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Digital Technologies in Teachers’ Practices Research Paper


Introduction

Technology-empowered education initiative requires the instructors in multiple educational settings to integrate digital technologies and learning activities into instructional practice to enhance students’ academic growth and better prepare them for the future careers (Martin, Shaw, & Daughenbaugh, 2014). The relevant and meaningful use of various interactive media in instruction becomes a major responsibility of educators as it is considered that technology plays a significant role in influencing the social and economic development and, in this way, its application in education may help students to become more successful in their life.

The purpose of this paper is the detailed investigation of two forms of digital technology use in teachers’ instructional practices – interactive whiteboard (IWT) and web camera. The examination of IWB and web camera application in educational settings aims to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages associated with integrating each technology and identify the potential benefits and positive effects of its application on the enhancement of pedagogical approach and overall academic outcomes.

Literature Review

For some time, digital technologies have been used by educators to refine teaching processes and students’ learning experiences. While in the 20th century such forms of technology as television, calculators, computers, and video projectors were integrated into educational settings, multiple web and mobile devices, as well as other interactive and smart technologies become “widely disseminated forms of electronic technology used in public schools” in the modern digital era (Wade, Rasmussen, & Fox-Turnbull, 2013, p. 162).

Nowadays, IWB is one of the most popular forms of technology used to complement instruction in multiple subject areas including science, mathematics, social studies, literacy, etc. IWB is usually associated with whole-class activities, discussions, and collaboration, and thus it helps to retain learners’ attention more effectively than the traditional lecture-based lessons involving the application of blackboards (Martin et al., 2014). Along with IWB, the use of web camera in teaching increases the availability of electronic information during the lesson conduction, facilitates teachers’ collaboration, and increases remote education capabilities (Newland & Byles, 2014).

IWB

IWBs are the touch-sensitive displays which enable teachers to provide a class with the clear projections of texts or images and other visual elements, and researchers emphasize the efficiency of IWB in whole class instruction (Van Laer, Beauchamp, & Colpaert, 2014). IWB is associated with functionality as it blends of computer and projector properties in one system that can be easily operated to engage students in group activity and increase their collaboration by fostering communication and social interactions in the class (Martin et al., 2014).

In their investigation of IWB technology implementation in English primary classrooms, Martin et al. (2014) outline that multiple useful facilities included in IWB support discussions among learners, help to develop “children’s productive communication and thinking” (p. 90). Thus, IWB serves as an instructional tool and, at the same time, as a mean for the creation of favorable and inclusive learning environment that facilitates knowledge building.

The major IWB’s values recognized in the research paper by Van Laer et al. (2014) are associated with the technology’s presentation properties and “motivational qualities” (p. 410). IWB increases the flexibility of educational activities and allows educators to make instruction more versatile. Nevertheless, in order to achieve such sustainable advantages, the educators and administrative practitioners need to make significant time investments to develop the adequate IWB materials (Van Laer et al., 2014).

According to Blue and Tirotta (2011), while many US schools prefer to limit the access to a large number of Internet resources to protect students from harmful web content, IWB may be regarded as a reliable alternative to multiple virtual technologies as it helps education communities to gain greater and safer experience in working with virtual technology.

Similarly to distinct online technologies, IWB increases virtual interactivity during the lessons without accessing the Internet. The technology allows educators to create and store electronic documents, interactive activities, video files, images and other instructional elements. Moreover, as Blue and Tirotta (2011) state, the application of IWB becomes widespread across the higher education institutions, and especially teacher preparation programs, as the beneficial effects of the technology continue to attain the common recognition.

Although the growing body of research identifies the positive academic outcomes associated with IWB use in different educational settings, there are some factors which may affect the efficiency of the technology implementation. The researchers observe that the attainment of benefits depends on the length of IWB’s application period in the classroom and teachers’ ability to achieve the consistent level of the technology’s integration in their pedagogical approach (Van Laer et al., 2014).

Throughout the process of IWB incorporation, the instructors need to align their pedagogical strategies with the technology-induced changes. Thus, teachers need to be actively engaged in the constant process of self-education, skill development, and evaluation of potential risks and benefits of IWB use in order to facilitate the technology integration in curricula and increase its efficiency.

Web Camera

At the current stage of technology development, along with high-quality video recording, web cameras offer real-time video delivery which allows to broadcast and receive informational content through the Internet. Such technological properties allow educators to make their instruction highly versatile and contribute to the integration of real-life social and environmental contexts in students’ academic experience.

Teachers may use web cameras in classroom settings for multiple purposes. First of all, virtual cameras’ application fosters the visualization of lectures and seminars. By using online web cameras, teachers may show their students different aspects of real objects and processes. For example, the modern web camera sites offer opportunities for the observation of multiple geographic locations or animals and participation in online tours worldwide.

In this way, teachers may fulfill students’ developmental and academic needs for incorporation of real-life contexts into educational activities and contribute to the development of student-centered learning environment (Wade et al., 2013). As a result, the usage of virtual technologies and web hardware may have significant positive impact on the educational outcomes and may increase the quality and speed of educational processes.

According to Rock et al. (2013), educators can use cameras and Skype-based coaching to enhance own teaching methodology and classroom management skills. Virtual coaching mediated through web cameras provides evidence-based approach supporting teacher development and professional growth. In this way, web camera technology may be regarded as an effective method supporting professional collaboration. Moreover, the technology use for teacher education purposes may be especially significant in the remote and rural areas where the educational community is less developed than in urban districts.

Nowadays, a large number of higher education institutions implement cameras for lecture recording. Video-recorded lectures become valuable and recognized resources of knowledge among both online and offline learners because they allow students to refer to lecture materials outside auditoriums and classrooms and conduct a thorough analysis of subject content during the independent home practice (Wulff, Fecke, Rupp, & Hamborg, 2014).

Web camera technology plays an essential role in knowledge transfer within a particular education institution as well as within the overall educational community. Therefore, lecture recordings and online translations are encouraged by many respectable education practitioners and administrators. However, the increasing demand for lesson recording raises the issue of higher definition video production and use of higher quality hardware equipment which is associated with greater financial and human resources’ involvement (Wulff et al., 2014).

Barriers to Technology Implementation

The researchers regard teachers’ unpreparedness for the incorporation of technology in the professional practice and their insufficient level of technology knowledge as the largest barriers to the attainment of potential benefits associated with technology use in classrooms (Blue & Tirotta, 2011). Educational institutions’ infrastructure, funding resources management, perceived use of technology and the level of expertise interfere with the efficient integration of technology into the curriculum.

According to Wade et al. (2013), incorporation of technology is correlated with the cultural transformation in an organization especially when it is supported by the community stakeholders. Thus, since the integration of technology, including web cameras and IWBs, is associated with substantial systematic changes, the improvement of administrative decision making and management in spending and enhancement of instructional methodology are required to ensure teachers’ sufficient level of competence in technology operation and development of adequate learning environment.

Discussion

Technology Advantages and Disadvantages

Technology use in education significantly increases, and researchers emphasize the benefits of IWB and web technology application in the learning environment. The major IWB values include capturing students’ attention, increasing lessons’ speed and quality of learning, innovations in pedagogical approach, implementation of multiple diverse multimedia resources in educational practices (Van Laer et al., 2014). IWB benefits outlined by Martin et al. (2014) include the enhancement of peer communication and classroom collaboration.

At the same time, the use of web cameras may help to increase instructional versatility, remote access to learning activities and subject content, and support the inclusion of real-world context in the lessons which may significantly increase students’ motivation. Web cameras can be implemented by educators for the collaborative teaching or enhancement of own instruction and class management skills. Moreover, webcams are associated with the simplicity of use, and it thus can be easily operated by those teachers who are unfamiliar with advanced technology.

Despite the variety of values related to each of the technologies, IBW is associated with greater functionality. IBW offers a set of functions and qualities which can be effectively implemented for students’ learning in multiple knowledge areas and educational settings while it is possible to say that web cameras have a limited scope of practical use in instructional practices.

Selection of Age-Appropriate Technology

The consideration of learners’ needs and interests is of significant importance for the alignment of technology-empowered learning initiative with educational strategies. The students of different age have distinct academic and developmental needs and are required to demonstrate different skills and levels of competence in operating their knowledge.

Based on this, the application of one technology form may be more appropriate for the adult learners than for children and vice versa. It is possible to presume that the increasing requirements for use of technology may lead to its inappropriate use, but the interactive media instruments are efficient merely when applied in an appropriate manner.

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center (2012), “the steady stream of new devices may lead some educators to use technology for technology’s sake, rather than as a means to an end” (p. 4). It means that teachers need to select those types of technology and interactive media which ensure the sound development of their students. For example, it is considered that preschoolers and younger students should be more engaged in active non-digital practices and the involvement of digital technologies, such as video and the Internet, in their learning activities should be limited (NAEYC & the Fred Rogers Center, 2012).

A competent teacher always strives to choose the age-appropriate practices, technology instruments, and period of their implementation that will suit the educational needs and students’ level of development. Teachers who are digitally incompetent are more prone to making inadequate choices which may affect academic and developmental outcomes in a negative way.

Response to Organizational Requirements

The conducted literature review helped to reveal that researchers regard technology use as the basis for the development of student-centered learning environment (Wade et al., 2013). However, to achieve the mentioned benefits of IWB and web camera use, educators need to increase their competence and self-efficacy in technology application to achieve greater positive academic outcomes.

It is possible to say that IWB application may be associated with a significant amount of complexity for educators who grew up surrounded by less number of advanced technologies comparing to the modern students also known as “digital natives” (Wade et al., 2013). And since the traditional instructional approach is insufficient for the creation of relevant and appropriate learning environment for the digital native students of the 21st century, the major difficulty associated with the application of technology in classrooms is related to teachers’ ability to embrace all the technologies’ facilities and functions in order to provide students with a motivational and meaningful learning environment.

To achieve positive academic outcomes, educators and school administrators need to collaborate in the research of multiple technology use options, development of teachers’ training programs and organizational culture supporting professional collaboration and increase in educators’ competence and instructional efficiency.

References

Blue, E., & Tirotta, R. (2011). The benefits & drawbacks of integrating cloud computing and interactive whiteboards in teacher preparation. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(3), 31-39. doi:10.1007/s11528-011-0495-7

Martin, S., Shaw, E., & Daughenbaugh, L. (2014). Using smart boards and manipulatives in the elementary science classroom. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 58(3), 90-96. doi:10.1007/s11528-014-0756-3

National Association for the Education of Young Children & the Fred Rogers Center. (2012). .

Newland, B., & Byles, L. (2014). . Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 51(3), 315–325.

Rock, M. L., Schoenfeld, N., Zigmond, N., Gable, R. A., Gregg, M., Ploessl, D. M., & Salter, A. (2013). Can you Skype me now? Developing teachers’ classroom management practices through virtual coaching. Beyond Behavior, 22(3), 15-23.

Van Laer, S., Beauchamp, G., & Colpaert, J. (2014). Teacher use of the interactive whiteboards in Flemish secondary education–mapping against a transition framework. Education and Information Technologies, 19(2), 409-423. doi:10.1007/s10639-012-9228-6

Wade, Y., Rasmussen, L., & Fox-Turnbull, W. (2013). Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 57(3), 162–170.

Wulff, B., Fecke, A., Rupp, L., & Hamborg, K. (2014). LectureSight: An open source system for automatic camera control for lecture recordings. Interactive Technology and Smart Education, 11(3), 184-200.

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