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The integration of the use of technology in education has long been a subject of debate as well as a goal of several educational institutions. Modern times have made learning technological skills a must in order to cope with the many advances in technology – the internet, the invention of several helpful software, the invention of a variety of electronic equipment to make education more interesting and vivid to learners.
There have been several attempts to study how teachers cope with technological advances and implement new technological skills in their teachings. Jonathan Brinkerhoff has come up with a thorough, longitudinal study of a number of teachers who partook in an intensive course in the integration of technology in education at the Professional Development Academy in a span of two academic school years.
Introduction and Review of Literature
The article started off with identifying barriers that prevent teachers from using technology in the classroom, each, duly explained with supporting evidence from the literature. Four barriers named were: resources, institutional and administrative support, training and experience, and attitudinal or personality factors. Brinkerhoff mentioned a litany of factors supporting attitudinal and personality factors and some on institutional and administrative support but did not delve much into the other two factors of lack of resources and training and experience.
It was obvious that due to limited resources of efficient and a good number of computers, software, a reliable internet connection and the hiring of a trained personnel to impart knowledge and skills to teachers and students, some schools are unable to implement a good program that incorporates computer technology in their curriculum. Training and experiential factors were mostly dependent on administrative and institutional support.
Most barriers were blamed on the teachers’ attitudes and beliefs in the integration of technology in their classrooms and even their own competence in computer and technological skills.
Brinkerhoff’s introduction presented the problem at hand and clearly paved the way for the full discussion of the article’s content.
The reader is efficiently led to focus on the “meat” of the article, which was how the academy’s efforts at training teachers in a span of two academic years impact the teachers’ efficiency and attitude towards incorporating computer technology in their classrooms. The preliminary processes of recruitment of prospective participants; establishing the selected teachers’ participation on a voluntary basis; and the provision of support from the school through giving the teachers allowances, free meals and accommodation to those who need it and permission to take leaves during the five days during the school year for follow up training were explained clearly.
The research design leaves no room for questions because goals for every step were given. Even the agenda for each training schedule was itemized, giving the reader an idea of the progression of the course.
The participant’s personal and professional progress was likewise chronicled, even the reasons for each participants’ continuation and dropping out of the study. It is obvious that the researchers kept in close contact with their participants.
Feedback about each training module was assessed and the results of the study were complemented by both quantitative analysis using surveys and qualitative analysis using interviews. The researchers fully intended to keep a tightly designed study in spite of its limitations. Analysis of the data gathered was thorough, making it easy for them to come up with reliable conclusions.
Presentation of the instruments used, including sample items and the data gathered was organized well. The three themes that came out in the interviews namely: “Participants perceived an increase in their technology skills as a result of their
academy experiences” (p. 33); “Participants were less fearful and more confident toward technology following completion of the academy” (p. 33); and “Participants felt the academy had altered their teaching” (p.36) were very encouraging. They were powerful insights that illuminated the great impact the training had on them. It was inspiring to note that the teachers’ appreciation of the training went deeper than surface level, as they reported the academy’s role in boosting their confidence and giving them a renewed drive to impart knowledge to their students. It gave the readers confidence in the academy’s efforts in providing professional development to other teachers. This will eventually redound to the benefit of the students.
Conclusions and Discussions
The article was honest to report even its negative findings and limitations. The researchers were sensitive enough to see through the hidden agendas of the teachers who created assigned projects with low quality just to comply with the requirements in order to keep the materials the academy provided. The upside of this was that the materials were used well in the classrooms.
The study’s limitation of relying on self-report data from the questionnaires and interviews made the researchers realize that going further than the self-report data by directly observing the teachers at work and their effect on the students could have provided more valid data.
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The limited number of participants (n=25) also contributed to the reduction of the validity of the statistical analyses.
The discussion, again, presents a number of learnings derived from the study, presented as recommendations. This is the most valuable part of any study, as readers pick up its lessons for them to apply in their professional practice. The academy, or any other provider of professional development training should keep in mind that instruction must be centered on the participants’ interests, use innovative experiential and innovative strategies and varied instruction that allow participants to work individually, in pairs or small groups. Participants must be held accountable for their application of technology integration in their classes, as assessed by their professional development trainers to ensure that they comply with the minimum standards. They should also be open enough to reflect on the lesson’s effectiveness and do the necessary amendments, if need be.
The article also reminds readers to set clear goals in the infusion of technology in education. It advocates deep reflection regarding the school’s motivations in implementing a curriculum supported by computer technology.
The whole article has proven to be coherent in all respects, making it an interesting and enlightening read. A lot of insights may be gained from it and lessons to be brought back to professional practice. The researchers have done a meticulous job in the design, methodology, analysis and interpretation of results -each part supporting the other in an integrated body of work. It may not be a perfect study, as it has its limitations, but definitely, its contribution to the literature on the integration of technology in educational practice is noteworthy.
Reader’s Additional Suggestions
This reader would like to add some suggestions, in order for this critique to be complete. Student participation in the evaluation of the efficiency of the teachers’ professional training must be included, as they are the direct beneficiaries of such efforts. A survey or questionnaire to gather students’ feedback on the teachers’ integration of computers and technology in their current lessons may be created and distributed.
This may also serve as an avenue for them to give their suggestions as to how the teachers may better design a new curriculum based on their interests. The proliferation of innovative software applications, interactive websites, dynamic multimedia presentations and desktop publishing ideas capture the interest of the youth today, and may prove to be effective tools in furthering educational strategies.
Another suggestion to standardize the new curriculum within each school is to echo what the teacher-participants have learned to their colleagues in their respective schools and to come up with a standardized curriculum to be approved by their professional trainers and school administrators. Such curriculum should be evaluated after a substantial period of time.
Brinkerhoff has done an impressive, thorough, enlightening and very sensible research article displaying professional and scholarly standards. It will prove useful to all educators who intend to supplement their curricula with the wonders of technology.
Style and Expression
The title of the article, “Effects of a Long-Duration, Professional Development Academy on Technology Skills, Computer Self-Efficacy, and Technology Integration Beliefs and Practices” may have been too long and technical for many readers’ taste, however, it is truly descriptive of the whole article. Indeed, the study was of long duration, lasting two academic school years. It was on an intensive professional development training of teachers’ skills in computer and technology integration in their own classrooms, and it discussed their pre-and post- beliefs and practices on the matter. Brinkerhoff could not have come up with a better, more fitting title.
The author also gave credit where credit was due, as he properly cited his sources in the text in APA style. The number of references he used was reflective of the thoroughness of his research.
His writing was flawless, his English skills were impeccable – scholarly but understandable to the regular reader, making it easy to appreciate all the points he has discussed, hence learning is easily gained from reading his article.