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«Teachers in a World of Change: Teachers' Knowledge and Attitudes towards the Implementation of Innovative Technologies in Schools Orit Avidov-Ungar ...»

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Interdisciplinary Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects Volume 7, 2011

IJELLO special series of Chais Conference 2011 best papers

Teachers in a World of Change:

Teachers' Knowledge and Attitudes towards the

Implementation of Innovative Technologies in Schools

Orit Avidov-Ungar and Yoram Eshet-Alkakay

Dept. of Education and Psychology, Open University,

Raanana, Israel

oritav@openu.ac.il; yorames@openu.ac.il


The implementation of innovative technologies in school is a complex process that enquires cre- ating a pedagogical, technological, and managerial systemic change in the school-culture – a process that usually fails to meet the high expectations and to create the systemic change.

In light of the many recent studies, which indicate that teachers' perception and attitudes play a pivotal role of in the success or the failure of technology-implementation projects, the present study explores the teachers' perceptions and attitudes towards the implementation of an innova- tive technology (smart class) in school by analyzing the inter-relationships between the major pedagogical factors that act in a technology-implementation process: (1) the teachers' attitudes towards change, (2) the teachers' technological-pedagogical content knowledge, and (3) the teachers' perception of school as a learning organization. Data was gathered using questionnaires that captured the teachers' level of "Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge" (TPACK), their perception of school as a learning organization, and their attitude towards change. Findings indicate a positive correlation between TPACK and the teachers' attitudes towards change, and a positive correlation between teachers' attitudes towards change and their perception of school as a learning organization. Participants who scored high in TPACK and in perceiving their school as a learning organization also scored high in their positive attitudes towards change.

Key words: TPACK, attitude; teacher's attitudes towards change, school as a learning organiza- tion, innovative technology, educational technology, smart class; educational change Introduction Recent studies indicate that the implementation of innovative technologies in schools demand a systemic change in the school–culture (H. Becker, 2001; Eshet, 2007; Coffman, 2009; Cuban, 1988; Kent & MacNergney, 1999; Wal- lace, 2004) and involves a wide range of Material published as part of this publication, either on-line or pedagogical, technological, and manage- in print, is copyrighted by the Informing Science I

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2010; Day & Smethem, 2009; De Val & Fuentes, 2003; Halverson & Smith, 2009; Mioduser, Nachmias, Forkosh, & Tubin, 2004) and emphasize the pivotal role of the teachers' pedagogical perspectives and beliefs in its success (De Freitas & Oliver, 2005; Selwyn, 2010). This claim was illustrated in the meta-analysis of thousands of technology-integration projects (Hattie, 2009), which found that the best predictors of students' achievements are related to teachers' activities and not to the technology itself. This emphasizes the importance of studying the teachers' perspectives and beliefs in the context of a technology-implementation project and the interrelationships between teacher-related variables that affect the project's success (Levin & Fullan, 2008).

Studies of the factors that affect the success of implementing change in school in general and innovative technologies in particular (Fullan, 2000; Kontoghiorghes, Awbre, & Feurig, 2005;

Sandy, 2010) indicate that the three major success factors are: (1) the teachers' attitudes towards change, (2) the teachers' contextual pedagogic and technological knowledge, and (3) the teachers' perception of school as a learning organization. This study explores the correlation between these three factors, in the context of a systemic change, related to the implementation of innovative "smart classes" in school. Below is a brief description of each of the three factors.

1. Teachers' Attitudes towards Change The teachers' attitudes towards change and their readiness to become active partners is considered a critical success factor (Avidov-Ungar, 2010; Coffman, 2009; Day & Gu, 2007; Fullan & Smith, 1999). Similarly, resistance to change is considered one of the main reasons for failure of processes that involve change in organizations in general and in the educational systems in particular (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1996; Zimmerman, 2006). In the case of innovative technology implementation in schools, teachers' resistance is reported by some studies to be the most important factor in the project's success (Del Val & Fuentes, 2003), mainly because the technology doesn't fit to their pedagogical practices and beliefs (Halverson & Smith, 2009; Harris & Hofer 2009). According to Del Val and Fuentes (2003), resistance to change is divided into cognitive resistance (focused on identifying and presenting weaknesses of the change and enlisting claims and reasons for maintaining the existing situation) and emotional resistance (focused on expressing negative feelings towards the change, such as anger, disdain, hostility or sadness). Emotional resistance is also accompanied by psychological symptoms such as tension, impatience, pessimism, apathy and disinterest. In many cases, resistance to change becomes active resistance, in which participants actively sabotage the process of change (Zimmerman, 2006).

2. Teachers' Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) Teaching in a technological environment faces teachers with a wide range of pedagogical, cognitive and ergonomic challenges (Eshet, 2004; 2007; Koehler & Mishra, 2009, 2008; Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Unfortunately, most teachers are not trained to teach in technological environments (Day & Smethem, 2009), and many of them report on difficulties in effective integration of technologies in their teaching (De Freitas & Oliver, 2005).

Following Shulman's (1987) definitions of good teaching, in educational projects the teachers' perception of their knowledge is considered a critical success factor (Polly & Mims 2009). In technology-implementation projects this knowledge is described as a blend of Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge (TPACK) (Harris, Mishra & Koehler, 2009; Mishra & Koehler, 2006) – knowledge that teachers must master in order to use the technology effectively (Doering, Veletsianos, Scharber, & Miller, 2009; Polly, & Mims, 2009). According to Cunningham (2009), the interaction between the three TPACK components (i.e., technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge) creates seven types of knowledge (Table 1) and can be regarded as a measure of

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Archambault & Crippen (2009) used TPACK to measure teachers' perception of their teaching in a technology-based environment. Based on their findings, they argue that TPACK can be used as a reliable measure of teaching quality in such environments.

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3. School as a Learning Organization The constant introduction of innovative educational technologies requires that schools develop an organizational learning culture, a culture which helps maintain transfer of knowledge, creativity, flexibility, and support, which are critical for coping effectively with the never-ending changes in educational technologies (Collinson, 2010; Coppieters, 2005; Fauske & Raybould, 2005; Giles & Hargreaves, 2006; Senge, Cambron-McCabe, Lucas, Smith, Dutton & Kleiner, 2000; Zhao & Ordonez de Pablos, 2009; Weldy & Gillis, 2010). This is issue is also discussed in Negroponte’s "Being Digital" thesis (1995) in which he emphasized cooperation and cooperative learning as characteristic elements in schools which maintain a learning organizational culture. Research shows that schools which maintain a learning organizational culture are able to cope more successfully with systemic changes dictated by technological innovation (Giles & Hargreaves, 2006;

Kontoghionghes et al., 2005; Tas, 2005; Yu-Lin & Ellinger, 2008; Zhao & Ordonez de Pablos, 2009). Some researchers even claim that there is no point in integrating technologies in schools that don't maintain a learning organizational culture (Weldy & Gillis, 2010; Lieberman, 1995;

Tatnall & Davey, 2003).

In recent years, there is a growing amount of evidence that the perception of teachers of their school as a learning organization affects their readiness to become active partners in technologyintegration projects, and consequently, affects the project's success (Levin & Fullan, 2008; Ogobonna & Harris, 2003; Vaillant, 2005; Zimmerman, 2006).

The Research Background During the year 2009, the Israeli's Ministry of Education introduced the "smart classrooms" project in 100 schools in southern Israel. The project's goal was to provide a unique innovative technological platform that will lead to a technological educational reform in teaching methods and in student-teacher relationships (C. Becker & Lee, 2009). Smart classes consist of a variety of technological devices, such as Internet connectivity, computers, projectors, and interactive boards.

They enable teachers to prepare, project and share learning materials, and create a new kind of teacher-student dialogue (Way, Lilley, Ruster, Johnco, Mauric, & Ochs, 2009). This study explores the perceptions, attitudes, and knowledge of teachers who participated in the project.

Methodology Goals This study explored the inter-relationships between the 3 major factors that involve change in a technology-integration project: teachers' Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK), teachers' perception of school as a learning organization, and teachers' attitudes towards change.

It examined the following connections:

• Connection between teachers' technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) and their attitudes towards change.

• Connection between teachers' perception of school as a learning organization and their attitudes towards change.

Research Population Participants were one hundred teachers from eight elementary schools in southern Israel. For all of them it was the first year of participating in the "smart class" project. 74.2% of the participants had more than ten years of teaching experience, 5.4% had 7-9 years, 14% had 4-6 years, and 6.5% had 1-3 years of experience. 66.3% had a B.A., 22.8% a M.A. and 10.9% lacked an aca


294 Avidov-Ungar & Eshet-Alkalai

demic degree. 55.7% of the participants reported that they are in an expert stage of their career, 32.9% reported of an Intermediate stage ("moderate-to-high level"), 8.9% reported that they are at a "preliminary level" and 2.5% reported that they are at a beginners stage of their career. 66.2% of the participants taught three or more subjects at school, 15.6% taught two subjects, and 18.2% taught one subject.

Research Tools Data was gathered, using a self-report 1-7 Leichert Scale questionnaire, which consisted of the

following three components:

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) questionnaire (Archambult & Crippen, 2009; Cox & Graham, 2009) This 24-item questionnaire is divided into the following seven types of knowledge that teachers should master in order to effectively implement and use innovative technologies in teaching: Pedagogical Knowledge (PK), Technological Knowledge (TK), Content Knowledge (CK), Technological Content Knowledge (TCK), Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK), Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK), and Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK).

The questionnaire has a high level of reliability: α=0.97.

Perception of school as a learning organization questionnaire This 44-item questionnaire explored the teachers' perceived level of organizational learning in school (Korland, 2000), examining two aspects: (1) whether the processes that characterize a learning organization actually exist in school; (2) whether these processes are actually important

for the effectiveness of the school's functioning. The questionnaire referred to four of the following major organizational learning processes at school:

1. Learning processes

2. Evaluation and drawing conclusions

3. Disseminating information and knowledge

4. Gathering and preserving information and knowledge The questionnaire has a high level of reliability: α=0.82 Attitudes towards change questionnaire This 16-item questionnaire examined attitudes and resistance to change among the participants – cognitive, emotional, and behavioral. The questionnaire has a high level of reliability: α=0.94 Findings A. Teachers' Attitudes towards Changes Table 2 presents the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral attitudes of teachers towards change that were gathered by the Attitudes towards Change questionnaire. From the table, it is evident that the participants, in general, show a very positive attitude towards change, with the behavioral attitudes being the highest (5.70) and the emotional attitudes being the lowest (4.92). The Cognitive attitudes are ranked in the middle (5.03).

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Table 3 indicates that the self-reported level of teachers' knowledge for all seven TPACK components is moderate to high. The highest score was obtained for the Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) (4.07), indicating the high self-confidence of teachers in the subject-matter they teach. In contrast, the lowest score (3.0) was found in the Technological Knowledge (TK), representing the low self-confidence of teachers in using technology for teaching. The high standard deviation found for Technological Knowledge (1.17) indicates the co-existence of two teachers' groups: One with a high and one with a low mastery level of technology for teaching.

C. Teachers' Attitudes towards School as a Learning Organization The Table 4 depicts the teachers' perception of school as a learning organization for four the major learning processes of organizational learning (Korland, 2000). Findings illustrate the importance that teachers assign to the organizational learning processes in school. On the other hand, the significant differences between the two columns in Table 4 reveal a large gap between the level of organizational processes that the teachers would expect to have in their schools, and the level that actually exist there.

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