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Month: September 2017

Editorial: Strengthening the Impact, Novelty and Diversity of Research on Technology and Teacher Education

Editorial: Strengthening the Impact, Novelty and Diversity of Research on Technology and Teacher Education

It is with great excitement that I assume leadership as editor-in-chief of CITE Journal.  In this role, I am committed to continuing the outstanding stewardship of founding editors Glen Bull and Lynn Bell.  Lynn will remain as the managing editor providing valuable support and knowledge of the journal processes and procedures.  For that I am particularly thankful.  I am also grateful for the support of SITE (the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education), which sponsors the journal, along with the co-sponsor associations in English teacher education, social studies teacher education, science teacher education, and mathematics teacher education.

Since 2000, CITE Journal has served as a scholarly venue for the publication of conceptual and empirical works at the intersection of technology and teacher education.  Importantly, CITE Journal has worked with the cosponsoring organizations to explicate clearly how technology can be used to support applications of technology in teacher education that are content-driven.  This focus on content, pedagogy, and technology is at the crux of the technological, pedagogical and content knowledge framework (Koehler & Mishra, 2009) that has informed much of contemporary research on teacher knowledge for effective use of technology in teaching.

My vision for the next phase of the journal focuses on four areas that would further elevate CITE Journal as a leading platform for the dissemination of research focusing on technology and teacher education: (a) improve the visibility and impact of the journal; (b) support discourse and timely exchange of ideas through commentaries; (c) advance scholarship related to the use of novel technologies, and (d) emphasize issues of diversity and equity in technology and teacher preparation.

Visibility and Impact

One of my immediate goals is to expand the visibility of CITE Journal to allied research and professional audiences as well as policy makers and practitioners.  Journals that are more visible are more likely to be read and cited.  A key strength of CITE Journal is its open-access online format, which makes content widely available around the world.  As a result, CITE Journal articles have the potential to be widely read and cited.  In turn, articles that are widely cited are more likely to substantially impact research and practice.  A recent symposium organized by the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, Digital Promise, and the Jefferson Education Accelerator noted that 90% of educational technology decisions are not based on evidence of efficacy.  With its rigorous scholarly publications widely accessible, CITE Journal is in a unique position to support decision-making among teacher educators and other professionals.

Further, the ability to publish multimedia and not only text provides an added advantage in that it helps readers get a better glimpse of the work reported in CITE Journal articles through video, images, audio, and so forth. It could also promote increased methodological transparency by allowing authors to publish data, instruments or coding schemes as appendixes.  In an era where educational research is under scrutiny, such transparency would go a long way in illustrating the contributions of our work.  The use of social media including table of content alerts, a Facebook group, and Twitter could be leveraged to improve the visibility of authors and the journal itself.  I will be investigating opportunities to utilize social media and other ways of promoting the content and visibility of the journal to further improve impact.

Timely Exchange of Ideas

A noteworthy tradition of CITE Journal is the use of commentaries to promote scholarly discourse and the rapid exchange of ideas among readers.  Commentaries are valuable for promoting various points of view, including debates on important trends.  As such, they have the potential to advance knowledge and understanding of contemporary issues related to technology and teacher education.  Examples of such commentaries are published in the current issue and include the Social Studies Education Response (Manfra, 2017) and the Response of the Association of Science Teacher Educators (Roehrig & Ellis, 2017) to “An Interview With Joseph South” published by Bull, Spector, Persichitte, and Meier (2017). These two commentaries bring attention to current discourse related to the development of technology competencies for university professors and candidates of teacher preparation programs (U.S. Department of Education, 2016).

Moving forward, I encourage readers, particularly seasoned scholars, to submit commentaries in response to CITE Journal articles, including supporting arguments, critiques, or counterpoints.  In addition to promoting the timely exchange of ideas, such commentaries could help further highlight the work of CITE Journal authors.

Novel Technologies

Technology is rapidly changing, making it difficult for educational institutions and teachers to keep pace.  Previously, Mouza and Lavigne (2013) used the term emerging technologies to indicate both technologies whose integration in classroom settings has been widely investigated as well as those whose integration could benefit from additional research.  For instance, while research into how teachers learn to utilize laptop computers in teaching and learning has gathered much attention in the last decade (e.g., Dunleavy, Dexter, & Heinecket, 2007; Mouza, Cavalier, & Nadolny, 2008; Windschitl & Sahl, 2002), research on teacher learning related to other mobile and wearable technologies is still in its infancy.  We need more work that identifies ways in which we can help practicing and future teachers learn how to capitalize on the size and mobility of emerging technologies.

The 2017 Horizon Report identified a number of emerging technologies with potential for adoption in the next five years.  Those include makerspaces and robotics (1 year or less), analytics and virtual reality (2 to 3 years), and artificial intelligence and Internet of things (4 to 5 years).  CITE Journal could play a crucial role in advancing research on teacher preparation and professional development on the use of new technologies, including higher educator preparation for embedding these novel tools in teacher education curricula.  Much work has already been published within CITE Journal (for examples see Ackaoglu & Kale, 2016; Chao, Muray, & Star, 2016; Krutka & Carpenter, 2016; Langran & Baker, 2016), but we could make even greater strides, becoming a leading venue for innovative and forward-thinking approaches to teacher education in relation to emerging technologies 

Diversity and Equity

With the increasing diversity of the student population, it is important to identify practices that better equip teachers to utilize technology in ways that promote learning, development and success for all students.  As an example, recent discourse emphasizes the importance of helping all students move from consumers to creators of computing innovations, with coding identified as a new form of literacy (Cuny, 2012; NMC/CoSN Horizon Report, 2017). Therefore, it is important to examine ways of developing teacher knowledge, beliefs, and practices that help all students, particularly those underrepresented, become creators of computing innovations.

Further, we need to examine ways of using technology as a means of helping teachers gain knowledge and dispositions needed to support equitable teaching.  Again, CITE Journal has already made significant strides in this area (for examples, see Cook & Bissonnette, 2016; Manburg, Moore, Griffin, & Seperson, 2017).  Moving forward, I would be interested in seeing more articles that squarely address issues of diversity and equity in teacher preparation, including culturally relevant approaches (Gay, 2002).  In order to help all children reach their potential, we need to understand better how to prepare teachers who are well equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to support equity and diversity in K-16 institutions through the use of technology.

Description of Current Issue 

The current issue of CITE Journal includes six outstanding articles.  The article published in English Education, titled “Pedagogy Meets Digital Media: A Tangle of Teachers, Strategies, and Tactics” by Julie Rust, examines “tangles” that emerged when a classroom teacher partnered with a researcher to integrate digital media tools and pedagogies in traditional high school English curricula.  Through a rich ethnographic account and reflection, the author identifies those tangles, in addition to examining how and why those tangles emerged.  The TPACK framework is used as an analytic lens to examine ways in which content, pedagogy, and technology interacted with teacher decision-making.

The Mathematics Education article, “The Efficacy and Impact of a Hybrid Professional Development Model on Handheld Graphing Technology Use” by Daniel Ilaria, examines the ways in which a professional development model that integrated face-to-face and online instruction interacted with teachers’ implementation of handheld graphing technology.  It also examines participants’ perceived growth in skill and ability to provide support to other teachers interested in using this technology in mathematics classrooms.

The Science Education article, “Using Personal Science Story Podcasts to Reflect on Language and Connections to Science” by Jennifer Kreps Frisch, Neporcha Cone, and Brendan Callahan, examines the ways in which prospective teachers use podcasts to communicate personal science stories to students.  In this work, podcasts were seen as an opportunity to use a culturally connected mode of communication to help students make connections to science.  In their analysis, the authors examined the types of science stories participants constructed and the depth of science content and academic vocabulary used in story podcasts.

The Social Studies Education article, “3D Modeling and Printing in History/Social Studies Classrooms: Initial Lessons and Insights” by Robert Maloy, Torrey Trust, Suzan Kommers, Allison Malinowski, and Irene LaRoche, examines the use of 3D technology in social studies classrooms.  The authors examined how, through a collaboration between preservice and in-service teachers, participants integrated 3D modeling and printing into social studies curriculum topics and the challenges they faced when integrating such technologies into their classrooms.

In the General section article, “Reflecting on the Challenges of Informal Contexts: Early Field Experiences With Technology in Teacher Education,” Nick Lux, Amanda Obery, Jamie Cornish, Bruna Irene Grimberg, and Anthony Hartshorn examine the role of early field experiences for preparing preservice teachers to use technology. Specifically, the authors focus on an informal science context, the Tech Club, which was designed through a school-university effort to support the use of technology, particularly formative assessment tools. In their examination, the authors focus on the ways in which this early field experience influenced preservice teachers’ perceptions of teaching, learning, and technology.

Finally, the Current Practice article, “Enhancement or Transformation? A Case Study of Preservice Teachers’ Use of Instructional Technology,” Todd Cherner and Kristal Curry investigate the ways in which English and social studies preservice teachers utilized technology during their student-teaching placements. Using the SAMR (Substitution-Augmentation-Modification-Redefinition) framework (Puentedura, 2009), the authors examine the ways in which digital tools were used to support teaching and promote student learning, as well as the ways in which the complexity of such uses progressed throughout the duration of the participants’ student-teaching.

Collectively, these articles address many of the themes outlined in my CITE Journal vision, including a focus on novel technologies (e.g., 3D printing and mobile technologies) and attention to equity and diversity (e.g., culturally relevant pedagogy; see Science Education article).  They also make important theoretical contributions as they move both the TPACK and SAMR models forward with examples, critiques, and identified tensions (see English Education and Current Practice articles).  I am positive that CITE Journal readers will find these articles timely and fruitful.


Akcaoglu, M., & Kale, U. (2016). Teaching to teach (with) game design: Game design and learning workshops for preservice teachers. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education16(1). Retrieved from

Bull, G., Spector, J. M., Persichitte, K., Meier, E. (2017). Reflections on preparing educators to evaluate the efficacy of educational technology: An interview with Joseph South. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 17(1). Retrieved from

Chao, T., Murray, E., & Star, J. R. (2016). Helping mathematics teachers develop noticing skills: Utilizing smartphone technology for one-on-one teacher/student interviews. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education16(1). Retrieved from

Cook, M. P., & Bissonette, J. D. (2016). Developing preservice teachers’ positionalities in 140 characters or less: Examining microblogging as dialogic space. Contemporary Issues in Technology & Teacher Education, 16(2). Retrieved from

Cuny, J. (2012). Transforming high school computing: A call to action. ACM Inroads, 3(2), 3236.

Dunleavy, M., Dexter, S., & Heinecket, W.F. (2007). What added value does a 1:1 student to laptop ratio bring to technology-supported teaching and learning? Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23, 440-452.

Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(2), 106-116.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1),60-70.

Krutka, D. G., & Carpenter, J. P. (2016). Participatory learning through social media: How and why social studies educators use Twitter.  Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education16(1). Retrieved from

Langran, E., & Baker, T. R. (2016). Geospatial technologies in teacher education: A brief overview. Contemporary Issues in Technology & Teacher Education, 16(3). Retrieved from

Manburg, J., Moore, R., Griffin, D., & Seperson, M. (2017). Building reflective practice through an online diversity simulation in an undergraduate teacher education program. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 17(1). Retrieved from

Manfra, M. (2017). Commentary: Social studies education response to “An Interview with Joseph South.” Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 17(2). Retrieved from

Mouza, C., Cavalier, A., & Nadolny, L. (2008). Implementation and outcomes of a laptop initiative in career and technical high school education. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 38(4), 411-452.

Mouza, C., & Lavigne, N.C. (2012). Introduction to emerging technologies for the classroom: A learning sciences perspective. In C. Mouza & N. Lavigne (Eds.). Emerging technologies for the classroom: A learning sciences perspective (pp.1-14). New York, NY: Springer.

NMC/CoSN Horizon Report K-12 Edition (2017). Retrieved from:

Puentedura, R. R. (2009, February 4). As we may teach: Education technology, from theory into practice. [Weblog post]. Retrieved from

Roehrig, G., & Ellis, J. (2017). Commentary: Response of the Association of Science Teacher Educators to “An Interview with Joseph South.” Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 17(2). Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education (2016). Education technology and teacher preparation brief. Washington, DC: Office of Educational Technology.

Windschitl, M., & Sahl, K. (2002). Tracing teachers’ use of technology in a laptop computer school: The interplay of teacher beliefs, social dynamics, and institutional culture. American Educational Research Journal, 39, 165-205.




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Call for Proposals: Special Issue on Connected Learning and 21st Century English Teacher Education

Call for Proposals: Special Issue on Connected Learning and 21st Century English Teacher Education


The Conference on English Education (CEE), the arm of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) that focuses on the preparation and support of English Language Arts teachers, has long been a leader in considering the appropriate role of technology in ELA teacher education. In 2005, CEE began an open conversation about this issue by publishing a position paper in the CITE English Teacher Education journal.

Over a decade later, technology has become ever more ubiquitous across the educational landscape and the need to continue the conversation about the uses (and abuses) of technology in teacher education has never been more urgent. Considering the ways that technology is dictating huge financial investments and dramatic pedagogical and curricular overhauls, it is time for us to (re)consider the education in education technology. The recent emergence of the connected learning framework provides a useful catalyst for a renewed discussion of technology, teaching, and learning.

The Connected Learning Alliance (, a group of scholars coordinated by the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub of the University of California Humanities Research Institute, offers the following definition of connected learning:

Connected learning is when someone is pursuing a personal interest with the support of peers, mentors and caring adults, and in ways that open up opportunities for them. It is a fundamentally different mode of learning than education centered on fixed subjects, one-to-many instruction, and standardized testing. The research is clear. Young people learn best when actively engaged, creating, and solving problems they care about, and supported by peers who appreciate and recognize their accomplishments. Connected learning applies the best of the learning sciences to cutting-edge technologies in a networked world. While connected learning is not new, and does not require technology, new digital and networked technologies expand opportunities to make connected learning accessible to all young people. The “connected” in connected learning is about human connection as well as tapping the power of connected technologies. Rather than see technology as a means toward more efficient and automated forms of education, connected learning puts progressive, experiential, and learner-centered approaches at the center of technology-enhanced learning.

This definition focuses on youth learning. What about teachers – a key group of caring adults who facilitate youth learning opportunities? As the educational research community begins to engage with the connected learning framework, it is important to consider the applications to adult learning generally and teacher education specifically. Exposing teachers to connected learning is crucial to ensuring that young people will have access to it in classroom spaces and not just out-of-school learning sites. What does this look like in practice? What are the benefits, challenges, and contradictions of introducing the connected learning framework to teacher education within a context of accountability and standardization?  

CITE English journal solicits rigorous conceptual and/or empirical manuscripts that explore innovative applications of the connected learning framework to the education (preservice or in-service) of English language arts teachers. The works to be included in this issue should go beyond simple description of ELA teacher education activities utilizing technology; they must include analysis of the nature and purpose of technology use by drawing upon the connected learning framework’s research and design principles. Special attention should be paid to issues of equity and access.

The most competitive manuscripts will take advantage of CITE English journals online platform by including multimedia content (i.e., images, video, web links, etc.). Note: Multimedia content should be integral to the arguments being developed and not a decorative afterthought.

Abstracts for proposed manuscripts (maximum 500 words) should be submitted through the CITE Journal’s submission system by October 1, 2017, at 5 pm EST. Please include the phrase “Special Issue Abstract” in your submission’s title.

The authors invited to submit full manuscripts will be notified by October 15, 2017, and will be expected to submit their manuscripts for peer review no later than December 15, 2017, to allow time for revisions and publication in the June 2018 issue.

Questions about the special issue should be directed to CITE English journal editor, Nicole Mirra, at [email protected].

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Examining Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Technology Self-Efficacy: Impact of Mobile Technology-Based Physics Curriculum

Examining Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Technology Self-Efficacy: Impact of Mobile Technology-Based Physics Curriculum

Mobile devices such as iPads, tablets and smartphones have become part of everyday life for many individuals in developed nations (Pegrum, Howitt, & Striepe, 2013; Zhang, 2015). With the explosion of mobile devices, more children are becoming addicted to interactive media and game play at an early age (Couse & Chen, 2010). At the same time, interest has been growing toward implementing 1:1 computing in schools to equip students with personal mobile devices (Looi et al., 2011).

Although using mobile technology is the most recent trend in educational contexts from grade school to college settings (Wilson, Goodman, Bradbury & Gross, 2013), the literature suggests that inclusion of mobile technologies in science teaching is limited (Ertmer & Orrenbriet-Leftwich, 2010; Hew & Brush, 2007). Challenges associated with teachers’ use of mobile technologies in science teaching include lack of training during preservice teacher preparation, scarcity of appropriate activities and curriculum to teach science using mobile technologies (Crook, Sharma, Wilson, & Muller, 2013; Pegrum et al., 2013; Wilson, et al., 2013), and personal abilities such as lack of confidence to use technology (Wang, Ertmer & Newby, 2004).

More recently, several calls have been made to train preservice teachers within teacher preparation courses to cope with increasing demands of integrating technology in classrooms (US Department of Education, 2010; Project Tomorrow, 2010). Science educators have continuously argued that preservice teachers should be exposed to similar technologies within their teacher preparation courses for them to feel confident using similar technology in their own teaching (O’Bannon & Thomas, 2015; Rehmat & Bailey, 2014). Despite the calls, most preservice teacher preparation programs either fail to provide the type of preparation needed for technology integration or do not explicitly focus on technology integration at all levels of teacher preparation (Banas & York, 2014; Hermans, Tondeur, van Braak, & Valcke, 2008). Consequently, lack of experiences with technology integration adversely affects preservice teachers’ technology self-efficacy, which plays an important role in decisions regarding the use of technology in future classrooms (Anderson & Maninger, 2007; Anderson, Groulx & Maninger, 2011). Researchers have found that preservice teachers’ beliefs about technology integration influence their frequency and level of technology use in their student teaching (Bell, Maeng, & Binns, 2013; Wang et al., 2004).

Extant literature consists of studies examining preservice teachers’ technology self-efficacy within the context of science methods or educational technology courses (Anderson et al., 2011; Wang et al., 2004); studies on preservice teachers’ technology self-efficacy related to the use of mobile technologies is sparse. A vast majority of studies focus on investigating teacher beliefs on technology in a general sense.

More so, there is a dearth of empirical evidence on ways in which learning science using mobile technologies within science content courses influence preservice teachers’ technology self-efficacy in relation to integrating mobile technologies into their own teaching. What type of science learning experiences using mobile technologies could impact technology self-efficacy beliefs? How do these experiences help preservice teachers’ make explicit connections between the use of mobile technologies in science teaching and learning?

Our contention was that providing science learning experiences through mobile technologies would help foster a positive change in preservice teachers’ technology self-efficacy. Science courses are an important part of teacher training; thus, our study is unique because it explores preservice teachers’ perceptions of teaching science using mobile technologies while engaged in learning science through mobile devices. Additionally, we conducted an in-depth investigation on factors supporting preservice teachers’ technology self-efficacy beliefs.

Focus of this Study and Research Questions

In this study, preservice elementary teachers were engaged in learning science through an innovative iPad-based physics curriculum called Exploring Physics ( in a semester-long science content course. We explored changes in preservice teachers’ technology self-efficacy beliefs as they experienced learning science using Exploring Physics curriculum on iPads. Specific research questions that guided this study were as follows:

  1. How does the Exploring Physics curriculum influence preservice elementary teachers’ technology self-efficacy related to the use of mobile technologies in their future science teaching?
  2. What factors associated with the use of Exploring Physics curriculum within a science content course contribute to preservice elementary teachers’ technology self-efficacy?

Theoretical Framework and Background Literature

Self-Efficacy for Technology Integration

This study is informed by the self-efficacy construct proposed by Bandura (1977) as a judgment of individuals’ capabilities to perform necessary actions that they believe could lead to desired results. Teacher self-efficacy has been linked to teacher behavior and attitudes (Dembo & Gibson, 1985; Mulholand & Wallace, 1996) and student learning outcomes and achievement (Bandura, 1982; Tosun, 2000; Tschannen-Moran, Hoy, & Hoy, 1998).

More recently, studies in the area have shown strong connections between teachers’ self-efficacy to be a predictor of future teaching practices related to technology integration (Anderson & Maninger, 2007; Anderson et al., 2011; Lumpe, & Chambers, 2001). Evidence suggests that preservice teachers with higher levels of technology self-efficacy are more confident about integrating technology in their future classrooms (Abbitt & Klett, 2007).

In summary, Bandura’s concept of self-efficacy has been established as a predictor of teachers’ use of technology in classrooms (Anderson & Maninger, 2007; Banas & York, 2014). For the purposes of this study, self-efficacy for technology integration has been conceptualized as teacher beliefs in their capabilities to incorporate technology successfully in a way that promotes student learning. Researchers suggest that teachers with high technology self-efficacy are more likely to put forth efforts to incorporate technology into their teaching, create learning opportunities that use technology, and may “persist longer on technology-related tasks” (Anderson et al., 2011; Ertmer et al., 2003, p. 14).

Studies have also found that preservice teachers’ self-efficacy for technology integration influence their motivation and intentions to use technology (Niederhauser & Stoddart, 2001, Pope, Hare & Howard, 2005; Teo, 2009), actual use of technology in student teaching (Chen, 2010), and technology adoption (Haight, 2011). Anderson et al., (2011) found that preservice teachers’ self-efficacy for technology integration was a predictor of their intentions to use a variety of software as well as frequency of use in their future classrooms.

In another study, Rehmat and Bailey (2014) explored preservice teachers’ beliefs about technology integration in a science methods course. They found that technology-enriched science lessons greatly influenced preservice teachers’ attitudes toward technology and technology integration in their science lessons. In the following sections, only empirical research related to mobile technologies in teacher education are included.

Mobile Technologies in Education

Over the past decade, there has been growing interest in exploring benefits and constraints associated with utilizing mobile technologies in K-12 education (Zacharia, Lazaridou, & Avraamidou, 2016). The term mobile learning is often associated with learning via mobile technologies within an educational context.

Pegrum et al. (2013) summarized mobile learning as learning through digital mobile devices such as smartphones, iPhones, iPods, and iPads, and personal digital assistants (PDAs). These devices offer more mobility and portability than laptops and tablets (Pilgrim, Bledsoe & Reily, 2012; Traxler, 2009). At the time mobile devices were invented (early 2009), they were distinguished from other portable devices (laptops, tablets) on the basis of size and weight (Pegrum et al., 2013) one could argue that similar low-weight options are now available today.

According to Kinash (2011), mobile learning “allows students at all levels to have resources available to them at all times” (p. 56). Others have also noted the advantages of mobile devices, which enables learning to take place anytime and anywhere (Brand & Kinash, 2010; Franklin, 2011).

Availability and accessibility via mobile devices opens up opportunities for scientific inquiry in formal and informal contexts (Pegrumet al., 2013). Furthermore, mobile learning allow learners to investigate real life outside their laboratory in a variety of contexts, such as working in field sites, parks, museums, or their own garden at home (Looi et al., 2014). Additionally, the merits of mobile learning have been linked to student learning by promoting socialization and networking among learners (Koole, 2009; Looi et al., 2014); increased student collaboration (Falloon, 2015; Pilgrim et al., 2012), and increased communication between learners and instructor (Rossing, Miller, Cecil, & Stamper, 2012).

Studies have also shown that use of mobile devices enhance K-12 students’ science conceptual understandings. Zacharia et al. (2016) found that students using mobile devices had higher gains in science conceptual test (on flowers and its parts) than did the students who learned the content via traditional methods. In another study, mobile technology-assisted learning helped young students’ personalized learning on a variety of topics such as the life cycles of the butterfly (Song, Wong, & Looi, 2012). Although mobile technologies offer innovative learning environments, not all classroom teachers are comfortable with using mobile technologies explicitly in their instruction (Zacharia et al., 2016), evidence that preservice teachers need to develop a solid knowledge base on using mobile technologies for science teaching (Looi et al., 2011).

Mobile Learning in Preservice Teacher Education

While iPads and other mobile technologies have grown in popularity in K-12 education, an increasing emphasis has been placed on preparing preservice teachers to be able to respond to these technological demands (Brown, Englehardt, & Mathers, 2016; Pegrum et al., 2013). A large body of literature focuses on preservice teachers’ views on technology in a general sense, but these studies do not focus on understanding views on the use of mobile technologies. O’Bannon and Thomas (2015) investigated 245 preservice teachers’ perceptions on the use of mobile phones in classrooms and the mobile phone features that they perceived as beneficial for learning. Nearly half of the preservice teachers surveyed had positive views of the use of mobile phones in classrooms and viewed accessibility to the Internet and the use of educational apps as positive features of mobile phones.

Studies have also found that preservice teachers’ use of mobile technologies during field experiences affect their perceptions of using similar technologies in their future science teaching (Brown, Englehardt, & Mathers, 2016). Brown et al. also found that, while preservice teachers talked about iPads as an effective tool for science teaching, they also believed them to distract from student learning.

Mourlam and Montgomery (2015) explored preservice elementary teachers’ beliefs on technology as they used iPads in their coursework and field experiences. They found that preservice teachers’ beliefs about technology integration played an important role in their willingness to incorporate iPads into their instruction.


Research Design

This study utilized multiple methods of data collection, and analysis was designed to investigate changes in preservice teachers’ technology self-efficacy during a specialized physics content course. According to Plano, Clark, and Creswell (2008), using multiple methods has advantages over a single-method approach and provides a better and more complete understanding of the phenomena being investigated. In this study, quantitative methods were used to examine changes in participants’ technology self-efficacy, and qualitative methods were used to examine the underlying factors that supported changes in technology self-efficacy.

Research Context and Participants

The study was conducted in a specialized physics content course designed for early childhood and elementary education majors at a large public university. This course is referred to as a specialized content course because it offered a rich blend of science content knowledge using pedagogical models that prepare preservice teachers for their future science teaching (Crowther & Bonnstetter, 1997).

Major goals of the course included the following: (a) enhancing preservice teachers’ science content knowledge on physical science topics relevant for their future teaching, such as electricity, magnetism, and force and motion and (b) modeling of appropriate instructional strategies, including technology use, which preservice teachers are expected to utilize in their future teaching. The class met three times a week on alternate days, including two class sessions for 1 hour and 50 minutes and a Friday session for 50 minutes. The fourth author, Douglas Steinhoff, was the assigned instructor for the course.

The participants included 34 preservice elementary teachers, all 19-21 years old. Most of the participants were females (32) except for two males. Each preservice teacher was given an iPad at the beginning of the semester to use during class and to take home as well. Along with having a 1:1 exposure to iPads, there were ample opportunities for participants to learn science via hands-on inquiry-based investigations, PhET ( simulations and other web-based software, collaborative team work, and group discussions in small and large groups. A subsample consisting of six participants was selected for individual interviews. This subsample was selected after the initial administration of the technology science teaching efficacy survey. We selected participants whose scores were within the low and high quartiles in order to maximize potential variability in terms of technology self-efficacy.

Additionally, two focus-group interviews were conducted with four additional participants, separate from the participants interviewed. The focus-group participants were selected based on their willingness and availability for interviews. Each individual participant participated on both pre and post interviews. Thus, all six participants completed the individual pre and post interviews, and the same four additional participants completed the pre and post focus-group interview.

The Exploring Physics Curriculum

The curriculum Exploring Physics ( is available as a hybrid online-offline iPad application (“app” hereafter), running on multiple platforms (iOS, Andriod, and PC/Mac). The app utilizes interactive inquiry- and modeling-based pedagogical approaches to promote deeper understanding of physical science topics aligned with K-12 curricula.

The unique design features include the following:

  • High interactivity and student engagement: The app features eight units on topics such as electricity, force and motion, and energy. Each unit has labs including a prelab discussion for students to make predictions, followed by a series of hands-on investigations, a postlab discussion, and practice problems. Students can enter their information into the app as text, drawings, equations, and graphs (see Figure 1). Furthermore, the hybrid online-offline access allowed students to work anywhere without an Internet connection. While a reliable Internet connection is needed to download the e-books or any updates related to the app, no Internet is needed to enter or save the work.
figure 1
Figure 1. A screenshot of model-building tools.


  • Model-building tools for deeper conceptual understanding: The app features model-building tools including drawing, graphing, adding text, data tables, and equations for problem-solving. The information is stored within the app, which students can access anytime and anywhere to submit their homework assignments and receive feedback and grades electronically.
  • Scaffolds for guided inquiry: Various resources are available within the app as quick reference tips and reading pages that serve as a guide for students. The app also features built-in animations and simulations and movies on problem-solving to assist students while engaged in learning.
  • Teacher guide: It also has a support system for teachers available as teacher guides (see Figure 2), for instance, expert movies on how to setup a lab or an experiment, alignment with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013) and Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010), resources on pedagogy used, and common misconceptions associated with the topic.
Figure 2. A screenshot from the teacher guide.


Data Collection

Data collection was conducted in two phases: (a) a quantitative phase and (b) a qualitative phase. Informed consent forms were distributed, followed by the administration of the Technology Science Teaching Efficacy (TSTE) survey to all participants who provided consent. The TSTE was implemented as a pretest at the beginning of the semester and as a posttest at the end of the semester. The survey consists of 20 items on a 5-point Likert scale to collect data on participants’ confidence in incorporating various mobile technologies in their future science teaching; for example, “I feel confident in my ability to continually find better ways to teach science using mobile technologies.”

The survey questions were adapted from the self-efficacy instrument by Bleicher (2004) and the Wang et al., (2004) scale on self-efficacy beliefs for technology integration, with a focus on mobile-technologies (see Appendix A for all survey items). The survey measures one component, technology science teaching self-efficacy for integrating mobile technologies, thus is one-dimensional in nature. The standard deviation statistics for the individual test items are available as Appendix B.

Scores on the TSTE scale can vary between 20 and 100. Higher scores corresponds to higher technology self-efficacy with the emphasis on mobile technologies. Cronbach’s alpha was used to calculate the reliability. Pretest reliability was 0.82 and the posttest reliability was 0.87 for this sample of participants.

Qualitative sources of data collection included semistructured interviews with individual participants, focus-group interviews, and weekly classroom observations and artifacts. Artifacts included instructors’ lesson plans, additional handouts given in class, and online and paper-copy home assignments. The first interview focused on understanding participants’ general views on using mobile technologies in science teaching and whether they used technology in their prior high school or college science courses. The purpose of the second interview was to determine whether participants’ views and perceptions on using mobile technologies in their own science teaching changed and the factors that supported any such changes. The purpose of focus-group interviews were to encourage rich discussions and sharing ideas among the participants regarding their views on learning and teaching science via iPads. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed.

Data Analysis

Data analysis included two distinct phases: (a) quantitative analysis using statistical measures and (b) qualitative analysis using grounded theory techniques. For the quantitative analysis, the repeated measures ANOVA and posthoc paired sample t-tests with Bonferroni adjustment were calculated using IBM SPSS 22.0. The paired sample t-tests were used. Time represented the within-subjects factor to determine the changes in technology science teaching efficacy from the pre- to posttest. The null hypothesis was that no significant differences exist in the participants’ technology science teaching self-efficacy at a given time (pre- and posttest). The estimates of effect size were calculated by using Cohen’s d.

The grounded theory approach (Strauss & Corbin, 1988) was used to analyze the qualitative data. Grounded theory techniques were well suited for the data analysis, as they allowed themes to emerge from the data. The interview data were analyzed through open coding for generating initial codes that emerged from the data. These initial codes were then grouped to generate categories using the process of axial coding. An example of a coding scheme is shown in Table 1. Categories and subcategories were each revisited to draw meaningful links among them.

Two interviews were randomly chosen and were coded by another researcher (an expert in qualitative analysis), which allowed cross-checking of the categories. After rounds of discussion and mutual agreement between the first author (primary researcher) and the other researcher (an expert in the field), the coding scheme was established. All the other interviews were then coded by the primary researcher. Further, theoretical comparisons were employed in which data were continuously reviewed to compare incident to incident within and across categories. The theoretical comparisons were also made based on prior knowledge and the existing literature.

Table 1
An Example of the Coding Scheme




Positive views on technology Participant indicated willingness    to incorporate technology in future science teaching I can see myself using technology    to teach science in the classroom. Especially with younger kids, they’re    seeing more and more technology as they’re growing up, so I could see    technology benefiting their learning styles (Participant 2, 2nd    interview).
Increased    confidence


Participant    indicated changes in confidence to teach using mobile technology Having    my own iPad and doing it myself at home has made me more confident    (Participant 3, 2nd    interview).
Firsthand experience Participant indicated experiences    of learning science through iPads on a daily basis Just being hands-on    with the iPad and    getting to know the features. I have gotten a feel of it so I    would be able to incorporate it in my teaching (Participant 2, 2nd interview).
Enhanced science content    understandings Participant indicated    deeper understanding of the science concepts learning through the app It’s easy to see it and    like it was a simulation of how electrons were transferred. Like we did that    John Travolta thing that was funny but it made you understand the point,    where you couldn’t have done that on a piece of paper (Participant 2, 2nd interview).
High interactivity and    engagement Participant indicated    model-building tools were highly interactive and engaging Being able to    Whiteboard, and draw as well as type and do graphs. It was a lot quicker and    easier than doing it on paper (Participant 4, 2nd interview).
Instructor modeling Participant mentioned    that the course instructor’s use of technology were successful models Watching him use the Smart    Board and how he uses the S mart Board kind of gives me ideas on what I could    do with it in my classroom with the kids that I have. The iPads and the Smart    Board kind of together are good (Participant 6, 2nd interview).



In this section, the findings for the first research question are discussed followed by the findings of the second research question. The first research question aimed to explore changes in preservice elementary teachers’ technology self-efficacy. The results presented for the first research question include evidences from both quantitative and qualitative analysis. The second research question aimed to identify the factors that supported changes in participants’ technology self-efficacy. The excerpts from participants’ interviews are reported such that the individual and the data source (first or second interview) are evident. For example, 1P-2nd refers to the second interview with the first participant. The focus-group (FG) interviews are represented in a similar fashion, referring to the first or the second focus-group interview, for example, FG-1st represents the first focus-group interview.

Research Question 1

The data from surveys were tested for normality of distribution of scores. The data were acceptable in terms of skewness (< +/-2.0) and kurtosis (< +/-2.0). Pre- and posttest means along with paired t-test results and measures of effect size were calculated. The mean technology science teaching self-efficacy score increased from pretest (M = 76.69, SE = 1.89) posttest (M = 83.21, SE = 1.62). The paired sample t-test showed a significant increase from pre-post scores (t = 12.373, p  <  .01). Using Cohen’s d as estimates of the effect size and the suggested norms (Cohen, 1988), a moderate effect size (d = 0.64) was found for the changes in technology self-efficacy.

The interview responses supported quantitative results that showed significant gains in participants’ technology self-efficacy beliefs. The evidence of changes in technology self-efficacy were demonstrated by ways in which participants expressed their (a positive views on mobile technologies in science teaching and (b) increased confidence in using such technologies in their own teaching.

Positive Views on Using Mobile Technology in Science Teaching. At the beginning of the semester, participants were asked about their general views on incorporating mobile technologies in science teaching. A majority of participants shared benefits associated with iPads when used in older grade levels and were convinced that iPads should not be used in early education settings. For instance, one participant said, “I flip-flop back and forth on the idea of iPads because kindergartners I feel like would really struggle. Older grades like, fourth and fifth grade, I think they could get it more” (1P-1st).

Several others expressed hesitation to include technologies in their teaching because of their lack of prior experiences of learning science using technology or the lack of knowledge of how technologies can be incorporated effectively in science teaching. As one participant said, “In my high school there was no technology in our classrooms at all, just a whiteboard, worksheets and a book. I honestly don’t like using technology, I rather have a worksheet rather than doing something on a computer” (2P-1st). Another participant shared “I would probably have to learn a lot more about the technologies especially for science education” (3P-1st).

At the end of the semester, participants were asked again about their views on technology integration in elementary science teaching. There were noticeable positive shifts in participants’ views on technology integration as they talked about the benefits of using mobile technologies in elementary science teaching. As one participant said, “At the beginning I would have said paper, just because that’s what I’m used to, but after learning how to use it [iPads], I like it a lot” (3P-2nd).

Most participants believed that elementary students would find learning via iPads to be fun and interesting because they are more familiar with using mobile technologies every day. Participants also realized the importance of becoming familiar with the technology because of the growth in the use of technology in teaching. The following excerpts from the second focus-group interview illustrate this tendency:

I myself am an elementary-ed teacher, so I’ll be teaching all kinds of subjects, but I can see myself using technology to teach science in the classroom. Especially with younger kids, they’re seeing more and more technology as they’re growing up, so I could see technology benefiting their learning styles things like diagrams on the computer or something.  (Participant 3, FG-2nd)

I agree. And since we are going to be using them [iPads], like whenever we’re teachers, and technology will have bigger things, so it’s nice to get the experience with it now rather than our first year of teaching. (Participant 4, FG-2nd)

Increased Confidence in Integration of Mobile Technologies. In addition to positive views about technology integration, the participants expressed increased confidence in incorporating mobile technologies because of successful experiences of learning science themselves using such technologies. As one participant said, “Having my own iPad and doing it myself at home has made me more confident. I have just gotten the feel of it, and I would be able to incorporate it in using it [in future science teaching]” (3P-2nd).

Many participants felt that having the experience of working on iPads and the Exploring Physics app everyday was helpful and prepared them for their future technology use. As one participant mentioned that she used “iPads every day during class and for homework, which is a lot of exposure” and that it helped in “learning and getting comfortable with using the app and doing different things with the iPads, thus more ideas to use in the classroom” (2E-2).

Research Question 2

Four major categories contributed toward participants’ improved technology self-efficacy for science teaching: (a) firsthand experiences with iPads, (b) enhanced science content understandings, (c) high interactivity and engagement, and (d) instructor modeling the use of technology.

Firsthand Experiences With iPads. Participants appreciated having firsthand experiences learning science through iPads and mentioned several affordances of the device that helped them see benefits for incorporating iPads in their own future science teaching. Many participants who initially felt anxious to learn science through iPads at the beginning of the semester said that their perceptions on mobile-technology had changed because of continuous engagement with iPads and the Exploring Physics app on a daily basis. Many participants believed that this prolonged engagement with iPads helped them become more comfortable working with iPads and afforded them ideas to use them in their science teaching. The following excerpts from the focus-group interview reflect this tendency:

Just being hands-on with the iPad and getting to know the features – like video camera on there for my project, the timer, and Internet. I have gotten a feel of it, so I would be able to incorporate it in my teaching. I would be able to do that again. (2P-2nd)

I’ve never used iPads before this class like this [i.e., using iPads every class period], and definitely never the app, so I didn’t know a whole lot going into it, like what it would be like, but more of learning and getting comfortable with using the app and doing different things with the iPads that I could use in the classroom in the future. (3P-2nd)

Realizing that the use of iPads is highly emphasized nowadays in schools, many credited their firsthand iPad experiences with preparing them for their future science teaching. Many participants who were not familiar with how to incorporate iPads effectively into science learning were now more familiar with using and learning themselves, as one participant mentioned:

I think it kind of made it more of reality, like I’ve never actually gotten the experience to teach with iPads before, and this made it actually real that you can do it, it’s possible and you probably are going to need to do it in the future. (5P-2nd)

Enhanced Science Content Understandings. Another major contributor toward participants’ technology self-efficacy beliefs was their enhanced science content understandings via iPad-based Exploring Physics curriculum. Participants frequently mentioned that the app was designed in ways that engaged them in deeper understanding of the concepts at their own pace. They also mentioned that the contents within the app were designed for them to learn in ways they are expected to teach.

For instance, one participant mentioned, “I know a lot more than I did before. This was my first physics class I’ve ever taken. I thought it was taught in a way that it was a lot easier to understand” (6P-2nd). Another participant said that witnessing and using a variety of technologies to learn content promoted deeper understandings of concepts: “It’s easier to learn it when he [the course instructor] uses different examples for everything and different mediums, like Smart Board, computers, and iPads. We’re using all these different things to understand concepts more deeply” (3P-2nd).

Participants particularly mentioned that the app was useful in understanding abstract concepts through a visual simulation and that they saw value in teaching this way for their future students to be able to understand abstract concepts as well. For instance, one participant shared her experience of working with a simulation on static electricity and flow of charges:

I think that for certain assignments that you couldn’t do on a piece of paper, you can do with a virtual simulation. Like, we did that John Travolta thing that was funny but it made you understand the point, where you couldn’t have done that on a piece of paper. It’s easy to see it, and like, it was a simulation of how electrons were transferred or something like that so we could actually see it. (2P-2)

High Interactivity and Engagement. Participants in the iPad group mentioned that the Exploring Physics app was highly interactive and engaging for them, and they saw value in teaching this way. They appreciated a wide range of experiences provided by the app, such as model-building tools, built-in videos and simulations, expert movies on problem solving, and quick reference tools and resources. Several students felt that drawing, writing text, and using the whiteboard feature on the app increased efficiency and saved time, as one participant said, “Being able to Whiteboard, and draw as well as type and do graphs. It was a lot quicker and easier than doing it on paper” (4P-2nd).

Another participant said that the mobile-technologies provide “opportunity of 1 to 1 ratio with students with iPad in their hands to explore further or if they do not understand they can each look up a Youtube video” (3P-2nd). Other participants also mentioned about how the organization of information within the app helped them learn, and they realized that learning science through the app could assist their future students as well. The following excerpts from the focus-group interview reflect this tendency:

It would be a lot easier to teach with the app, because everything is like step-by-step instructions, like those videos, the videos are helpful. So I guess I can teach it or explain it to people. (1P-2nd)

I usually just “add drawing,” then wrote it. I like to write, it helps me learn better. You have the option to add text or add drawing [using model-building tools on the app], so I would always add drawing to do the equation on there. For teaching purposes it would be smarter to fill out and plan it. I makes you think more into the project. (3P-2nd)

Instructor Modeling the Use of Technology. Several participants made statements about the course instructor’s use of technology that showed them successful models of technology integration in science teaching. Further, the course instructor’s positive approach toward technology seemed to positively impact participants’ confidence to incorporate technology into their science teaching. The following conversation from the focus-group interview highlights this tendency:

Being good at teaching us the app and the iPad help me feel confident to do it if I were to go on to teaching in the next year or something, because I know that he could do it. It’s not too hard. He’s kind of influential at it because he is such a good teacher, and it helps that he has confidence. (4P-2nd)

I agree, and also watching him use the Smart Board and how he uses the Smart Board kind of gives me ideas on what I could do with it in my classroom with the kids that I have. The iPads and the Smart Board kind of together are good. (6P-2nd)

Many participants commented that this was their first experience seeing a science instructor who was enthusiastic about integrating technologies in science teaching, and that made a positive impact on them. They also mentioned feeling more connected to their instructor and that the possession of “iPads opened up another line of communication,” as they could email their instructor anytime (5P-2nd).       

Discussion and Implications

The primary goals for this study were to examine changes in preservice teachers’ technology self-efficacy during their participation in a specialized science content course that utilized an iPad-based curriculum for science teaching. The results of this study provided evidence that learning science via iPads and the Exploring Physics curriculum app helped increase preservice elementary teachers’ self-efficacy for integrating mobile-technologies in their future science teaching. Both quantitative and qualitative evidence suggest that preservice teachers showed positive changes in their views, perceptions, and confidence to integrate mobile technologies into their future science teaching.

These findings concur with previous studies that suggest exposing preservice teachers to effective models of technology integration within their teacher preparation courses (Rehmat & Bailey, 2014). The finding regarding the significant positive changes in participants’ technology self-efficacy is particularly important, given that past studies have pointed out that preservice teachers are do not feel prepared to use iPads or other mobile technologies in their science teaching.

The inclusion of iPads is not a common practice during preservice teacher preparation programs. More so, preservice teachers are not often exposed to science via explicit use of iPads or mobile technology-based science curriculums. Given the need for the inclusion of research-based, mobile technology-integrated science curriculum, this study has made an important contribution to the field suggesting that science content courses that use technology-enriched science lessons can aid development of preservice teachers’ technology self-efficacy.

One unique aspect of the course was integration of iPads in ways for preservice teachers to learn science content, which also provided firsthand experiences in which they witnessed effective models of teaching science using technology. Working through the Exploring Physics app allowed them to see benefits of using mobile technologies in science teaching, which positively contributed toward their technology self-efficacy.

Unlike traditional methods, the use of iPads and other mobile devices promotes self-directed learning by widening preservice teachers’ prospects to use various in-built features and functions and educational apps, as well as having the option of online search while engaged in learning (O’Bannon & Thomas, 2015; Rehmat & Bailey, 2014). In the case of this study, the Exploring Physics app features, including quick reference tips related to particular concepts, expert videos and movies on problem solving, and reading pages on relevant topics, helped preservice teachers learn science at their own pace. In addition, model-building tools, such as drawing, texting, and graphing, within the app engaged them in ways that promoted deeper learning of content. This increase in science content understandings helped them identify potential benefits of using iPads and the app in their own teaching.

Additionally, preservice teachers particularly found the hybrid offline-online access of the Exploring Physics app helpful for their science learning. Once the e-books within the app were downloaded, preservice teachers were able to work offline, enter, or save their homework and other assignments.

Although working on Exploring Physics did not require an Internet connection (unless downloading more e-books or accessing web-based resources), not all educational apps may be designed to work without a reliable Internet connection. Therefore, science teacher educators should discuss the challenges preservice teachers should anticipate while working with various technologies or at a school districts that may not have a reliable Internet support (in some rural areas). The discussion may include challenges associated with availability of internet, technological support, and equipment at their future school site (Chen, 2010). Furthermore, additional training on technology integration in science teaching should be continued within science methods courses, which are typically offered after the science content coursework is completed. Such training would better prepare preservice teachers to tackle challenges in future technology integration.

The course instructor modeling the use of iPads and other technologies, such as a Smart Board and PhET simulations, made a significant impact on preservice teachers’ views and perceptions of technology integration in science teaching. This finding is particularly important, given that the explicit use of mobile technologies is not always common within traditional science content courses. Considering technology self-efficacy beliefs is a crucial factor for successful technology integration. Science course instructors should place greater emphasis on modeling effective pedagogies related to technology integration.

Modeling of effective pedagogies should include engaging preservice teachers in a variety of technologies, in addition to mobile technologies, such as a Smart Board, Promethean board, computer simulations, probeware, digital imaging and movies, clickers, concept-mapping tools ,and so on (Guzey & Roehrig, 2009). Having exposure to multiple examples of technology integration during science content courses would provide a useful and relevant context for preservice teachers to integrate technology in their future science teaching (Chen, 2010; Dexter & Rieder, 2003).

As in the case of this study, not all participants reported being familiar with using mobile devices for academic purposes, even though many reported using such devices for personal or entertainment purposes. Other studies have also noted that, while preservice teachers may be comfortable using iPads and iPhones for their personal use, they may not feel prepared to use iPads for educational purposes (Brown et al., 2016). This unfamiliarity was a major cause of confusion or frustration among participants who were more familiar with traditional modes of learning. However, using mobile-based curriculum explicitly for learning science content increases the possibility that preservice teachers will understand the affordances of mobile technologies in learning and teaching science (Looi et al., 2011). Once the initial hurdle to use technology was overcome, participants saw benefits of teaching with technology.

This study has major implications for preservice teacher preparation. First, it shows that mobile technologies such as iPads and mobile-based student-centered curricula have the potential to facilitate learning; more science courses should be designed to facilitate such an environment. Evidently, such an environment will result in increases in technology science self-efficacy beliefs (Wang et al., 2004), as in the case of this study.

Second, managing and facilitating such an environment is challenging and requires rigorous training for course instructors. Every technology has its own tradeoffs (Wilson et al., 2013), so instructors should be aware of and hold discussions with preservice teachers to prepare them for unanticipated challenges in future teaching.

Third, developing mobile-technology driven science content course could be challenging. Students may well experience frustrations and anxiety in the initial weeks of learning in this new environment. In this study, nearly half of the students had no prior experience using iPads for learning, even though every participant reported being familiar with using iPhones and iPads for their personal use. Instructors should continue to provide scaffolding needed for students to value learning science using mobile-technology. Examples of scaffolding include, but are not limited to, continuous modeling of mobile-based technologies throughout the preservice science content and methods coursework, opportunities to plan, design, practice and implement science lessons using pedagogical approaches that incorporate use of mobile-technologies, providing support and mentoring during their field experiences on use of mobile technologies, and providing opportunities for preservice teachers to reflect, revise, and reteach science lessons using mobile technologies in formal and informal environments. Training on technology integration should also be available for course instructors, mentors, and school teachers through workshops, so they are trained to provide feedback and support to preservice teachers (Dexter & Reidel, 2003).

Fourth, science instruction should not solely depend on using mobile-technologies nor should traditional-style learning be replaced; however, careful planning and administration of technology-based curriculum such as Exploring Physics are effective tools for science instruction. Research on integrating mobile-technologies for preservice coursework is an exciting and new area, and the discussion should continue on exploring ways to engage and prepare preservice teachers in learning and teaching via mobile technologies.

Author Note

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation grants NSF-DUE 0928924 and NSF-IIP 1608624.


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Appendix B
Item Statistics

Item Mean Std Deviation N
1 4.1176 .72883 34
2 4.2059 .64099 34
3 4.0588 .69375 34
4 4.0294 .83431 34
5 4.2647 .70962 34
6 4.0294 .75820 34
7 3.6765 .84282 34
8 4.5000 .56408 34
9 4.1765 .62622 34
10 3.9412 .88561 34
11 3.9412 .95159 34
12 4.0882 .83003 34
13 4.1765 .75761 34
14 3.7941 .88006 34
15 4.0588 .73613 34
16 4.5000 .50752 34
17 4.6471 .54397 34
18 4.6765 .47486 34
19 4.0588 .91920 34
20 4.2647 .70962 34

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Flipping Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Mathematics Anxieties

Flipping Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Mathematics Anxieties

Flipped learning has grown in popularity as an instructional practice over the past decade.  Studies have suggested that flipped learning provides potential opportunities to improve students’ mathematical achievement (e.g., Dove & Dove, 2015a), as well as students’ attitudes toward mathematics (McGivney-Burrelle & Xue, 2013).  However, the research is limited comparing various forms of flipped learning and ways they may influence students’ mathematical anxieties.  This study aims to examine how differences in flipped instruction within a mathematics course may influence elementary preservice teachers’ math anxieties and perceptions of learning.

The Influence of Mathematics Anxiety on Elementary Educators

The existence of mathematics anxiety has been well documented, with research examining its root causes and methods for mitigating its impact on the lives of students.  A recent study estimated that over 25% of 4-year college students suffer from moderate to high levels of mathematics anxiety (Beilock & Willingham, 2014).  Elementary preservice teachers are no exception, although mathematics anxiety among this group is particularly worrisome since many will go on to teach mathematics to young children (Bursal & Paznokas, 2006; Hembree, 1990; Kelly & Tomhave, 1985).

High levels of mathematics anxiety and low levels of mathematics teaching efficacy can inhibit preservice teachers from achieving higher levels of mathematics knowledge for teaching, thus limiting their preparation for teaching elementary mathematics (Aslan, 2013; Bursal & Paznokas, 2006; Gresham, 2008).  As these teachers enter the classroom, their high anxiety and low teaching efficacy can have a far-reaching impact on their students.  For example, female teachers with high levels of mathematics anxiety can negatively impact elementary girls’ mathematics achievement and attitudes toward mathematics (Beilock, Gunderson, Ramirez, & Levine, 2010).

Negative experiences created in the mathematics classroom also increase the likelihood that students will develop mathematics anxiety, thus creating a new cycle of highly anxious elementary teachers with low mathematics teaching efficacy (Bekdemir, 2010).  As Ball, Lubienski, and Mewborn (2001) suggested, this leads “the school mathematics experience of most Americans [to be] uninspiring at best, and intellectually and emotionally crushing at worst” (p. 434).

Decreasing Students’ Mathematics Anxiety

With the negative impact that mathematics anxiety can have on an individual’s ability to teach elementary mathematics effectively, addressing this anxiety is of paramount importance for teacher preparation programs. One effective approach in decreasing preservice teachers’ mathematics anxiety and improving their confidence has been the integration of mathematics methods courses into the elementary preservice teachers’ curriculum (Huinker & Madison, 1997; Tooke & Lindstrom, 1998).   These courses typically focus on creating environments that are student centered and emphasize conceptual understanding, often utilizing mathematical manipulatives (Sloan, 2010), as well as placing an emphasis on sharing multiple processes and methods to help decrease anxiety (Furner & Berman, 2003).

Engaging in active learning processes in methods courses is helpful for preservice elementary teachers, but they also need to experience such practices in mathematics content courses.  Research indicates that mathematics classes that utilize student-centered instructional practices improve achievement (e.g., Borko, Stecher, Alonzo, Moncure, & McClam, 2005; Lawson, Benford, Bloom, & Carlson, 2002), student engagement (e.g., Peterson & Miller, 2004; Shernoff, Csikszentmihalyi, Schneider, & Shernoff, 2003), and students’ attitudes and dispositions about mathematics (e.g., Zakaria, Chin, & Daud, 2010).

Unfortunately, the integration of high levels of student-centered, inquiry-based learning into mathematics classes has been a tenuous process at best. K-12 and university instructors are often pressed for time and see direct instruction as the most efficient method for covering material (Hannafin, Burruss, & Little, 2001; Kor & Lim, 2009).  In addition, many parents (Sam & Ernest, 2000; Ujifusa, 2014), as well as mathematics instructors (Stipek, Givvin, Salmon, & MacGyvers, 2001), have strong feelings about how math should be taught, which can lead to resistance when implementing alternative forms of instruction in the mathematics classroom.

Flipped Learning’s Potential Influence

Flipped learning is an instructional practice that encourages the use of more active learning practices in the mathematics classroom.  As access to online video becomes more readily available via websites like YouTube, flipped learning has become a more viable instructional strategy.

Bishop and Verleger (2013) defined flipped learning as “an educational technique that consists of two parts: interactive group learning activities inside the classroom, and direct computer-based individual instruction outside the classroom” (p. 6).  While the opportunity to provide some form of direct instruction can placate instructors’ concerns regarding content coverage, moving in-class lectures offline offers teachers the opportunity to create more flexible learning environments, thus shifting the learning process toward more student-centered approaches (Hamdan, McKnight, McKnight, & Arfstrom, 2013).

Recent research suggests that flipped learning can assist with the creation of more student-centered, active-learning environments, providing more opportunities for students to collaborate (Dove, 2014; Johnson, 2013).  Additionally, studies suggest flipped learning may help improve students’ self-efficacy (McLaughlin et al., 2013), engagement (Butt, 2014), and achievement (Dove & Dove, 2015a; Fulton, 2012).

The motivation for implementing flipped learning is not the removal of lectures per se, but rather the addition of more student-centered opportunities during class, which are the hallmark of methods courses.  Specifically, Wallace, Walker, Braseby, and Sweet (2014) suggested that flipped learning provides instructors with better opportunities to implement constructivist teaching approaches that allow students to tackle more challenging problems while constructing stronger understandings of the concepts being learned.

Foldness (2016) found that when flipped classes did not incorporate cooperative learning opportunities, students’ academic success was no better than in lecture-based classrooms. By emphasizing more student-centered learning approaches, flipped learning may help decrease mathematics anxiety in mathematics content courses in a manner similar to that observed in methods courses.  To examine this possibility specifically, our study considered the following questions:

  • What commonalities and differences in instructional practices occur between a flipped classroom using teacher created videos, a flipped classroom using third-party videos, and a nonflipped class?
  • What impact do different instructional approaches have on students’ mathematics anxiety and anxiety about teaching mathematics?
  • What are the students’ perceptions of learning mathematics within different instructional approaches?


This study was conducted with three sections of a mathematics content course for elementary education preservice teachers at a midsized public university.  This course was the first mathematics course of a three-course series required by elementary education students.  The course emphasized fundamental concepts in number and operations, algebra, and data analysis. Due to the complexity of scheduling, students chose their section.  However, no prior knowledge related to the instructional methods would be used within a given section; only course time, location, and the instructor’s name were provided during course registration.

Additionally, first author Anthony Dove taught all three classes.  He was chosen based on his experience teaching the course and his experience with flipped learning.  Using the same instructor also ensured course requirements, expectations, and assessments were identical across all sections. To limit researcher bias, Dr. Dove did not have access to any of the research data until after the completion of the course.

Classroom Settings

The instructor kept the three sections as similar as possible to limit potential confounding variables.  Each class met for 50 minutes, 3 days per week.   The three sections of the course were taught back to back on the same days in the morning (9 a.m., 10 a.m., and 11 a.m.) in the same classroom.  The classroom included a SMART Podium, two large projectors in the front of the room that projected above a full-length whiteboard, and mathematical manipulatives.  All three courses used the same textbook, Mathematics for Elementary Teachers (4th ed.; Beckmann, 2014).

All course sections were assigned the same homework problems from the textbook or instructor-created problems, took the same assessments and final exams, and completed the same two long-term projects.  All course materials were provided to the students using the university learning management system, Desire2Learn (D2L).

The primary difference between the three sections was the manner in which the fundamental content was delivered.  This deliver, in turn, influenced the learning opportunities that occurred during class time.  For the duration of the semester, each section was taught using a different instructional practice: the Teacher In-Class Lecture method, the Teacher Flipped method, and the Khan Academy Flipped method.

The Teacher In-Class Lecture Method

The Teacher In-Class Lecture (TL) method served as the control group since it closely resembled the way the mathematics course would typically be taught at the university.  In this section, multiple instructional methods were often employed during class, including direct instruction, collaborative learning, and inquiry-based activities.  Students were asked to read upcoming sections from the textbook, but no formal preparation was expected prior to class.

Class typically began with a warm-up to review the previous in-class lesson while the instructor checked homework and was followed by a homework review.  Next, the instructor typically provided a 10- to 15-minute electronic slideshow accompanied lecture related to the content from one to two sections of the textbook.  The electronic slideshow was created by the instructor and was made available for students to download from D2L prior to class, thus eliminating the need for students to copy notes from slides.

During the direct instruction, the instructor would ask questions to engage the students.  Students were also encouraged to ask questions during the lecture.  The remaining class time was spent completing practice problems and activities that provided depth and conceptual understanding of the mathematical concept of the lesson.  Students were assigned homework problems to help them continue building their understanding of the concept.  If the problems were created by the instructor, they would be made available on D2L.

The Teacher Flipped Method

In comparison to the TL, the Teacher Flipped Class (TF) method required classroom preparation both by the instructor and the students.  Prior to the beginning of the semester, the instructor created a lecture video for each major mathematical concept to be covered in the class.  The videos were created to align with the sections of the textbook.  Videos were recorded using Screencast-O-Matic ( and PowerPoint presentation software.  The PowerPoint presentation used to create videos was often an abbreviated version of the one used during class for the TL.  All videos were uploaded to the instructor’s YouTube account and sorted into playlists that matched the textbook chapters (  In total, 42 videos were created, with the average video lasting 4:31 (SD = 1:21).

Prior to class, TF students were required to watch one to two lecture videos and bring notes to the upcoming class.  The notes were checked as part of a homework requirement.  Class began similarly to the TL.  Students completed a warm-up review while the instructor checked homework and notes.  Afterwards, students could ask questions about the homework or concepts from the lecture video.  Once the review was completed, students worked with a partner or partners to complete practice problems or activities.  The instructor walked around the room listening to group discussions, providing one-on-one/small group assistance as needed.  Whole group discussions were utilized to share strategies and to discuss any questions that may have arisen from a given problem or activity.

The emphasis of the instructional methods with the TF was to limit the amount of direct instruction that occurred in class and, instead, increase active learning opportunities by focusing on activities and group discussions to allow students to build their own conceptual understanding.

For example, when learning about different interpretations of division, the TF students explored the different interpretations using physical manipulatives, examined children’s work to determine their understanding and misconceptions related to the interpretations, and watched and discussed multiple video clips of children completing tasks related to the different interpretations.  In comparison, TL students examined only one example of student work and watched one video related to interpretations of division due to time needed to complete the in-class lecture.  The TF students also completed the same assigned homework problems as the TL.   In addition, the TF students were required to watch the lecture videos for the upcoming class and take notes.

The Khan Academy Flipped Method

Preparation for the Khan Academy Flipped (KF) method was similar to the TF method.  Khan Academy ( is an online website that provides lecture videos covering early childhood to college mathematics topics.  Khan Academy was chosen because of its growing national popularity and its breadth of topics.  It also provided a consistent and standardized lecture format compared to finding different videos by different authors from sites like YouTube.

All students were required to join the instructor’s course on Khan Academy, which allowed the instructor to assign videos directly and determine who had watched them.  The KF students were then assigned Khan Academy videos related to the course content.  Because the topics did not align directly with the book, students would often be given two to three videos that together met the fundamental requirements for the upcoming class.  Instead of turning in notes like the TF students did, the KF students completed challenge questions that were built into Khan Academy topics.  To make sure students acquired basic knowledge from the videos, they were required to answer 80% of items within the built-in challenge questions correctly to receive homework credit for the assigned videos.

The time during class was set up the same as the TF method, thus instructional methods were comparable.  Class began with a warm-up review related to the previous in-class lesson, followed by homework review and a question/answer session from the lecture videos. The rest of the class time was spent with students working with a partner or in groups to complete various practice problems and extension activities directly related to the lecture videos from the previous night.  These problems were identical to those used in the TF method.  The KF students were assigned the same homework problems as the TF and TL students.  In addition, they watched the necessary Khan Academy videos and completed the corresponding challenge questions for the upcoming class.

Data Collection and Analysis

Throughout the course of the semester, multiple forms of data were collected so we could examine classroom instruction, students’ mathematics anxieties, and students’ perceptions of teaching and learning within their given course.  To compare classroom instruction, each section was video recorded twice.  The recordings were analyzed by two observers using the Reform Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP; Piburn et al., 2000).

Students took the mathematics anxieties precourse online survey during the second week of the course.  The survey collected basic background information about mathematics coursework and academic standing.  It also included two surveys, the Math Anxiety Rating Scale – Revised (MARS-R; Hopko, 2003) and the Anxiety About Teaching Mathematics Scale (ATMS; Hadley & Doward, 2011). An example of the precourse survey can be found at

During the final week of the course, students took the mathematics anxieties postcourse online survey to examine how their mathematics anxieties had changed over the course of the semester, again including the MARS-R and ATMS, as well as four open-ended questions and two Likert responses. An example of the postcourse survey can be found  Finally, a whole class semistructured interview was conducted with each class by a researcher other than the instructor to obtain data regarding the students’ perceptions of teaching and learning in the given class (see Appendix).

Precourse Group Comparisons. As part of the precourse survey, students were asked to describe the mathematics courses they had taken in high school or at college and their current standing at the university.  Students in all three sections reported taking Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry in high school.  Table 1 provides details on additional mathematics courses taken.  Also, the TL course included 21 first-year students, 11 sophomores, five juniors, and two seniors.  The TF course included 22 first-year students, 10 sophomores, four juniors, and two seniors. The KF course included 31 first-year students, three sophomores, one junior, and two seniors.

Table 1
Number of Student Reported Mathematics Courses Completed

Section Statistics Precalculus Calculus College Algebra
Teacher Flipped (TF) 10 (26%) 14 (37%) 3 (8%) 3 (8%)
Khan Academy Flipped (KF) 15 (41%) 20 (54%) 1 (3%) 2 (5%)
Teacher In-Class Lecture (TL) 11 (28%) 13 (33%) 5 (13%) 1 (3%)


Additionally, students were required to take a 25-question in-class simulated Praxis Core Math test during the second week of the course.  The Praxis Core Math test is a national standardized test required for entrance into most education programs.  A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to determine any significant differences in mathematics background among the three groups.  Results suggested no significant academic differences among the three classes, F(2, 114) = 0.52, p = 0.60.

Classroom Analysis. To determine commonalities and differences among the sections, two video recordings of each class were evaluated by two observers using the RTOP (Piburn et al., 2000).  RTOP is an observation tool created from the National Science Foundation funded project, ACEPT, which compares levels of reform teaching that occur during an observed class.  It is comprised of 25 Likert statements ranging from 0 (never occurred) to 4 (very descriptive) related to lesson design and implementation, content, and classroom culture.  RTOP scores over 50 suggest that substantial active learning occurred during the observed class (MacIsaac & Falconer, 2002).  Additionally, concepts related to high RTOP scores align with what are considered the four pillars of flipped learning (Hamdan et al., 2013).

Prior to performing any analyses with RTOP, the observers completed an online training together to make sure they shared an understanding of how to use the instrument (  Afterward, the observers watched videos of the TL, TF, and KF classrooms together.  For each recorded observation, each observer took notes and completed the RTOP individually.  At the end of each recording, the observers compared ratings for each RTOP question and came to a consensus rating for each question, as well as for the overall RTOP score.

Interrater reliability between the two observers was 80% across all videos.  To provide reasoning and justification for the RTOP scores, the observers collected data regarding the number of activities completed and time spent completing different instructional practices (e.g., review, direct instruction, and activities).  Additionally, the observers constructed qualitative descriptions of teacher and student participation for the duration of the observation.

Mathematics Anxieties Analysis. Two forms of anxiety, general mathematics anxiety and anxiety about teaching mathematics, were analyzed to examine the influence of the different instructional practices.  To analyze these anxieties, students completed the MARS-R (Hopko, 2003) and ATMS (Hadley & Doward, 2011) as part of the precourse survey during the second week of the course and the postcourse survey the last week of the course.  These instruments provided data associated with each form of anxiety and were chosen for their brevity and reliability.

We considered using reliable short surveys to be advantageous to improve survey completion rates, especially with students who may have high mathematics anxiety.  The MARS-R consists of 12 questions constructed through multiple factor analyses of mathematics anxiety surveys (Hopko, 2003). Similarly, the ATMS consists of 12 questions focused on teaching mathematics and was constructed based on Hopko’s MARS-R (Hadley & Doward, 2011).

To improve completion rates of the precourse and postcourse surveys, students were provided time during class to complete the surveys under the supervision of a researcher other than the instructor.  In addition, students were assured that completion of the surveys was optional and would not be examined until the semester was completed.  Pre- and postcourse surveys were paired for each student to measure changes in mathematics anxiety and anxiety about teaching mathematics (Table 2).

Table 2
Number of Complete Paired Samples for Each Survey

Teacher Flipped 32    (82%) 29    (74%)
Khan Academy Flipped 29    (74%) 27    (69%)
Teacher In-Class Lecture 20    (50%) 22    (55%)


Analyses were completed both within each section and across the three sections in our examination of each form of anxiety.  For each section, a paired sample t-test was conducted for the MARS-R and the ATMS to determine if there were significant changes in students’ anxiety levels by the end of the semester.  In addition, a one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was conducted to examine whether there were significant differences between the instructional practices and the changes in students’ mathematics anxieties.

Students’ Perceptions Analysis. Finally, students’ perceptions of learning mathematics were examined through multiple data sources.  First, the postcourse survey included four open-ended questions.  These questions asked students if the course had influenced their mathematics anxiety or their ability to teach elementary mathematics, suggestions for improving the course, and any additional comments about teaching and learning in the course.  The postcourse survey also included two Likert questions asking students whether they would prefer to take future mathematics courses that used lecture videos and whether they would recommend such courses to friends. Due to the limited sample size, validity and reliability were not established for these questions. 

Finally, noting that group dynamics can “be a stimulus to elaboration and expression” (Frey & Fontana, 1991, p. 184), a semistructured, whole class interview was conducted by a researcher other than the instructor to assist with triangulation of the data.  While the interview protocol included seven questions that were asked to all three classes, the interviewer asked follow-up questions to better ascertain student perceptions of the course and of learning mathematics (Appendix A).

A case study analysis approach (Creswell, 2007) was used to examine student perceptions.  Data from the postcourse survey and whole class semistructured interviews were examined by two researchers.  Four common themes were considered based upon the questions asked and responses received both in the open-ended questions and class interview.  These themes focused on the role of the instructor, the methods of the lecture, the in-class instructional methods, and students’ perceptions of their mathematics anxieties.  Each set of data was examined three times for any statements related to each theme.  These statements were further reviewed to determine commonalities and differences among students in the different groups.


Classroom Comparisons

The three sections were examined to determine similarities and differences during in-class instruction.  RTOP scores were relatively similar between the TF and KF classes, while the TL class was approximately 10 points lower (Table 3).  Although the TL scores were substantially lower than either flipped section, the RTOP scores (MacIsaac & Falconer, 2002) still suggested high levels of reform instruction were observed in the TL classroom.  Observations found that the instructor provided all three sections with opportunities during class meetings to participate in small group activities, discuss key concepts, and ask questions to peers and the instructor.  This result suggests that the instructor successfully incorporated active learning processes in all sections when possible, which was one the instructor’s goals for this course.

Table 3
Consensus RTOP Score for Each Observation

Section Observation 1 Observation 2
Teacher Flipped 81 87
Khan Academy Flipped 80 89
In-Class Lecture 73 74


Subscales of the RTOP were also examined (Table 4).  Differences were prominent within the subcategory Classroom Culture, which suggests that a primary difference between the flipped sections and the lecture-based section was enhanced opportunities for student communication and collaboration.  In both flipped sections, the instructor engaged students individually and in small groups, utilizing student comments to drive conversation about different problem solving methods.  While these skills were also observed in the TL classroom, they occurred less frequently due to the 10 to 15-minute lecture at the beginning of each class meeting.

Table 4
RTOP Subscale Scores

Subscale Observation 1 Observation 2
Subscale TF KF TL TF KF TL
Lesson Design & Implementation 14 15 14 16 17 11
Content: Propositional Knowledge 16 15 15 19 18 19
Content: Procedural Knowledge 13 15 14 16 16 15
Classroom Culture: Communicative Interactions 17 17 13 16 18 15
Classroom Culture: Student/Teacher Relationships 19 18 17 19 20 14


Additional analysis by the observers provided a more robust understanding of the structure of each class. Activities and student-teacher interactions in the TL section were formatted similarly to the flipped sections, with students collaborating in small groups.  Across all sections the instructor facilitated student problem solving both individually and in small groups.   Although the small group activities utilized with the TL method were identical to those used with the flipped sections, the time dedicated to direct instruction during class meetings resulted in the TL class completing one less small group task during each observation.  This result equated to approximately 40 fewer tasks completed by the TL section over the semester compared to the flipped sections.

Anxieties of Mathematics

A one-way MANOVA was conducted to determine if any differences existed among the three sections’ mean anxiety scores on the precourse MARS-R and ATMS.  First, test assumptions were verified.  A Pearson correlation found MARS-R and ATMS precourse scores to be moderately correlated, r(77) = 0.675, p < 0.001.    Additionally, the Box’s M value of 4.597 was nonsignificant, p = 0.62, thus the covariance matrices between the groups were assumed to be equal.  With assumptions verified, the one-way MANOVA found a nonsignificant multivariate main effect for the sections, F(4, 146) = 1.76, p = 0.14, η2 = 0.05.  This finding suggests no significant differences between the three groups’ mathematics anxiety or anxiety related to the teaching of mathematics at the beginning of the semester.

To examine changes in students’ general mathematics anxiety, paired sample t-tests were conducted to compare precourse and postcourse MARS-R scores within each section (Table 5).  Results indicated that students’ levels of general mathematics anxiety significantly decreased in all three sections.  In addition, paired sample t-tests were conducted to compare precourse and postcourse anxiety about teaching mathematics within each class using the ATMS scores (Table 6).  Results indicated that students’ levels of anxiety of teaching mathematics significantly decreased in the TF and TL sections, but not the KF.   These results suggest that the course may alleviate students’ general anxiety of mathematics regardless of instructional method used within the course; however, flipped learning with third-party videos may not be effective at alleviating anxieties about teaching mathematics.

Table 5
Pre/Post Course Scores on MARS-R

Section Precourse Scores Postcourse Scores t df
Teacher Flipped 36.6 (11.0) 27.2 (8.8) -4.7** 28
Khan Academy Flipped 30.4 (12.6) 29.2 (11.8) -0.74 26
In-Class Lecture 36.6 (10.4) 30.6 (11.3) -2.3* 21
Note: Standard deviations appear in parentheses.
*p < 0.05, **p<0.01


Table 6
Pre/Post Course Scores on ATMS

Section Precourse Scores Postcourse Scores t df
Teacher Flipped 36.6 (11.0) 27.2 (8.8) -4.7** 28
Khan Academy Flipped 30.4 (12.6) 29.2 (11.8) -0.74 26
In-Class Lecture 36.6 (10.4) 30.6 (11.3) -2.3* 21
Note: Standard deviations appear  in parentheses.
*p < 0.05,  **p < 0.01


We also sought to determine whether any of the instructional methods were more effective in alleviating anxieties.  To examine changes in the anxieties between the three class sections, we conducted a one-way MANOVA.  To create the mean change for each measure of anxiety, student data were paired.  The precourse score was subtracted from the postcourse score, with a negative change score suggesting a decrease in anxiety on each survey (Table 7).

Table 7
Means and Standard Deviations for the Change in Anxiety Scores

Anxiety Measure Instructional Method Mean Change Standard Deviation
MARS-R Teacher Flipped -12.0 1.5
Khan Academy Flipped -3.6 1.5
Teacher Lecture -6.5 1.7
ATMS Teacher Flipped -9.4 2.0
Khan Academy Flipped -1.2 2.1
Teacher Lecture -6.0 2.3


Prior to conducting the one-way MANOVA on the change scores, test assumptions were verified.  A Pearson correlation found MARS-R and ATMS scores to be moderately correlated, r(77) = 0.524, p < 0.001.    Additionally, the Box’s M value of 4.934 was nonsignificant, p = 0.58; thus, the covariance matrices between the groups were assumed to be equal.  With assumptions verified, the one-way MANOVA found a significant multivariate main effect for the instructional method used, F(4, 146) = 4.26, p = 0.003, η2 = 0.10.  The power to detect the effect was 0.92.  This suggested there were significant differences between the three groups’ change scores on the MARS-R and ATMS.

To determine what these differences were, we conducted follow-up ANOVAs.  Prior to conducting the follow-up ANOVAs, Levene’s Test was examined.  Results found the assumption of homogeneity of variance was satisfied for both anxiety measures (Mathematics Anxiety, p > 0.05; and Anxiety About Teaching Mathematics, p > 0.05).  Follow-up ANOVAs revealed significant differences for both Mathematics Anxiety, F(2, 77) = 8.2, p = 0.001, η2 = 0.18, power = 0.95; and Anxiety About Teaching Mathematics, F(2, 77) = 4.13, p = 0.02, η2 = 0.10, power = 0.71.

Tukey’s HSD post hoc tests found that the decrease in Mathematics Anxiety was significantly greater in the TF course than both the TL and KF sections, while t no significant difference was found between the TL and KF sections.  Additionally, Tukey’s HSD post hoc tests found that the decrease in Anxiety About Teaching Mathematics was significantly greater in the TF than the KF section, while no significant difference was found between the TF and TL nor the TL and KF sections.   These results suggest that participation in a flipped mathematics class using instructor’s videos was significantly better at decreasing students’ general math anxiety than were the other two methods and was significantly better at decreasing students’ anxiety about teaching mathematics than was a flipped mathematics class using third-party videos.

Students’ Perceptions of Learning Mathematics

To examine students’ perceptions of learning mathematics, we analyzed the data around the themes of the role of the instructor, the in-class instructional methods, the methods used for the lecture, and students’ perceptions of their mathematics anxieties.

The Influence of the Instructor. Both on the postcourse survey and during the interview, students were overwhelmingly positive about the role of the instructor in their learning.  While the TF and KF participants each had seven specific statements about the positive influence of the instructor in their survey questions, the TL survey responses included 15 statements.  These statements included that the professor had a positive influence on learning by providing detailed and coherent explanations, assisting them with examining different perspectives, and pushing them to find multiple methods for solving problems.  One student in the KF course included that the instructor “lowered my anxiety because of the way [he] teaches his lessons.”

Interview responses supported findings from the postcourse survey responses. In both the TF and KF interviews, four students discussed the instructor’s positive influence; seven students from the TL section made similar comments. For example, a student in the TL section explained, “He is just very personal.  If you have an issue, he goes out of his way to help you out and make sure you understand.”  Another student in the KF said, “He cares.  I feel like when you mirror him with another professor, he’s gonna be the one to come and sit down with you like for hours to get you to learn a concept.”

One possible reason for more frequent positive responses in the TL section in both the postcourse survey and interview may be the differing role of the instructor in the TL class.  In a more traditional class, the instructor is often viewed as the center of the learning and dispenser of knowledge; thus, having a strong mathematics teacher is arguably more important and more readily recognized by students.  The TL section comments often mentioned the words “teach” and “explain.”  In contrast, the TF and KF section comments more often included the word “help.”  While the TF and KF section comments suggest an importance of the instructor, the limited statements may also be indicative to the shift of a more student-centered teaching approach throughout the entire class.

The Influence of the Classroom Instructional Methods. Instructional methods and the role of the instructor were closely related.  Student responses both on the postcourse survey and in the interview supported the RTOP results, in that students in all three sections recognized the significant use of reform teaching practices during class time.  In contrast to the role of the instructor, the TL survey responses mentioned class methods six times; the KF section mentioned methods 11 times; and the TF did so 14 times.  Again, responses were overwhelming positive about the course format.

Responses on the survey mentioned that the course required them to create multiple methods for solving problems, examine student perspectives of learning, and work in collaborative group settings throughout the semester.  One TF student responded, “I feel being in this class has given me some new techniques on how elementary students learn and how I can teach them.”  A TL student stated, “Because we were required to explain how we solve everything, it definitely helped with understanding how to explain things and that I will need to put a lot of effort into that when I’m a teacher.”

When combined with student responses about the instructor, this change in response rate may suggest how flipped learning modifies the classroom experience.  The flipped sections encouraged students to take responsibility for their learning, and the students positively reacted to the increased opportunities for structured small group activities.

The number of interview responses were comparable, as the groups were specifically asked about the in-class activities and role of technology during class.  Interestingly, during such questions, the TL students discussed the in-class activities but did not mention the lecture aspect of the class.  Students in all groups suggested that manipulatives and various technologies were a regular part of the classroom instruction.

For example, a KF student stated, “We talk about how kids learn…and he’d show us videos of different ages and different kids and how they, like, process things.”   A TF student said, “We’re always on the computers or playing with blocks and stuff like that.”  A TL student also explained, “There is a lot of group work,” suggesting that even with an in-class lecture, students perceived the course as one that fostered a collaborative learning environment.

The Methods Used for Delivery of the Content. The greatest difference among the three classes occurred within the responses related to the delivery of lecture material.  Within the postcourse survey, 10 TF section statements mentioned how the flipped classroom had provided a positive learning experience.  One student responded, “I believe watching lecture videos at home and working through practice problems as a class truly benefited my success in what I thought would be a very difficult class.”  Only one respondent would rather have taken notes in class.

TF students expanded upon their positive attitudes toward the flipped approach during the interview, with 10 positive statements related to the impact of lecture videos.  Students mentioned the advantage of pausing and rewinding the lecture as they were taking notes, the ability to review videos at any time, and the ability of the videos to prepare them for class.  As one TF student stated,

You kinda do it on your own speed.  You can pause the video….Your notes are more developed because you can pause it when you want and go back and look at it.  If he lectured in class, you can’t really be like, “Wait, stop, go back.” It’s a lot easier to do it on your own.

While the TL students discussed the lecture very little on the postcourse survey or interview, the limited comments were positive.  However, students’ positive responses did not focus on the delivery of the material, but instead on having access to the PowerPoint slideshow.  While only one student mentioned the positive use of lectures with electronic slides in the post-course survey, four students discussed the lectures during the interview as part of the instructor’s integration of technology. For example, all were appreciative that the electronic slideshow files were posted prior to class for students to print or download on their computers.

One TL student stated, “There are a lot of visuals. He has a lot of PowerPoints, and it brings you step by step about what is happening.  Instead of just a teacher saying ‘Oh this happens,’ it is shown on a PowerPoint.”  This comment suggests that what the students appreciated was not the style of the lecture or the use of lecture during class, but rather the access to the material used for the lecture.  The electronic slides provided an artifact that could be used as students completed other activities or reviewed for upcoming assessments, similarly to the way students in the TF section used their notes to complete such activities.

In contrast, the KF students were mixed in their attitudes toward the use of Khan Academy videos as their method of direct instruction.  Within the postcourse survey, four students responded negatively towards the use of Khan Academy videos, with only one student responding positively.  As one KF student wrote, “I would take out the Khan Academy videosI really did not enjoy them.”  The whole class interview provided a fuller understanding of the potential differences and issues that occurred with the use of the Khan Academy videos in comparison to teacher created videos.

In general, students were positive about the concept of using lecture videos to allow for more active learning in class.  When asked by the interviewer which students liked the broader idea of the flipped class, over three fourths of the class raised their hands.  As one KF student suggested, “It’s only a 50-minute class.  You can only do so much in that time period.”  Another student followed, “Whenever you go in your homework and don’t understand something, you can always go back to the videos.”

The general displeasure of the students related to Khan Academy was not in watching the video, but instead in the requirement of completing the Khan Academy assessments associated with the lecture videos. One student commented, “I don’t like it because if you don’t get five right in a row, it takes you hours and then you just give up.”  The challenge question requirement, unlike the notes requirement for the TF, created an additional unintended consequence with the KF students.  As the interviewer continued to probe the class about Khan Academy, one KF student explained, “You are supposed to watch the videos and then do activities with that video…but I know most people just do the activities.  And if they need help with the activities, then they go to the videos.”

The interviewer asked for a show of hands to see who typically followed this method, and approximately two thirds of the class raised their hands.  Another KF student said, “Well, I try [the activity] and if I don’t understand it, I will go back to the video.  So I try and then go back and then try it again.”

The instructor did not anticipate this method for how students would use the Khan Academy videos. His expectation was that students would review the material and use the assessments as a method of confirming their learning from the videos.  This hyper-focus on the challenge questions as an assessment could potentially suggest why the KF had smaller decreases in mathematics anxieties than the other two courses, as they felt they were continually being tested.  Such test exhaustion may have reinforced their anxieties in learning mathematics.

Students’ Mathematics Anxieties. Student perceptions of their change in mathematics anxiety and anxiety to teach math was of significant interest.  To better understand these perceptions, the postcourse survey included the open-ended question, “Do you feel that completion of this course has influenced any anxiety you have toward math?  If so, how?” As suggested in Table 8, no student who responded to the question perceived an increase in their mathematics anxieties.

Table 8
Survey Responses to the Item, “Do you feel that completion of this course has influenced any anxiety you have toward math?  If so, how?”

Section Positive Impact No Impact No Response Total Responses
Teacher Flipped 24 7 3 34
Khan Academy Flipped 22 5 6 33
Teacher In-Class Lecture 18 3 4 25


The results of all three groups were comparable, with an overwhelming portion of respondents believing participation in the course helped decrease their anxieties.  We further examined the positive responses to determine how students felt their anxieties had been impacted.  First, several students in each group stated only that their anxiety had lessened (TL = 3, TF = 9, KF = 4) but provided no other information; thus, we do not know why these students perceived lower anxiety levels.

For those who did provide a more detailed response, three subthemes emerged.  The most common response from respondents related to an improvement in confidence and comfort with mathematics (TL = 6, TF = 7, KF = 7).  For instance, a TF student stated, “This course has actually given me confidence when it comes to math because I always thought I was bad at it.”

A second theme suggested that the instructor and his course methods positively influenced students’ mathematics anxieties (TL = 7, TF = 3, KF = 5).  However, while respondents from the KF and TL sections focused more on the instructor, the three TF respondents emphasized the combination of the teacher, the use of lecture videos, and the activities completed in class. For example, a KF student stated, “It has lowered my anxiety because of the way [the instructor] teaches his lessons.”  In contrast, one TF student suggested,

I feel like the course has helped me overcome any type of anxiety I had toward math tests, because I feel my professor’s lecture videos and the activities in class are helpful when it came to studying and taking any assessments.

Several students also believed their decrease in anxiety could be attributed to newly acquired skills related to mathematics and the teaching of elementary mathematics (TL = 2, TF = 5, KF = 6).  For instance, a TF student stated,

I feel this course has definitely helped me with my anxiety towards teaching math. I now know how to do the problems I will have to teach in the future, and I have also learned many different ways to solve and teach them.

Students’ Desire to Take Flipped Courses. Finally, the postcourse survey asked students to rate on a scale of 1 (Very Unlikely) to 4 (Very Likely) their desire to take another flipped course or recommend such a course to friend.  To examine the influence of actual participation in a flipped class on these two questions, we conducted independent samples t-tests between the KF and TF sections.  Results found the TF Likert scale averages were significantly higher on both questions (Table 9).  This finding suggests that TF students were more likely to take and recommend flipped mathematics courses than were KF students; thus, the majority of students were more satisfied with the learning experience that included teacher-created videos compared to third-party videos.  These lower averages align with KF students’ frustration with the Khan Academy requirements. Possibly, different lecture video expectations for the third-party videos will influence these responses with future classes.

Table 9
Flipped Course Likert Scale Comparisons

Survey Item Khan Academy Flipped Teacher Flipped t df
If offered, how likely would you be to take a class that uses lecture videos instead of lectures during class? 3.0 (0.8) 3.4 (0.8) -2.3* 65
If offered, how likely would you be to recommend to a peer to take a class that uses lecture videos? 3.1 (0.8) 3.5 (0.8) -2.4* 65
Note: Standard deviations appear in parentheses.
*p < 0.05



The purpose of this study was to examine whether different instructional practices could positively influence students’ anxieties and perceptions about mathematics.  Results from this study suggest that when examining the multiple aspects of teaching and learning for a mathematics content course for elementary education preservice teachers, flipped learning with teacher-created videos has the potential to help improve students’ anxieties and confidence in mathematics more than do instruction that incorporates in-class lectures or third-party videos.  For example, while all three sections incorporated some form of active learning as part of the class, the two flipped sections were able to incorporate more opportunities for interaction and communication within and between students and the instructor.  This result supports previous findings that flipped learning can provide additional opportunities for instruction that are engaging and focused on building student understanding through collaboration (Hamdan et al., 2013).

The flipped section that used teacher-constructed videos (TF) had the greatest significant decreases in both forms of mathematics anxieties, in addition to demonstrating a positive increase in beliefs about teaching and learning mathematics.  Students’ open-ended responses and interviews suggested that such a positive increase occurred due to the improved opportunities for collaboration, exploration of multiple methods, and opportunities to examine student work related to the mathematical concepts.  Additionally, their postcourse survey results indicated a desire to take more flipped classes and recommend flipped classes to friends.

These findings also support previous research that (a) increased use of student-centered, inquiry-based instruction in courses for preservice elementary teachers can alleviate students’ anxieties about mathematics (Huinker & Madison, 1997; Sloan, 2010; Tooke & Lindstrom, 1998); (b) a decrease in mathematics anxiety corresponds to a perceived increase in mathematical confidence (Bursal & Paznokas, 2006), and (c) flipped learning can have a significant positive influence on student attitudes and beliefs (McGivney-Burelle & Xue, 2013; Johnson, 2013, Wilson, 2013).

The least impacted group in terms of anxiety was the flipped section using the Khan Academy videos (KF).  While the KF utilized flipped learning, the third-party video component may have limitations for students’ anxieties and beliefs about mathematics for several reasons.  One possible reason may be that instructor-created videos provided better alignment between the lecture videos and the in-class activities.  Since the videos were created by the instructor, he was able to focus the videos on targeted goals, outcomes, and concepts that would allow for more focused and enhanced learning opportunities during in-class activities (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2014).

By directly aligning videos to each lesson, students may have better understood the goals for the upcoming class and the purpose of the different in-class activities and may have been better able to monitor their progress of learning during class (Marzano, 2009).  This may have also been true to a lesser degree for the TL, since the in-class lectures were directly aligned with the activities that followed.

In contrast, the use of the Khan Academy videos often required using multiple videos to cover the upcoming topic, so the mathematical goals for the videos may not have been as consistently clear to the students. A lack of focus may have recreated feelings from negative school experiences and, thus, diminished some students’ opportunity to alleviate their anxiety (Bekdemir, 2010; Bursal & Paznokas, 2006; Geist; 2010).

The class interview of the KF also suggested that the student focus when using the Khan Academy videos was not on learning but on passing the videos’ challenge questions.  This extrinsic motivator appeared for most students to be powerful, thus they spent more time completing the review questions than watching videos to prepare for the upcoming class.  As previous research has suggested, a heightened concern about these assessments may have offset the impact the active learning opportunities provided during class (Geist, 2010).

Also, since a significant portion of the KF students admitted that they did not watch the videos, the potential priming benefit may have been diminished for improving students’ anxieties and perceptions of mathematics at the same level as with the TF students (Bodie, Powers, & Fitch-Hauser, 2006).  As one TF student commented,

When you watch the video outside of class, you already know what you’re going to be talking about inside of class, so you’re, like, pre-informed of what you need to know. It makes me feel smarter when I come to class.

Many KF students did not share that experience.

Implications for Flipped Instruction

The results of this study suggest that various factors must be considered before flipping any course.  For those examining the replacement of in-class lectures, this study suggests that the emphasis of the instruction must be on creating an active and engaging in-class experience. Yet, careful detail must also be placed on the direct instruction component that is used to prime students.

Although a more time-consuming option, this study suggests instructors may want to consider creating their own videos, which will assure that the content aligns with their goals and expectations for preparation before the upcoming lesson.  If third-party videos are used, instructors should take time to find a single video that effectively covers the same content as a video that might have been created by the instructor.

This study examined only the utilization of flipped learning to replace in-class lectures.  However, other strategies may be utilized and investigated related to flipped learning, such as guided directions to start a project-based learning activity or providing a real-world demonstration that can be used to start an exploratory activity in the upcoming class (as in Dove & Dove, 2015b).  This strategy can help create cognitive dissonance prior to class so that students come motivated and ready to engage in the activity or lesson.

This study also suggests that instructors may want to consider alternative methods for increasing the expectations of students to watch the videos.  If videos are not watched, the in-class activities will often be unsuccessful, as students do not have the requisite knowledge to begin.  While notes checks were perceived as appropriate by the TF students, video challenge questions were not highly regarded by the KF students.  If review questions are a desired component, instructors may consider using them as formative instead of as summative assessments to help determine where there may be weaknesses and challenges with the upcoming lesson.

Finally, the primary focus of flipped learning in the mathematics classroom is to provide the in-class time needed to utilize student-centered instructional practices often observed in methods courses.  This study suggests that significant amounts of collaboration between students and with the instructor are possible with the additional time provided by flipped learning.  While mathematics instruction has in the past focused primarily on procedural understanding, in-class activities can now consistently include activities that build conceptual understanding.  Additionally, since the instructor’s role shifts to that of facilitator, instruction can be differentiated with additional assistance provided to the students who need it most (Dove & Dove, 2015b; Wallace et al., 2014).

Future Research

Although this study supports the potential of flipped learning as an instructional practice, much is still to be learned about the practice’s strengths and limitations.  For example, this study examined the use of third-party videos that did not fully align with the curriculum.  However, many mathematics textbooks are beginning to include section-based instructional videos.  Future research may examine whether utilization of these videos has a comparable impact on students’ mathematics anxieties, or if the impact of teacher-created videos may have deeper roots in the connections and relations with the class instructor.  Future research may also examine optimal methods for maximizing the time students spend watching videos and assisting students with retaining information from lecture videos.

Much of the research on flipped learning is only for a limited time frame (one unit, one semester, or one yearlong class).  Future research may examine more longitudinal aspects related to flipped learning, such as how elementary preservice teachers’ mathematics anxiety and anxiety about teaching changes as they take more mathematics courses, as well as whether taking multiple flipped courses has any additional impact on decreasing students’ mathematics anxieties.  Future research may also examine the instructional practices that preservice teachers incorporate once they become in-service teachers and how learning opportunities in flipped classes may have influenced their current teaching practices.

Additionally, more large-scale studies of flipped learning are needed.  Increasing class sizes and number of instructors will help determine what variations may truly influence the success or failure of a flipped learning experience.  For example, during this study the KF section was at 9 a.m., the TF at 10 a.m., and the TL at 11 a.m.  While having the same instructor limited teaching variation, future studies might ask how the time of day impacts the students’ success. They might also ask how might a single instructor teaching three sections back-to-back impact material delivery and personal relationships with students in the class?  With additional instructors and multiple sections of the same courses, these types of questions could be addressed.

A final interesting aspect within this study was the lower survey response rate by the TL.  While the flipped classes were relatively high for repeated-measures survey responses, only 50% of the TL class completed both the MARS-R and ATMS surveys. We do not know why this group specifically avoided completing the surveys, but similar low survey completion rates by the lecture class has occurred in previous flipped studies (Dove & Dove, 2015a).  Future research should follow up with nonrespondents to better understand the reasons for not completing the surveys, whether there is a relationship with mathematics anxieties, and how completion rates may be improved.


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Whole Class Semi-Structured Interview Questions

1. Please describe what occurs during the typical class.

  • Do you feel that the instruction in class is meeting your learning needs?  Why or why not?

2. Please describe the typical expectations for homework and other work outside of class.

  • Do you feel that the expectations outside of class are meeting your learning needs? Why or why not?

3. Describe your overall impression of technology use in the classroom?

4. How, if at all, do you think the technology has impacted your learning experiences?

5. Overall, do you feel your MATH 111 course is meeting your needs to learn the mathematics content? Why or why not?

6. Overall, do you feel your MATH 111 course is meeting your needs to begin thinking about how you might teach mathematics content in your future class? Why or why not?

7. Is there anything else you would like to share about your MATH 111 class or your learning in this class?


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Students as Investigators: Learning About the People of the Civil War

Students as Investigators: Learning About the People of the Civil War

Educating students in the 21st century has necessitated a shift in the way in which preservice teachers are prepared to use, understand, and interact with social media in the classroom (McLoughlin & Lee, 2008).  Bruns (2011) characterized this paradigmatic shift as a movement toward a participatory culture using Web 2.0 technologies—dynamic environments that are reshaping our educational landscape (Keen, 2008).

Teachers in today’s classroom are typically technology savvy and have integrated social networks into their daily lives (Windham, 2005).  Additionally, with the emergence of mobile technologies, such as iPads and other devices, students’ access to computing devices is omnipresent (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010).  These dynamic changes present both new types of challenges and vast opportunities for teachers.

The emergence of new media technologies, specifically social network sites (SNSs) and platforms such as the photoblog Humans of New York (HONY;, coupled with an increase in student-centered pedagogies, has brought the use of these technologies to the forefront as a mechanism to integrate medial and technology skills (Partnership for 21st Learning, 2016) and disciplinary content.

According to McLoughlin and Lee (2010), the use of online social networks enables people (e.g., students) to present their ideas and connect to others.  Other researchers (e.g., Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison, & Wiegel, 2006; Wheeler, Yeomans, & Wheeler, 2008) see these social platforms as a mechanism to engage in meaningful conversations with others regardless of location.  Furthermore, research has demonstrated that any type of technological disruption needs to have the appropriate pedagogical enhancements in order to be successful (e.g., Doering & Veletsianos, 2008; Hughes, Thomas, & Scharber, 2006; Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Veletsianos & Navarrete, 2012).

The mobility and access the iPad and other mobile devices provide opens up the classroom for new and innovative instructional practices, allowing students to physically explore their world and share these experiences with others (Squire & Klopfer, 2007).  Mobile devices themselves are not enough to guarantee student engagement and learning, however,  (Prieto, Villagrá-Sobrino, Jorrín-Abellán, Martínez-Monés, & Dimitriadis, 2011).  Looi et al. (2011) found that placing technology in the hands of students was not enough to ensure student learning; teacher lesson design and their support during implementation were critical components needed in order to achieve the goal of student learning.  These findings suggest that, in order for iPads and other mobile devices to reach their full potential, teachers need to develop engaging and active learning opportunities for students that purposefully integrate and orchestrate mobile devices into instruction.

The ways teachers choose to integrate iPads and other mobile devices into their classroom instruction impacts student learning.  Sharples and Pea (2014) argued that mobile technology in the classroom should be conceptualized around the learner’s mobility, with seamless learning as a primary goal; that is, what were once conceived as distinct, independent learning experiences should be bound together to create a continuous learning environment.  Looi et al. (2011) supported this idea when they described mobile devices as learning “hubs” that provide students and teachers the ability to learn on the move and across contexts.  These unique capabilities of iPads and other mobile devices require that teachers become learning orchestrators and leave direct instruction behind.

Students are natural investigators.  They are constantly asking why or exploring how something works. Educators should embrace this curiosity and use it to prepare students for the 21st century.

The social phenomenon HONY is a perfect example of using technology and social media to investigate human nature. Its photoblog platform can easily be modified to promote research and investigation in K–12 classrooms.  This article uses the concept of HONY to introduce teachers and students to a new lesson for teaching the American Civil War.

HONY’s photographer and storyteller, Brandon, captures moments in people’s lives through their portraits and stories.  In many ways he is an investigator, researching what it means to live in the 21st century.  History educators are interested in helping students discover what it meant to live during the American Civil War.  This article will draw on the technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge (TPACK) framework (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) and the replacement, amplification, and transformation (RAT) framework (Hughes et al., 2006) for using technology in the classroom and provide a lesson plan that uses the HONY concept to create a student-centered research project titled “Humans of the Civil War.”

Theoretical Framework

The use of technology to engage students in more meaningful instruction has been well documented (e.g., Howland, Jonassen, & Marra, 2012; Martin & Ertzberger, 2013; Sadik, 2008), but specifically, if teachers make strategic decisions about the types of technology they use, student learning outcomes improve (e.g., Beetham & Sharpe, 2013; Wu et al., 2012). The primary theoretical lens for this project was informed by Mishra and Koehler’s (2006) TPACK framework (See Figure 1) and Hughes et al.’s (2006) RAT framework.

TPACK suggests that teachers can synergistically call upon their knowledge in three domains—content, pedagogy, and technology.  The framework builds upon the earlier work of Schulman’s (1986) pedagogical content knowledge, which describes how teachers must draw upon their knowledge of course content and pedagogical approaches. TPACK or technology integration knowledge is operationalized when educators identify an effective combination of curriculum content, a particular pedagogical approach, and a technology tool or resource that supports the learning experience.

Figure 1. TPACK Framework (Mishra & Koehler, 2006)

TPACK provides the framework to organize teaching with technology, like iPads, allowing teachers to connect content and technology.  Educators’ TPACK is internalized when they identify an effective combination of curriculum content, a particular pedagogical approach, and the integration of a technology tool or resource to support the learning experience.

We recommend that teachers follow the RAT framework (Figure 2; Hughes et al., 2006) when making decisions about what technology to use and how to use it.  Teachers who use technology merely as a replacement for traditional methods of instruction are not changing “established practices, student learning processes, or content goals” (Hughes et al., 2006, p. 2).



For example, teachers who use electronic presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint instead of writing notes on the board have not fundamentally changed the way they practice or deliver content.  The second level of RAT, amplification, “increases efficiency and productivity” applies to this situation (Hughes et al., 2006, p. 2). Teachers operating at this level, however, still have not fundamentally changed their pedagogy nor how students learn.

One example of amplification is for students to turn in assignments electronically so that teachers may more easily and quickly return comments to students.  There is a time and place for replacement and amplification; however, teachers who use technology to transform their lessons, the highest level of RAT, push students to think about and approach learning differently, including refining their epistemological and ontological beliefs.  At this point, teachers use technology to change fundamentally how students learn and the content they are learning.

The five steps to achieve reorganization and transformation of classroom lessons are as follows:

  1. The actual mental work changed and expanded.
  2. The number of variables involved in the mental processes expanded.
  3. The tool changed the organization in which it has been used.
  4. New players became involved with the tool’s use (or expanded use of the tool).
  5. New opportunities for different forms and types of learning through problem-solving, unavailable in traditional approaches, are developed (Hughes et al., 2006, p. 2).

The next section describes a lesson, originally designed for middle grades U.S. history, but applicable to any level of social studies, that uses the HONY website ( as inspiration for a transformed lesson on the American Civil War.  By integrating content, technology, and popular culture platforms, teachers can engage their students in an inquiry-based lesson designed to promote upper-level thinking and questioning according to the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (Armstrong, 2017; Krathwohl, 2002).

Lesson Plan

The following lesson plan integrates technology and role-playing activities (e.g., Beal, Bolick, & Martorella, 2008; Di Blas, Paolini, & Sabiescu, 2012; Robin, 2008) to simulate a version of HONY that can be used to promote student research and learning of the American Civil War.  Students research historical figures from the American Civil War and use their knowledge to roleplay as if their historical figure is being interviewed for a classroom version of “Humans of the Civil War.” The purpose is for students to investigate what it meant to live during the time of the American Civil War in a way that is more engaging than traditional didactic, fact-based lectures.

This activity leverages technology and innovative pedagogies to engage students not only in learning content, but also in promoting inquiry, motivation, and participation (McCarthy & Anderson, 2000), thereby incorporating all components of the TPACK framework.  Furthermore, this lesson plan moves students to the forefront, facilitating learning through an inquiry-based exercise that changes how students learn.

Table 1 outlines the connections among TPACK, RAT, and the lesson.  To understand a person’s story, students situate the main events of their figure’s life within the context of the political and social upheaval of the 1860s.  Schmidt calls this activity “putting the social back in social studies” (Schmidt, 2007, p. 4).  By “re-establishing human beings as the central subject of social studies” through inquiry, “authentic experiences,” and “real-life tasks” (Schmidt, 2007, pp. 4–5), this Civil War learning activity may heighten students’ content knowledge and understanding of the era.

Table 1
TPACK, RAT, and Humans of the Civil War Lesson Plan

Lesson Phase TPACK Connection RAT Connection
Phase 1: Research Students engage in investigating the content of the American Civil War using technology in a pedagogically appropriate manner.  Students use the technology as a tool to support their research efforts.  By researching individuals, students learn what life was like during the American Civil War. Replacement: Sudents conduct research online using mobile devices.
Amplification: Students take notes using shared environments (i.e., Google Docs) to easily share information with their teacher.
Transformation: Students are engaged in inquiry-based learning instead of receiving information directly from the teacher.
Phase 2: Interviews and Filming Students role-play as investigators or journalists like Brandon from HONY to learn about the lives of others in the Civil War. The technology is used to capture information and assist students in their investigations. Replacement: Students use mobile devices to access their notes when being interviewed by another student and to take notes when serving as their group’s note taker.
Amplification: Students’ notes are stored in easy-to-access digital folders that can be shared with group members and teachers.
Transformation: Students use mobile devices to record video and/or still images of the students they interview, which can be used as an alternative and more illustrative form of data collection.
Phase 3: Digital Presentation and Debrief Students collaborate as a whole to create a  digital platform to display their knowledge. The debrief serves as both formative and summative assessments to showcase what students have learned. Replacement: Students use the mobile device to access notes.
Amplification: Final portfolios, pictures, or videos can be easily shared with the teacher for assessment.
Transformation: Creating a digital storyboard, using tools such as Lino, Padlet, or even Google Slides, provides students with alternative and more expressive means of communicating what they have learned, as opposed to traditional pen and paper tests.


Students should become familiar with the HONY website ( or Facebook page ( before starting this lesson.  The website is filled with opportunities to present social studies content and context, including entire sections devoted to Iranian and Syrian refugees—subjects that can easily tie into content on immigration, human rights, geography, and foreign wars, to name a few.

The following is one lesson plan idea.  Teachers may be able to incorporate this lesson using the HONY concept into their curriculum or use this lesson plan as a model for incorporating similar ideas into their classes.

Although this lesson focuses on researching historical individuals to understand a past event, the lesson can easily be modified to focus students on researching the lives of people who are still living in order to understand a historical event.  For instance, students could research the Civil Rights movement by interviewing individuals who lived through the struggle, or they could research the impact of wars on home life by interviewing spouses of veterans or active military.  However, if teachers are interested in having their students interview living subjects, they should review oral history resources for teachers at the Library of Congress ( and LEARN NC (

The lesson plan outlined in this article includes a basic timeline for each phase and is designed to be conducted between 5 and 7 days, depending on class size and time available.

Phase 1:  Research

For Phase 1, students conduct background research on the American Civil War through the lens of one individual.  They should begin this lesson with some background knowledge of the American Civil War, so it will be ideally situated toward the middle of the unit.  Since the focus is on individuals, teachers can either assign students a person from the Civil War to research or allow students to pick from a list.

All ranks of the military, representing the Union and Confederate armies and navies, male and female civilians, and slaves should be included to provide students with multiple perspectives.  See Handout 1 (Appendix A) for an example list of individuals from the Civil War.  Students should also be encouraged to research individuals not on the handout and to pursue their own creativity and interests.

The resources section (Appendix B) includes a list of websites and apps that may prove useful during the research phase.  This list is not exhaustive, but provides a starting point for student research.

See Handout 2 (Appendix C) for a list of questions students should be able to answer during Phase 2.  At a minimum, Phase 1 should require at least 2 days for research, but ideally more if timing allows.

Phase 2:  Interviews and Filming

After having researched their individual, students role-play and pretend that they are representing the group Humans of the Civil War to uncover the real story of how the war affected the lives of those involved.  Students should divide into groups of three or four depending upon class size.  Each student is assigned an initial job but should rotate through all of the positions.

The student roles are as follows:  Videographer/photographer (using iPads or any mobile device), interviewer, interviewee (should answer all questions in character), and an optional note taker.  The role of the videographer is to document the interview.  Students should use their mobile devices to record or take photos that can then be compiled into a classroom set (see Phase 3).  The interviewer asks the interviewee questions while the note taker listens and watches.

The note taker should listen for any questions that he or she still has about the individual following the interview so that the interviewer can ask follow-up questions.  Additionally, the note taker should write a brief summary of the life of the person.  Students should ask themselves: What caption accompanies the photo or video of this important individual? (The HONY website includes a caption or brief story that accompanies all photographs published.) If a note taker is not available, this responsibility should be completed by the interviewer.

Using the questions referenced in Handout 2 (Appendix C), students build a profile of the Humans of the Civil War.  Depending on class size and time allowed, Phase 2 could require 1 to 2 days to complete.  The purpose of this phase is to engage students in their learning and to foster critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity—the four C’s of 21st century learning (Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2016).

Phase 3:  Digital Presentation and Debrief

To showcase student work, teachers can help students create their Humans of the Civil War display.  Including students in the creation of a display using Web 2.0 platforms, such as Lino Boards (; Lino Boards is a collaborative platform that students can use to express their ideas with images, videos, and documents and is available for iPad, iPhone, and Android.), is one way that students can showcase what they have learned and highlight their creativity.  (See Figure 3 for an example. The first author created the Lino Board displayed here. All images were found via Google and were labeled for reuse.)

Figure 3. Design-based research (Easterday, Lewis, & Gerber, 2014)

A digital presentation can also serve as a form of authentic assessment.  (According to Wiggins, 1998, “An assessment is authentic when we anchor testing in the kind of work real people do, rather than merely eliciting easy-to-score responses to simple questions,” p. 21.) Video taken during Phase 2 can be uploaded to student sites or compiled together in Microsoft PowerPoint, Google Slides or other presentation software to create a montage.

Following student presentations, the teacher leads students in a discussion of the real lives of the individuals that the students researched.  Sample questions include (a) What common themes were represented across all groups of individuals researched? and (b) What did it mean to live during the American Civil War?  Teachers can continue to use technology to assess what students have learned.  For instance, a collective Google Docs file could be utilized to create a study guide for an upcoming examination, or students can create a hypothetical letter to President Lincoln from the perspective of their individual or groups of individuals. For example, all students who researched civilians could get together and write a letter to President Lincoln about how the war was affecting their lives. This group could be further broken down to include women, men, and Black civilians or slaves.

Students should also be allowed an opportunity to debrief the learning process and activity (Beal et al., 2008).  Teachers lead students through a conversation about the Humans of the Civil War activity and encourage them to reflect critically on the process.  Sample questions include (a) What went well?, (b) What could have gone better?, and (c) If we do a similar activity again, what should our goals be?  Debriefing allows students to provide valuable feedback to the instructor about what they learned, how the lesson was perceived, and improvements for future iterations. Additionally, allowing students to debrief increases their agency, investment in the class, and investment in their own education.

Lesson in Action

High school students and teachers in a professional development (PD) workshop for middle grades teachers used a version of this lesson plan to engage participants with inquiry-based learning using technology.  The teachers divided into groups and traversed their school interviewing people they met to create a Humans of Caldwell Middle School (pseudonym).  In the debrief following this activity, teachers were engaged and excited but also nervous about letting students loose around the school.

In our lesson plan, students stay in their classroom, under their teacher’s supervision, and can still become engaged and excited about learning content while using technology.  High school students studying American history connected their own personal stories with those of the individuals from the Civil War and appreciated the element of autonomy of learning that the lesson provided.

These two examples showcase how the Humans of the Civil War lesson plan can be used in a variety of classroom contexts.  Teachers should use their professional judgement to modify the lesson plan as appropriate for their students.

Conclusion and Implications for the Classroom

The primary affordances of tools like the iPad and platforms such as HONY may be their power to engage students in the use of technology tools that provide mechanisms and context to think through complex systems and ideas.  The challenge, in moving forward, may be that teachers do not always see these devices and platforms as tools that can enhance their pedagogical strategies.  The key will be to help those individuals, through specific PD and experiences, to recognize the power that these tools provide.  Given the right supports and platforms, the iPad and other mobile devices can be utilized as a way for teachers to engage students in the use of primary resources and the study of history and other social studies topics.  Though we have not yet found the best ways to bridge this integration gap, experiences like Humans of the Civil War will help us continue to refine the types of practices, integration, and lessons used in iPad and mobile device integrated classrooms.

The Humans of the Civil War activity exemplifies the five steps of a transformed lesson according to the RAT framework (Hughes et al., 2006).  Following are the ways in which this lesson met all five steps:

The actual mental work changed and expanded.  Students are responsible for conducting research, using both traditional research techniques (e.g., a library) and online resources, thus expanding what and how they are learning beyond a didactic lecture.  The way teachers think about and approach the lesson also changed. Students were able to take ownership of their learning, which may result in increasing engagement and ultimately learning.

The number of variables involved in the mental process expanded.  Students are introduced to websites, mobile devices, filming, photography, interviewing, and note taking.  By integrating these tools, students not only develop technology skills but they apply these skills in authentic ways that may enhance their learning experience.

The tool changed the organization in which it has been used.  By using mobile devices, websites, and digital presentations to engage students in learning about the individuals who lived during and participated in some way in the American Civil War, technology moved the lesson beyond traditional teacher-centered lectures followed by pen and paper tests toward a student-centered, inquiry-driven classroom.

New players became involved with the tool’s use (or expanded use of the tool).  By making lessons more student centered, inquiry activity can allow the students to gain agency in their learning, likely increasing their engagement and ultimately their learning.

New opportunities for different forms and types of learning through problem-solving, unavailable in traditional approaches, developed.  Through this transformed lesson, students engage in inquiry-based learning, critical thinking about historical information and sources, and the use of technology for digital presentations.  These types of experiences give students the opportunity to engage in authentic learning that can carry over into other types of life experiences.

This sample lesson provides an opportunity for social studies teachers to integrate technology and social media platforms to achieve two important goals in a manner that is both pedagogically sound (TPACK; Mishra & Koehler, 2006) and grounded in content knowledge.  First, through the integration of these platforms, teachers are able potentially to engage students in more meaningful instruction that goes beyond lectures and provides authenticity to the students’ experiences.

Second, as a result of these platforms, students can gain agency in their learning.  In this particular lesson, students make strategic decisions about (a) what is important to know about historical figures, (b) how to best tell a person’s story, and (b) how to engage with content about the American Civil War.  Teachers can use this lesson, the TPACK model (Mishra & Koehler, 2006), and the RAT framework (Hughes et al., 2006) to reconsider traditional methods of teaching social studies and to include technology in ways that engage students, transform learning, and increase motivation (e.g., Heafner, 2004).


Armstrong, P. (2017). Bloom’s taxonomy. Retrieved from the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching website:

Beal, C. M., Bolick, C. M., & Martorella, P. H. (2008). Teaching social studies in middle and secondary schools (5th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (Eds.). (2013). Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: Designing for 21st century learning (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Bruns, A. (2011). Beyond difference: Reconfiguring education for the user-led age. In R. Land & S. Bayne (Eds.), Digital difference: Perspectives on online learning (pp. 133–144). Boston, MA: Sense Publishers.

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The Lincoln Telegrams Project provides students and teachers with access to 324 telegrams written by President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War and are accessible via the project website or through the Apple iTunes app store.

The National Archives ( and DocsTeach (

DocsTeach is sponsored by the National Archives and provides teachers and students access to thousands of primary sources.  The website includes ready-to-use activities utilizing the primary sources for teachers to use or modify for their own instructional purposes.  Presently, the only mobile platform for DocsTeach is an app for iPads.

Gilder Lehrman (

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History also offers teachers and students excellent resources for researching the American Civil War. Similar to DocTeach, Gilder Lehrman divides American history into eras (Civil War and Reconstruction—1861–1877) and then sub-themes within each era (e.g., African Americans and Emancipation).  The website offers access to both teachers and students; however, at this time no mobile platform is available.

The National Park Service (

The National Park Service’s Civil War website is an excellent place for students to begin their research.  The information is easily accessible and organized, including one section especially devoted to the people of the Civil War (


Appendix C

Handout 2

Name of Interviewer:

Name of Interviewee:

The year 2015 marked the Sesquicentennial anniversary of the American Civil War. You have been charged by the founder of Humans of New York to go back in time and interview the men and women who lived during the Civil War. Your mission is to collect their stories and create your own digital storyboard using Lino boards. Through your interviews, we hope to gain an accurate picture of the Humans of the Civil War. Use the following interview questions as your guide.


Interview Questions

  1. What is your full name?
  2. Where were you born?
  3. Are you married? If so, to whom?
  4. Where did you grow up?
  5. When do you currently live (between 1860 and 1865)?
  6. Do you have any children? If so, what are their names?
  7. Do you support the North or the South in this war? Why?
  8. How have you participated in the fighting? If so, on which side did you fight?
  9. Have you participated in the war effort? If so, how did you help?
  10. What has life been like for you during the Civil War?
  11. Who do you think should win the war and why?
  12. Who do you think will win the war and why?
  13. Tell me about a time in your life when you were the happiest.
  14. Tell me a time in your life when you were the saddest.
  15. What makes you mad?
  16. If you could change one thing about the war, what would it be?

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Access Is Not Enough: A Collaborative Autoethnographic Study of Affordances and Challenges of Teacher Educators’ iPad Integration in Elementary Education Methods Courses

Access Is Not Enough: A Collaborative Autoethnographic Study of Affordances and Challenges of Teacher Educators’ iPad Integration in Elementary Education Methods Courses

In the past, technologies remained relatively stable throughout a teacher’s career. The basic tools for teaching were standardized for most U.S. classrooms: books, paper, pencils, math manipulatives, and overhead projectors (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Initially, even when computers were introduced as a new tool, they were clustered in computer labs bound by scheduled time and static place (Foulger et al., 2013).

The current climate of rapid change and the pervasiveness of mobile technology, however, offer a new array of unexplored tools and new opportunities for classrooms to capitalize on the mobile learning that happens outside the classroom. This influx of mobile devices characterizes what Harvard professor of business administration Clayton Christensen (1997) coined as “disruptive technology.”

In contrast to “sustainable technology,” which is established and changes incrementally, disruptive technologies may not have easily and immediately recognized applications and may lack refinement. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops fall into this category. They are pervasive, but educators are just learning their potential for school-based teaching and learning.  Because university teacher preparation programs often partner with K-12 schools, faculties want and need to prepare preservice teachers to understand the opportunities and challenges of purposeful and transformative technology integration. To move past a siloed approach to technology integration, which is often relegated to a specific and separate educational technology (EdTech) course, methods courses in each discipline seemed to be a wise and logical choice in which to demonstrate and experience technology integrations that support discipline-based teaching and learning.

Traditionally, the main responsibility of methods courses is to build pedagogical knowledge for teaching specific disciplines, such as science, mathematics, social studies, and reading/language arts. Teacher educators often find that they are still building stronger disciplinary content knowledge while addressing pedagogy. Shulman (1986) identified this specific type of teacher knowledge as pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). This task is demanding for teacher educators, who must not only strengthen content knowledge (CK) but also model pedagogical knowledge (PK) in the delivery of CK to demonstrate PCK.

With the disruption and pervasiveness of mobile devices, more and more K-12 schools are exploring and implementing mobile devices to increase learning opportunities for students. Mobile technology provides new challenges for teacher educators, who currently prepare teachers for teaching and learning environments that neither they experienced as K-12 teachers or teacher candidates experienced as learners. Teachers are now expected also to have technological knowledge (TK) that intersects with CK, PK, and PCK. This integration forms a new teacher knowledge referred to as technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge, or TPACK (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

Although young people are often referred to as digital natives (Prensky, 2001), others suggest that simply being born into a world of digital technology does not make one a digital native (Eduardsen, 2011; Thompson, 2013). Recently, Vasinda, Kander, and Sanogo (2015) found that preservice teachers did not naturally transfer and integrate their TK to educational practices. In their study of iPad integration in the context of practicums in the university reading and mathematics center, preservice teacher tutors integrated only what their university instructors modeled in class when working with their tutees, indicating that their development of TPACK was dependent upon experiences with digital technologies modeled for students in their methods courses. Preservice teachers tended to prioritize the PCK that they learned ahead of the TK, which resulted in limited TPACK (Vasinda et al., 2015). This finding was consistent with studies that have challenged and disputed the idea of the digital native (Bennett & Maton, 2010; Dresang, 2005; Johnson, 2006; Koutropoulos, 2011; Thompson, 2013).

In a survey conducted by Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up (Blackboard, 2013) preservice teachers reported that their experiences modeled by their university instructors represented one of the two most influential factors of their growing TK. The other factor was the technology integration experienced in their student teaching. Similarly, Schuck, Aubusson, Kearney and Burden (2013) identified the need for teacher educators to implement and model teaching and learning with mobile devices to prepare future educators.

Teacher educators are faced with a new and urgent challenge. Although university faculty members are considered content area specialists with strong pedagogical knowledge committed to modeling and teaching, they may not have well developed TK or TPACK. The understanding of these findings and challenges, led four elementary education teacher educators to study their own mobile technology integration to support curriculum objectives in science, social studies, and literacy courses.

The research question guiding this study was as follows: In content-specific teacher preparation courses, what are the affordances and challenges for teacher educators of integrating mobile technology in contexts of 1:1 access to iPads? Although Gaver (1991) described affordances as both the “strengths and weaknesses of technologies with respect to the possibilities they offer the people who might use them” (p. 79), in this study we defined affordance as the benefits or possibilities that technology provides or makes available (Merriam-Webster, n.d.), sometimes referred to as positive affordances.

We used Hughes, Thomas, & Scharber’s (2006) Replacement, Amplification, and Transformation (RAT) framework to help us understand and evaluate the realized and potential benefits of thoughtful technology integrations that support and offer transformative learning opportunities.

Theoretical Framework

Two conceptual frameworks informed this study: Mishra & Koehler’s (2006) TPACK framework and Hughes et al.’s (2006) RAT framework. TPACK builds from Shulman’s (1986, 1987) theory of PCK, in which the intersection of PK and CK form a new type of knowledge. This knowledge describes effective teachers’ deep understanding of how to teach their content with special knowledge about intricacies of the process.

Mishra and Koehler (2006) identified TK as a new kind of teacher knowledge that intersects with PCK. By extending Schulman’s PCK model to include TK as a third knowledge domain, additional knowledge interactions are created: technological content knowledge (TCK), technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK), and the integration of all three knowledge domains resulting in TPACK (Koehler & Mishra, 2005; Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Table 1 describes each of these knowledge domains and their unique intersections.

Table 1
Brief Descriptions of the Knowledge Domain Represented in the TPACK Framework (Abbitt, 2011; Koehler, Mishra, & Yahya, 2007; Mishra & Koehler, 2006)

Knowledge Domain Description
Pedagogical Knowledge of nature of teaching and learning, including teaching methods, classroom management, instructional planning, assessment of student learning, etc.
Content Knowledge of the subject matter to be taught (e.g., earth science, mathematics, language arts, etc.).
Technology Continually changing and evolving knowledge base that includes knowledge of technology for information processing, communications, and problem solving and focuses on the productive applications of technology in both work and daily life.
Pedagogical Content Knowledge of the pedagogies, teaching practices, and planning processes that are applicable and appropriate to teaching a given subject matter.
Technological Content Knowledge of the relationship between subject matter and technology including knowledge of technology that has influenced and is used in exploring a given content discipline.
Technological Pedagogical Knowledge of the influence of technology on teaching and learning as well as the affordances and constraints of technology with regard to pedagogical designs and strategies.
Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge of the complex interaction among the principle knowledge domains (content, pedagogy, technology).


TPACK offers a framework for understanding the complexities of teaching and learning with technology and can help educators choose technological tools that enhance student understanding and are aligned with effective pedagogy. This framework also provides a common language with which teacher educators and preservice teachers can more clearly converse about the multifaceted interactions of pedagogy, content, and technological affordances to support learning. Therefore, the TPACK model (Figure 1) was used as a conceptual framework for university faculty as they planned lessons for their respective students.

Figure 1. Technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge (Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by


To evaluate our technology integrations in terms of enhancing learning in our courses, we used the RAT framework. According to the RAT framework, technology is used in one of three ways: Technology as a Replacement, Technology as Amplification, or Technology as Transformation. When used as a replacement, the technology offers no functional difference from the traditional task. For example, when interactive whiteboards are used to project a presentation or instructional video, they replace a pull-down screen and offer no difference in the experience for learners.

Many technologies offer at least some amplification, such as using a word processor rather than a typewriter to afford easy revisions and easy access to tools such as spelling and grammar check, word counts, and thesaurus. The task is not necessarily different, but digital tools make the work easier and more efficient.

When technology provides opportunities to do work, create products, communicate, and collaborate in ways that were previously not possible, transformation can occur. The ability to add voice comments, voice type, and work collaboratively and simultaneously within a Google document with colleagues around the globe was previously impossible; thus, the work is transformed by the technology.

Teacher educators have a responsibility to model and demonstrate what is possible using new digital tools and to move from replacement to amplification and, ultimately, transformation. Transformed learning experiences offer more opportunities for the type of engaged learning and innovation skills for both teachers and students recommended by the International Society for Technology in Education (2000).

Models of teaching and learning, such as these, help educators conceptualize the theoretical foundations of their practice and develop an understanding of the best ways to foster student understanding. As university faculty members who taught in K-12 schools for years prior to obtaining doctorate degrees, we consider ourselves to have strong PCK. Our goals for preservice teachers include the development of TCK, TPK, and ultimately, TPACK to utilize the new and rapidly changing technologies that have the potential to enhance learning of both CK and PK to develop PCK and then to model TPACK in our methods courses.

Literature Review

Currently, few studies have investigated the affordances and challenges of mobile learning in teacher education in which teacher educators are the subjects of the study. Baran (2014) conducted a review of research on mobile learning and found that of 42 empirical studies only four examined teacher educators, or faculty, in teacher preparation with mobile devices. Additionally she found that although there is a trend toward integrating mobile devices in teacher education, challenges were scarcely reported.

Foulger et al. (2013) attempted to provide a snapshot of the current intentional inclusion of mobile technologies in teacher preparation programs. Faculty members identified their efforts in one of the following ways:

  • Considered, but rejected: We have considered the idea but have rejected or put off planning for now.
  • Beginning to explore: We are beginning to explore the idea.
  • Planning phase: We are in the process of developing a plan for adding curriculum about how to teach with mobile learning technologies.
  • Isolated instances: One/several instructors/program areas are incorporating how to teach with mobile learning technologies.
  • Several instances: Some instructors/program areas are incorporating how to teach with mobile technologies.
  • Full implementation: We are fully incorporating how to teach with mobile learning technologies with vertical course alignment in our preservice teacher education curriculum. (p. 23)

The majority of the respondents identified their efforts as “Several instances” followed by “Isolated instances.” Only six identified as “Full implementation” and only one as “Considered, but rejected.” Foulger et al. (2013) concluded that because mobile learning technologies have yet to become commonplace, more high-quality research is needed in terms of effectiveness of use, best practices in terms of teaching and learning in PK-12, and the expansion of teaching and learning opportunities. Additionally, they recommended that higher education innovators share their experiences and that all teacher educators need to be involved in conversations around mobile learning technologies.

For better understanding of teaching and teachers in the mobile learning environment, Hargis, Cavanaugh, Kamali, and Soto (2013) developed a set of tools that included an observation instrument (to capture teaching with mobile learning devices in higher education), an interview protocol (to explore faculty levels of mobile learning knowledge), and a survey (to document faculty understanding and implementations of the adopted specific mobile learning). The triangulated data showed that (a) integrating functional, relevant emerging technology, such as iPads, into the higher education learning environment increased student and faculty engagement; (b) faculty level peer teaching, support, collaboration as sustained professional development (PD) may lead to magnified changes in classrooms as faculty refine their practices; and (c) faculty training should focus on how to translate mobile learning to student learning outcomes.

This study adds to the understanding of both the affordances and the challenges specific to teacher educators in literacy, science, and social studies methods courses. Our work represents what Foulger and colleagues (2013) called “uncharted territory” that innovative teacher educators are exploring with recognized risk (p. 22). This work also follows up on their recommendations for innovators and early adopters to share their work and engage in conversations around mobile learning technologies. As we read the research on technology integration in higher education, we noticed that most research teams are primarily educational technology faculty; in contrast, we are all content area specialists with an interest in technology integration.

Who We Are

At the time of this study, the four of us were content area faculty members interested in technology integration at a land grant university in the U.S. Midwest. Sheri and Lydia were the instructors of the reading clinical course typically taken during students’ second semester of their junior year. Stephanie taught the science methods course, and Di taught the social studies methods course, typically taken during the first semester of students’ senior year. Additionally, we all base our approach to teaching and learning on a constructivist theory and student inquiry. (See appendix for author biographies.)

Context: 1:1 Teaching and Learning Environments

Sheri was the principal investigator for two grants that funded iPads used by both faculty members and preservice teachers in our literacy and mathematics center to explore their use in both teacher preparation and tutoring K-8 students (Vasinda, Kander, & Sanogo, 2015). These grants resulted in the creation of two specific 1:1 learning environments in the Literacy Assessment and Instruction course during the second semester of junior year and in the Teaching Primary Math course during the first semester of senior year. Because of these grants and the 1:1 learning environments created, we would be considered what Foulger et al. (2013) identified as a program integrating iPads with “Several instances: Some instructors/program areas are incorporating how to teach with mobile technologies” (p. 23).

When students were enrolled in their senior year mathematics course, they were also enrolled in social studies and science methods courses; thus, Di and Stephanie were able to include the use of the iPad in their courses. We all worked toward continuing to build TK, TPK, and TCK leading to TPACK. This creation of additional disciplinary 1:1 environments offered by iPad access in the clinical mathematics practicum courses led to a multidiscipline faculty self-study of technology integration. A recent introduction to the methodology of collaborative autoethnography by another colleague led to the creation of a study team of literacy, science, and social studies teacher educators interested in technology integration. Our mathematics colleague was not able to participate during this initial collaboration.


Collaborative autoethnography is a qualitative research method that builds upon concurrent autobiographical ethnographies in the context of a collaborative group (Chang, Ngunjiri, & Hernandez, 2012). Data for this study included our autoethnographical writings focused on our technology integration in the methods courses, audio recorded discussion notes during our bimonthly meetings, and subsequent expanded autoethnographical writings. These personal stories and reflections became data through the unique lenses of self. Additionally, we pooled our stories together to find commonalities and differences and then wrestled with these stories to discover their meaning in relation to our sociocultural context and the impact on our teaching practices.

Data were generated independently through reflective autobiographical writing. We met to read, reflect, and discuss our writings, which often resulted in assigning ourselves expanded writings on a particular discovery. Ethical considerations were part of our collaborative discussions, which emphasized that the research and writing focused on ourselves, not our students.

Initially, we used open-coding (Corbin & Strauss, 2015) reading and coding our own and each other’s journal entries to establish validity and trustworthiness. A second round of axial-coding (Corbin & Strauss, 2015) was conducted to develop categories. After this manual process, we moved our data into Dedoose, a web-based qualitative data analysis software program, which allowed us to work collaboratively in analyzing our code and categories and to identify the frequency or totals of the code co-occurrence, which resulted in 60 analytic codes (a process described by Charmaz, 2000).

We then used three recursive, nonlinear processes to help interpret our codes and categories and establish themes: data organization, analysis, and interpretation (as in Chang et al., 2012). We opted to use both manual coding and Dedoose to compare the identified codes and to ensure qualitative validity.

After initially establishing our codes and themes, we used the analytical-interpretive (AI) writing method to communicate our findings (Chang et al., 2012), which allowed us to continue to collapse and refine our themes as we wrote. The AI style of writing “most closely resembles the traditional format of presenting social science research, beginning with an introduction to the research topic/problem, reviewing the literature, presenting guiding questions and methods employed in the study, results and conclusions” (p. 127).

In implementing AI writing we used a mixed mode, or two forms of writing (Chang et al., 2012): stratified-division writing and reactive writing. Stratified-division writing divides the writings tasks based on the strengths of each researcher, such as editing, researching, composing, and reviewing. Reactive writing is a simultaneous process in which all writers are working together in real-time. This process offers opportunities to react to each other’s writing, negotiate deeper understanding, and elaborate. The collaborative autoethnography approach to research enabled us to build a community of researchers and a community of practice while developing our TPACK as we integrated mobile technology in our methods courses.


Mobile technologies are pervasive, forcing educators to reconsider past teaching practice. By studying our own integration of what some consider “disruptive” technology into our methods courses, we created a space to reflect upon and analyze the affordances and challenges of creating a technology-rich learning environment in our content areas (literacy, social studies, and science). The iPad grant provided an opportunity for us to consider ways in which the instructors and teacher candidates could use iPads to enhance teaching and learning as we developed TPACK and dispositions essential for our 21st-century global society. Our findings address the two foci of our research question: identifying the (a) affordances and (b) challenges of integrating mobile technology in our methods courses.


Using the RAT framework to evaluate our technology integration helped us determine if our integrations were simply replacements of traditional methods or if they provided opportunities for our goal of amplification or transformation. We found many instances of amplifications and transformations of technology for building both content and pedagogical knowledge.

Amplification. Amplifications refer to the technology integrations that increase efficiency and productivity without fundamental change (Hughes et al., 2006). We found many varied instances to amplify learning. All the instructors found that efficiency of instant access to resources was a positive affordance. Mobile technology offered instant access to resources and tools, such as websites or shared collaborative documents, that could be used anytime and anywhere there was Internet access. This instant access to resources amplified the learning opportunity. For example, Stephanie was able to deepen her students’ understanding of misconceptions in science with a quick Internet inquiry on the iPads.

I am finding the iPads very useful for quickly looking things up in class. For example, last week, we learned about misconceptions in science. After watching a video and having a discussion, I challenged the students to spend about 10 minutes trying to find misconceptions that they could share. They came up with great images, such as depictions of the solar system that are not to scale and maps that showcase the United States in the center. Allowing them to look these up on their own in class was useful for promoting conversation and allowing them to see how prevalent misconceptions are in the media. (Hathcock, 2/10/15)

Being able to instantly search to follow up on an unanticipated opportunity to reiterate and expand a point made in class amplified the opportunities for PCK. Stephanie modeled inquiry, a pedagogy we encourage, in an attempt to strengthen students’ CK on science misconceptions. The impromptu inquiries Stephanie was able to facilitate could have been done with traditional resources, but she could not have done them immediately with such an extended reach. Mobile devices amplified that process.

In literacy, Lydia’s students used iMovie to create videos to help articulate understandings of literacy concepts they were incorporating in their lessons. Prior to the inclusion of student-created videos, she found that her students were challenged by trying to articulate their understanding of literacy concepts. Doing additional research and representing their thinking with a multimedia product strengthened their understanding, but could have been accomplished by writing a paper.

Sheri’s students created collaborative spreadsheets in Google Sheets to respond to texts in real time so that every student in the class could read all of their classmates’ responses as they were created, rather than posting sticky notes to a classroom chart. In Stephanie’s science class, lab dissection using a virtual frog simulation was discussed and debated. In the social studies course, the inclusion of online PD modules hosted by the Library of Congress, allowed Di’s students to complete the PD to develop their ability to analyze and access online primary sources. These simulated experiences offer opportunities that would not be so easily available; however, the authentic and visceral experience cannot be duplicated with a simulation.

 Transformation. Transformations (Hughes et al., 2006) refers to creating learning opportunities and products that were not possible prior to these mobile digital technologies. One of the transformation opportunities Sheri found involved the discovery of the difference between vowels and consonants. In the past, she had students use small hand-held mirrors to watch the difference in mouth positions and airflow between vowel sounds and consonant sounds. When she did not have enough mirrors for the class, she had them use the camera feature on their iPads to serve as a mirror.

Using the Chatterpix animation app, which combines photos and voice recordings, the students took photos of their mouth positions. Students created animations with their photos, in which they drew a line across their mouth positions with their fingers and audio recorded their discovery of the differences between vowel and consonant sounds. This action created an animated photo that talked on the replay.

As students giggled while participating in the process, Sheri overheard a student say, “Well, we’ll never forget this!” and she thought, “Exactly!” This creation of a multimedia animation in a manner of minutes was not possible without the affordance of this particular app.  The student-created, multimedia product transformed the learning from something static that could not previously be captured into a memorable learning artifact for CK development that also modeled TPACK.

This creation of a multimedia animation in a manner of minutes was not possible without the affordance of this particular app.  The student-created, multimedia product transformed the learning from something static that could not previously be captured, into a memorable learning artifact for CK development that also modeled TPACK.

Di created other transformative learning opportunities with virtual field trips and associated lesson plans in social studies. In the past, she just talked about virtual field trips and showed a few still photographs. Using the iPads, the whole class explored places such as Ellis Island and the Smithsonian Museum on virtual trips. They took this a step further by creating an elementary-age-appropriate lesson plan based on the virtual field trip.

We have each found the potential to transform the learning by creating opportunities that were not possible prior to these mobile digital technologies. We designed and experienced both planned and spontaneous transformation events, which made us aware of its potential for increased PCK and TPACK for our preservice teachers.


We identified four major challenges when implementing and modeling TCK, TPK, and TPACK: limited knowledge of technology applications, technology glitches, concern about students’ inappropriate use of technology, and tensions with time. As we began writing, analyzing, and continuing our discussion of these challenges, we noticed an overarching theme of tensions with time that intersected with each of these challenges.

Limited Knowledge of Technology Applications.  One of the most consistent challenges we faced was limited knowledge of the technology applications available. Lydia summarized this issue, saying, “There are so many things I think technology can do and support, but I don’t always know how to do it (Wang, 10/9/2014)” The lack of TK was evident in our inability to implement TPACK.

Sheri illustrated this lack of TK when discussing a new technology integration possibility, noting, “I really wanted to use Evernote in place of the composition notebook, and I even wanted to use one class for a control group and the other as an innovation group. Then I couldn’t wrap my brain around it” (Vasinda, 10/15/14). Even though she is an avid user of Evernote, she could not figure out how her use of Foldables (Zike, 2008), engaging folded paper organizers of content in their academic reading notebooks, could be accomplished with the online platform.

We found that being on the forefront of this integration left us with few resources guiding us, resulting in more need to develop TK, which, again, required more time. Stephanie wrote about needing time to explore.

I would still love to find apps that would complement our science and pedagogy learning. I have a list of science apps that a colleague at another institution compiled, but sadly, I have not yet taken the time to go through them. It just seemed like the semester slipped away from me. (Hathcock, 12/15/14)

This acknowledgement of seeing the potential of particular technologies, having lists of resources, or even firsthand experience with an app, indicates our TCK and TPK. Without time for exploration and practice, however, we still felt a sense of limited knowledge of technology applications in terms of appropriate implementation in our methods courses, or simply TK.

We initially identified our need to develop more TK, but we also knew that we were not technologically illiterate or inexperienced. We already had PCK and were technology users and appreciators, but our lack of TK, knowing how to implement the use of an app as a teacher rather than as a single user, often prevented us from implementing new technologies with our classes.  Our knowledge of the tool’s whole-class use was incomplete. There are more aspects to learning to use the apps than at a surface level or product creation level, and it takes time and practice to figure this out.

When we put particular tools to use in ways that supported our content and matched our pedagogy, we sometimes experienced technology glitches in terms of sharing, posting, and connecting, such as when posting student-created work or sharing a set of digital word sort cards to all iPads. Our TK, specifically our understanding of how to use the applications all the way to sharing and connecting, posed a challenge.

Technology Glitches. Our theme of technology glitches referred to those times when something did not work as anticipated. These situations were sometimes out of our control, as when all students tried to connect to the Internet taxing the system in terms of bandwidth (since resolved), but often they were part of our limited knowledge. We could explore and practice an app and set up its use for our class, but we could not practice the sharing and whole class use without the class.

Sometimes glitches were related to limited knowledge of how to use the app in a class setting as opposed to our single user practice. In order to develop or to try new ideas in class, we had to experiment. We found we had to be more comfortable with potential failure and technology glitches. Sheri wrote about one such technology glitch after developing a virtual word sorting activity in an app called iCard Sort. The affordance of creating a set of virtual sorting cards on one device can be shared, or “blasted,” to all devices at the tap of a button.

Finally ready to share and make the 1:1 environment a reality with iCardSort blasting, but it wouldn’t work. This is not something you can practice prior, because it is a sharing issue. I had to demo it under the doc camera instead (need to learn how to connect my iPad in [classroom] 201). (Vasinda, 2/2/15)

These glitches were frustrating in terms of time, too. After preparing an exam review with an interactive app so that students could use the iPads to respond to review questions, Sheri could not get the slides to advance. She reflected, “The clock kept ticking. They were nervous about this test, as it contains lots of technical vocabulary and concepts. I could feel mutiny in the air as precious review time slipped away.” (Vasinda, 11/13/14)

While some of these failures and glitches led us to shy away from trying additional new technologies, Sheri, in particular, seemed to view these experiences as a challenge that she intended to overcome. After what she called “an epic fail,” she wrote about persistence in the face of these glitches. “I think I’ll try it again as a check in for reading responses with just two or three slides so I’ll have less invested and it will be easier to try out with smaller consequences” (Vasinda, 11/13/14).

 Concern About Students’ Off-Task Use of Technology. Another challenge we identified was inappropriate student use of technology, which intersected with a fear of lost instructional time, even if for just a handful of students. The affordance of efficiency through instant access to programs and information that technology brings also provides students access to personal social networks, or that Faustian bargain in which for something gained, there is something lost.

In this instance, the affordance of instant access to web-based educational resources has a flipside of instant access to anything of a student’s choosing, such as unrelated websites. We each noticed a few instances of off-task use of the iPads in our courses. For example, a student in Di’s social studies course used class time to search for shoes. Stephanie saw the use of mobile devices during labs as both a positive and negative, again highlighting that Faustian bargain. She wrote,

I’m noticing that my students are quick to whip out their phones and iPads during labs to take pictures of what they’re doing. Those few minutes they spend Snapchatting and Instagramming their photos are minutes that could otherwise be spent on the lab itself. I haven’t asked them to stop because I see it as a positive indication of their interest in the lab, but I’m not sure if that’s the case. (Hathcock, 10/13/14)

On the day of Sheri’s “epic fail,” she noticed the following:

So, they answered the first question, and I watched one student make a screenshot of it on her laptop and another snap a pic with her phone. They were not the same questions as the exam and I had hoped to make the Pear Deck available for review after, but I’m noting how students are ready to take photos on their phone of my composition book or something like the Pear Deck screens when a test in involved. (Vasinda, 11/13/14)

These students were not off task, but if the review app had worked, they would not have been able to make a screenshot of practice exam questions.

Tension With Time. When discussing our various challenges, we found that they often intersected with the theme of tension with time. So many of our entries included the mention of time. There was not enough time to develop our knowledge of new technology applications in addition to our other faculty responsibilities, which left us with limited knowledge in some technology applications. When implementing new technology, glitches resulted in lost class time.

Not only did we need time to explore resources, we also found the need to practice using programs and apps to explore the potential inclusion of technology to support PCK, which involved time. This tension with time resulted in a challenge in reaching our goals, improving our practice, and the amount of time available during a day, as illustrated in the following excerpt:

We got an email from the TECH Playground, which included Pear Dec and another similar looking platform called Kahoot. I’d heard about Kahoot at the [Rockriver] EdCamp and looked at it as well. I looked at some online videos, and thought I might try it rather than Pear Deck, but the practice video didn’t let me experience what happened when I clicked on an answer, so I went back to Pear Deck and prepared an extensive review. That morning before going to class, I accessed it from my phone as a student and was excited about how the interface worked on the phone and left confidently for class. (Vasinda, 11/13/14)

This exploration Sheri described took place late at night, as other job-related obligations took up the working days. It takes time to play with new applications and get comfortable with a climate of ever changing technology. Additionally, exploring and applying the application alone does not guarantee the implementation in class will go as envisioned and planned.

Tensions with time became a factor when we experienced technology glitches during class. When an iCard Sort concept development activity did not blast to all the iPads in the room, or when everyone could not access the collaborative response sheet in Google Docs, the troubleshooting took precious class time. Whether caused by our lack of experience or Internet challenges, we sometimes had to take extra the time to troubleshoot and try again. There were no experts to help us, but we, the students and instructors, persevered and figured things out. Once we worked through these problems, or glitches, we had opportunities to discuss the value of using the technology versus traditional responses with our preservice teachers and most often the affordances to amplify or transform were evident.

Finally, we sometimes found some students using technology for their own personal purposes during class, such as when Di observed a student shopping for shoes and Sheri had a student “cheering up” another student by showing her something on Facebook. These off-task behaviors resulted in lost classroom learning time – even if just for a single student. On the other hand, Snapchatting and photos in Stephanie’s class could have been part of a note-taking strategy for the lab and not off-task social networking.

The affordance of amplification we found was juxtaposed with on-task and off-task instant access, highlighting Faustian bargains and creating more tensions with time. As our classrooms are opened up to the virtual world, students have access to all resources: educational and recreational. We currently do not have resources to control the access and, as Stephanie often muses, should we? These  are, again, some of the uncharted territories we navigated during this study.


In this collaborative autoethnographic study, we explored uncharted territory and we did, indeed, feel like explorers, as we identified ourselves as content and teaching specialists rather than technology experts. When we experienced the joy and satisfaction of technology integrations that supported our students in ways that surprised and delighted them, we felt the thrill of new discoveries. In terms of affordances of technology integration, we found themes of amplification and transformation based on the RAT framework (Hughes et al., 2006). These affordances appeared to support our students’ learning and kept us intrigued and motivated to continue our work toward integrating mobile technologies.

We found more challenges than affordances, which were collapsed into the four themes: limited knowledge of technology applications, technology glitches, concern about students’ off-task use of technology, and tensions with time. As reflective practitioners, we acknowledge the good but focus on the challenges and working through them. We also wanted to contribute to the body of knowledge on challenges as, according to Baran (2014), they have been scarcely reported.

Most of the challenges were not related to the affordances of the technology, in terms of tradeoffs but, rather, the barriers to our integration. Because of the rapid development of iPad apps, often we simply did not know what apps might support our work. Like some of our K-12 partner school colleagues, our limited knowledge of technology applications stemmed from navigating this uncharted territory.

It also stemmed from disruptive technologies. When we consider the change in technology integration during our careers, we felt the difference between rapid disruptive technology and incremental sustainable technology (Christensen, 1997). The advent of mobile technology and harnessing its use for education changes rapidly rather than incrementally. We experienced successes in our K-12 careers with sustainable technologies and found the transfer to more disruptive technologies bumpier.

This finding is corroborated by a study of four innovative private universities’ iPad integration process conducted by Burke and Foulger (2014). They reported that each of these innovative universities identified critical challenges in increasing faculty knowledge and staying abreast of change. As we garnered more experience, we started to understand more of what is included in the use of mobile technology in our classes, such as how to transfer student created work from the device to digital places to post work or share resources between devices.

Our successful integrations provide such notable transformations in student learning and understanding that the challenges did not outweigh the benefits that were within our grasp. We continue to be excited about possibilities we see with various apps and online resources to support us in developing preservice teachers’ content knowledge and helping them communicate and share new understandings while we model constructivist practices of technology integration.

Our biggest discovery is that access to devices is not enough. Simply having the devices did not make the integration easy or seamless, and our personal use was not enough preparation for classroom use (as also noted in Jones, 2001). When we reflected at the end of the year, some of us had made specific changes to our course planning that purposefully included specific technology integrations to support some specific aspects of our content. Others discovered that they still saw technology integration as an in the moment, or spontaneous, event that was more student initiated, which reinforced our understanding that access is not enough.

Purposeful and thoughtful planning is necessary for transformative learning, or even amplified learning, which takes additional time. In terms of the TPACK model, lack of TK often prevented us from implementing new technologies with our classes – not surprising given the rapid nature of app development for mobile devices such as iPad. Additionally, limited knowledge has been identified as a barrier to technology integration by other researchers, as well (Baran, 2014; Foulger et al., 2013).

This lack of understanding seems to work much the same way that a lack of either CK or PK leads to a lack of PCK with beginning teachers (Shulman, 1986, 1987). We were challenged pedagogically by analyzing our integration choices and juxtaposing them with our theoretical perspectives. This juxtaposition created a tension for us as teacher educators, because we are considered experts in our particular disciplines and have strong CK. Also, because we are teacher educators and experienced teachers, we have strong PCK. One of the main findings of this study suggests that we need more time and more support to learn about and implement mobile technology and applications in our methods courses.

Among the few studies exploring faculty mobile technology integration in teacher preparation programs, lack of time is a consistent factor (Baran, 2014; Foulger et al., 2013). Earlier studies of computer integration also included time as a critical factor in technology integration (Jones, 2001; Samarawickrema & Stacy, 2007). Searching for apps that supported our PCK was time consuming, as was learning how to implement them in our courses. Putting apps into practice required playing with them on our own first and often involved determining how to share among devices, as well as how to share and post student-created products.

This tension with time is in ironic opposition with our finding of efficiency as a factor of amplification, in terms of the ability to search quickly for information or to collaborate easily on Google Docs or Google Slides. As we continue to reflect on our practices and findings, we also continue to discover more complexities such as these.

Implications and Recommendations

The primary responsibilities of higher education faculty members are to instruct courses, conduct research, and provide service. Each of these components of our job is time consuming and requires high levels of expertise. Knowledge of and experience with mobile technology and associated applications and programs are additional areas of expertise (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) in which we need to develop competencies as appropriate to our content areas.

Developing TPACK adds a new responsibility for teacher educators and a fourth component to an already crowded plate. The sweet spot is when we are able to combine the three traditional components by integrating our teaching, research, and service, so we can make time for this new responsibility. For example, part of Di’s teaching load was to supervise student teachers in Costa Rica, her service was organizing the International Internship Program and placement of student teachers, and her research investigated students’ growth of cultural and global competencies.

Adding this fourth component, or dimension, to our jobs intersects with both developing knowledge and tensions of time. Schuck et al. (2013) recommended creating a professional learning community (PLC; DuFour & Eaker, 1998) to support technology integration in teacher education. Their findings suggest that creating a PLC can help teacher educators establish a safe and committed environment to learn, take risks, and share their experiences of implementing mobile technology in teaching and learning in their disciplines.

Hargis et al. (2013) also recommended faculty peer teaching and collaboration to support and sustain PD that has the potential for change. Interestingly, our collaborative autoethnographic method and design formed a natural PLC. Sharing our successes and challenges has propelled our practices forward in terms of thinking about how we integrated technology and sometimes why we did not or could not. We envision PLCs as a place to try out the challenges of sharing resources between devices in a safe testing ground to avoid some of the technology glitches we experienced.

Additionally, we noticed in the literature that many teacher preparation programs, including our own, provide stand-alone technology courses for preservice teachers. Recently Mouza & Karchmer-Klein (2013) posited that one standalone course, even when integrating content knowledge, may not provide the depth of experiences needed for preservice teachers to have clear ideas about technology use in their future classrooms.

Earlier, Polly, Mims, Shepherd, and Inan (2010) found that preservice teachers who experienced technology integration in their methods courses in addition to their educational technology course reported having a better understanding of how to use technology in their own teaching and came up with more ideas on how they could use technology with students. As Vasinda et al. (2015) found, preservice teachers with access to iPads in reading and mathematics practicum courses did not naturally transfer and integrate their TK to educational practices unless they experienced and practiced with digital technologies in their methods courses. If methods courses are silos of content without the integration of mobile technology, and preservice teachers do not experience integration of mobile technologies in their preservice classrooms,, these concepts and pedagogies may not transfer to their practices.

Finally, during our continued use of collaborative autoethnographic techniques of writing, reading, reflecting, and discussing, we noticed that the literature and research on technology integration in teacher education is primarily done by educational technology faculty members rather than content area faculty members, which made us consider the campus resources available to us in our own college. We identified the need for more technology PD to support content specialists’ TPACK.

Next steps for us include collaborating with our educational technology colleagues. This strategy will provide a partnership of reciprocity, in which content specialists learn how to best integrate technology in pedagogically sound ways, thus developing TPACK. Educational technology faculty members can develop understandings of content area intricacies and challenges developing more CK that leads to broader TPACK for them. Schuckrney et al. (2013), who were teacher educators, interviewed experts in mobile learning to help guide their understanding of mobile technology and applications in education as part of their PLCs. We suggest that continual collaboration with similar experts can facilitate teacher educators’ learning and inclusion of mobile technology in content area methods courses, which is in alignment with Hargis et al.’s (2013) recommendation that frequent sharing of teaching practices among faculty can accelerate adoption of new and effective approaches.

By inviting participation, partnering with our educational technology campus colleagues. and providing varied resources (face-to-face support and online, self-paced), space, and time, we hope to support our own continued development of TPACK and support the rest of our faculty, as well. We are motivated to continue this work by modeling what is possible, so our future teachers will, in turn, make their classrooms a place of possibilities.


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Author Biographies

Sheri Vasinda
Oklahoma State University
[email protected]

I have over 20 years of K-12 experience as a classroom teacher and literacy specialist in U.S. public schools and am finishing my fifth year in higher education. I was considered an innovator in both school reform and technology integration in my K-12 school district. My technology integrations were the result of the lead of and collaboration with a then master’s student in educational technology, Julie McLeod. Following her as the real innovator, we implemented LOGO programming, digital portfolio (McLeod & Vasinda, 2008), and other web-based contributions (McLeod & Vasinda, 2008, 2009a, 2009b). This collaboration sparked my confidence for new and sometimes independent innovations, such as podcasting Readers Theater (Vasinda & McLeod, 2011, 2013, 2015a, 2015b) and using Nintendo DS for developing math fact fluency. I again find myself considered an innovator at the university but not always feeling like one.

Di Ann Ryter
Fort Lewis College
[email protected]

I started my 20-year teaching career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica. I continued to teach social studies in American and International Baccalaureate accredited high schools abroad in the United Arab Emirates, Japan, and Tanzania. I began working in higher education as a teacher educator in 2008. In this role I consciously considered how to incorporate appropriate technology in my social studies methods courses, which included both content and pedagogy. Despite the fact that technology is part of the courses I instruct, I continue to feel that there is more I can do to keep up with and implement current technology to support and enhance the teaching and learning of social studies.

Stephanie Hathcock
Oklahoma State University
[email protected]

I spent 8 years as a classroom teacher in the Midwest and eastern United States. In my teaching career, I have always welcomed the use of technology. During my K-12 teaching career, I was often the first adopter of a new technology within my building and experienced successful results doing things like blogging with students and using probeware. I see the need and desire for my preservice teachers to integrate technology into their teaching and view myself as a catalyst to their increased knowledge, awareness, and appropriate use. I am relatively new to higher education, and as such, am grappling with embracing technology within courses that I am developing.

Qiuying (Lydia) Wang
Oklahoma State University
[email protected]

Born in China and educated in China, Great Britain and the United States, my view of education was shaped through my interaction with people from different perspectives, and through experience by navigating between the clash of Eastern and Western values in education. I am open-minded, cutting edge and a chance-taker with the innovation in education. As a higher-education faculty member for over 20 years (and as a Literacy faculty for a decade) with teaching experience in multiple settings in my home country and in the U.S., I am comfortable in my own skin most of time. With recent and ever-growing numbers of mobile devices in K-12 classrooms, I feel that it is imperative that future teachers learn and teach with the same tools.


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Commentary: A Response to an Interview With Joseph South by the Teacher Education and Technology and Media Divisions of the Council for Exceptional Children

Commentary: A Response to an Interview With Joseph South by the Teacher Education and Technology and Media Divisions of the Council for Exceptional Children

Thriving in the digital age workplace requires, in part, professionals who think differently about how they prepare the next generation workforce. Teachers and teacher educators are no exception. When reflecting on how today’s teacher educators prepare teacher candidates for the multitude of roles and responsibilities they will shoulder, including being wise consumers of technology, Joseph South pointed out (Bull, Spector, Persichitte, & Meier, 2017) that many faculty members in schools and colleges of education fall short. Based on professional knowledge and practical experience, we agree more work needs to be done to improve faculty readiness and prepare all teacher candidates adequately for the 21st-century workforce.

The Real: Challenges of Current Approaches

As is the case with general education teacher education, the contemporary landscape in digital age special education teacher preparation is best described as highly variable. By that, we mean some programs are characterized by minimal technology use and integration, while other programs are distinguished by infusion of innovative, high tech practices throughout. Most, however, wind up somewhere in between.

Joseph South proffered that faculty members in colleges and schools of education begin by embracing a common goal, which is to develop teachers who are savvy consumers of technology. Regardless of whether teacher educators prepare general, special, or dually licensed teachers, they also need to produce teacher leaders who empower all students to consume, produce, use, and embrace digital age technologies in school, work, and life.

Achieving the expanded goal – savvy consumer plus technology-enabled learning leader – requires, in part, that faculty in colleges and schools of education take stock of current approaches, chart a course for the future, and bridge the gap between the two – all with a sense of urgency not accomplished through traditional academic silos. No doubt, all teacher educators must work together in equipping special education teacher candidates with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to lead the charge in preparing individuals with disabilities, one of society’s most underemployed and unemployed populations, to be college and career ready in the 21st century and beyond. That said, important distinctions and unique considerations warrant explanation in the case of special education teacher educators.

One consideration stems from the United States laws and policies that influence what it means for special education teacher candidates to become savvy consumers of technology and technology-enabled learning leaders. For instance, federal mandates such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 and its predecessors, which protect public schooling for students with exceptionalities, not only influence the birth to age 21 (B-21) services students with exceptionalities and their families receive, but also impact the higher education curriculum through which special education teacher candidates are prepared (Smith & Kennedy, 2014). Thus, the federal role in preparing the special education teacher and leader workforce differs from the processes and procedures that govern general education teacher preparation.

Consider, for instance, that special education teacher preparation faculty are required by law to prepare teacher candidates not only to provide individualized instruction but also to select and evaluate technology for pedagogical uses. This means, in part, that special education teacher educators must teach special education teacher candidates how to select, implement, monitor, and evaluate assistive technology (AT), instructional technology (IT), and accessible educational materials (AEM)[a] with many, varied purposes in mind – chief among them removing cognitive, sensory, physical, or communication barriers, meeting each student’s unique educational needs, and leveling the playing field for students with exceptionalities. Special education teacher educators must also teach special education teacher candidates how to use technology to monitor the progress made by B-12 students with exceptionalities, thereby maximizing the educational benefit they receive.

The Ideal: What’s The Vision?

Special education teacher educators need to foster teacher candidates’ learning in ways that can adapt to the ever-changing technology environment. The approach requires integrating into teacher preparation curricula the very technology innovations that are altering instructional practices and experiences in the classroom. By walking the talk, teacher development professionals can and should embed technology-rich experiences that foster knowledge and practice with rich, just-in-time feedback and inquiry-centered clinical experiences that foster application and generalization, particularly in the use of AT, IT, and AEM (National Research Council, 2000).

A vision, then, for the future of special and general teacher preparation programs is to meaningfully embrace and infuse innovative, evidence-based, and high tech practices in every aspect of teacher preparation (see Rock et al., 2016). In many ways, using technology-enabled knowledge, practice, and inquiry-based approaches with feedback would redirect the status quo of current teacher preparation programs, supporting efforts reflective of the ongoing demands of living and working in the digital age (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2012; Jonassen & Carr, 2000) and of prevailing professional standards, such as those put forth by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Guiding Principles

A sound 21st-century vision of preparing special education teacher candidates who are tech-savvy consumers plus technology-enabled learning leaders requires a set of guiding principles. We, the authors, proffer four: embedded innovations, applied technologies, sustained applications, and theoretical foundations.

Embedded Innovations. To this end, teacher educators, special education teacher candidates and B-12 students with and without exceptionalities would benefit from ensuring wider spread adoption and application of current technology-based approaches to special education teacher education practice. Personalized learning is one example of an instructional practice altering B-21 student learning that should be embedded into special education teacher preparation. Central to the personalized learning experience are embedded learning pathways, where individuals are supported to work at their own pace and through personal learning plans (Martindale & Dowdy, 2010). Performance-based assessments direct candidates’ experiences and a focus of anywhere, anytime learning permeates across the essential elements (Dabbagh & Kitsantis, 2012).

Applying this approach to special education teacher candidates’ experiences, similar to current B-21 student initiatives, would require faculty members to adopt a dynamic instructional platform embedded within blended, virtual, or fully online learning environments (e.g., learning management systems, Massive Open Online Courses [MOOCs], or content management systems) and compatible with formal and informal learning environments. Through this immersive experience, special and general education teacher candidates would then be better prepared to carry out personalized approaches when using digital learning systems to facilitate learning and behavior for B-12 students with and without exceptionalities.

Applied Technologies. In the ideal preparation program, special education teacher candidates would have authentic opportunities to practice high leverage practices (HLPs; McLeskey et al., 2017) via technology-enabled (Jonassen & Carr, 2000), clinically rich, inquiry-based practice (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 2017). Technologies such as video modeling, game-based learning, virtual, augmented, and mixed realities (such as Mursion, TeachLIVE, and simSchool) and the growing list of context-rich simulations allow teacher candidates to develop essential skills in a realistic environment. These virtual experiences provide safe and supportive environments, allowing candidates to develop perspective and proficiency with B-21 students with exceptionalities before, and while working in, real world classrooms –thereby minimizing the potential for adverse effects on real students, and maximizing the potential for positive impact. Also, when integrated throughout a teacher preparation program, these technology-enabled opportunities scaffold teacher candidates’ content and pedagogical learning in developmentally appropriate ways.

Sustained Applications. The future requires special education teacher preparation experiences that extend beyond technology exposure and practice. Incorporating the technology as a function of the instruction in teacher preparation facilitates teacher candidates’ development again, in part, through scaffolding their technology experiences. For example, consider the growth in digital solutions that foster real-time connections, virtual instruction, coaching, collaboration, and customized feedback. Consider the current bug-in-ear or e-coaching experience that allows a supervisory expert or coach to provide immediate, discrete, and unobtrusive feedback to teacher candidates. Extend this practice to the growing array of wearable technologies and apply it to a coaching model that could model practices, support real-time application, and continue to offer explicit feedback to an individual with a disability within an educational or community setting.

Although the technology has not yet enjoyed widespread application, e-coaching researchers have found that application to pre- and in-service special and general education teachers and their B-12 students with and without exceptionalities has merit. For instance, e-coaching can be used effectively to improve teachers’ instruction (Coogle, Rahn, & Ottley, 2015; Ploessl & Rock, 2014; Rock et al., 2009, 2012, 2014; Scheeler, McKinnon, & Stout, 2012) and B-12 students’ engagement (Rock et al., 2009; 2014). Also, e-coaching benefits for teacher candidates have included improvements in confidence, ownership of learning, resilience, efficacy, and a growth-oriented mindset (Stahl, Sharplin, & Kehrwald, 2016). In addition, Ottley, Coogle, and Rahn (2015) showed evidence that e-coaching is a socially valid practice.

Through a reconceptualization of teacher preparation and the integration of technology supports, the teacher development pipeline can be redesigned. Just-in-time learning experiences, such as e-coaching, that are aligned with a teacher candidate’s specific needs and provided in a manner that offers the appropriate support and experience to ensure initial competency can be placed in their instructional environment and can continue fostering job embedded professional growth thereafter.

Theoretical FrameworksJust as technology expands human cognition, theory extends human thinking and provides a rationale and framework for inquiry-based preparation (i.e., developing and testing hypotheses about learning technologies in teacher education and special education). When exploring technology-enabled teaching and learning, special education teacher education faculty members must consider current technology-specific theories that are actively employed, including Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge (Koehler & Mishra, 2005), Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition (Puentedura, 2006), and Multimedia Learning Theory (Mayer, 2005). Seminal (e.g., behaviorism, constructivism) and digital age learning theories (e.g., connectivism) apply, too, and are useful frameworks for designing and delivering technology-enabled teaching and learning in teacher preparation (e.g., video-modeling, student response systems, and case-based instruction).

Another important and recent aspect of technology-oriented learning theory special education teacher educators must consider is the interface between cognitive science, demonstrable learning, and theory (e.g., Glaser, 2000; Mayer, 2005). Other enduring theories that continue to guide researchers and to make contributions to technology in teacher education and special education include but are not limited to positivist research approaches (Klingner et al., 2016), the How People Learn framework (Fishman & Dede, 2016), and the concept of affordances (Gibson, 1977).

Finally, the advance of Universal Design for Learning (UDL; Rose & Strangman, 2007), a guiding framework that borrowed constructs from architectural accessibility, which is grounded in cognitive science, has quickly moved into policy (Hehir, 2009) and practice (UDL-IRN, 2011). Although no single theory can encompass all possibilities for exploring complex technological learning environments and learning diversity, special education teacher educators and researchers generate and frame important problems about the potential and actualities of learning technologies through theory. To be effective in solving the complex learning and behavioral challenges often exhibited by students with exceptionalities, a theoretical lens is often useful for special education teacher candidates too.

Overhauling the Real and Achieving the Ideal

The next generation of special education teacher preparation should integrate across technology platforms and tools seamlessly, be designed with a mobile-first mindset, and be guided by Universal Design and UDL principles to ensure accessibility by all stakeholders (U.S. Department of Education, 2017). Special education teacher candidates also need to be able to use B-21 student analytics in a manner leading to effective instructional practice to establish a means to develop, implement, and assess technology-enhanced instruction for traditionally marginalized populations using guidelines established by Reis (2011).

Translating that vision into reality in special education teacher education requires a blueprint – one that administrators and faculty members can consider as a guide when redesigning, refreshing, or upgrading their programs to achieve the goal of preparing special education teacher candidates who are tech-savvy consumers and technology-enabled learning leaders. Such a blueprint includes pioneering research, inter- and cross-disciplinary collaboration, leadership and influence, and partnership-based, network improvement communities.

Pioneering ResearchAchieving upgrades and redesign requires not only the adoption of new practices, but also the production of new knowledge. In response, faculty in special and general teacher preparation programs should focus on undertaking research and development that improves pre- and in-service teachers’ ability to use personalized learning. They would, thereby, enhance educational outcomes for all learners, including those with exceptionalities, in part, by seeking to understand how systems (e.g., users, tools, data, analysis, and visualization), interfaces (e.g., natural language, speech, vision, agents, and robotics), and cognition (e.g., memory, emotion, curiosity, pattern-recognition, problem solving, and decision making), interact in ways that improve B-21 students’ academic, behavioral, and social outcomes through personalized learning (e.g., recommendation systems, self- and guided reflection, growth curves, learning pathways, reinforcement, and remediation).

Inter- and Cross-Disciplinary CollaborationAll teacher candidates should be ready to match technology innovations to B-21 student needs and provide critical analysis of innovations to industry leaders, parents, and other educators for meaningful use. As such, another critical component in the redesign blueprint is an expanded notion of collaboration. Special and general education teacher education faculty members also need to enhance their knowledge and skillsets by working closely with people and professionals from outside our discipline. Although special education professionals have always valued collaboration, more collaboration amongst teacher educators is not the answer. We must broaden and deepen our collaborative partnerships in innovative ways and immerse teacher candidates in those partnerships.

Leadership and Influence. Achieving redesign, requires higher education leaders and teacher education faculty members to join in leveraging six sources of influence – personal motivation, personal ability, social motivation, social ability, structural motivation, and structural ability (see Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, & Switzler, 2013). Doing so requires a shared approach to leadership, which is often fraught with complexities that result in premature abandonment and failure. Thwarting resistance and achieving success through shared leadership requires mutual trust, clear communication, a shared commitment, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

Partnership Based, Networked Improvement CommunitiesMuch like the existence of disability communities, communities of innovative technological practices are needed to envision and stimulate change in general and special education teacher preparation and to monitor the effects of redesigns and upgrades over time (Bryk, Gomez, & Grunow, 2010; Zorfass & Rivero, 2005). IT is defined as “a systematic way of designing, carrying out, and evaluating the total process of learning and teaching in terms of specific objectives, based on research in human learning and communication, and employing a combination of human and nonhuman resources to bring about more effective instruction” (Commission on Instructional Technology, 1970, p. 199). And, AEM is defined as “print- and technology-based educational materials, including printed and electronic textbooks and related core materials that are designed or converted in a way that makes them usable across the widest range of individual variability regardless of format (print, digital, graphic, audio, video)” (


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Rock, M.L., Spooner, F., Nagro, S., Vasquez, E., Dunn, C., Leko, J., Luckner, J., Bausch, M., Donehower, C., & Jones, J.L. (2016). 21st century change drivers: Considerations for constructing transformative models of special education teacher development. Teacher Education and Special Education, 39(2), 98-120.

Rose, D. H., & Strangman, N. (2007). Universal Design for Learning: Meeting the challenge of individual learning differences through a neurocognitive perspective. Universal Access in the Information Society, 5(4), 381-391.

Scheeler, M. C., McKinnon, K., & Stout, J. (2012). Effects of immediate feedback delivered via webcam and bug-in-ear technology on pre-service teacher performance. Teacher Education and Special Education, 35, 78-90.

Smith, S. J., & Kennedy, M. J. (2014). Technology and teacher education. In P. T. Sindelar, E.D. McCray, M. T. Brownell, & B. Lingnugaris/Kraft (Eds.), Handbook of research on special education teacher preparation (pp. 178-193). New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor, & Francis.

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Zorfass, J., & Rivero, H. K. (2005). Collaboration is key: How a Community of Practice Promotes Technology Integration. Journal of Special Education Technology, 20(3), 51-67.


Author Notes

Marcia L. Rock
Associate Professor
President, Teacher Education Division (TED) of CEC
School of Education
Department of Specialized Education Services
Room 424, School of Education Building
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Greensboro, NC 27403
VOICE 336.256.8640
FAX 336.256.0185
[email protected]

Sean Smith
Joseph R. Pearson Hall
Room 538
University of Kansas
1122 West Campus Rd
Lawrence, KS 66045-3101
[email protected]

Cathy Newman Thomas
Assistant Professor of Special Education
Department of Curriculum & Instruction
Texas State University
[email protected]

Kelley Regan
Associate Professor
College of Education and Human Development
George Mason University
4400 University Drive
MS 1F2 Finley Building
Room 201B
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone 703-993-9858
[email protected]

Eleazar Vasquez III
Director and Associate Professor
Toni Jennings Exceptional Education Institute
University of Central Florida
4221 Andromeda Loop
Orlando, FL 32816
[email protected]

Michael Kennedy
Associate Professor
Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education
Curry School of Education
University of Virginia
Bavaro Hall 327
PO Box 400273
Charlottesville, VA 22904
[email protected] 

Lisa Dieker
Pegasus Professor
Lockheed Martin Eminent Scholar
University of Central Florida
4000 Central Florida Blvd
Orlando, FL 32816
[email protected]

Anya Evmenova
Associate Professor
George Mason University
Fairfax Campus
Finley Building 216
4400 University Dr.
MS 1F2
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone: (703) 993-5256
Fax: (703) 993-3681
[email protected]

Cindy Okolo
College of Education
Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI  48824
[email protected]

Margaret Bausch
Professor and Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Student Success
College of Education
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506-0001
[email protected]
(859) 257-8810

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A Design-Based Research Approach to Improving Professional Development and Teacher Knowledge: The Case of the Smithsonian Learning Lab

A Design-Based Research Approach to Improving Professional Development and Teacher Knowledge: The Case of the Smithsonian Learning Lab

Despite increased access to technology in the classroom, teaching with technology remains an instructional challenge (Aldunate & Nussbaum, 2013; Voogt, Erstad, Dede, & Mishra, 2013). Technology use in the classroom often remains “technocentrist” (Papert, 1990); that is, technology is used without an explicit instructional purpose, typically resulting in poor student outcomes (Cuban, 2013; Warschauer, Cotten, & Ames, 2011).

Recent findings suggest the availability and use of technology in the classroom has not been associated with improvement in student outcomes (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2015). Thus, to improve classroom instruction with technology, researchers, policy makers, and practitioners need to move beyond focusing on technology itself and focus on teaching with technology (Zinger, Tate, & Warschauer, 2017).

Teacher instruction is central to the ways technology is integrated into classrooms and student learning opportunities (Aldunate & Nussbaum, 2013; Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, & York, 2007). Furthermore, teacher professional development (PD) is a central factor of ongoing teacher education in preparing and supporting teachers as they introduce and use technological resources in their classrooms (Matzen & Edmunds, 2007).

Though extensive research has been undertaken on effective characteristics of PD, the ways teachers participate in and learn from their own education has been understudied (Kazemi & Hubbard, 2008). Thus, better understanding of how teachers engage in and learn from PD can help improve PD design and implementation. Improved PD should lead to improved teacher knowledge and teacher instruction (Antoniou & Kyriakides, 2013; Martin et al., 2010).

Recent studies have also suggested that using a design-based research (DBR) approach, which affords teachers greater input and agency in the design of PD and their own educational experience, may be a useful alternative to evaluative approaches to improvement of PD (Anderson & Shattuck, 2012). Design-based research may provide a deeper understanding of the ways PD supports teacher learning (Dede, Jass Ketelhut, Whitehouse, Breit, & McCloskey, 2008), as well as improving teacher learning outcomes from PD. DBR has further shown promise in attending to teacher instructional contexts, where curriculum designers have worked together with preservice teachers to design technology-rich lessons (Angeli & Valanides, 2009).

We took this lens as we examined a yearlong PD program designed to engage teachers in using online digital museum resources instructionally. Our goals were to provide insights on the impact of a DBR approach to PD design and implementation and improve teacher instructional knowledge. We hypothesized that the PD would improve teacher knowledge. The following questions guided our inquiry:

  1. What were teacher learning opportunities and how did they change over four PD sessions of a yearlong professional development series introducing an online resource, the Smithsonian Learning Lab?
  2. How did teacher feedback, as part of a design-based research approach, iteratively change the PD and teacher educational opportunities?
  3. Did teacher technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge improve through the PD program?

We looked at the affordances of the PD through the framework of the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge (TPACK; Mishra & Koehler, 2006) with special attention to teacher learning and teaching context (Angeli & Valanides, 2009). In addition to exploring how DBR might improve technology-based PD, we attended to the understudied contextual component of TPACK (Rosenberg & Koehler, 2013).

The backdrop of our study was the Smithsonian Learning Lab (SLL), an online platform designed to provide educators with tools and resources to explore (see Figure 1) and design collections (see Figure 2) of digital museum resources to promote student learning. Recently, museums have increasingly focused on digitizing physical resources and sharing those digital resources with the public in ways that have not been previously available (Marty, 2008a). Indeed, museums are now positioned to democratize and provide unprecedented digital public access to museum-related content (Parry, 2007). Consequently, many museums are now exploring and developing digital resources to engage with the public (Marty, 2008b). Museums have also worked to develop online educational platforms that allow teachers to create their own collections of museum resources (Marty, 2011).

Figure 1
Figure 1. Smithsonian Learn Lab resource search results and search refinement options.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Smithsonian Learn Lab teaching collection example.


Review of the Literature

We broadly view PD as an intact activity system (Greeno, 2011), where teachers interact with content, instructors, facilitators, and peers in the context of their own instructional practice. Within PD, teacher learning opportunities are shaped by affordances of design and implementation of the PD. We view PD design as an ongoing, iterative process to improve teacher opportunities to learn and as an integral part of ongoing teacher education.

The initial PD design in this study was guided by many of the features of effective PD design, including duration, collective participation, content focus, and active learning opportunities (recommendations of Desimone, 2009). Extending these principles by taking a DBR approach may support improvement of PD from session to session, as well as across entire cycles of PD. The review of literature was guided by the potential and affordances of using DBR in PD, TPACK as a framework for teacher knowledge and learning through PD, and challenges in current approaches to technology-focused PD.

Design-Based Research

To address teacher instructional TPACK in context, we adopted a DBR approach, in which teachers, PD facilitators, and researchers work together to inform PD design (Anderson & Shattuck, 2012). DBR offers a useful approach for studying complex learning environments such as PDs (Dede et al., 2008).

A design-based approach, first proposed by Brown (1992) and Collins (1992) is comprised of a number of important features. At its core, DBR uses formative research to refine design and promote both practical and theoretical research outcomes (Collins, Josep, & Bielaczye, 2004). Components of DBR include its interventionist nature, taking place in naturalistic environments, and continuous iterative approach, where changes are made, assessed, and refined to improve design (Barab & Squire, 2004). Additionally, participant (in our case, teacher) feedback is integral to the changes in design (MacDonald, 2008).

Prior studies in education employing DBR approaches have primarily focused on classroom instruction (Anderson & Shattuck, 2012), yet DBR can hold promise in the design and implementation of teacher PD (Dede et al., 2008). Studies employing DBR approaches in PD have demonstrated the benefit of using this approach. Findings from these studies have shown the promising outcomes in designing and refining teacher communities of practice (MacDonald, 2008), as well as in refining PD design and improving teacher instruction and student outcomes with technology (Wang, Hsu, Reeves, & Coster, 2014). An important area for exploration of the integration of DBR and PD is the potential impact of the approach on teacher development of TPACK (Annetta et al., 2013).

Teaching and TPACK

To characterize teacher PD learning opportunities and development we used the TPACK framework (see Figure 3; Mishra & Koehler, 2006). TPACK is based on the pedagogical content knowledge framework (PCK) proposed by Shulman (1987). PCK conceptualized teacher professional knowledge at the intersection of teacher content knowledge (CK), such as how to add two numbers in mathematics, and pedagogical knowledge (PK), such as how to create assignments for students.

Shulman proposed a more specialized domain-specific knowledge that combined CK and PK as PCK, for example, how to create math word problems. In TPACK, technological knowledge is added as an additional dimension along with content and pedagogical knowledge.

Figure 3. Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge Model (Koehler & Mishra, 2009) Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by


TPACK highlights the unique challenges raised by digital and analog technologies and how their introduction complicates the already complex context of teaching (Koehler, Mishra, & Cain, 2013). Beyond the domains and intersections of TPACK, the context within which teachers instruct also plays an important role and has increasingly been a focus of research (Angeli & Valanides, 2009; Rosenberg & Koehler, 2013). Characteristics of the teacher’s context, such as availability of technology and school culture, could have profound impacts on the type of instruction in a classroom. TPACK self-report measures have been used widely in research (Koehler, Shin, & Mishra, 2012), and a small number have been validated (e.g., Schmidt et al., 2009).

PD and PD With Technology

PD can play a central role in teacher education through changing teacher beliefs, knowledge, and classroom practices using technology (Brinkerhoff, 2005; Schrum & Levin, 2013). Extensive prior research has established key features of PD that are likely to be effective (Desimone, 2009; Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Yoon, 2001). These features have further been situated within the realm of technology PD. Key identified features include extended duration of PD, access to technology, opportunities for the teacher to engage actively in activities in a student role, time to address individual teachers’ contextual factors, a clear vision, and time to collaborate with peers (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007; Zinger, Tate, & Warschauer, 2017). Nonetheless, a great deal is unknown about the link between what teachers experience in PD and what they learn from it (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007), that is. linking their experiences and what they take away from the PD.

Designing and implementing PD that promotes teacher learning is a challenging endeavor. These challenges include the delicate balance between teaching teachers the use of tools, content, and pedagogy and teacher ownership and agency that is gained through teacher practice and collaboration during PDs (Polly, 2011).

Additionally, teachers who participate in PD bring with them different skills and knowledge, both in technology and instruction (Mouza, 2009), highlighting the varied nature of backgrounds and instructional needs of teachers that PD may need to meet. Furthermore, if PD is disconnected from teacher practice, it can lead to teacher frustration and disengagement (Lim & Khine, 2006). The intersection of technology-based PD and an iterative improvement-focused DBR approach may be one avenue to address these challenges.


Study Context

The SLL is an online resource created by the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access (SCLDA). It provides teachers with online access to museum artifacts, artworks, and specimens from across the Smithsonian’s museums and research centers. The SLL’s database also includes a variety of digital media, including video interviews with experts, podcasts, magazine articles and interactives. On the SLL, teachers can find existing lessons and instructional collections of Smithsonian resources, and create, organize and manage these digital resources for use in their classrooms. Furthermore, the SLL includes functionality for users to add annotations to discussion prompts, quizzes, hotspots on resources, and other collections to enhance instruction and student engagement.

The present study was based on a larger PD project designed to support teachers in the use of the SLL. The project is located in and around a large city in the eastern United States and is a collaboration between the Smithsonian, the local county department of education, 16 middle schools, a local history museum, and a large West Coast research university.

The first year of the project included teams of middle school social studies teachers, and the second year included teams of high school social studies teachers. The current study encompasses the first year of the program. The middle school social studies teachers were recruited through the local county department of education. The department of education sought teachers with a variety of experience using technology in the classroom, resulting in a wide variation in school and classroom settings. Variations between schools included availability of technology, teacher experience, and school demographics. To promote collaboration and effective PD design, teachers were recruited in teams from the various school sites. Participating teachers joined the program in June 2015, the summer prior to the PDs and implementation of the SLL.

The first year’s PD series was comprised of four daylong 8-hour face-to-face sessions at the local history museum, which is a member of the Smithsonian affiliate network. The purpose of the PD was to provide instruction to teachers on how to use the SLL to teach social studies. PD sessions took place in November and December 2015 and in February and May 2016. The PD instruction included SCLDA staff, museum curators, educators and archivists, researchers, two instructional coaches, and participating teachers. In addition to instruction, the PDs included time for collaboration among teachers within schools, as well as across schools by subject area and content. PD days included between four and seven separate sessions or segments that included direct instruction, hands-on activities and practice, time for collaboration on curriculum design, and in later PDs,  breakout sessions in which teachers could choose the content and type of activities they would engage in. These sessions provided teachers with supports across the TPACK domains.

Participants and Settings

Thirty-seven teachers from 16 schools were recruited for participation in the program. Three teachers, comprising the participating population of one school, left the program after the second PD session, and one additional teacher departed before the completion of the program. A cohort of 33 teachers (21 female and 12 male) from 16 schools, thus, completed the full PD series. Participating teachers’ instructional experience ranged from 2 years of teaching to over 20, with approximately half the teachers having between 11 and 20 years of classroom experience.

Teacher experience with using technology in their instruction ranged widely. All teachers used some form of technology or online resources in the classroom, and almost all of the teachers used a wide variety of technology resources and tools. Teacher backgrounds and ongoing PD with technology also ranged widely, from little formal preparation or PD to courses dedicated to technology use and over 40 hours of technology-based PD the prior year. All but one of the teachers had access to one-to-one computers for their students, either through technology in the classroom or availability of a computer lab. The other teacher had six student computers in her classroom, where students would need to share computers.

The PD design team represented a diverse group in terms of background and expertise. The SCLDA team included one primary investigator with extensive experience in the integration of museum resources in the classroom, two education staff members who organized and oversaw the PD project, and two local instructional coaches who observed teachers’ classrooms (approximately four times during the school year per teacher) and provided further teacher support as needed. Additional support from the coaches included building model teaching collections, demonstrating or coteaching lessons, and providing constructive feedback after observing lessons that included the use of the SLL.

The museum team was led by its education manager, who had extensive experience in working with museum school partnerships. She was supported by museum curators and staff. The curriculum and instruction coordinator of the county department of education offered context for the scope and sequence required of the teachers by the state. The university research team was comprised of the other primary investigator (besides one from the SCLDA team), a research faculty member with extensive experience in instructional technology integration and learning through technology, a university history project director expert, and a graduate student with extensive experience in teacher education and PD design and implementation.

Data Collection

This study was primarily qualitative in methodology. Data sources included PD agendas, teacher feedback from post-PD surveys, pre- and post-PD planning and debriefing meeting notes. Quantitative measures were used for teacher TPACK surveys, as well as Likert-like teacher post-PD survey responses about the overall quality of the PD.

Characterizing Teacher Learning Opportunities From PDs. The agendas from each of the four PDs were collected to identify TPACK domain learning opportunities for teachers. Each PD had between four and seven activity segments that were coded to identify the TPACK components they addressed. Additionally, due to the central nature of context to teacher practice and TPACK, we coded each PD segment as either generic or decontextualized, contextualized to the local area of the teachers, or individually contextualized to address individual instructional needs of teachers. A total of 24 activity segments were co coded by the first and second authors. There was a disagreement on one segment’s code, and the disagreement was resolved through discussion.

Determining How Teacher Feedback Informed PD Design. After each PD, teachers were asked to complete an anonymous PD evaluation and feedback form. Teachers’ post-PD surveys were used to determine teachers’ perspectives on what was most helpful and least helpful in supporting their implementation of the SLL. Over the course of four PDs, 149 individual surveys were collected and analyzed. Qualitative responses were initially coded structurally and subsequently axially using a primary code and then a subcode (as in Saldaña, 2016).

Each response was first broken down into individual idea units (if multiple ideas were presented, they were segmented into individual units for analysis). For example, a response on what was most useful that included “overview and practice time” was broken down to “overview” and “practice time.” A total of 259 individual responses were coded.

Individual responses were then coded axially, generating a primary code and a subcode. For example, “instruction” emerged as a primary code, whereas “site use,” “building a collection,” and “using primary sources” emerged as subcodes to instruction. Each segment was then coded by the first and third authors. Any disagreements in the codes were reconciled through meetings and discussion until both coders agreed with the coding. These responses were also used to determine the types of responsiveness of the PD design team to teacher feedback. Additionally, quantitative Likert-like post-PD teacher survey responses to the overall value of the PD were collected as a second reference point for teacher overall satisfaction with the PD.

These data were collected and informed post-PD debrief meetings by the design team following the PD. Qualitative data were organized thematically by the research team and presented to the collective PD design team immediately after each PD. PD designers, PD instructors, instructional coaches, and researchers then met to analyze the PD feedback and begin subsequent PD planning.

Teacher feedback, along with feedback and perceptions of the design team, were noted. A preliminary subsequent PD agenda was generated. Before the subsequent PD, the same group would meet to formalize PD plans and agenda. Field notes were generated from the post-PD debrief meetings to determine how teacher feedback was interpreted and how it was used to plan the subsequent PD.

How Did Teachers’ Perceptions of Their TPACK Change Through the PD? To determine if and across which TPACK domains teachers improved over the course of the PD, we administered an initial TPACK survey just prior to the initial PD in November and a final TPACK survey at the end of the program in May. The survey was based on a previously validated social studies-based TPACK survey, which asks questions on a 5-point Likert-like scale (Schmidt et al., 2009).

The survey was designed to assess TPACK of preservice teachers about their instruction, as well as teacher preparation experience. It asks teachers to report their perceived knowledge across the seven TPACK domains. For example, for technological knowledge (TK) the item is worded, “I can learn technology easily.”

Our program focused on in-service teachers, so some of the questions from the original survey were removed because they were not relevant to our setting. A total of 47 item addressed teacher knowledge across the TPACK domains. Some of the items addressed preparation experience, such as “My teacher education program has caused me to think more deeply about how technology could influence the teaching approaches I use in my classroom.” Additionally, CK questions included four different subjects.

As teachers in this study were already in the classroom and came primarily from the social sciences, we removed questions that were not relevant to our teacher populations, including those relating to teacher preparations and nonsocial-science questions. The survey as administered to the teachers included 24 question from the original TPACK survey. PK and technological content knowledge (TCK) included one question each, CK included two questions, and technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK) and PCK four each, TK included five, and TPACK included seven. A total of 26 of the 33 teachers who participated in the program completed both pre- and postsurveys.

Data Analysis Approach

In the analysis, we sought first to characterize the learning opportunities for teachers during each PD and then examine the changes in learning opportunities between each PD in the context of TPACK. We then analyzed how teacher feedback informed changes in the PDs by linking teacher feedback through post-PD debriefs and pre-PD planning meetings to the subsequent PD. Our DBR framed analysis approach is illustrated in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Design-based approach to iterative PD planning.


We then analyzed teacher pre- and post-TPACK scores from the beginning of the PD sequence to the end to determine (a) if collective growth occurred in specific areas of TPACK over time and (b) if so, in which knowledge areas.

PD Learning Opportunities and Changes. Teacher TPACK was coded across TK, PK, CK, TCK, TPK, PCK, and TPACK. We then coded contextual affordances by each PD segment. That is, we determined if the segment addressed teachers at their own practical classroom level, at a local, regional, or community level, or neither. Changes in teacher learning opportunities from each PD were then analyzed. The analysis of individual PDs focused on shifts in TPACK components over the four PDs and changes in levels of contexts across the four PDs.

How Teacher Feedback Informed Changes to the PD. Codes generated from teacher feedback were aligned with TPACK affordances of PD segments. For example, in PD 1 the code “collection creation” was identified as the most useful component of the PD (by 12 respondents). This code was then aligned with the small group collection creation activity. Collection creation involved assembling individual SLL resources in a group, which reflected TCK as well as the opportunity for small group work, in which teachers had an opportunity to create collections.

The same was done with teacher-reported least useful components of the PD; however, in some cases, the least useful components extended beyond the PD. For example, the least beneficial item identified in the first PD was SLL user experience, which is reflective of the SLL site itself rather than the PD. It should be noted that the SLL was officially launched in beta form in early November 2015, coinciding with the first PD. Continual improvements to the SLL’s user experience were made based on teacher feedback. This information was used by the PD design team to inform future PDs and improve the teacher educational experience.

How Teacher TPACK Changed Through the PD. To determine if and across which TPACK domains teachers improved over the course of the PD, we examined teacher results descriptively to identify changes in individual teacher pre and post scores. We next conducted a one-tailed t-test on teacher aggregate scores across all TPACK domains based on their pre- and postsurveys. That is, we combined the survey questions for each domain and averaged them across the cohort.

We then conducted a one-tailed t-test across each of the seven TPACK domains between the first and second administration of the survey for all participants with a pre- and posttest (N = 26). We conducted a one-tailed test, as we initially hypothesized that the PD would improve teacher knowledge. Domains that showed significant growth were then identified.


Findings are presented chronologically, as the PD program developed iteratively over the course of the four PD sessions. As the PD developed, individual sessions moved from focusing on single dimensions of TPACK in decontextualized ways to addressing learners’ needs in the more complex intersectional dimensions of TPACK in more contextualized ways (see Table 1). Teacher-reported barriers to implementation and multiple sources of data from the PD design team emerged as significant factors in changing the design of the PD. Teachers’ perceptions of their TPACK competence improved across five of the seven dimensions from the beginning to end of the program.

Table 1
PD Teacher TPACK Learning Affordances

PD 1
PD 2
PD 3
PD 4
TPACK Context TPACK Context TPACK Context TPACK Context
TK Generic TK Generic PK Generic TK Generic
TK Generic TK Generic PCK Generic PCK Individual
CK Generic CK Generic PCK Local PCK Individual
PK Generic PCK Generic PCK Local PCK Individual
TCK Generic TCK Generic TPK Local
PK Local/Individual TPACK Generic TCK Individual
TPACK Generic TPACK Individual


PD 1

In the first PD, the project and purpose of the SLL were introduced. Teachers initially engaged in a locally contextualized activity, in which they had to select a single resource from a collection of 40 physical, analog resource cards connected to their city. Teachers then shared why they selected a resource and how it connected to them locally and individually.

Each of the other activities in the first PD were generic and primarily focused on use of the SLL. For example, teachers engaged in a “nightstand” activity, inspired by a local artist’s work, where they searched the SLL to find symbolic objects that might be on their own nightstand as a short biographical exercise. This activity was designed to help teachers understand how to add resources to a collection and how to use other features of the SLL but did not connect directly to their instruction or teaching context.

Beginning in the first PD and persisting through all PDs, time was provided for teachers to independently develop their own collections, with SLL and PD design team members available for support and brainstorming. In the first PD, this task was generic. Teachers were asked to brainstorm ideas for collections with little specificity or focus.

PD 1 to PD 2 Iteration

We identified two key areas to be addressed based on teacher feedback after the first PD: greater individualization of the PD and more contextualized learning experiences. The teacher post-PD surveys indicated mixed responses to the utility of activities in this PD. Initially, teacher feedback appeared contradictory. For example, 12 teachers found collection creation and use most beneficial, and seven teachers found it least beneficial. That is, whereas some teachers found certain instructional approaches and content helpful, others found it less beneficial, highlighting the need to meet teacher learning needs in more targeted ways. This issue was acknowledged by one of the coaches who noted a “wide range of teacher characteristics, some ready to do a unit, some not quite ready” during the debrief meeting.

The generic and decontextualized nature of activities also emerged as an issue from this feedback, as well as the need for greater individualization and specialization of sessions to meet the varied needs of teachers. The PD design group saw the need for greater individualization as a challenge to be addressed, so we considered breakout sessions for more individualized and targeted instruction in the second PD.

A finer grained analysis of teacher feedback highlighted that the decontextualized, generic nature of the activities was the crux of many of the teacher critiques. As one noted, they did not like “the prescribed creation of an example that can’t be used in the classroom.” Other teachers also noted the importance of connecting activities to their classroom practice: “The most beneficial part of today was the opening exercise where every teacher explained how they might use the images with their students.” This feedback led the PD design team to ask questions in consideration for the subsequent PD, including the integration of the SLL and instruction, and finding more contextualized ways of implementing the SLL. Consideration was given to tighter integration of the SLL as a pedagogical tool and a source of content.

Teacher feedback about the functionality of the SLL itself had implications for the PD as well. The primary critique of the PD reported by 10 teachers focused on SLL issues of searching for resources and site functionality. Though these tool-centered issues could not be directly addressed by the PD design team, the group acknowledged their importance as well as the value of reiterating to the teachers that the SLL was a beta version and that their feedback was helping inform its design. This issue continued to be raised by teachers but did not directly reflect on the PD.

Of note is the short 1-month time gap between PD 1 and PD 2, which limited the adjustments that could be made between them. A 2-month gap existed between the other PDs that allowed for more teacher implementation of the SLL and feedback from coaches’ observations.

In the second PD breakout sessions, in which teachers selected a topic or area of interest and attended smaller sessions, were implemented. This change signified a major shift from the first PD. In breakout sessions, participating teachers could attend one of five sessions that covered topics ranging from the analysis of portraiture, to civil war diaries, to artifacts from ancient civilizations. Nonetheless, all sessions focused on the use of primary sources for instruction. Thus, breakout sessions offered teachers content choices and more individualization than in the first PD but not pedagogical choices, and the sessions did not attend to classroom contexts.

In the second PD, time for teacher planning became more focused (through a prompt on examining primary sources) but remained decontextualized from teachers’ own classrooms and subject matter.

Two of the sessions in the second PD were dedicated to TK, teaching how to use different features and functions of the SLL, including searching for resources and how to create student rosters (see Table 1). The PD, however, also shifted to more complex components of TPACK, such as PCK, TCK, and TPACK, but all sessions remained generic and decontextualized from teachers’ own classrooms. For example, the opening activity of the day, coded TPACK generic, had teachers work in subject area groups creating collections that reflected innovations. The activity engaged teachers in building teaching collections and considering pedagogy and content along with technology but did not target or address instructional needs of teachers in their own classrooms.

PD 2 to PD 3 Iteration

The iteration from the second to third PDs encompassed changes and adaptation between December and February. During this time, coaches had an opportunity to observe participants’ classrooms and gather data on how teachers were using the SLL, which helped bring additional insight into teacher needs and practice to the post-PD discussion. Positive teacher feedback on the utility of the second PD fell into two primary categories: instruction on using different functions of the SLL, reported by 10 teachers, and instruction on refining searches and using search reports, reported by seven teachers.

The instruction on searching was implemented in direct response to teacher feedback from the prior PD on their challenges. Nonetheless, teachers also reported that the utility of the search and some of the tools on the SLL remained a barrier to use, as reported by 12 teachers.

Although the PD helped teachers better understand site functionality, technical challenges remained. As one teacher pointed out in the post-PD survey, “I really shouldn’t need a two-page document to know how to search the SLL,” which was a critique of the limitations of the search feature rather than the PD session on searching tips. The teacher went on to point out that “the lack of relevant search results when executing a basic search is going to turn off educators pretty quickly.”

This feedback helped the PD design team better understand that the challenges around search were not simply a function of learning how to use the search feature, but were either the lack of, or overwhelming number of, results that searches produced. It also helped the PD team better understand the limitations and affordances they could provide for teachers in the context of the PD. That is, the PD team understood its limited control over the SLL’s functionality itself beyond providing feedback to the SLL web design team. The PD team could, however, support teachers by acknowledging limitations of the SLL and providing solutions to the challenges raised by teachers from an instructional perspective.

The first two PDs primarily focused on function and use of the SLL from a more technical perspective. Of the 13 segments in the first two PDs, four were coded as TK. After the second PD, the design team acknowledged that the cohort of teachers had developed a good understanding of the SLL and its functionality. Consequently, we agreed that additional PD focused on technology itself would not be useful. From teacher feedback, the importance of time to work on collections with experts and their peers emerged as other important features (reported by a total of five teachers). Nonetheless, teacher feedback continued to be varied and at times appeared to be contradictory, highlighting the importance of contextualization, and focused on more individualized, targeted PD sessions to address both content area interests as well as pedagogical practices.

The two key takeaways for the PD design team from teacher feedback in the second PD were the importance of contextualizing PD sessions to meet the local and individual classroom needs of teachers and the importance of more targeted session options.

The PD design team focused on two ways to address these teacher needs. First, more breakout sessions covering a wide range of pedagogies and content areas would be introduced in the subsequent PD. Second, time for teachers to conceptualize and create collections, as well as providing teachers an opportunity to share with the group their successes, failures, and challenges would be incorporated. The importance of providing teachers with structures to focus their collection design in ways that were relevant to their classroom became more central to the design team moving beyond the second PD.

PD 3

The third PD marked a significant shift in the content and context of the PDs. Whereas, in the first two PDs only one of 13 segments was coded as contextualized, in February five of the seven segments were contextualized. The breakout sessions in the third PD focused on using digital objects or practices in the specific instructional contexts of each teacher. The sessions in the third PD focused less on the technology of the SLL and more on thoughtful planning of instruction to promote student historical thinking, evidenced by multiple PCK-coded segments along with more targeted and focused breakout sessions. The February session also represented the first time teachers shared their own created collection, successes, and challenges in the implementation of the SLL in their classrooms, another contextualized activity.

In the third PD, for the first time in one of the breakout sessions, a museum archivist presented a collection of documents located in the museum and connected to the local community. Seventeen teachers identified this activity as most beneficial. This session involved both a presentation, examination of historical documents in the role of the student and time for teachers to work on how they could use these resources in instruction.

The documents entailed the escape from Nazi Germany by a Jewish family and their journey and settling in the local community. Documents investigated included ship boarding passes, mail correspondence, immigration documents, and a narrative of their curation. Teachers were struck by the fact that the house that the family moved to still stood in their community. Teachers enjoyed the experience of working with archival documents connected to their local community. They also saw the collection and related activities as something they could use in their own classrooms, as one said: “I feel like an adapted version of this would be able to be used in my classroom.”

The other breakout session of the day focused on using a single museum resource to base an entire collection on that teachers would build for their classroom. Though both of these sessions were coded as PCK local (both used locally connected museum resources), they presented different pedagogical experiences for teachers. One breakout focused on building an archival narrative, and the other sessions focused on building on teacher instructional use of documents. This differentiation presented a step forward in the degree of individualization of breakout sessions beyond content.

PD 3 to PD 4 Iteration

 The third PD represented a significant shift in teacher responses as well as the mindset of the PD design team. The shift in teacher feedback represented a move in the PD’s design away from the technical to greater focus on instruction, as well as consensus on the utility of the PD. This feedback led the PD design team to view future changes to the PD as refinements rather than major changes, paying greater attention to finer details rather than making large-scale changes. This shift was reinforced by the quantitative feedback from teachers, which was also the most positive of any of the PDs. Teachers reported their overall satisfaction with the PD to be 4.37 on a 5-point scale. This shift also aligns with theory on the use of design-based principles and evaluative studies (Supovitz, 2013), where PD transitions from a more broad-based refinement to a finer-grained refinement as it is iteratively developed. In its third iteration, the PD program had reached the point of transition from significant iterative change to more refined change.

Teachers identified a wide range of sessions as most useful, likely reflecting that individual breakout sessions better addressed their needs than larger, more generic sessions. Furthermore, this was the first PD where a large proportion of teachers (18 out of 38) either explicitly stated that they did not find any of the PD components “least beneficial” or stated that they liked the PD in its entirety. One teacher reported, “I think everything was useful today. I have no constructive criticism.” Another stated, “Today was helpful all around.” Critiques from teachers continued to focus on the technical functionality of the SLL, though fewer of these critiques appeared than in previous PDs. Teacher feedback from the third PD also saw a significant shift toward more instruction-focused challenges and needs from technical ones.

The PD design team took the positive feedback as reinforcement for the increasingly targeted breakout sessions and contextualization of the third PD. Additionally, sessions providing teachers with time to work within school teams, and teacher presentations of SLL implementation worked to contextualize use of the SLL and localize it closer to their classes. Based on the feedback, the PD design team decided that continuing these types of activities was important as was building on structures from the third PD that linked the SLL to specific instructional goals and activities. Indeed, the team decided to refine the targeted breakout sessions by extending them to a second local museum (with a focus on ancient Egyptian civilization for non-U.S. history teachers) to provide a more experiential learning environment that aligned with teachers’ interests.

Additionally, to better capture the utility of each individual breakout session, the post-PD evaluation form for the fourth PD was also refined to identify which breakout session teachers attended. These data would provide a more accurate picture of any potential differences in the utility of individual breakout sessions.

PD 4

The final PD began with demonstrating some of the new support systems built into the SLL and soliciting feedback. This activity was decontextualized and focused on TK, but the support systems built were in response to issues that had been raised by the participating teachers. The remaining sessions of the day were contextualized and coded as PCK focused.

On the final PD, the breakout sessions were further focused and targeted, with teachers given the option of staying at the museum and engaging in activities with archival documents pertaining to U.S. history or traveling to a nearby affiliate museum to explore an exhibition on Ancient Egypt. Both options centered on the formulation of a guiding question that would then lead to building a lesson in a subsequent session. T

hese breakout sessions were coded as PCK and individualized, as teachers worked on creating lessons integrating content and pedagogy for their own classrooms. Focus groups took place in the middle of the day to elicit insight into teacher use of the SLL and on the supports provided in their implementation of the SLL. The day concluded with teachers sharing their classroom activities as well as addressing design and lesson development considerations.

Post-PD 4 and Next Steps

After the final PD, the design team reconvened to debrief on PD 4 and the entire PD series and make initial plans for the subsequent year’s PD (a new cohort of teachers was planned for the PD for the following year). The final PD had the lowest rate of teacher PD feedback (22 of 33 or 67%). The PD design team attributed this result to the PD being close to the end of the school year and the PD being the last one of the year. Nonetheless, qualitative feedback from the final PD was similar to that of the third PD.

Three categories emerged as most useful for teachers, where seven reported the collaboration with peers as most useful, six reported the opportunity to work with museum artifacts, and five reported learning of news ways to use the SLL as most useful. Twelve respondents (over half who responded) either did not identify any element of the PD as least beneficial, or posted a positive comment about the PD. Two respondents wished that more time had been available to work, and most critiques focused on limitations of the SLL, such as limited resources on some topics.

The PD design team used findings from the first year’s PD to inform the design of the subsequent year’s PD. The need to contextualize learning for teachers and to provide multiple breakout sessions to address the diverse needs of teachers were central to the design. A focus on historical thinking emerged as a mode by which the following year’s PD would become more contextualized, as well as attending to participant PCK to a greater degree initially.

Some of the breakout sessions from the first year’s PD were adapted for the second year and others were to be reworked or changed. The overall format of the PD was also changed, with the first two PDs moving from November and December to August and November. This change both positioned teachers to plan instruction with the SLL prior to the beginning of the school year and allowed coaches and researchers more time to observe teachers using the SLL earlier in the school year.

Teacher Change in TPACK

Overall average teacher-reported TPACK scores increased from 4.23 to 4.61 (nearly 1 full standard deviation) on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Individual overall teacher change scores ranged from -1.04 to +1.64. Five teachers’ scores decreased from pre- to postsurveys (three had averaged a score of five across the domains on the presurvey), three teachers were unchanged (two of these averaged a score of 5 in both the pre- and post-surveys), and 18 teachers’ scores increased

Within the TPACK domains, on average, teachers improved significantly across five of the seven domains (see Table 3). The largest changes of .53 and .58, were experienced in the PCK and TCK domains, respectively. TK increased, and its intersection with primary knowledge domains (TCK, TPK, TPACK) all increased. That is, on average, teachers reported that they improved their social studies domain-specific pedagogies, as well as technological integration and instruction. Both of these were central foci of the SLL PDs, namely, using the SLL as a means for finding and organizing digital resources for instruction and improving teacher instruction in the use of historical primary sources. The overall teacher CK and PK did not increase significantly. That is, teachers’ social studies content and general pedagogical knowledge did not improve over the course of the year. These scores also started as the highest on the presurvey.

Table 2
TPACK Domain Self-Report Results

TPACK Domains Pre Mean Pre SD Post Mean Post SD p-value
CK 4.44 0.72 4.64 0.59 0.295
PK 4.42 0.58 4.62 0.50 0.067
TK 4.33 0.51 4.6 0.40 0.024*
PCK 4.09 0.59 4.62 0.40 0.001***
TCK 4.00 0.85 4.58 0.50 0.005**
TPK 4.31 0.50 4.58 0.49 0.035*
TPACK 4.23 0.49 4.61 0.39 0.004**
Note: Significance assessed using 1 tailed t-test. PK and TCK domains are composed  of a single question.
* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001


In this study, we examined the instructional affordances for teachers participating in a PD and how their feedback, as part of a DBR approach, helped evolve the PD program over four PD sessions and ultimately resulted in teacher TPACK gains. Direct teacher feedback from the PDs and indirect feedback through observation by coaches and researchers played a central role in informing and prompting changes to the PD design and implementation. This study was small scale and largely qualitative, so we cannot directly link teacher increase in TPACK to the PD. We did find, however, that as the PD format and content changed in response to their feedback, teachers’ satisfaction with the PD increased as well.

Two implications for teacher educators arose from this study. First, the DBR approach to PD design helped calibrate the transition from instruction focused on TK in decontextualized ways to specialized instruction and more contextualized learning experiences focused on PCK, refining teacher educational opportunities. This approach helped negotiate the balance and transition between instruction and teacher ownership (as in Polly, 2011), where teacher feedback helped the design team increase teacher involvement beginning with the third PD.

Feedback and changes made by the PD design team also allowed for rapid iterative changes along the intervention development curve (as noted also in Supovitz, 2013). That is, the first two PDs led to significant large-scale changes in the third PD, where there was a shift to more refined data gathering and program refinement. Indeed, had we not taken this iterative approach, changes could not likely have been devised and implemented as quickly, and teacher engagement and learning likely would have been lower. Had the first two PDs been spaced an additional month apart, a more rapid evolution of the PD series may have been possible. A 2-month window between PDs better served data gathering, analysis, and change implementation of the PDs.

Second, PD breakout sessions helped address some of the challenges and critiques of technology-based PD that tends to be “one size fits all” (Schrum, 1999). Additionally, the use of specialized hands-on instruction through the breakout sessions helped promote teacher engagement and learning in ways that were more contextualized to their own teaching environments, which has been associated with improved instruction and student outcomes (Schrum & Levin, 2013). This instruction was primarily accomplished by identifying teacher needs and designing sessions to meet those needs. Though breakout sessions have been used in prior studies on PD (e.g., Tuttle et al., 2016), our study highlights how teacher feedback as part of a DBR approach can help establish, identify content for, and refine breakout sessions to improve teacher learning.

Breakout sessions provided PD designers with opportunities to integrate the use of SLL-based tools that the PD was promoting in ways that made the tools more contextualized, relevant, and accessible to the teachers. Teachers selected sessions to attend where the SLL was integrated in different ways that afforded greater alignment with teachers’ existing instructional practices and learning goals.

The introduction of breakout sessions addressed some of the apparently contradictory feedback to larger decontextualized sessions. Breakout sessions also led to a refinement of our design and evaluation approach to the PD. Given the varied areas of expertise of the PD design and instruction team, developing specialized breakout sessions did not create significant additional strain or work for the group. Indeed, breakout sessions may be an effective and efficient way to meet the diverse needs of teachers in PD programs when informed by teacher needs.

Implications for Practice

A number of practical implications also arose from this study, building on the ideas of researcher-practitioner partnerships (Supovitz, 2013), moving beyond the researcher-PD instructor relationship. Identifying teacher needs prior to and during PD through surveys, as well through classroom observations when possible, can add additional important perspectives to the PD design. Refining teacher response-gathering tools through the PD program can also help better pinpoint teacher needs as more generic tools become less useful. We found this to be the case with our post-PD teacher survey. Developing an inclusive, routinized, and systematic way to debrief from and plan PDs provided consistency for the PD design team that promoted inclusion, diverse thinking, and data-based decision making. Taking up these practices should have positive outcomes on PD design and implementation.

An extension to Supovitz’s (2013) heuristic of PD change may also be conceptualized, whereby taking a productive DBR approach to PD can link the responsiveness of PD and its instructional affordances for participating teachers (see Figure 5). That is, in productive PD development, the PD design and instruction team can quickly move to change the PD to meet the needs of participants (in our case over two iterations) and then make finer grained changes.

In our case the third PD represented an improvement over the second, but the fourth was less effective in improving learning opportunities for participants. This continuing experimentation refines the PD design and, at times, may incrementally improve learning affordances. At other times, though, it may not. Nonetheless, this ongoing effort to continually improve promotes the ongoing high quality of the PD.

Figure 5
Figure 5. Heuristic of productive iterative PD design.


Our study also highlights how technology-focused teacher educators and PD designers would benefit from being mindful of the fine balance between building teacher capacity to use technology and to meet teacher classroom instructional needs. In our study quickly moving from teaching how to use the technology to teaching how to teach with the technology was important. The PD team learned that contextualizing the technology to improve student learning experiences in the classroom was critical to teacher engagement and use of the SLL. This finding also suggests that to engage teachers successfully in technology-focused PD and instruction, PD should address teacher classroom instructional needs in the content and pedagogical realms.

Limitations and Future Direction

This study encompassed the first year of a 2-year PD program and helped inform the design of the first year’s PD. A number of limitations exist in the design of this initial study. The study could have benefited from a comparative control group that would have allowed us to make more causal arguments about the impact of the PD on teacher learning. Additionally, our study does not link change in teacher knowledge to change in classroom practice, which could strengthen an argument for this PD design approach. Future studies that address these two limitations would shed additional light on the effectiveness of taking design-based approaches to PD.

We intend to address one of these limitations and extend this line of research by implementing the design changes from the first year’s PD in the second year of the PD program. This longitudinal approach will help examine what a second cycle of PD design with a DBR approach affords in terms of design and teacher learning. Additionally, observations of a subset of teachers as well as teacher implementation logs will be used in Year 2 to identify potential changes in teacher practice as a result of the PD program. This approach has the potential of linking the PD to teacher practice and instructional affordances, in addition to prompting improvements in teachers’ TPACK.


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Commentary: UCEA CASTLE Response to “An Interview With Joseph South”

Commentary: UCEA CASTLE Response to “An Interview With Joseph South”

The University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) was founded more than six decades ago to build a knowledge base of research and effective practice for the field of educational leadership. UCEA is a collective of approximately 100 top research institutions with programs in educational leadership and policy and is the leading professional organization for professors in the field. In addition to promoting, sponsoring, and disseminating research on the essential problems of schooling and leadership practice, UCEA also works to positively influence local, state, and national educational policy and to improve the preparation and professional development of educational leaders and professors. The Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE) is one of UCEA’s nine national program centers. CASTLE was founded in 2005 and remains the nation’s only academic center dedicated to the technology-related needs of school principals and superintendents.

Dr. Scott McLeod is the founding director of CASTLE and is the recipient of numerous national and international awards for his work on digital leadership issues, including the 2016 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Outstanding Leadership Award. Dr. Jayson W. Richardson is a director of CASTLE and also serves as UCEA’s associate director of program centers.

The following questions were posed to us by by members of Working Group E of the Jefferson Education Accelerator initiative on the Efficacy of Educational Technology Research, including J. Michael Spector, Kay Persichitte, Ellen Meier, Glen Bull, and Joseph South.


In what ways do educational leadership programs currently prepare future principals and superintendents to make appropriate selections of technologies currently available? In what ways do educational leadership programs currently prepare school administrators to help make selections of technologies not yet created and evaluate the impact on learning in their classrooms?


As a whole, the scholarly literature on digital leadership concerns – including empirical research articles, refereed conference presentations, and dissertations – is rather sparse (McLeod & Richardson, 2011). For instance, the most recent literature review (Dexter, Richardson, & Nash, 2016) uncovered only 83 empirical, peer-reviewed articles on school technology leadership published between 1998 and 2015, an average of less than five per year over the 17-year span. Most of those articles pertained to digital leadership issues in the P-12 realm rather than at the postsecondary level. Accordingly, our empirical knowledge of university-level administrator preparation in the area of digital leadership remains scant (see also McLeod & Richardson, 2014).

Our sense from working in this area for over a decade is that most university educational leadership preparation programs are struggling to address in their curricula and instruction the technological changes that are transforming society and the schools we serve. The number of educational leadership faculty members who have placed technology-related concerns at the forefront of their scholarly work may be fewer than a dozen. Since approximately 600 programs across the United States – and numerous more internationally – prepare principals, heads of school, central office administrators, and superintendents, most of these programs, thus, either lack the faculty to develop and teach coursework in this area or, perhaps, are hiring a local education practitioner as an adjunct faculty member to teach a course or two. To our knowledge, no one has done a recent assessment of educational leadership programs’ curricular coverage of technology leadership issues.

Over the past half century, the field of education has witnessed a critical shift in both scholarly and practitioner perceptions of school administrators. Rather than being viewed as mere managers of their school organizations, school administrators now are expected to first and foremost be instructional leaders. Facilitating the adoption and effective implementation of learning technologies falls squarely within these instructional leadership expectations, particularly given the rapid expansion of digital devices and environments in P-12 classrooms. Currently, however, few educational leadership preparation programs have the internal capacity to help school administrators work in concert with teachers and information technology (IT) support staff to select existing or prospective learning technologies or to evaluate the impact of those technologies on learning.

In addition to the technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge framework (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) and other resources from our instructional technology faculty colleagues, two recent leadership-focused resources that may be of assistance with this work include the online ETIPS school technology leadership cases created by Dexter, Harris, and Gibson (2017) and the TRUDACOT instructional discussion and redesign protocol (McLeod, 2015), both of which are intended to help school leaders assess and improve their organizational and instructional technology-related decision-making.


How do educational leadership programs prepare future school leaders (i.e., principals and superintendents) to evaluate technological products or services for district-wide adoption?


Given the present circumstances, we believe that few educational leadership programs are preparing future school leaders who know how to effectively evaluate technological products or services. Most principals and superintendents, thus, are learning on the job. The primary mechanisms that school administrators employ to evaluate technological products and services include (a) delegating this responsibility to building- and district-level IT support staff, who may or may not have educational backgrounds; (b) creating teams of classroom educators, instructional technologists, and IT support personnel and then deferring to their judgment; and (c) allowing teachers to make individual, independent decisions about technology implementation within their classrooms. Some school leaders who are utilizing digital platforms to connect with fellow educators in informal professional learning networks also may be asking role-alike peers about product-specific successes, challenges, perceptions, and other evaluation-related concerns.


How do educational leadership programs currently prepare future teachers and school leaders to appropriately interpret evidence on the efficacy of technology use?


While many educational leadership program faculty members likely have the methodological expertise and experience to effectively interpret evidence on the efficacy of school technology deployments, we believe that few faculty members or programs actually are doing so. We note again that few educational leadership scholars have made technology a focus of their work.

Evaluation of technology efficacy and usage is a critical concern for most school organizations. Principals and superintendents usually struggle to explain to their parents, school boards, and communities the return on investment of their technology deployments, particularly for large-scale 1:1 initiatives in which every student is given a personal learning device such as a laptop or tablet computer. Most educational leadership faculty and programs are conducting their research and evaluation efforts in other school domains. Accordingly, if any technology-related data collection and analysis occurs at all, in most schools those activities either are done internally or through a vendor-provided solution. In both cases, that work may or may not be methodologically sound. Faculty assistance in this area could be extremely beneficial to schools and districts.


What is your vision for the future as schools of education adapt to a rapidly-changing technological environment? In what ways do you feel schools of education will need to change to adapt to the rapidly-changing technological environment?


In a 2011 call to action for educational leadership programs, we noted how rapidly digital technologies were transforming the information landscape, the economy, and learning. We went on to state as follows:

On the research front, the attention that we pay to technology-related leadership issues is nearly nonexistent. The presence of (and attendance at) technology-themed presentations at our most important conferences is scant at best. Even worse, the prevalence of technology-oriented topics in our most-cited journals is virtually nil (McLeod & Richardson; 2011). Accordingly, we have little to no scholarly knowledge about what it means to be an effective school technology leader.

On the policy analysis and advocacy fronts, few of us are familiar with the federal and state policies that impact school technology funding, implementation, and integration. Even fewer of us are serving as advocates in this area or conducting analyses that could inform legislators and other policymakers. As such, our nation’s laws and policies regarding school technology continue to be informed primarily by corporate vendors, fearmongers, and a bevy of other self-interested parties.

On the teaching front, only a handful of the nearly 600 educational leadership programs in America are even attempting to provide meaningful, substantive preparation of technology-knowledgeable school leaders. Many of the rest have no coursework at all in this area or, what may be even worse, have a single course that often is dedicated to tools rather than instructional and organizational leadership issues. This would be fine if technology-related topics were substantially integrated into other courses, but they usually aren’t (Schrum, Galizio, & Ledesma, 2011). As a result, our conversations about what it means to be an ‘instructional leader’ ignore the powerful learning revolutions that are occurring all around us. And, of course, few of us are preparing the next generation of educational leadership faculty to be knowledgeable and proficient in this important area of school leadership.

On the service, outreach, and professional development fronts, few of us are facilitating and enhancing existing school leaders’ knowledge, skills, and understanding in the area of digital technologies. Not many of us are working hand-in-hand with school systems to create relevant and powerful digital learning experiences for students, nor are we assisting them with the organizational adoption of communication, management, analytical, and other technologies. The resultant impact is that we’re often seen as largely irrelevant by practicing administrators who are desperate for help as they scramble to adjust themselves and their institutions to the realities of a technology-suffused, globally-interconnected age. (McLeod, 2011, pp. 3-4)

Six years later, these concerns remain applicable for most educational leadership programs. We will leave it to our faculty colleagues to determine whether these concerns remain relevant for their individual teacher education programs and schools of education. Our vision is that one day these concerns will begin to vanish as we become more proactive, adaptive, and responsive to the needs of students, educators, and society.


What are we missing? What else should we be considering as we develop recommendations for building capacity in schools of education for effective preparation of teachers and school leaders?


In an earlier work we attempted to make a critical distinction for our educational leadership faculty colleagues. We noted three key faculty intersections of technology and school leadership: (a) using digital technologies to teach traditional educational leadership content; (b) training school administrators to better use digital technologies; and (c) preparing school administrators to be better technology leaders (McLeod, Bathon, & Richardson, 2011). For the first intersection, the technology emphasis for faculty is on the transformation of delivery, not the transformation of content (e.g., moving traditional educational leadership courses online). For the second intersection, the technology emphasis for faculty is on course content rather than course delivery, but the content focus is on digital productivity and communication tools (e.g., acquainting preservice principal licensure students with technologies such as spreadsheets or Twitter with the goal of future usage by those administrators).

In contrast, the third intersection also is concerned with course content rather than course delivery, but the content focus for faculty is on leadership capacities rather than tools. As we said at the time,

The tools are the low-hanging fruit; we must extend ourselves further to accomplish the more difficult work of preparing school leaders who understand what it means to transform student learning environments in ways that are technologically-rich, -meaningful, and -powerful. . . . While it is appropriate and desirable to transform the technology tool usage of both our students and ourselves as faculty, neither of those specifically target one of the most critical educational issues of our time: the need to create and facilitate learning environments for P-12 students that prepare them for the digital, global world in which we now live. (pp. 292-293; emphasis added)

Looking at the other commentaries in this series, we see significant parallels between teacher education and preservice administrator preparation. We believe that this third concern presents the largest challenge to administrator preparation programs, teacher education programs, and schools of education: in a rapidly changing world the question of relevance emerges quickly to the forefront. As P-12 schools begin shifting their learning environments toward deeper learning, greater student agency, more authentic work, and richer technology infusion in an attempt to be more responsive to societal and workforce needs, schools of education must not only catch up but lead the way.

Facing head-on as postsecondary faculty this challenge of relevance to schools’ work and students’ life readiness will require a willingness to address institutional inertia, outdated curricula, our lack of technological familiarity and fluency, the fears and control needs of both ourselves and university administrators, our lack of understanding regarding learning possibilities, and most importantly, our lack of vision for what learning, teaching, and schooling could be instead.

For educational leadership faculty, we will return full circle to the recent digital leadership literature review noted at the beginning of this commentary. Dexter et al. (2016) utilized Hitt and Tucker’s (2016) unified model of effective leadership practices to organize their analysis around the five broad leadership domains of (a) establishing vision; (b) facilitating student learning; (c) building professional capacity; (d) supporting the organization; and (e) partnering with external stakeholders. Within these five domains, they also summarized critical literature gaps and key research needs and concluded with recommendations for leadership preparation and other faculty action. In other words, the review provides educational leadership faculty with numerous concrete steps that we can take to enhance the depth and breadth of our technology-related teaching and scholarship. If we choose to advance along these fronts, we can expand our work in new directions and make immediately impactful contributions to both our preservice students and the schools and administrators we serve.


Dexter, S., Harris, D., & Gibson, D. (2017). Educational theory into practice software. Available at

Dexter, S., Richardson, J. W., & Nash, J. B. (2016). Leadership for technology use, integration, and innovation. In M. D. Young & G. M. Crow (Eds.), Handbook of research on the education of school leaders (2nd ed.; pp. 202-228). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hitt, D. H., & Tucker, P. D. (2016). Systematic review of key leader practices found to influence student achievement: A unified framework. Review of Educational Research, 86, 531-569. doi: l0.3102/0034654315614911

McLeod, S. (2011). Are we irrelevant to the digital, global world in which we now live? UCEA Review, 52(2), 1-5.

McLeod, S. (2015). Facilitating administrators’ instructional leadership through the use of a technology integration discussion protocol. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 10(3), 227-233.

McLeod, S., Bathon, J. M., & Richardson, J. W. (2011). Studies of technology tool usage are not enough. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 6(5), 288-297.

McLeod, S., & Richardson, J. W. (2011). The dearth of technology leadership coverage. Journal of School Leadership, 21(2), 216-240.

McLeod, S., & Richardson, J. W. (2014). School administrators and K-12 online and blended learning. In R. Ferdig & K. Kennedy (Eds.), Handbook of research on K-12 online and blended learning (pp. 285-301). Pittsburgh, PA: ETC Press.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M.J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for integrating technology in teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Schrum, L., Galizio, L. M., & Ledesma, P. (2011). Educational leadership and technology integration: An investigation into preparation, experiences, and roles. Journal of School Leadership, 21(2), 241-261.

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Editorial: Beyond Standalone Educational Technology Coursework: K-16 Teacher Preparation Strategies

Editorial: Beyond Standalone Educational Technology Coursework: K-16 Teacher Preparation Strategies

In a recent interview, former director of the U.S. Office of Educational Technology Joseph South, noted that “Schools of Education must bring technology meaningfully into the practice of preparing teachers to become full-time educators” by providing “exemplars of best practice that are not limited to a three-credit technology course” (Bull, Spector, Persichitte, & Meiers, 2017).  The set of papers in this issue of CITE is directly responding to this call by providing new approaches to integrating technology in teacher education that move beyond standalone courses to explicitly address content and pedagogy in methods courses and field experiences.  These papers address teacher education and professional development practices that not only familiarize teachers with new technologies but help them acquire firsthand experiences of what it means to learn with technology.

Collectively, these papers touch upon different classes of emerging technologies, including technologies that support understanding, collaboration, and anytime, anyplace learning (Mouza & Lavigne, 2012).  They also present evidence and analyses highlighting successes and shortcomings using rigorous research methodologies, including design-based, qualitative, and quantitative methods.  Finally, they focus on participants across the continuum, including preservice and in-service teachers as well as teacher educators.

The current issue of CITE Journal includes four articles, as well as two commentaries in response to “An Interview With Joseph South” published by Bull et al. (2017) submitted by the Teacher Education and Technology and Media Divisions of the Council for Exceptional Children and the University Council for Educational Administration Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education.

The Science Education article, “Examining Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Technology Self-Efficacy: Impact of Mobile Technology-Based Physics Curriculum” by Deepika Menon, Meera Chandrasekhar, Dorina Kosztin, and Douglas Steinhoff investigates changes in preservice elementary teachers’ technology self-efficacy during their participation in a science content course that utilized a mobile technology-based physics curriculum, Exploring Physics.  The objective of the course was to enhance preservice teachers’ science content knowledge on physical science topics while simultaneously modeling instructional strategies, including technology use, that teachers are expected to apply in their future classrooms.  Using surveys, focus-groups, and individual interviews the authors examined participants’ self-efficacy before and after participation in the course and identified factors that supported participants’ technology self-efficacy.

The Mathematics Education article, “Flipping Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Mathematics Anxieties” by Anthony Dove and Emily Dove, examined how different instructional practices, including in-class lecture, flipped learning with teacher-created videos, and flipped learning with existing online videos, compared in improving students’ mathematics anxiety and anxiety about teaching mathematics.  Survey and interview data demonstrated that flipped learning with teacher created videos appeared most promising in reducing preservice teachers’ anxieties and promoting confidence in mathematics.

The General section article, “A Design-Based Research Approach to Improving Professional Development and Teacher Knowledge: The Case of the Smithsonian Learning Lab” by Doron Zinger, Ashley Naranjo, Isabel Amador, Nicole Gilbertson, and Mark Warschauer, shifts attention from preservice to in-service teachers.  In this study, the authors investigated a professional development program designed to prepare a group of middle school social studies teachers to teach with an online resource, the Smithsonian Learning Lab.  In their work, the authors utilized an iterative, design-based approach to develop learning opportunities for practicing teachers. Utilizing teacher feedback over the course of four separate workshops, the authors articulate how the design of the professional development series evolved and the associated changes in teacher knowledge of technology, content, and pedagogy.

Finally, the Current Practice article, “Access is Not Enough: A Collaborative Autoethnographic Study of Affordances and Challenges of Teacher Educators’ iPad Integration in Elementary Education Methods Courses” by Sheri Vasinda, Di Ann Ryter, Stephanie Hathcock, and Qiuying Want, closes the loop by examining how teacher educators learn and reflect on their own efforts to teach with technology.  Specifically, in this work four faculty members representing different content areas documented their own technology integration journey through collaborative autoethnography identifying the affordances and limitations of mobile technology integration in science, social studies, and literacy methods courses.  Through authoethnographical writings the authors found that high quality use of mobile technologies required not just access but also time for exploration, experimentation, practice and professional support.

I see two broad themes in this group of papers, which are further highlighted by the two commentaries that round up this issue of CITE Journal. First, teacher educators have already begun looking beyond standalone educational technology courses as the primary vehicle to teacher preparation on the use of technology.  The articles in this issue address the integration of technology in both content-related courses (e.g., Science Education article) and methods courses (e.g., Current Practice article).  They also focus on modeling technology-enhanced practices that current and future teachers are expected to implement in their classrooms (e.g., Mathematics Education article).

As Menon et al. write in the Science Education section, “One unique aspect of the course was integration of iPads in ways for preservice teachers to learn science content, which also provided firsthand experiences in which they witnessed effective models of teaching science using technology.”  Recently, Mouza and colleagues also noted the important role of integrating technology across teacher education programs, including content, methods courses, and field experience in order for preservice teachers to acquire a deep and sustained understanding of technology use (see Mouza, 2016; Mouza & Karchmer-Klein, 2013; Mouza, Nandakumar, Yilmaz Ozden, & Karchmer-Klein, in press).

Second, all articles are deeply grounded in theoretical frameworks related to effective uses of technology in instruction, including the framework of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (Koehler & Mishra, 2009) and Bandura’s (1977) self-efficacy construct.  The two commentaries in this issue of CITE also highlight the importance of using theory-driven interventions for teacher education and school leadership as well as broader theoretical frameworks related to Universal Design of Learning and How People Learn (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000).  Further, both commentaries encourage more research and specific guidelines on translating vision into reality for both special education teachers and school leaders.  Such research would be essential to helping teachers and administrators “improve their organization and instructional technology-related decision-making” (McLeod & Richardson, this issue).

While this issue of CITE Journal makes important contributions to the preparation of teachers on the use of technology as it occurs in university-based education programs, it is important to note that one in five new teachers receives preparation through nontraditional programs (U.S. Department of Education, 2013) and that we know little about the technology preparation provided in those programs.  Thus, CITE Journal readers are encouraged to continue the discussion on effective strategies for teacher preparation on the use of technology across a variety of settings.  This discussion is essential for helping all students thrive in the new digital world.


Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy. Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.

Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R.  (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school: Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9853.

Bull, G., Spector, J. M., Persichitte, K., & Meier, E. (2017). Reflections on preparing educators to evaluate the efficacy of educational technology: An interview with Joseph South. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 17(1). Retrieved from

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1),60-70.

Mouza, C. (2016). Developing and assessing TPACK among preservice teachers: A synthesis of research. In M. Herring, P. Mishra, & M. Koehler (Eds.), Handbook of technological pedagogical content knowledge for educators (2nd ed.; pp. 169-190). New York, NY: Routledge.

Mouza, C., & Lavigne, N.C. (2012). Introduction to emerging technologies for the classroom: A learning sciences perspective. In C. Mouza, & N. Lavigne (Eds.). Emerging technologies for the classroom: A learning sciences perspective (pp.1-14). New York, NY: Springer.

Mouza, C., Nandakumar, R., Yilmaz-Ozden, S., & Karchmer-Klein, R. (in press). A longitudinal investigation of pre-service teachers’ development of technological pedagogical content knowledge in the context of teacher preparation. Action in Teacher Education.

Mouza, C., & Karchmer-Klein, R. (2013). Promoting and assessing pre-service teachers technological pedagogical content knowledge in the context of case development. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 48(2), 127-152.

U.S. Department of Education. (2013). Preparing and credentialing the nation’s teachers: The Secretary’s ninth report on teacher quality. Washington, DC: Office of Postsecondary Education.

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