein (1995) noted authentic engagement occurs when educators furnish
students with enough skills and tools to become self-motivated. Schlechty (2001) stresses students learn best in
applied learning tasks, emphasizing engagement is an active and interactive process, and not synonymous with time
on task. Engaged students learn more, retain more, and enjoy the learning activities more than unengaged students
(Dowson & McInerney, 2001; Hancock & Betts, 2002; Lumsden, 1994; Voke, 2002). Instructional goals that create
opportunities for authentic engagement, where students meet expectations and intended instructional outcomes
responsive to learner interests and values, produce the most effective learning (Schlechty, 2002).
Instructional Technology
In 2008, hardware, software, wireless, telecommunications, and information technology represented more than
$16 billion K-12 expenditures; it is predicted K-8 education will spend over $20 billion in 2012 (Nagel, 2008).
Although technologies have tremendous potential to transform learning experiences, empirical evidence does not
support instructional effectiveness when technology merely augments content delivery (Cuban, 2002; Cuban,
Kirkpatrick, & Peck, 2001; Judson, 2006; McClure, Jukes, & MacLean, 2012; Palak & Walls, 2009; Windschitl &
Sahl, 2002). Conversely, use of digital tools coordinated with effective research-supported instructional practices can
promote collaborative learning environments focused on student engagement and in-depth conceptual investigation
(Freidman, Beauchamp, Blain, Lirette-Pitre, & Fournier 2011; Kahveci, 2010; Keser, Uzunboylu & Ozdamli, 2011;
Smeureanu & Isaila, 2011).
Digital games, Web 2.0 tools, and phone applications (apps) address learning needs of digital learners by
providing random access, social networking, instant gratification, challenge, and interactive feedback. Furthermore,
Web 2.0 technologies support many engagement skills needed for critical thinking (Seeman, 2008; Timpka et al.,
2008). Web 2.0 presented opportunities for users to create and produce their own content revolutionizing learning to
include the roles of elaboration, play and engagement. (Selander, 2008; Barab, Pettyjohn, Gresalfi, Volk, &
Solomou, 2012).
Through interaction and exploration in creative and innovative ways, technology empowers students to
communicate and socialize beyond the classroom. No longer limited to physical space, an expanded classroom can
accommodate community-driven, interdisciplinary, and virtual collaboration. This provides an unprecedented
opportunity for schools to reexamine traditional approaches and current practices, and redesign parameters of
effective instruction (The Horizon Report, 2012). Supporting educator effectiveness by expanding innovative
learning models that utilize online and blended learning, high-access, technology-enriched learning environments,
and personalized learning models will increase student learning (State Educational Technology Directors
Association, 2011).
It is evident more research is needed to understand how to design technology-infused, learner-centered
instruction. Technology in an educational setting should focus on instructional goals rather than technology
innovation. Furthermore, deeper understanding is needed regarding the relationship of professional development to
instruction models designed to support technology-rich environments. Puenteduras (1980) identified four levels of

technology use in class instruction: substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition (SMAR). Created to
help teachers reflect and refine their use of technology in instruction, the first two levels of the SMAR model focus
on instructional enhancement, technology as a tool substitute, but provides no functional change (testing on
computer instead of paper). At the next level, technology still substitutes for a conventional tool, but with functional
improvement (watching a video versus modeling the process). However, at the transformation level technology
significantly improves instruction. Technology used to redesign or create original tasks result in richer, more
engaged and integrated learning at higher levels of thinking.
Instructional Innovation
Teachers with content competence and an arsenal of effective instructional strategies produce higher
achievement outcomes among students (Coleman, et al., 1966; Rowan, Correnti, & Miller, 2002; Whitehurst, 2002).
Ensuring transformation in educational processes requires creation of new instructional models by effective
teachers; however, many teachers are reluctant to embrace this shift due to technology availability, cultural lag
(change is schools happens more slowly), teacher training, and current emphasis on standardized test scores (Chen,
2007; Johnson, 1996; Maddux, 1997). Nevertheless, Cavanaugh, Dawson, & Rithaup (2011) found infusing
integrated professional development, support, and technology produces significant changes in teaching practices:
direct instruction decreases, collaboration and project-based learning increases, and student motivation and
engagement improve. Specific to technology integration, Somekh (2000) found schools that recognize the
importance of information and communication technology (ICT) promote more integrated instruction to transform
the learning process more effectively when reform is implemented in a bottom-up fashion. The role of ownership in
instructional reform suggests the current top-down method of professional development does not aid teachers
working to create an innovative, learning environment.
Effective support for science and mathematics teachers willing to innovate includes focusing on the
effectiveness of inquiry-based learning, critical examination of how students learn, engaging all teachers to apply
research-based methods in their classes, facilitate continuous learning opportunities with colleagues, support teacher
leadership, and continuously evaluate effectiveness (Somekh, 2000).
Teaching digital learners demands different instructional strategies. Educators today must engage digital
learners and create instructional opportunities by utilizing technology to empower learners. Schools must move from
automating processes (attendance, report cards, email) to informating processes that empower students to solve
problems, access information and create relationships outside the classroom using the tools of technology
(November, 2010).
Collaborative Lesson Development Process
Applying a quasi-experimental research and development model, university researchers partnered with public
school teachers and administrators to develop and test new forms of technology-inspired instruction using digital
devices common in a students environment (smart boards, computers, tablets, smart phones, etc.). Participants
include faculty (N = 7) and administrators (N = 4) from two North Texas school districts. An Edmodo portal was
created to enhance collaboartion efforts and to provide a range of training modules, digital resources, and
communitcation tools to engage partners in lesson development and data collection.
Research questions guiding this study include: What is the effect of implementing transformational technologyinspired instruction on public school science students higher level thinking skills, level of engagement in learning
activities, and science academic achievement? A foundation of empirical qualitative and quantitative evidence will
be collaboratively collected and analyzed pre and post intervention to assess the effectiveness of transformational,
technology inspired instruction models on student achievement and high-level learning engagement. Data gathered
intervention include teacher and student survey responses, class observations, and class grade records.
Descriptive statistics will be used to report quantitative findings. Findings from student surveys, observational
rubrics, and school records will be analyzed and reported using frequency counts, percentages and measures of
central tendency and variability. When warranted, tests of significance will be computed and reported for preintervention /intervention comparisons; however, sample size may restrict usefulness of these measures.
Recursive abstraction will be used to analyze qualitative data from observations and to evaluate effectiveness of
the Edmodo portal as a collaboration and professional development model. Datasets will be distilled by category by
multiple analysts. Resulting summaries will be collaboratively refined and submitted to respondents for feedback on
accuracy. Final pre-intervention /intervention summaries will be reported in narrative comparison tables.
Data Collection Protocol

The clinical faculty (teachers) will coordinate the collection of teacher and student surveys, class observations,
and academic achievement data and submit the online data collection forms at the end of the instructional unit.
Data collection will be completed twice; once for baseline data and once for post-intervention data. Teachers who
teach multiple sections of a course will be encouraged to collect data from as many sections as they choose. The
teacher surveys will be submitted online at the end of the instructional unit and responses should reflect only the
events occurring during that instructional unit. Likewise, the student surveys will be administered online at the end
of the instructional unit. Classroom observations will be conducted according to the schedule developed between the
teacher and observer. The observation time-frame will include a total of 45-60 minutes of class observation;
however, several short observation periods will be preferable to one long observation to enable observers to see
student learning in multiple activities. The academic achievement data will be reported online by the teacher at the
end of the instructional unit used for baseline assessment (Fall 2012) and for post-intervention assessment (Spring
2013.) Assessment instruments used for pre/post testing will be nearly identical; either using the same test for both
pre and posttest, or using different pre and posttests that measure the same content (i.e. Form A and Form B). In
addition, qualitative data will be collected from Edmodo responses to posted questions, individual blogs, and posted
material) to determine the effectiveness of the portal in facilitating lesson planning, implementation, assessment and
reflection on the process.
Current Status of Project
Currently the project is in the baseline data collection phase to be completed by October 30, 2012. Data
collection forms developed collaboratively are accessible online. The Edmodo portal is facilitating communication,
collaboration, and professional development. In addition, digital information folders are posted on multiple topics
such as flipping the classroom, digital tools, logistics of digital tools in the classroom, technology and differentiated
instruction, STEM, Twitter as an educational tool, blogging tools, and 21st Century instruction. Professional
development tools for Problem Based Learning, Transformational Learning, and Global Learning are in
development to help guide lesson development. Post-intervention data will be collected and analyzed Spring 2013.
Collaborators will present an overview and the effect of the collaborative process in developing digitally inspired, 21
Century lessons as well as examples of science lessons developed for grades 3-9 at the SITE conference in March
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