Navigating Access and Maintaining Established Practice: Social Studies Teachers' Technology Integration at Three Florida Middle Schools

Aug. 01, 2011

Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 11(3), 282-312. (2011)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study examines middle grades social studies teachers’ technology integration in their classrooms.


This study utilizes a mixed methods approach to answer the following research questions.
• How do middle school social studies teachers at three suburban middle schools utilize technology in their teaching?
• What factors influence the teachers’ inclusion of digital technology in their teaching?

The study was conducted in two phases at three middle schools in a large western Florida school district.
The participants were twenty-seven teachers from these three middle schools.
All participating teachers completed a survey modified from VanFossen’s (2005) Internet Use Survey.

Data were collected through surveys and interviews.



The participant teachers indicated their beliefs that technology integration was important for student learning and that students learned best in an active, hands-on, classroom.
Teachers at these three schools used technology to support their existing teaching practices. The teachers reported that they used the Internet to gather information and that it was important for students to do the same.
However, few teachers required students to gather and analyze information in the class setting.

Furthermore, the results reveal that the teachers whose teaching philosophy was managerial used teacher-centered pedagogical methods, with or without technology.
The teachers whose teaching philosophy was more constructivist used student-centered pedagogical methods, with or without technology.

By adding teachers’ technological knowledge, we can understand how these teachers used technology with their students.
The teachers not comfortable using the available equipment generally chose other pedagogical methods.
The teachers who were comfortable with the available equipment used technology in a manner that supported their pedagogical style, whether teacher or student centered.

These three schools have a great deal of available technology, considering the number of computers in the rooms, available laptop carts, and access to projectors.
Yet, the participating teachers saw access to technology and the functionality of equipment as a barrier to their use and a reason for the discrepancy between their desire to use technology and their practice.
Most of the teachers at the three participating schools expressed frustration with the functionality of the equipment available for their instructional use.
Hence, several of the teachers purchased equipment with their own money as a way to work around the schools’ under-functioning technology.

Furthermore, several of the participating teachers identified high stakes testing as having a negative impact on their ability to use technology in the classroom.
The perceived test-related barriers were twofold.
First, the teachers felt their access to the available computers was limited, as laptop carts were being used to run test-preparation software.
In addition to the perceived restricted access was the teachers’ interpretations of their school administrators’ emphasis on measurable results.
The findings suggest that multiple factors influence the teachers’ practices, including access and functionality of technology, teacher attitude toward and comfort with technology, and teaching philosophy and pedagogical practice.


The author concludes that the findings verify the trends seen in VanFossen’s (2001) study; technology integration is limited to largely teacher-centered information gathering, and teachers are utilizing available technology not to transform their teaching, but to reinforce their existing pedagogical practice.

VanFossen, P. J. (2001). Degree of Internet/www use and barriers to use among secondary social studies teachers. International Journal of Instructional Media, 28(1), 57-74.

Updated: Sep. 10, 2014