Learning in context: Technology integration in a teacher preparation program informed by situated learning theory

Authors


Abstract

This investigation explores the effectiveness of a teacher preparation program aligned with situated learning theory on preservice science teachers' use of technology during their student teaching experiences. Participants included 26 preservice science teachers enrolled in a 2-year Master of Teaching program. A specific program goal was to prepare teachers to use technology to support reform-based science instruction. To this end, the program integrated technology instruction across five courses and situated this instruction within the context of learning and teaching science. A variety of data sources were used to characterize the participants' intentions and instructional practices, including classroom observations, lesson plans, interviews, and written reflections. Data analysis followed a constant comparative process with the goal of describing if, how, and why the participants integrated technology into their instruction and the extent to which they applied, adapted, and innovated upon what they learned in the science teacher preparation program. Results indicate that all participants used technology throughout their student teaching for reform-based science instruction. Additionally, they used digital images, videos, animations, and simulations to teach process skills, support inquiry instruction, and to enhance student engagement in ways that represented application, adaptation, and innovation upon what they learned in the science teaching methods program. Participants cited several features of the science teacher preparation program that helped them to effectively integrate technology into their instruction. These included participating in science lessons in which technology was modeled in the context of specific instructional approaches, collaborating with peers, and opportunities for feedback and reflection after teaching lessons. The findings of this study suggest that situated learning theory may provide an effective structure for preparing preservice teachers to integrate technology in ways that support reform-based instruction. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 50:348–379, 2013

Science education guidelines and standards suggest that proficiency in science is achieved through student-centered science instruction that supports conceptual understanding and provides opportunities to learn about and practice inquiry (American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS], 1993; Donovan & Bransford, 2005; National Research Council [NRC], 1996, 2012). “Students who are proficient in science know, use, and interpret scientific explanations of the natural world, generate and evaluate scientific evidence and explanations, understand the nature and development of scientific knowledge, and participate productively in scientific practices and discourse” (Duschl, Schweingruber, & Shouse, 2007, p.36). Such reform-based approaches to teaching science require substantial changes in teachers' instructional practices and have proven difficult to implement (Loucks-Horsley, 1999).

Science education research literature identifies three major barriers to successful implementation of reform-based science instruction. First, in many cases, teachers do not have requisite content knowledge and/or familiarity with non-traditional pedagogical approaches to provide a foundation for implementing reform-based science instruction (Berns & Swanson, 2000; Gess-Newsome, 2003; Johnson, 2006, 2007; Loucks-Horsley, Hewson, Love, & Stiles, 1998; Supovitz & Turner, 2000). Second, many teachers are reluctant to implement reform-based science instruction in their classrooms. This reluctance is a consequence of the emphasis placed on standardized tests by both teachers and administrators (Arora, Kean, & Anthony, 2000; Johnson, 2006, 2007; Keys & Bryan, 2001; Keys & Kennedy, 1999; Yerrick, Parke, & Nugent, 1997) and the perceived disconnect between students' ability to explore abstract concepts through investigations (Keys & Kennedy, 1999). Finally, lack of resources, is a commonly cited barrier to reform-based science instruction (Bauer & Kenton, 2005; Blumenfeld, Krajcik, Marx, & Soloway, 1994).

Recent investigations suggest computer-based technologies may facilitate implementation of reform-based science instruction (Bell & Trundle, 2008; Kim, Hannafin, & Bryan, 2007; Mistler-Jackson & Songer, 2000; Schnittka & Bell, 2009). Effective technology integration has the potential to promote student involvement, conceptual understanding of scientific concepts, and development of spatial intelligence (Hennessy, Deaney, & Ruthven, 2006; Way et al., 2009; Wu & Huang, 2007). Recent research also indicates that digital media, probeware, modeling tools, computer simulations, and virtual collaborative environments may support teachers' efforts to integrate science inquiry into their instruction (e.g., Higgins & Spitulnik, 2008; Kim et al., 2007; Lee, Linn, Varma, & Liu, 2010; Mistler-Jackson & Songer, 2000; Varma, Husic, & Linn, 2008). For example, incorporating technology into instruction may support students' ability to analyze and interpret data, model construction and testing, and foster collaboration (Dani & Koenig, 2008; Dickerson & Kubasko, 2007; Linn, Davis, & Bell, 2004). Simulations, a specific form of computer modeling tools, may facilitate inquiry learning by providing visualization opportunities that may not be possible in actual field work (van Joolingen, de Jong, & Dimitrakopoulout, 2007; Winn et al., 2005). Further, research suggests that when appropriately used, these technologies are at least as effective as traditional methods in promoting student learning, achievement gains in science, and supporting students' understanding of abstract and complex concepts (e.g., Binns, Bell, & Smetana, 2010; Lee et al., 2010; Linn, Lee, Tinker, Husic, & Chiu, 2006; Plass et al., 2012; Scalise et al., 2011; Trundle & Bell, 2010; Zacharia, 2003; Zucker, Tinker, Staudt, Mansfield, & Metcalf, 2008).

In general, access to computers and other educational technologies in schools is more widespread than in the past; however, these technologies continue to be underutilized for science instruction (Belland, 2009; Songer, 2007). Rather, research suggests teachers typically use technology for administrative purposes or to support traditional instruction (Cuban, Kirkpatrick, & Peck, 2001; Doherty & Orlofsky, 2001; Pflaum, 2004; Waight & Abd-el-Khalick, 2006). It is the teacher, not the technology that determines the instructional approaches utilized, whether they are traditional, emphasizing passive learning, or reform-based, emphasizing student engagement and active learning (Brown, 2007; Showm, 2003).

Therefore, the nature of teacher preparation is a critical consideration for encouraging the use of technology for reform-based science instruction (Friedrichsen, Dana, Zembal-Saul, Munford, & Tsur, 2001; Kopcha, 2010; Willis & Mehlinger, 1996). The traditional approach compartmentalizes science instruction from educational technology instruction (Hargrave & Hsus, 2000). Preservice teachers are typically introduced to a broad range of instructional uses of technology in a stand-alone introduction to educational technology course, resulting in technology instruction that is decontextualized from science content (Hargrave & Hsus, 2000; Wetzel, Zambo, Buss, & Arbaugh, 1996). While many science teaching methods courses include instructional technology as a topic, they often do so in a separate unit, further exacerbating the decontextualized nature of technology instruction. The end result is that teacher preparation programs commonly fail to integrate learning to use technology in the context of learning how to teach science (Cooper, 2001; Flick & Bell, 2000; Hargrave & Hsus, 2000).

The National Education Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T) delineate the competencies teachers should have in integrating technology into instruction (ISTE, 2008). The NETS-T advocate teachers employing technology to facilitate knowledge construction, foster creativity, support inquiry, and develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. Flick and Bell (2000) developed guidelines to assist science teacher preparation programs in designing instruction that supports development of NETS-T competencies specifically to support reform-based science instruction among preservice teachers:

  • (1)Technology should be introduced in the context of science content.
  • (2)Technology should address worthwhile science with appropriate pedagogy.
  • (3)Technology instruction in science should take advantage of the unique features of technology.
  • (4)Technology should make scientific views more accessible.
  • (5)Technology instruction should develop students' understanding of the relationship between technology and science (p. 40).

These guidelines call for a science education program that teaches technology integration in the context of teaching science content. Further, these guidelines imply that effective technology integration should be contextualized.

Research on the situated nature of learning provides further support for science teacher preparation that integrates learning about educational technology within the context of learning to teach science (Bell & Park, 2008; Luft, Roehrig, & Patterson, 2003; Mishra & Koehler, 2007; Smetana & Bell, 2011). In this contextualized approach, scaffolding and other forms of social support also play a prominent role (Beyerbach, Walsh, & Vannatta, 2001; Bryan & Abell, 1999; Capobianco, 2007; Kay, 2006; Mims, Polly, Shepherd, & Inan, 2006; Swan et al., 2002). Essentially, these investigations suggest that teacher preparation informed by situated learning theory will be more effective than the traditional decontextualized approach. Many studies exist that explore technology integration in teacher preparation programs (e.g., Kay, 2006); however, the present investigation is unique in that it explores the effectiveness of a science teacher preparation program explicitly aligned with situated learning theory.

Situated Learning

The theoretical framework for this study is based on McLellan's (1996) perspective on situated learning theory. According to situated learning theory, learning cannot be achieved or looked at separately from the context in which it occurs. Therefore, a decontextualized approach to technology instruction is unlikely to be successful because knowledge “… exists not as a separate entity in the mind of an individual, but … is generated as an individual interacts with his or her environment (context) to achieve a goal” (Orgill, 2007, p.187). The major assumptions of situated learning are that understanding of a concept is constantly under construction, knowledge must be learned in an authentic context of how it might be used, and interactions between individuals often result in knowledge (Orgill, 2007). This view of knowledge has implications both for our understanding of learning and for the design of instruction. Situated learning perspectives provide “part of a theoretical justification for ‘inquiry-based’ approaches to science teaching and learning” as learning through authentic activities is emphasized (Scott, Asoko, & Leach, 2007, p. 45). Situated learning theory suggests that teachers will more successfully integrate technology into science instruction when they learn to use technology in the context of teaching and learning science.

McLellan (1996) proposed a model of instruction based on these principles. This model provides a practical framework for developing a program aligned with situated learning theory and emphasizes the importance of social interactions during learning. Key components of this model include:

  • (1)Cognitive apprenticeship and coaching.
  • (2)Opportunities for multiple practice.
  • (3)Collaboration.
  • (4)Reflection.

All of these components are to occur within an authentic context.

Cognitive apprenticeship, which “emphasizes generalizing knowledge so that it can be used in many different settings” (Collins, 2006, p. 49), is central to this situated learning model. During cognitive apprenticeship, the teacher selects authentic problems for students to solve and provides them with opportunities to apply the skills learned in solving this problem to new situations, gradually increasing task complexity. For example, a teacher learning to integrate technology could initially take an existing technology-enhanced science lesson that was modeled and apply it, with little modification, into her own teaching context. An additional layer of complexity may involve keeping the same general technology-enhanced lesson structure that was modeled but tailoring it to teach new content, thus adapting the lesson. An even greater level of complexity would involve the teacher synthesizing multiple technologies into a single lesson to teach new content, integrating entirely new technologies other than those to which they had previously been introduced, or using technologies to which they had been introduced, but in innovative ways.

Coaching is integral to both cognitive apprenticeship and situated learning (McLellan, 1996). Coaching, a component of all constructivist learning theories, is the way teachers refrain from directly telling students what they need to know. Rather, the teacher provides scaffolding for learning and guides students to a place of understanding and competence. Additionally, students should be given many opportunities to practice and refine what they are learning. Collaboration stresses the social construction of knowledge. This is expressed in classrooms when students actively participate in discussions with the teacher and with each other as they attempt to make sense of their experiences and construct knowledge. Also important is reflection on the part of the learner. It is suggested that teachers take the time to allow students to reflect on what they are experiencing. This can be facilitated as the teacher asks students to make observations, make predictions, and pose inferences and tentative theories about what they are learning.

Recent literature suggests that programs integrating one or more of these aspects of McLellan's model may be effective in facilitating teachers' use of technology for instructional purposes in the classroom (Beyerbach et al., 2001; Capobianco, 2007; Swan et al., 2002). Swan et al. (2002) report anecdotal findings of an in-service teacher professional development program situated in authentic classroom practice in which elementary teachers worked one-on-one with mentors to learn to teach with technology. Researchers found teachers who participated in this professional development increased their knowledge of computer technologies, gained confidence in integrating these technologies, and integrated more creative teaching approaches. Beyerbach et al. (2001) conducted a 2-year evaluation study of a preservice teacher technology infusion program in which technology was integrated into methods courses and related field experiences. Their findings suggest that preservice teachers appreciated opportunities for practice when this practice was guided and scaffolded by experienced mentors (Beyerbach et al., 2001). Beyerbach et al. (2001) also found that preservice teachers appreciated opportunities for collaboration with peers.

Situated learning theory suggests that learning to integrate technology into instruction is most effective when it occurs in an authentic context (Friedrichsen et al., 2001; Luft et al., 2003; Mishra & Koehler, 2007; Smetana & Bell, 2011; Willis & Mehlinger, 1996). For example, Luft et al. (2003) found that novice teachers in a science-specific teacher induction program integrated technology into instruction more frequently than their peers in general induction programs or who experienced no induction program. The authors suggest that this was due to the contextualized nature of technology instruction in the science-specific induction program.

This study extends previous investigations by exploring a science teacher preparation program in which both the social components of McLellan's (1996) model and an authentic context for learning to teach science content with technology were present. Many teacher preparation programs assert that they include some components of situated learning theory (e.g., coaching, opportunities for practice); however, these programs do not necessarily claim to align explicitly with situated learning theory. To our knowledge, the present study is the first to explore the effectiveness of a preservice science teacher preparation program in which both key aspects of situated learning theory are emphasized.

It is our goal that graduates of our science teacher education program should be able to transfer what they learn about technology integration to support reform-based science instruction into their own instructional context. Transfer is the “the ability to extend what has been learned in one context to new contexts” (NRC, 2000, p. 51). The literature on knowledge transfer suggests “the most effective transfer may come from a balance of specific examples and general principles” (p. 77). Further, teaching content and skills in multiple and expansive contexts and incorporating examples that demonstrate broad application can facilitate students' knowledge transfer to new settings (Engle, Lam, Meyer, & Nix, 2012; NRC, 2000).

Purpose

Recent investigations have demonstrated that teachers can use educational technology to support reform-based instruction (Irving, 2009; Schnittka & Bell, 2009). The current study extends the previous work in that it examined how preservice teachers within a science teacher preparation program aligned with situated learning theory used technology during their student teaching experiences. Specifically, our research questions were:

  • (1)After completing a science teacher preparation program informed by situated learning theory, how did preservice teachers use technology during their student teaching experiences?
  • (2)To what extent and in what ways do participants innovate upon what they learn in the science teacher preparation program about integration of technology to support reform-based instruction during their student teaching semester?

Methods

Due to the exploratory nature of the research questions, a qualitative research design was employed. Specifically, we used a case study approach to explore how preservice science teachers enrolled in a program aligned with McLellan's (1996) model of situated learning used technology to support reform-based instruction.

Participants and Context

The participants in this study included 26 preservice science teachers (11 males and 15 females) ranging in age from 21 to 54. These participants comprised two cohorts of students enrolled in a Master of Teaching (M.T.) program at a large, public Mid-Atlantic university. All of the participants were enrolled in either a combined Bachelor of Arts and Master of Teaching 5-year program (B.A./M.T.) or a 2-year post-graduate/Master of Teaching (P.G./M.T.) program in secondary science education. The P.G./M.T. students enrolled in the program after earning their bachelor's degrees either from a different university or from the same university prior to pursuing a M.T. degree. Beginning with the fourth year for the B.A./M.T. enrollees and the first year for the P.G./M.T. enrollees, all participants were enrolled in the same courses over a 2-year period. Upon graduation, each participant received a Masters in Teaching (M.T.) degree, a grade 6–12 teaching license, and a content area endorsement. All preservice teachers participated voluntarily in this investigation and pseudonyms are used throughout this paper.

Alignment of the Science Teacher Preparation Program With Situated Learning

The goal of the science teacher preparation program that served as the context for this study is to develop teachers who teach science using approaches informed by research and science education reform documents. To achieve this goal, the program features a combination of typical and unique courses and experiences. Common to many teacher education programs were the general education courses related to educational psychology, special needs education, curriculum development, and assessment. Subject-specific courses included an introduction to technology course, two semesters of science methods, and multiple field experiences culminating in student teaching and an associated seminar. Table 1 indicates the organization of the science-specific components of the secondary education program.

Table 1. Organization of the secondary science education program
 Fall SemesterSpring Semester
 Teaching secondary science methods ITeaching secondary science methods II
Year 1Educational technology for math and science teachersTeaching secondary science methods lab
Year 2Student teaching, student teaching seminarCapstone project (research in science education)

The program also contains several unique features relevant to the present investigation. First, situated learning theory informed all aspects of the program, which strived toward a high degree of authenticity in the science-specific education courses and experience. Additionally, educational technology instruction was carefully integrated across multiple courses and structured around the guidelines summarized by Flick and Bell (2000). These guidelines were designed to “guide applications of technology to support science teacher” preparation in ways aligned with the NSES (para. 6). The guidelines emphasize that technology should support effective science instruction, rather than become a means in itself. As such, it should be integrated to teach important science content through student-centered pedagogical approaches, including science inquiry. Additionally, technology should be integrated in ways that leverage the unique features of the technology, make abstract scientific concepts more accessible, and foster an understanding of the relationship between technology and science. In the paragraphs that follow, we specifically outline the innovative features of these courses concluding with their alignment to key aspects of situated learning including cognitive apprenticeship, coaching and scaffolding, opportunities for multiple practice, collaboration, and reflection.

Introduction to Educational Technology Course

All participants completed a science-specific educational technology course that provided an introduction to effective ways of integrating technology into science instruction, as described by Flick and Bell (2000). This course was designed to explicitly complement what would be taught later in the science methods course sequence. The course emphasized using technology in meaningful ways to support reform-based science instruction that promotes student engagement with science content and supports the development of complex understandings. Instructors were former science teachers who specialized in instructional technology and had both the classroom experience and pedagogical content knowledge to serve as coach and facilitator. In this role, instructors modeled effective approaches of integrating technology within the context of science-based lessons and helped participants build a framework for understanding how technology can be used to improve science teaching and learning. See Ritt and Bell (2009) for a more thorough description of this course.

Science Methods Courses

During the academic year preceding student teaching, participants completed a two-semester science methods course sequence. In these courses, preservice teachers were prepared to teach science as a dynamic discipline composed of three interacting components: (a) science as a body of knowledge, (b) science as a set of processes, and (c) science as a way of knowing. This structure provided a framework for the topics and activities used throughout the course, which were regularly debriefed in regard to how they related to these interrelated aspects of science.

The use of educational technology for instructional purposes was integrated throughout the science methods courses and built on what was taught during the introduction to educational technology course. The instructor, also the first author, modeled whole-class uses of technology, including engaging digital images and videos, online simulations, and various Internet resources. For example, preservice teachers learned about the role of observation and inference in the scientific endeavor through the use of engaging digital images. Participants then collaborated to complete subject-specific collections of digital resources for use during student teaching. During a long-term inquiry project for the courses, preservice teachers used simulations such as StarryNight™ in conjunction with field observations to learn about the causes of moon phases. Lessons were also modeled in which participants conducted scientific inquiry using a variety of other computer simulations to learn how to teach scientific concepts. The preservice teachers were also introduced to a variety of other technologies during the methods course, including interactive white boards, spreadsheets, and digital microscopes. All of these technologies were introduced within the context of teaching science effectively and learning new instructional models.

For example, in a separate lab component of the methods course sequence, participants developed and practiced teaching multiple science lessons in which they integrated technology using specific instructional models in a controlled setting. They integrated a variety of instructional models including inductive, deductive, demonstration, and inquiry approaches. Following lessons, written and verbal feedback was provided by peers and the instructor. Additionally, the participants reflected on the successes and challenges of these lessons in oral and written formats. Feedback and reflection included discussion of the guidelines presented by Flick and Bell (2000) and how they applied to the particular lesson and model employed.

Student Teaching

During the third semester of the program, the participants worked full-time as student teachers in one of eight public schools under the supervision and guidance of a classroom science teacher. Participants taught in the following content areas: Biology or Life Science (n = 14), Earth Science (n = 5), Chemistry (n = 5), and Physics (n = 2). To ensure preservice teachers had the capability of using technology for instructional purposes, each participant had access to a laptop computer, computer projector, and the Internet for the entirety of the 16-week student teaching semester. While instructional uses of technology were integrated throughout the program, there was no requirement that participants use technology during their student teaching. Participants were not evaluated on whether they incorporated educational technology into their instruction; nor were mentor teachers selected to promote the use of instructional technologies. In fact, it quickly became evident that our student teachers' vision and skills in teaching with technology surpassed those of their mentors in almost every case. Specific evidence of the participants' impact on their mentor teachers is highlighted in the results section of this manuscript.

Student Teaching Seminar

All participants met weekly for a student teaching seminar during the student teaching semester. The purpose of this seminar was to reinforce what was learned in the science methods classes within the context of the participants' student teaching experiences. A substantial portion of the class discussions and reflections focused on participants' efforts to integrate technology into their instruction. Another major component of this course was devoted to preparing for the state science teachers' conference, which was held at the end of the semester. Students worked in small groups to prepare an hour-long interactive presentation on educational technology and corresponding instructional materials to disseminate to in-service teachers at the conference.

Many aspects of this science teacher preparation program were purposively aligned with McLellan's (1996) model of situated learning. Throughout the program, instructors incorporated specific examples from science content aligned with appropriate instructional strategies to model appropriate uses of simulations, digital images, and presentation software. In all of their coursework and field placements, preservice teachers engaged in cognitive apprenticeship; they worked closely with professors, supervisors, and mentor teachers who provided coaching, scaffolding, detailed feedback, and encouragement to the preservice teachers as they began developing and teaching lessons that effectively integrated technology. Coaching was also a major component of the student teaching experience. Doctoral students observed participants' classroom instruction then provided constructive feedback and assistance in lesson planning and technology integration. They had multiple opportunities to practice using technology to teach science lessons they developed to peers and to secondary students during the science methods lab course, field placements, and student teaching. Collaboration was emphasized in multiple courses as preservice teachers worked together to collect and share subject-specific technology-based resources and to plan lessons in which technology was integrated. Opportunities for discussion and reflection on their experiences with technology use were integrated throughout the coursework constituting the science teacher preparation program. In summary, the participants experienced educational technologies throughout the program in ways that emphasized using technology to support effective instruction and situated within authentic instructional experiences and learning environments.

Data Collection

Field notes from observed lessons and participants' detailed lesson plans served as the primary data sources for this investigation. Additional data sources included formal and informal interviews, reflections, and other participant-created artifacts. These data sources provided evidence of the degree to which participants' transferred what they learned in the science teacher preparation program about instructional uses of technology into their own instructional context. The variety of data sources allowed us to characterize the program's impact on participants' instructional practices with technology and served to increase the internal validity of our findings through triangulation. To avoid bias, the first author, who was also the instructor of the science teaching methods courses, did not participate in data collection or data analysis.

Several mechanisms were employed to mitigate the impact of the research design on participants' science instruction. For example, the preservice teachers understood that they were participating in research on their science instruction, but were unaware of the particular focus on technology integration. The entrance interview began with broad questions about participants' views on what is important to teach and their views of effective science instruction, and only gradually focused on technology. Informal interviews addressed all aspects of participants' observed classroom instruction, including inquiry, nature of science, and technology use. Additionally, classroom observations were scheduled as part of normal student teaching supervision without prior discussion with the participant in regard to whether the lesson would include educational technology.

Interviews

Participants were formally interviewed prior to student teaching and at the conclusion of their student teaching experience. They were also informally interviewed during student teaching. The initial interview, conducted at the beginning of the student teaching semester, lasted about 30 minutes and included 14 open-ended questions. Questions were designed to elicit participants thinking about what is important to teach and their view of science instruction. Additional questions elicited participants' current thinking about technology use following their experiences in the science methods and educational technology courses and their intentions for integrating integrate educational technology into instruction during student teaching (see Methods Appendix A, available as Supporting Information accompanying the online article for the technology-related questions on the interview protocol). See Schnittka and Bell (2009) for details on the development and validation of the interview protocol. Informal interviews, which focused on participants' classroom management, nature of science instruction, inquiry instruction and thinking processes as they chose when and how to integrate technology into their lessons, were periodically conducted with each participant during the student teaching semester. Participants were also asked to discuss their perceptions of how their uses of technology impacted both student understanding of curricular objectives and student engagement. Each participant was formally interviewed again at the conclusion of the student teaching experience using a slightly modified version of the interview protocol previously described (Supp. Info. Methods Appendix B). This interview, which contained 20 questions and lasted approximately 50 minutes, focused specifically on the participants' goals for the use or non-use of technology for a particular lesson, specific examples of successful and unsuccessful technology-enhanced lessons, and the impact access to technology had on their instruction. All interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed for analysis.

Observations

Classroom observations constituted the primary source of data for characterizing how the participants used technology and the impact of the program on their technology use. Each participant was observed for an entire 90-minute lesson at least six times evenly spread throughout the semester for a total of 162 observations for all participants combined. These six observations were completed on a “random” schedule without prior discussion with the participant in regard to whether the lesson would include educational technology, rather these were part of normal supervision of student teaching. Researcher field notes described participants' instruction including lesson flow and content, student/teacher interactions, and the role of technology (if any) within the lesson.

Lesson Plans and Other Artifacts

Since the researchers were not able to observe the entirety of participants' lessons, all lesson plans, PowerPoint™ presentations, supplemental materials such as specific Internet resources, handouts, labs, and assessment documents that the student teachers created and implemented were collected. The number of lesson plans collected varied among participants depending on how many different courses (e.g., honors and advanced biology) they taught during student teaching and the schedule type at the school (i.e., block or seven periods). To provide additional data on how often and in what ways participants used technology throughout the semester, the researchers also collected each preservice teacher's reflective essays, written during student teaching. These teaching artifacts as well as comments from course evaluations served as a valuable tool to validate and elaborate upon the statements made by the participants during their interviews regarding technology use and program impact.

Data Analysis

Data analysis followed a constant comparative approach, as described by Bogdan and Biklen (1992) and Lincoln and Guba (1985). The goal of this process was to characterize how technology was used by the participants. Researchers used all available data generated by the participants during their student teaching experiences. These data included written lesson reflections, university supervisors' observation notes and post-observation interviews, lesson plans, digital presentations, and various other assignments.

Prior to analyzing the entire data set, three common data sets were analyzed for evidence of technology integration aligned with the Flick and Bell (2000) guidelines (e.g., making abstract concepts concrete, doing what could not be done without technology, supporting student engagement, supporting inquiry instruction) and coded for how technology was used in these instances (e.g., process skills instruction, inquiry instruction, nature of science instruction). Next, the researchers' interpretations of these three data sets were compared and re-analyzed in order to establish inter-rater agreement. Any differences were noted, discussed, and the data revisited until consensus was achieved as to what counted for each of these codes.

Once agreement was achieved, a round of analysis was completed separately for each participant's data. Data were coded using the commonly developed codes to establish patterns of technology use. We assessed the extent to which each participant's lessons incorporated substantive technology integration by calculating the percentage of each participants' lessons that included substantive technology integration, as defined by the Flick and Bell (2000) guidelines, out of the total lessons in their data set. Additionally, we noted evidence of program impact in participants' interview responses, written reflections, and course evaluations. Instances in which participants referenced program components explicitly aligned with McLellan's (1996) model of situated learning as supporting their technology integration were open-coded. Codes included: modeling, collaboration, sharing resources, developing resources, feedback, and reflection. Results of analysis of individual participants' data were shared with the research team along with supporting data. Instances of ambiguous or contradictory data from diverse sources were discussed in light of the available data.

Finally, to address the degree that participants transferred what they learned about technology integration, we categorized each technology-based lesson as “application,” “adaptation,” or “innovation.” The “application” category referred to technology-enhanced lessons or activities that utilized the same general structure, technologies, and content with little or no modification from what was modeled in their methods and/or technology courses. Lessons and activities categorized as adaptation employed the same general structure for using a technology as participants had experienced in their coursework (e.g., observation and inference with digital images) but tailored it to teach different content. The innovation category reflected the highest degree of transfer and included instances in which participants either

  • (a)synthesized multiple technologies into a single lesson to teach new content,
  • (b)integrated entirely new technologies into lessons/activities, or
  • (c)used the technologies modeled in the program in ways other than introduced in the program, but aligned with the Flick and Bell (2000) guidelines.

To represent the extent to which participants' technology-enhanced lessons were represented in each of these categories, we then calculated the percentage of each participant's subset of technology-enhanced lessons categorized as application, adaptation, and innovation, respectively. This analysis served as an indicator of the degree to which participants learned about technology integration in ways that support transfer and authentic use. Initial agreement across coders was 87%; however, through discussion of discrepancies, we reached 100% agreement.

These well-supported categories, which represent a synthesis of the entire data set, are presented in the results section as: extent of technology use, quality of integration, examples of application, examples of adaptation, examples of innovation, and program impact. Supporting evidence for these categories is presented in the form of quotations, observation notes, and vignettes.

Results

The purpose of this study was to examine how preservice science teachers within a science teacher preparation program aligned with situated learning theory used technology during their student teaching. Results indicate that the participants integrated technology substantially throughout their student teaching experiences to support reform-based instruction. Further, participants cited several features of the science teacher preparation program that helped them to effectively integrate technology into their instruction. In interpreting these results, it is important to remember that while one of the program goals was for participants to make good decisions related to instructional uses of technology; teaching with technology was not a requirement of the student teaching experience. Therefore, participants' integration of technology reported in this section was based on participants' pedagogical knowledge and intrinsic motivation to incorporate technology into instruction.

Extent of Technology Use

All of the participants used the computer projector system connected to the Internet for instructional purposes throughout their student teaching. A majority of the participants used some form of technology daily for instructional purposes. Analysis of the data revealed that the range of instructional use of technology for each participant was 13–100% of all lessons with an overall average of 66%. The majority of lessons taught by the participants integrated technology in substantive ways. To this end, the participants used educational technology for a variety of purposes including: teaching process skills, supporting inquiry-based instruction, improving visualization, increasing student engagement, projecting notes, and giving directions. Analysis of the lesson plans and interview responses indicated that the focus of instruction was closely aligned with state content standards. Technology was used to support content-based instruction and was not the focus of the instruction itself. Participants used multiple technologies to teach a wide variety of science concepts (Supp. Info. Table 1).

PowerPoint™ presentations supplemented with digital images dominated the instructional technology used by the participants in all content areas. Digital videos were incorporated into instruction by all of the participants teaching Earth science and physics, 87% of those teaching biology, and 80% of participants teaching chemistry. Simulations and animations were used by all of the chemistry and physics participants, 87% of biology participants, and 80% of Earth science participants. Web sites were incorporated into instruction by 80% of biology, chemistry, and Earth science participants. In all cases, the goal of the technology was to improve science instruction through increased student engagement, visualization, and inquiry teaching and learning.

Quality of Technology Use

Participants' integration of technology aligned with Flick and Bell (2000) guidelines for technology use. Table 2 indicates the number of lessons each participant taught that integrated technology in substantive ways and the percentage of these lessons that represent a direct application of the technology, as modeled in the educational technology or science methods course, an adaptation, or an innovation.

Table 2. Quantity and quality of technology integration by participants
Content AreaParticipantTotal Lessons AnalyzedNumber Lessons With Substantial Technology (%)Lessons With Substantial Technology
Number Application (%)Number Adaptation (%)Number Innovation (%)
  • a

    This student teacher submitted only six complete lesson plans, five of which included substantial technology use. He submitted lesson outlines including objectives, topics, and activities for the other lessons he taught and it was impossible to ascertain from those outlines whether or not technology was incorporated and if so, in substantive ways.

Biology (n = 14)Lisa2517 (68%)2 (12%)9 (53%)6 (35%)
Adam2720 (74%)2 (10%)9 (45%)9 (45%)
Evan1616 (100%)016 (100%)0
Gillian2013 (65%)1 (7%)10 (77%)2 (15%)
Susan2115 (71%)05 (33%)10 (66%)
Kelly1515 (100%)012 (80%)3 (20%)
Thomas169 (56%)05 (56%)4 (44%)
Adriane2814 (50%)1 (7%)10 (72%)3 (21%)
Jasona395 (13%)1 (20%)3 (60%)1 (20%)
Jeffery3024 (80%)020 (83%)4 (17%)
Eve2218 (82%)013 (72%)5 (28%)
Violet1410 (71%)08 (80%)2 (20%)
Glenda2316 (70%)1 (6%)12 (75%)3 (19%)
Jennifer2120 (95%)1 (5%)14 (70%)5 (25%)
Chemistry (n = 5)Debra3127 (87%)1 (4%)22 (81%)4 (15%)
Linda3629 (81%)024 (83%)5 (17%)
Derek2719 (70%)1 (5%)16 (84%)2 (11%)
Joshua3122 (71%)018 (82%)4 (18%)
Michael2828 (100%)026 (93%)2 (7%)
Earth Science (n = 5)Caroline3124 (77%)020 (83%)4 (17%)
Jamie4535 (78%)2 (6 %)23 (66%)10 (29%)
Catherine2814 (50%)08 (57%)6 (43%)
Lewis168 (50%)08 (100%)0
Bradley4522 (49%)021 (95%)1 (5%)
Physics (n = 2)Kimberly4224 (57%)014 (58%)10 (42%)
Mitchell4410 (23%)06 (60%)4 (40%)
Total (n = 26) 721474 (66%)13 (3%)352 (74%)109 (23%)

Of the 26 participants, 10 taught at least one technology-enhanced lesson identical to a lesson modeled in the science teacher preparation program. These lessons constituted application of the lesson to a new context, their student teaching placement. The majority of lessons taught constituted “adaptation,” in which participants developed technology-enhanced lessons to teach content appropriate to their student teaching placement. In these instances, they incorporated technologies (i.e., digital images, simulations, animations) modeled in the science teacher preparation program to teach science content relevant to their student teaching placement. Additionally, 24 of the 26 participants developed and taught lessons that constituted innovation on the part of the participant. Of these 24 participants, 22 taught multiple lessons categorized as “innovative.” These lessons either incorporated technologies other than those introduced and modeled in the science teacher preparation program (i.e., digital books), incorporated multiple technologies into a single lesson to increase engagement or make abstract concepts concrete, or used technologies introduced in the program in ways other than those modeled in the science teacher preparation program were categorized as “innovative.” Example lessons classified as “application,” “adaptation,” or “innovation” follow in the next three sections.

Application

A subset of 10 participants (38%) incorporated at least one technology-enhanced science lesson they experienced in the science methods courses into their own classroom instruction with little or no modification. These lessons constituted direct application of what they learned in the science teacher preparation program to a new context and predominately were used to teach students ideas related to the nature of science. As modeled in the science teaching methods courses, participants encouraged their students to engage in higher level thinking and analysis skills during these activities.

For example, when teaching about the nature of science in his biology class, Jason incorporated a digital image depicting various images of Saturn and its rings (Supp. Info. Fig. 1). This same image was used in the science teaching methods course to introduce the role of perceptual frameworks in science and the idea that science is tentative. Jason reflected why he chose to incorporate digital images into his instruction, noting, “It helps them actually see it and visualize what's going on in something they cannot see in the real world” (Jason, interview).

Similarly, Glenda used a simulation introduced in the science methods class to teach students that scientific knowledge is developed through observation and inference and that science can change with new evidence. In her technology reflection she described how she used this simulation with the SMART Board™:

Later in the class I used the SMART Board™ again to run the “mystery shape” gizmo, in which different students volunteered to move the shooter along the outside of a circle covering an unknown shape. As students took their try at different positions to shoot the pellets, they were able to gather more information to make inferences about the hidden shapes (Glenda, Technology Reflection).

In an interview, Glenda described her thinking about using this particular activity to teach nature of science concepts. She noted that she thought about the content and student engagement when planning this activity, stating, “I think the content kind of lends itself to different things. With nature of science, we did three or four different demos (computer simulations). The mystery shape being one of them …” Later in the interview she reflected further on why she selected this activity:

I know when we were doing the two nature of science demos that we used the SmartBoard™ for, there was hardly any side chatter. …because when [they] have something to focus on that is colorful and something is going on… it will improve their engagement (Glenda, interview).

Each of these lessons represents application of technology-enhanced science lessons participants themselves experienced in the science methods course into their own instruction during the student teaching semester.

Adaptation

All of the 26 participants adapted what they learned about appropriate uses of technology during the science teacher preparation program to develop lessons to teach new content using technologies introduced and modeled during the science teacher preparation program. Participants adapted what they learned in the science methods courses to support process skills instruction, inquiry instruction, and student engagement.

Process Skills Instruction

Teaching science process skills was modeled during the science methods course and participants engaged in and practiced designing activities that developed these skills among their students, both with and without the use of instructional technologies, as described above in the “details of the science teacher preparation program.” Data suggest participants transferred this knowledge into their own instruction during their student teaching experiences. Not only did they incorporate activities into their instruction that were modeled in the methods course, but they took what they learned about process skills instruction and technology instruction and applied it to different content. They used a variety of technologies, including digital images, videos, and animations to facilitate the development of process skills. They chose subject-specific images (often thought-provoking) to illustrate examples of concepts and processes they wanted students to learn. In these lessons, participants taught and reinforced process skills such as observing, inferring, predicting, and generating questions while also teaching important science content. Further, participants' encouraged their students to engage in higher level thinking and analysis skills during these activities.

For example, participants found that digital images provided an engaging context for students to practice the process skills of observation and inference. Typically, participants used provocative images and questioning to engage pupils in constructing rich descriptions of the image. Catherine's Earth Science students practiced their observation skills in a lesson about eclipses. To introduce the lesson, Catherine showed her students a YouTube™ video of an eclipse (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dk--lPAi04). Throughout the video, students wrote down observations about what they were seeing. After the video ended, the class discussed their observations. After summarizing their observations, the discussion segued into a lesson on the different types of eclipses and why eclipses occur. Thus, while introducing science content, Catherine simultaneously had her students practice observing, an important science process skill.

Lisa also incorporated process skills as she introduced the concept of energy transfer in ecosystems by asking students to make observations and inferences about a set of digital images (Supp. Info. Fig. 2). First, Lisa asked students to make observations of key characteristics and subsequently to identify the subject of each image (e.g., bacteria in a Petri dish, sun, zebra, etc.). Next, students inferred what organisms might use these as a source of energy. For example, one student inferred that a lion would eat the zebra for energy. In her exit interview, Lisa reflected that “having the digital images let them do more analysis than if I didn't have the technology.” While the structure of Catherine and Lisa's lessons was similar to that modeled in the methods course, each applied what she learned about using digital images to teach observation and inference in a way that addressed important science content relevant to her individual students.

Inquiry Instruction

In the science teaching methods course, participants were taught a simplified definition of inquiry: answering a research question through data analysis. The use of digital images and simulations to support inquiry was modeled in various activities during the science methods course, as described above. During student teaching, participants adapted what they learned in the science methods course. They used these technologies to encourage inquiry teaching and learning by having students make predictions, analyze data, test ideas, interpret results, and develop conclusions.

For example, Adam used technology to engage his biology class in an inquiry activity. This lesson constituted an example of adaptation. It had a structure similar to a nature of science lesson modeled in the science teaching methods course but had a different research question, used different images, and was used to teach different science content. In the lesson Adam challenged his biology class to answer the question, “Are Lithops living organisms?” Students analyzed a series of digital images of Lithops, succulent plants that look like rocks, in various stages of sprouting. As they gained more information (in the form of more images) they revised their conclusions based on new evidence. They also discussed how their tentative conclusions changed as they were introduced to new evidence, reinforcing the ideas that science is based on observation and inference and that scientific knowledge can change based on new evidence. Adam designed and taught this lesson then shared it with another preservice biology teacher, during the student teaching seminar. In turn, she modified the activity to use with her own class to teach science content and to reinforce important ideas about the nature of science.

Participants taught substantial science content in a variety of other inquiry lessons using technology in ways similar to those taught in the science methods course but adapted for different content. In a brief inquiry-oriented activity designed to introduce students to the concept of density, one participant showed her students a sequence of images depicting what happens over time to a drop of cold food coloring added to warm water. Students made observations and inferences that supported these observations to answer the question, “What is happening to the blue water? Why?” Additionally, a number of participants used simulations to allow students to manipulate variables to explore important relationships including the relationship between temperature and enzyme function and the relationship between populations in a food chain.

In many cases throughout the year, we observed participants' lessons in which students made predictions from observations of digital media or generated research questions when presented with engaging videos of phenomena or images. For example, Susan showed antacid commercials from YouTube™ to provide a context for pupils to generate questions about how antacids work (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMc12ohnVJA&mode=related&search, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFexDSMtxs8&mode=related&search). Then, based on questions generated by the whole class, students designed individual hands-on experiments to determine how antacids neutralize acid. As was the case with Susan's lesson, question-generating lessons typically preceded hands-on inquiry investigations to explore students' research questions and test students' predictions and hypotheses.

Student Engagement

Participants learned to distinguish between effective and ineffective uses of presentation software during the science teaching laboratory course in which they taught science lessons using presentation software to their peers and then received feedback from the instructors and peers. They applied this feedback when designing their own lessons that incorporated presentation software. For example, they used PowerPoint™ as a conduit to engage students through provocative images and video. They required students to think about science concepts through limited usage of text, opportunities to predict what happens next, and even through nonlinear presentations where students could choose the direction of the lesson. All of the participants cited student engagement as a critical component of their science instruction; we observed each of them making use of technology to promote deep understandings and student engagement with content.

Many participants adapted what they learned about effective integration of technology during the science methods course sequence when planning technology-enhanced science instruction with their mentor teacher. One participant said about his mentor teacher, “His PowerPoint™, it wasn't good just because of the graphs he had. It had extra stuff in there.” Another participant commented, “But the last 3 weeks when we were planning together, I took her [the mentor teacher's] PowerPoint™ presentations and moved words around and put in more pictures and stuff like that. Mine had a lot more slides with pictures on them.” Other participants found that student engagement increased simply by adding relevant digital images to PowerPoint™ slides that their mentor teachers had designed, reflecting that the capacity to apply what they learned in the methods class. For example, Jennifer asserted that one of her strengths was to go in and “clean up” her mentor teacher's PowerPoint™ presentations, which meant focusing only on the key ideas, minimizing text, and adding digital images (Supp. Info. Fig. 3).

Innovation

The majority of participants (92%) used what they learned as a basis to innovate technology-enhanced process skills and inquiry-oriented lessons for their students. Activities such as these represent participants' extending the use of these technology tools in ways that were different from what they learned in the methods course.

Process Skills Instruction

Participants used animations and simulations to support development of science process skills, particularly predicting, among students. While both prediction and use of simulations were taught in the methods course, these were taught independently of one another. Thus, this type of process skills activity represents an innovation on the part of our participants, in which they combined their understanding of prediction with what they learned about effective uses of simulations. Typically in these lessons, participants had their students practice making predictions in the context of learning new science content. For example, one participant incorporated animations into a lesson on human population growth to engage students in making predictions. She projected an animation that displayed changes in human population on a map of the world from ancient times to the future. Students made predictions regarding how the population would change in the future based on their observations of population changes from the animation. In another example, a participant used a simulation of peppered moths to help students explore natural and artificial selection. During this lesson, students predicted what would happen to the light and dark colored moth populations over time as they hunted moths on light colored trees then dark colored trees. They tested their predictions with an online simulation presented to the class via the projector. The participant tied this back to the content students were learning by asking them whether they thought the simulation was representing natural or artificial selection and asked them to defend their responses.

Inquiry Instruction

Lessons in this category exemplify how participants integrated what they learned about inquiry and individual technologies to support inquiry instruction and integrated these together into a single lesson. For example, Caroline incorporated multiple technologies including simulations, videos, and digital images into an Earth Science lesson. The following synthesis of observation notes and a post-observation interview describes how she used these technologies to support an inquiry-based lesson about the eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano on Montserrat in 1997.

Classroom Example 1

To set the context, Caroline introduced the activity with a video of the volcano eruption. Then, students were presented with the following scenario: You are part of a team of volcano experts invited to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory to help the geologists manage a serious situation developing on the island. There have been a number of earthquakes and pyroclastic flows around the Soufriere Hills Volcano. Now a dome is growing on the side of the main volcano. If it collapses, huge pyroclastic flows with potential to cause major loss of life will result. A helicopter pilot is in the air sending back images. It is up to your team to analyze these images, map the volcanic activity, and make the crucial decisions required to manage the situation.

Each “team” of three students consisted of an information coordinator, a geologist, and a crisis manager. The information coordinator's role was to monitor the reports coming in from the helicopter and take them to the rest of the team. They were also responsible for taking the decisions made by the crisis manager to the governor, Caroline, for checking. The geologist's role was to make a map of the volcanic hazard and work with the crisis manager on a plan for ensuring the safety of the islanders. Finally, the crisis manager's role was to make important decisions to manage the crisis. Using the images from the helicopter, a map of Montserrat, and the geologist's advice, the crisis manager made a decision and sent it to the governor.

Each report was presented on separate PowerPoint™ slides, which included at least one image. Using the report and corresponding digital images sent back from the helicopter, students worked in groups to make observations about the digital images and used the map to make a recommendation to the crisis manager. An example of a report with digital images that the students analyzed was “the dome on the eastern size of Changes Peak is growing larger” (Supp. Info. Fig. 4). Each team made observations of the images, then based on their data analysis, recommended a plan of action to manage the situation to the governor.

Another report students analyzed was “pyroclastic flows along Paradise Ghaut have reached Harris's village” (Supp. Info. Fig. 5). Students again analyzed the associated images and recommended a plan of action to the governor. Students repeated this for a variety of scenarios associated with the eruption of the Soufriere Hills volcano.

In this lesson, students used available data to make difficult decisions, defended those decisions with evidence, communicated their conclusions to peers, and applied their knowledge of volcanoes to an actual event. Caroline described the origination of the idea, modifications she made for the context she was using it in, and how she would modify the lesson in the future:

I found the basic structure of it online and changed things… I cut down the amount of time that they could spend thinking about it and the way that their roles worked. They were given certain scenarios and given three choices, essentially… if we had a little more time to do that activity, I think I would have done away with that and had them just come up with decisions (Caroline, exit interview).

In another innovative inquiry activity, Adam created a time-lapse video of a kidney bean sprouting using the digital microscope. He showed this video to students and posed the question, “How does the amount of food impact the growth and development of a kidney bean?” Based on this video shown to the whole class, students brainstormed more specific questions to answer this overarching question. Then, Adam modeled how to use digital microscopes to students and they worked in small groups to design and carry out experiments to answer their questions. Over the course of a 3-week period, students tested different amounts of food on the growth and development of kidney beans, making observations daily and using time-lapse video to record their beans' development. At the end of the 3-week period, the class viewed each group's time-lapse videos and drew conclusions regarding the amount of plant food that produces optimal growth. In his technology reflection and exit interview, Adam described why he set up the lesson this way:

“It was their bean that they were watching and they took pride in that. They got to see the process of the radical coming out and they got to learn a little bit about the radical, epicotyls, and hypocotyls. They loved it and otherwise that material could be boring” and “Ensuring that students were able to work in pairs with the digital microscopes allowed the students to remain involved and engaged in discovering the capabilities of those microscopes” (exit interview).

In planning this inquiry lesson, Adam clearly considered how the digital microscopes and time-lapse photography could contribute to students' ability to visualize the process of plant growth. Still others incorporated audio or video not introduced in the science teaching methods course to facilitate students' answering a research question through data analysis.

Student Engagement

The majority of participants created PowerPoint™ lessons that contained multiple embedded technologies including videos, simulations, and animations rather than pure text to increase student engagement. Many participants noted that this allowed them to cater to their students' different learning styles, especially their visual learners. These digital mediums also captured and maintained student interest in the content.

For example, in her chemistry class, Linda made use of video clips and animations during her lessons to increase student engagement. Reflecting on a lesson in which she introduced the basic ideas of quantum mechanics, Linda said, “I could not imagine their reaction if I had merely used the whiteboard and a primitive drawing to show the idea of wave-particle duality” (Linda, Technology Reflection). Instead, she showed a short, engaging video-clip that illustrated wave-particle duality.

Susan's PowerPoint™ lesson on cells, with an embedded digital copy of Hooke's Micrographia, is another example of this (Supp. Info. Fig. 6).

In her technology reflection she discusses this choice in terms of student engagement.

During my lesson which introduced the cell unit, I used many different forms of technology in my lesson. It was in a PowerPoint™ format, contained many digital images of different kinds of cells for illustration, including images of Hooke and Leeuwenhoek. I think the greatest part of the lesson was the link to an interactive, digital copy of Hooke's Micrographia. I was able to take the students on a “tour” of Hooke's observations and illustrations of what he saw in his microscope by simply turning the pages of the book online. This is something most people would not be able to experience, and was made possible with the Internet and the digitalization of Robert Hooke's work. We looked at the cork drawing, his sketches of snowflakes and crystals, as well as the fly's head drawing (Susan, Technology Reflection).

Participants also used PowerPoint™, SMART Board™, and SMART Notebook™ software in to create interactive lessons that innovated upon what they learned about technology-enhanced science instruction in the science teaching methods course. Most of the participants made regular use of the interactive capabilities of the technology they had access to in order to involve students in lessons. These included nonlinear PowerPoint™ presentations that allowed students to choose the order in which they wanted to explore the content and SMART Board™ activities in which were able to move objects embedded in the presentations or draw to explain their thinking and convey their understanding of the content.

The following classroom example further exemplifies the ways in which the participants made use of technology in innovative ways to increase student engagement.

Classroom Example 2

Early in the unit on geological processes, Catherine introduced her students to the three types of plate boundaries: divergent, convergent, and transform. As she explained each boundary and presented, Catherine used digital images to help illustrate and reinforce the definitions that students were copying into their notebooks. For an example of what might happen at a transform boundary, she displayed a photograph taken after the San Francisco Earthquake of April 18, 1906. She then asked students to come to the SMART Board™ and draw where they thought the San Andreas Fault line would be located. Students were eager to volunteer. Supporting Information Figure 7 shows the fault line that the volunteer student drew to show how the fence was split along the transform boundary.

After having gone through each of the definitions, Catherine then pulled up Google™ Earth to show real examples of each boundary. For each location that she virtually brought the class to, she asked them to explain what type of boundary they thought would occur at that location, based on their new understandings. For example, she flew over Iceland and asked “Which of the three boundaries would we find here?” Students shared their thoughts, and then Catherine zoomed in on Iceland to explore the effects of the divergent boundary that cuts through the island. When they arrived at the “Ring of Fire,” the entire class was wowed by the fact that 90% of the world's earthquakes and 75% of the world's volcanoes are found in such a relatively small area of the world. As the bell rang, students wanted to know when they could explore other locations; they cheered when Catherine assured them that they would use Google™ Earth in class again soon.

In this lesson, Catherine used technology to bring the content to life for her students. Rather than relying solely on written definitions, she presented students with images that would help solidify the meanings of the new terminology. She also made use of the interactive capabilities of the SMART Board™, and students were eager to volunteer. She took advantage of what the technology made possible, transporting her class from one location to another across the globe to reinforce their new understandings. Doing so made the content more meaningful, memorable, and realistic for students. This review also allowed Catherine to conduct a formative assessment of her students' understandings. This example illustrates how Catherine used technology in a way that captured student interest and promoted active student engagement in the lesson.

In general, the participants felt that their students responded well to the technology. The SMART Board™ was a novelty for many students, and the participants capitalized on the opportunity this presented. For instance, Adam said, “Often times in my eighth period class, my students are eager to write on the SMART Board™. I have turned this desire into a learning opportunity” (Adam, Technology Reflection).

The participants used these technologies to pique and hold student interest as well as make the content meaningful for them. They also took advantage of the interactive capabilities of technology and found that their students enjoyed the variety that the technology allowed for. Lessons included a multitude of digital media, such as digital images, video, animations, and simulations. Catherine reflected on how the variety of formats influenced her students' motivation. She said,

At the end of the day, 8th period had a hard time paying attention to note taking. I tried to incorporate videos and animations into the lessons to bring them back to focus and a little life back into the last class of the day” (Catherine, exit interview).

By making use of these varied instructional learning formats, the participants were able to meet the different learning preferences of students in their classes. Since the technology was a novelty, it was important for the participants to keep their use of technology focused on the content. Overall, they succeeded in keeping the technology from becoming a distraction or a toy, applying, adapting, and innovating upon the instructional strategies and technology tools modeled for them and practiced during their coursework the previous year to their unique student teaching context.

Program Impact

During formal and informal interviews, as well as in written reflections and course evaluations, participants cited several components of the program they believed helped them to effectively integrate technology into their instruction. These included participating in lessons in which technology was modeled in the context of specific instructional approaches, opportunities to collaborate with peers to develop and share science-oriented resources and lessons incorporating technology, preparation for their presentations at the state science teacher conference during the student teaching seminar, and opportunities for feedback and reflection after teaching lessons in which technology was utilized.

Students repeatedly discussed how having particular lessons modeled for them in the science methods and lab classes helped them think of ways to incorporate technology in their own lessons. Lisa noted, “I learned most of the technology stuff in [the science methods class] or in the lab and not in the technology class” (Lisa, exit interview). Participants indicated using digital images within the context of learning to make observations and inferences helped them think about ways to incorporate provocative digital images in engaging ways in their own teaching. Other students expressed that they benefitted from learning to use specific technologies including the SMART Board™, digital microscopes, and simulations during the science methods class and from practicing these during micro-teaching in the associated lab course. For example, in his inquiry reflection, Thomas described how he was more comfortable incorporating simulations and webquests to engage students in science inquiry after having the opportunity to try these lessons during student teaching. He observed, “It's just like any lesson with technology; you have to use good teaching methods to actually teach the content.” In his technology reflection, Joey noted, “I enjoy creating inquiry lessons and designing the questioning process that involve online simulations.” Other participants expressed a desire to continue designing technology-enhanced lessons to support inquiry in the future. Derek reflected, “I look forward to discovering and perhaps creating more ways to use technology in the classroom: finding simulations, animations, images, software packages, etc., especially when trying to use technology as a bridge to inquiry.”

In exit interviews, many participants noted that collaborating with peers to produce a digital resource collection during the science methods class helped them incorporate provocative digital images into PowerPoint™ presentations to reinforce the content they were teaching. Derek discussed how he and the other preservice chemistry teachers worked together to develop a digital image collection that went above and beyond the requirements for the assignment, each selecting 20 images instead of the five required. “Every morning, every night, I'd be looking for more digital images… more thought-provoking digital images” (Derek, exit interview). He continues, noting that it is hard to incorporate thought provoking images into lessons on the fly and that having the digital image collection made this easier. “You're trying to think, ‘what can I do with atoms?”’ Derek then described how he used digital images of his cat sleeping and then jumping to make the analogy of electrons in their ground and excited states. “I got that from [science methods] digital image project” (Derek, exit interview). Similarly, Joshua noted, “We had a lot of pictures, digital images that sort of illustrated different concepts [in our digital image collections]. It's easy to throw them up there inside a PowerPoint™ that's already created. [They can be used to ask students] ‘What does this illustrate? Think about that. Predict what's going to happen next?’ It's easy to just throw them up there and say, ‘Ok, think about this. What does this have to do with what we're doing?”’ (Joshua, exit interview).

Participants reported that two major components of the student teaching seminar course were valuable in facilitating and reinforcing their appropriate use of technology for science instruction; preparation of a presentation for the state science teacher conference, and content-area small group discussions facilitated by science education doctoral students. As part of the student teaching seminar course, participants worked in small groups to prepare instructional materials and a presentation for the state science teacher conference. These presentations were technology-oriented and the majority of participants found the experience to be very positive. Jennifer discussed the value of the experience both in terms of collaboration with her peers and in terms of perceived usefulness of the activities they created,

“I did the presentation at [the state science teachers' conference] with the digital microscopes and there were a lot of things that I put together with the other two girls that I'd worked with that I thought were really great and I would like to incorporate those into my class.” (Jennifer, exit interview)

Other participants echoed this sentiment in their course evaluations, “Because we were a part of making the lessons and putting together the [state science teachers' conference] presentation, actually presenting at the [state science teachers' conference] was much more beneficial.”

Participants clearly valued the opportunities for reflection, discussion, and peer collaboration components built into the student teaching seminar course. We noted multiple instances in which a participant would develop a lesson, teach it in their student teaching placement, share it during the seminar course, and then we would observe another participant teaching a modified version of the lesson in their placement. An example of this is discussed in the “application” section, above. Adam developed a technology-enhanced inquiry lesson, described it to his peers in the seminar course, then we observed Kelly teaching a slightly modified version of the same lesson in her placement. Participants noted that the seminar course provided an opportunity to share lesson plans and ideas that worked well. Other participants reflected, “It gave me a chance to be among my peers, ask questions, get ideas, and share my frustrations about my teaching experience. In addition to supporting our [student teaching] semester, this seminar also provided us with the chance for our professional development, through… to preparing and presenting at [the state science teachers' conference], to writing reflections about different aspects of our teaching.” Another participant reflected, “It gave us a chance to get feedback on things we were going to teach and things we had already taught. I always felt I got constructive and positive feedback from [supervisors]. They helped me be confident in trying something new in the classroom which in turn made my student teaching experience better.”

Discussion

The purpose of this investigation was to explore how participants in a science teacher preparation program aligned with situated learning theory used technology during their student teaching experiences to support reform-based science instruction. The results of this investigation suggest that embedding technology instruction within both a social and an authentic context is effective in facilitating preservice teachers' use of technology for reform-based science instruction during student teaching.

Participants in this study incorporated a wide variety of technologies to support content-based and reform-based science instruction. They did not integrate technology for its own sake, but incorporated it in meaningful ways aligned with the Flick and Bell (2000) guidelines. All participants incorporated technology in student-centered ways to develop students' conceptual understanding of science content and to support inquiry instruction. Their lessons also engaged students as active participants in lessons that supported the development of science process skills such as observation/inference, analysis, and question generation, and accurate conceptions of the nature of science.

The evidence collected in this investigation demonstrates that participants were able to transfer what they learned about effective science instruction and technology integration in the science teacher preparation program into their own instruction. They applied activities that were explicitly modeled in the methods course into their own instruction. Participants adapted what they learned about technology-enhanced science instruction to address content applicable to their individual student teaching placement. In innovative lessons, they combined technologies within an individual lesson to support the development of deep understandings and student engagement with science content, or used technologies in ways other than those modeled in the science teacher preparation program.

Given the difficulties that preservice teacher have in appropriately integrating technology into instruction (Kay, 2006; Mims et al., 2006), we were surprised at the degree of transfer reflected in our data. We expected that application of those technology-enhanced science lessons modeled in the introduction to educational technology and science methods classes would dominate participants' use of technology during their student teaching semester. However, the majority of lessons taught by participants integrated technology in ways that constituted adaptation and innovation. This is particularly impressive considering that the participants were preservice teachers, who were also learning to deal with a myriad of other classroom issues, such as classroom management, instructional planning, and lesson implementation. Factors that likely contributed to this high degree of transfer include: (i) these preservice teachers were experts in their content, having completed science majors in rigorous programs, and (ii) the situated context of the science teacher preparation program within which they learned to integrate technology to support effective science instruction.

One interesting finding is that the majority of lessons observed at the application level were designed to teach students key ideas about the nature of science. Three factors may have contributed to this finding. First, prior to the science teaching methods course, the nature of science was an unfamiliar topic to most participants. This lack of familiarity with teaching the nature of science may have contributed to participants' directly applying nature of science lessons as modeled in the methods course. However, as the semester progressed and their comfort with this content developed, participants incorporated nature of science lessons that constituted adaptation and innovation, such as the Lithops lesson Kelly taught. Second, the technology-enhanced nature of science lessons participants experienced during the science teaching methods courses extended across content areas, therefore participants may not have perceived a need to explicitly connect them to their own content. Finally, previous research indicates teachers and students alike find the nature of science activities modeled in the science methods course (i.e., the mystery shapes activity taught by Glenda) to be both engaging and effective (Bell, Mulvey, & Maeng, 2012; Lederman, 1999). Therefore, participants may not have perceived a need to adapt or innovate upon these already effective lessons.

The results of this study differ from previous studies that examined teachers' use of computers in classrooms. Most teachers have access to computers for instructional uses (IES, 2010); however, many do not consistently use computers for instructional purposes. Instead, previous investigations have found that teachers use computers predominately for administrative purposes or to support traditional instruction (Bauer & Kenton, 2005; Cuban et al., 2001; Doherty & Orlofsky, 2001; Shamburg, 2004; Waight & Abd-el-Khalick, 2006). Participants in this study integrated technology in substantive ways into the majority of their lessons, frequently to support reform-based science instruction.

In contrast to high levels of technology integration found in the present study (66%), Hammond et al. (2009) explored rationales for use of technology among a sample of 32 out of 260 (12%) of a cohort of preservice teachers' considered to be “good users of information and communication technologies (ICT).” The present study focused on the nature of the science teacher preparation program, whereas Hammond et al. (2009) do not describe the nature of the teacher preparation program other than to mention the ICT tools employed. Rather, researchers focused on participants' rationales for using various technologies to support instruction, which included increasing student engagement, increased efficiency in planning and implementation, and to do what could not otherwise be done in the classroom. Similar to the present study, participants cited access to technology, modeling by mentors, and extended personal experience as factors that encouraged ICT use. In a study of an in-service teacher professional development focused on developing teachers' content knowledge and inquiry instruction, Graham et al. (2009) reported that participants' confidence in integrating technology improved. However, participants reported using technology infrequently to support inquiry teaching and learning. This finding contrasts with that of the present study, in which participants frequently used technology to support inquiry instruction. The authors concluded that future professional development should focus on enhancing inquiry through technology use. Differences between the population (preservice vs. inservice teachers) and instructional context (teacher preparation program vs. professional development) may explain the variations in findings across studies. Taken together, the results of these studies contribute to our understanding of student-related factors and program-related factors that may support reform-based technology integration among preservice science teachers.

That our participants used technology appropriately in single computer classrooms is a significant finding since a single computer connected to the Internet and a projector can be found in most classrooms today (IES, 2010). In previous studies, access to a single computer has been cited as a barrier to teachers' effective integration of technology for instructional purposes (Bull & Garofalo, 2004; Norris, Soloway, & Sullivan, 2002; Soloway et al., 2001). Critics argue that a single computer with a projector used for instruction will likely promote traditional lecture style instruction in which students are passively taking notes and looking at images (Tufte, 2003). In contrast to these barriers and criticisms, participants in this study frequently integrated technology to support science instruction in which students analyzed evidence, defended their explanations, engaged in science inquiry processes, and developed conceptual understandings of science content.

The nature of the teacher preparation program in which participants were enrolled may provide one explanation for why our results differ from those of previous studies. Willis and Mehlinger (1996) argue that the nature of technology instruction is critical to ensuring teachers are able to appropriately integrate technology into instruction. Situated learning theory predicts that learning is most effective when it is situated both within supportive social and authentic contexts. The science teacher preparation program in this study provided numerous opportunities for social support as the preservice teachers learned to use technology and purposively embedded technology instruction in an authentic context of teaching science content in ways that support reform-based instruction.

Two alternative explanations for our results merit consideration. First, it may be that the participants were more inclined to incorporate technology into instruction because students might be aware of the research design. However, multiple strategies were employed to mitigate the research effect on students' practices, as previously described in the methods section. Further, had students' merely been attempting to meet researcher expectations, we would have expected more PowerPoint™ and application for the sake of integrating technology and less adaptation and innovation in their technology-enhanced lessons. Another possible explanation for our results relates to the previous instruction our participants may have experienced. It is possible that some of the participants were exposed to technology-enhanced science lessons in their science content courses and directly employed such lessons into their instruction. In this case, some of the lessons we coded as “adaptation” or “innovation” may have actually been at the application level. However, two lines of evidence make this explanation unlikely. First, when directly asked where they learned how to integrate technology into their science instruction, participants always cited specific components of the science teacher preparation program, rather than science content courses. Second, the research unequivocally reports barriers in teachers' integration of technology to support reform-based science instruction (e.g., Bull & Garofalo, 2004; IES, 2010; Norris et al., 2002; Soloway et al., 2001). If it were as simple as providing teachers with examples of appropriate technology use in their science content courses, we would not find the difficulties with technology integration reported in the literature.

The Importance of Social Context

McLellan's (1996) model of instruction, based on situated learning, emphasizes the importance of social interactions during learning. Cognitive apprenticeship, coaching, multiple opportunities for practice, collaboration, and reflection are key components of this model. Recent literature suggests that programs integrating one or more of these aspects of McLellan's model may be effective in facilitating teachers' use of technology for instructional purposes in the classroom (Beyerbach et al., 2001; Capobianco, 2007; Guzey & Roehrig, 2009; Swan et al., 2002). Our findings support the applicability of McLellan's instructional model in preparing science teachers for educational uses of technology.

For example, Swan et al. (2002) reported elementary teachers who learned to teach with technology in a professional development program that incorporated authentic classroom practice and one-on-one mentoring increased their knowledge of computer technologies, gained confidence in integrating these technologies, and integrated more creative teaching approaches. In the present study, cognitive apprenticeship and coaching were key components of the science teacher preparation program in which participants were enrolled. Instructors and science education supervisors worked closely with the preservice teachers during the science methods lab course. They modeled inductive, deductive, and inquiry lessons that incorporated technology to support student learning in reform-based ways. Supervisors observed participants' lessons and provided feedback in both the science methods lab course and during student teaching. Initially, they provided extensive constructive feedback with particular focus on reform-based instruction in the single computer classroom. However, as the preservice teachers began demonstrating facility both in designing and teaching lessons that incorporated technology in meaningful ways, this support was gradually reduced. Participants acknowledged that having technology-enhanced lessons modeled for them helped them think of ways to integrate technology in their own science lessons. Thus, the findings of our study provide further support for the efficacy of integrating coaching and scaffolding into teacher preparation to use technology for instruction.

Beyerbach et al. (2001) conducted a 2-year evaluation study of a preservice teacher technology infusion program in which technology was integrated into methods courses and related field experiences. Their findings suggest that preservice teachers appreciated opportunities for practice when this practice was guided and scaffolded by experienced mentors and opportunities for collaboration with peers (Beyerbach et al., 2001). Likewise, preservice teachers in our study had multiple opportunities to practice using a variety of instructional models and technology to teach science lessons they developed under the guidance of professors, supervisors, peers, and mentor teachers. Through these opportunities for practice, preservice teachers developed a degree of familiarity and confidence in conducting whole-class instruction with technology, which translated into their appropriate use of technology during their student teaching semester. Participants in our study collaborated with peers and engaged in reflection and discussion throughout the science teaching preparation program. For example, they cited the digital resource collection they created with their peers in the science methods class as facilitating their ability to integrate content-oriented digital images into their PowerPoint™ presentations during student teaching. Following peer teaching experiences, the preservice teachers received feedback and engaged in discussion regarding positive components of the lesson and what could be improved before teaching the lesson in the classroom. During the student teaching seminar, students worked together to plan, share, discuss, and reflect on lessons that integrated technology. Participant feedback indicated that these opportunities facilitated their integration of technology for instruction during student teaching.

Guzey and Roehrig (2009) explored the TPACK development of four inservice secondary science teachers who participated in a year-long professional development that was informed by aspects of situated learning theory. The results of this study indicated that three of the four teachers integrated technology to various degrees to support inquiry instruction. One participant in that study indicated more collaboration would help her integrate technology in more meaningful ways. A possible explanation for the difference in findings between that study and the present study is that our participants were preservice teachers and had more opportunities to collaborate with their peers and mentors in developing and implementing technology-enhanced reform-based science lessons and that this occurred over a more sustained period of time.

The results of this study substantiate the positive preliminary findings reported by Beyerbach et al. (2001) and Swan et al. (2002), which suggest that integrating the social components of situated learning theory are effective in promoting effective technology use among preservice and in-service teachers. However, the present field-based study extends the work of Swan et al. (2002) and Beyerbach et al. (2001) by addressing the ways in which the preservice teachers applied their understandings of effective technology use in the single computer classroom during student teaching.

The Importance of Authentic Context

Situated learning theory suggests that learning to integrate technology into instruction within an authentic context is effective (Friedrichsen et al., 2001; Luft et al., 2003; Mishra & Koehler, 2007; Smetana & Bell, 2011; Willis & Mehlinger, 1996). In the present study, learning to integrate technology into science instruction occurred within the context of learning new science content. Further, participants learned to align the use of technology with specific instructional objectives and particular instructional approaches (Bell & Park, 2008; Mishra & Koehler, 2007; Smetana & Bell, 2011). Throughout the program, instructors modeled technology-enhanced lessons that introduced new science content to the preservice teachers in the same way they would be introducing it to their students. The science content introduced during these lessons was specifically selected to allow the preservice science teachers to extend their current understandings of science. During these lessons, instructors provided advance organizers and regularly elicited student ideas and modeled effective scaffolding practices to help students comprehend what they were experiencing and how it was connected to the content they were learning. Through participation in these lessons, the preservice teachers learned to choose and integrate digital resources into their own lessons to teach science content in authentic and more meaningful ways. Particular emphasis was placed on modeling technology-enhanced inquiry-oriented science lessons in whole-class settings. Participants in the present investigation indicated that participating in these modeled lessons helped them think about ways to incorporate digital resources in engaging and reform-based ways in their own teaching.

The results of this study support and extend the work of Luft et al. (2003), who found that, due to the contextualized nature of technology instruction, novice teachers in a science-specific teacher induction program integrated technology into instruction more frequently than their peers in general induction programs or who experienced no induction program. The novice science teachers in the Luft et al. (2003) study more readily applied what was modeled and demonstrated during professional development into their own instruction than those in non-science specific induction program. The present study contributes further to these findings in that it addresses not only that science-specific preparation promoted technology integration to support science instruction, but also specifically how participants used technology in science classrooms to support instruction.

Implications

The present study extends previous investigations in that the science teacher preparation program integrates both the social components of situated learning present in McLellan's (1996) model and provides an authentic context for learning to teach science content effectively with technology. To our knowledge, this is the first study that explores the effectiveness of a preservice science teacher preparation program in which both key aspects of situated learning theory were emphasized.

The findings of this study demonstrate the efficacy of using situated learning theory to inform efforts to prepare teachers to integrate technology into science instruction. This study provides evidence that beginning science teachers benefit from opportunities to collaborate with peers as they work to integrate educational technology to support reform-based science instruction. They benefit from the coaching of university personnel and their mentor teachers. Further, teaching teachers to integrate technology into science instruction within the authentic context of science teaching and learning appears to be effective. Preservice teachers who were specifically prepared to integrate digital resources in the single computer classroom consistently and substantially used technology to enhance their science instruction and promote deeper understanding of science content. Ultimately, the effectiveness of a science teacher preparation program intentionally designed around principles of situated learning with a technology focus, as is explored in the present study, is of value to our understanding of the contexts and experiences that contribute to preservice teachers' reform-based instructional uses of technology.

The results of this investigation have the potential to inform the instructional approaches used to introduce instructional uses of technology in science teacher preparation programs. However, given the exploratory nature of the study, further research is necessary. Future investigations should seek to explore the generalizability of our results. Should these explorations prove fruitful, future research would be justified that tests the following hypotheses that stem from our results:

  • (1)Aligning technology instruction with situated learning theory facilitates science teachers' abilities to use technology to support reform-based science instruction.
  • (2)Consideration of social and authentic science teaching contexts during technology instruction facilitates teachers' abilities to adapt and innovate educational uses of technology.

This research was supported in part by a Fund for the Improvement in Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) grant. The results represent the findings of the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of personnel affiliated with the United States Department of Education.

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