Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 11(3), 243-270. (2011)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The authors examined the preservice teachers' evolving attitudes regarding the use of advanced digital technologies in teaching and learning mathematics, particularly in relation to the influence of their field placements.
They also studied preservice teachers’ design of technology-rich lessons and the extent to which these lessons promoted inquiry and learning for understanding.
The participants were 22 preservice teachers, enrolled in a first-semester mathematics teaching methods course at a small midwestern U.S. university.
Course activities included participation in two separate field experiences in neighboring school districts.
The methods class placed considerable emphasis on the use of advanced digital technologies in the teaching and learning of mathematics, with particularly extensive use of the TI-Nspire.
The preservice teachers also completed a Mathematics Technology Attitudes Survey, three short surveys and an open-ended exit survey.
The data focuses on two principal dimensions:
(a) the interplay between the effects of the methods class and the field placement on the preservice teachers’ experiences of and attitudes toward technology, and
(b) the evolution of the preservice teachers’ lesson plans over the course of the semester.
There is evidence that the pre-service teachers' experiences in the classroom primed them for the possibilities of technology use but it takes the experiencing of exemplary practice to convince them of the benefits of working to incorporate technology in their own teaching.
The data reveal that the preservice teachers’ university class provided more experience for them in learning technology skills, critical thinking about technology, thinking about the mathematics content, and thinking and working with technology.
The field experience, on the other hand, helped them become more reflective in their teaching.
Many preservice teachers agreed that they were learning a lot of practical technology skills that they could use in their methods class sessions and in their field placement.
Most of them also strongly agreed that the methods class activities made them think more critically about technology, suggesting they were moving toward more clearly establishing a position on the use of technology in teaching and learning mathematics.
Not surprisingly, the preservice teachers with positive technology-oriented experiences in the field expressed stronger desires to incorporate technology into their own teaching.
The preservice teachers’ experiences in the classroom primed them for the possibilities of technology.
The evidence shows, however, that they must experience exemplary practice before they are convinced of the benefits of working to incorporate technology in their own teaching.
A secondary finding is that while there was a general improvement in the quality of the lesson plans written by the preservice teachers as the semester progressed, the lesson plans written by those students with field placements in technology-rich environments showed more sophistication, not just in the use of technology, but in terms of implementing inquiry-based and open-ended instructional approaches.
The data show that when the preservice teachers were asked to compare the effect of the methods class and the field placement in how much each of these venues helped them in thinking about interactions between technology, mathematics, and teaching methods, they responded that their university class helped them to consider those interactions more than their field placement.
From Week 4 to Week 8, there was an increasing trend in both the university class and the field placement helping them to think about those interactions.
However, at Week 13 they did not agree as strongly that their class and field placement helped them to think about interactions between teaching, technology and mathematics.
This conclusion would further reinforce the argument about the crucial effect of the field placement on the preservice teachers’ experiences.
Similarly, the preservice teachers agreed that they would like to use TI-Nspire in their future teaching at Week 8 but were not sure or only agreed at weeks 4 and 13.
From Week 4 to Week 13 they increasingly agreed that they needed to know enough mathematics to answer all of their students’ questions.
The overall conclusions of this study are that
(a) if preservice teachers are to develop a positive attitude to the use of advanced digital technologies in their instructional practice, they require more than a methods class to develop TPACK and that modeling of exemplary practice in the field placement has a crucial, perhaps decisive effect on their attitudes and
(b) that the most significant improvement in the quality of the preservice teachers’ lesson plans, in terms of being inquiry based and open ended, came when they had field placements in technology-rich environments.