The use of technology in the classroom can be a blessing or a curse. Teachers’ dispositions can be affected by the experiences they encounter when integrating technology with a lesson. There are so many different applications that can really make student engagement a breeze. My experiences with the use of technology in the classroom have evolved over the last 20 years, just as the equipment needed for the technology has improved. I began with little training in the use of technology. Vannatta and Fordham (2004) claimed, “the amount of technology training, time spent beyond contractual work week, and openness to change best predicted classroom technology use” (p. 253). I spent many extra hours preparing for my first experience of using technology in the classroom.
My experience involved using a huge, heavy television and computer tower set up on a cart with bad wheels that was pushed around the building. I had to download the program on a flimsy, flat floppy disk. The students took turns operating the system/keyboard as they worked through a decision-making tree. There were lousy images made out of pixels, and loading data between each choice took about a minute. Gunter and Reeves (2017) describe an illusional appearance of technology being adopted by the classrooms. There is a “lack of assistance beyond the one-shot, hands-off professional development approach” (p. 1305). Gunter and Reeves (2017) accurately describe my professional training with technology, with no assistance, one short informational meeting, and no chance to try out the applications for myself. I am glad that I still used it in the classroom anyway. The students were so excited for this latest technology being tried in their classroom; I was caught up in their enthusiasm. Today, no student nor teacher would tolerate such an application.
Ten years later, I lugged a large cart with thirty Thinkpads that were shared with twenty other teachers. Interesting, engaging applications were all preloaded on each laptop. If you were lucky enough to get the cart in your classroom the night before, you could be assured that all Thinkpads would be fully charged and working. If your luck was bad, then you had to wait five hours for the charging to complete and have a non-technology-based lesson ready to go. It was experiences like these that led my fellow teachers to think that technology is great if it works. We all learned to always have a back-up lesson plan ready in case it was not working. This essentially meant doing twice the work to prepare if you dared to try using technology.
Imbrial (2013) opined that individual student devices allow the lesson to be customized to the needs of the student; such technology access “supplies individualized classroom guidance and motivates students” (as cited in Gunter and Reeves, 2017, p. 1307). Today in my classroom, all students have their own Chromebook that must come to school fully charged. New wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) wiring, and the use of hot spots has made the use of technology in the classroom wonderful, easy, and very engaging. Numerous support staff who can come to a classroom within minutes of a phone call, help to provide solutions to any technology problems. Formative assessments are graded for the teacher, and data is sent directly to their email to make data-driven decisions about lesson planning.
The current technology has made for positive dispositions among the teachers with whom I work. Many are younger and are more comfortable with using technology. They are the digital natives, and with those positive digital experiences as students, they bring a positive technology disposition to the classroom. The technology paradigm shift has happened. Tomlinson (2019) noted whether it be 20 years ago or today, effective use of technology inspires a positive transformation of teachers' understanding of what is available for use and how to use the fullest potential of the technology in the classroom. I am a teacher that has adopted the new learning paradigm.
I have changed from being a digital tourist to a digital native. One example of my application of new technology is Word Wall. Word wall provides many different templates which allow students to create interactive and printable content to help with studying vocabulary, new content, or information that requires some rote memorization. My students have created vocabulary games to help practice for tests and many other uses.
Another digital learning tool that my students just love is Kahoot. This is a competitive game that builds interactivity with both traditional students and at-home learners at the same time. The questions are written as multiple choice and provide a quick way to get formal assessment information within a few minutes. The students try to quickly outwit other learners; this makes the drive for engagement fun and enjoyable for the learner.
One other digital learning strategy that I often use in my science classroom is Generation Genius. This is a wonderfully useful digital tool that provides short videos about topics covered in either math or science. It has been so helpful with my remote learners because it provides discussion questions for before and after the video, an interactive vocabulary, topic-centered reading material that offers different reading levels. The part that I appreciate most is the DIY activity guide. Every topic has a video that demonstrates how to complete a simple at-home lab that uses materials commonly found in most homes. I appreciate this feature because the at-home ability for hands-on learning is so important in understanding science concepts.
One last digital strategy is Canva which empowers students to create visually delightful images from templates that can be modified for use as presentations, social media, video, posters, brochures, book covers, collages, and much more. It has many tutorials to help with the different implementations. My students learned about invasive species and created wanted posters for the different organisms that affect our local ecosystem. It is easy to produce high-quality images by the learners. So many students took great pride in the professional-looking projects each created. I have never had a poster project be so exciting; the lettering and spelling are of little concern. Now greater thought is put into the images used and the overall message. A positive disposition to technology allows the educator to “fully understand the many ways he or she can alter their instruction to customize instructional strategies for their iLearners” (Gunter and Reeves, 2017, p. 1308). Come on, take the leap and become a digital native!
Mary Beth Dodge
NCU, School of Education, Specialization
Gunter, G. A., & Reeves, J. L. (2017). Online professional development embedded with mobile learning: An examination of teachers’ attitudes, engagement, and dispositions. British Journal of Educational Technology, 48(6), 1305–1317.
Tomlinson, C. (2019). Diving beneath the surface: Using ed tech effectively requires a second-order change. Educational Leadership, 76(5), 88–89.
Vannatta, R. A., & Fordham, N. (2004). Teacher dispositions as predictors of classroom technology use. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 36(3), 253–271.