In the preset day world dominated by ever evolving modern technologies, schools are challenged with incorporating new technologies into teaching paradigms. Research studies suggest that technologies can not only help students’ learning tasks easier, but they can also help them develop better skills of critical thinking, understanding, and analysis (Roschelle et al., 2000). The perceptions and attitudes of teachers towards utilizing the modern technologies play a key role their adaptation and implementation in schools (Zhao & Frank, 2003). The present paper examines various research studies aimed at understanding teacher perceptions of using technology in public schools, in particular the study of social sciences.
While the perceptions of teachers about the use of technology and being adept at it are the key factors in technology integration in school curriculum and works, there are many other outside factors which influence their beliefs in technology. In a research study, Li and Choi (2013) measured teachers’ perceptions about the use of technology through using the constructivist approach to discover how technology, as a tool, can accelerate learning. The results showed the following: (1) the social capital of school had a strong direct effect on teachers’ self-perceived changes in their classroom instructions; (2) teachers’ receptiveness in technology use had a direct effect on their perceived effectiveness of professional development, but there was an insubstantial effect on fostering changes in their teaching with the use of technology; and (3) the social capital of the school had a direct effect on teachers’ receptiveness towards technology and their belief of its usefulness in their professional growth. As Li and Choi (2013) explain, social capital is the capacity of the school management to make other stakeholders (teachers, students and parents) trust in the integration of technology and their ability to get access to new information, which will be a supplemental source of data for teachers; hence, social capital should be used to bring about change and organizational learning.
Environmental factors in Teacher Opinions and Perceptions
A research study carried out by Erdogan Kaya (Kaya, 2012) dealt with opinions of the teachers and focused on the environment in the Social Studies classrooms of schools such as the social and physical environment, and the use of electronic, graphical, three-dimensional, visual, and printed materials. In the study findings, a majority of teachers of Social Studies classrooms said that it is important to make the classroom conducive to using new methods and learning through experience (Kaya, 2012). The teachers added that the classrooms should be well-lit. Furthermore, the teachers stated that there is a need for computers, CDs and DVDs, projectors, and internet access (Kaya, 2012). The teachers emphasized that the use of electronic instructional materials, together with graphical and visual materials, is indispensable in both the teaching and the learning process in a Social Studies classrooms (Kaya, 2012). Thus, teachers believe that the combination of a conducive classroom for learning together with visual, graphical and electronic materials is important to making learning Social Studies easy and enjoyable.
Interactive Tools in Teacher Opinions and Perceptions
Interactive Whiteboards are currently used in most classrooms to increase student participation in lessons. In the study of Isman, Abanny, Hussein and Al Saadany (2012), it was found that teachers have a positive attitude towards using Interactive Whiteboards in their instructions, but most of them utilized them ineffectively (Isman et al., 2012). The results demonstrate that teachers need more training on the use of Interactive Whiteboards so it can assist them inside the classroom (Isman et al., 2012). Furthermore, the study discovered that students have a positive perception about the Interactive Whiteboards if they are used properly and effectively by the teachers (Isman, et al., 2012). Lastly, the study results revealed that there is a need to alter the nature of the school and the teachers’ pedagogy to reinforce technological advancements of learning inside the classrooms (Isman et al., 2012).
Role of Competency in Technologies in Teacher Perceptions
Al Bataineh and Anderson (2015) conducted a study aimed to determine the perception of Jordanian teachers about the competencies needed for implementing technology in the Social Studies classrooms. The results showed that the female teachers who are thirty or below and male teachers who are thirty-one to thirty-nine scored the highest mean of positive perception about competency toward implementing technology in classrooms. Teachers who are forty or older scored the lowest positive perception about the competency (Al Bataineh & Anderson, 2015). Female teachers with the least teaching experience are more favorable to the implementation of technology in the classrooms compared to the female teachers who are experienced and older. The latter group had a lower positive perception about technology and its implementation (Al Bataineh & Anderson, 2015). These results provide valuable information to social studies teachers, professional development leaders, and national policy makers interested to address the factors that influence the use of technology in the classrooms (Al Bataineh & Anderson, 2015). The research shows that younger teachers are more adept in technology than the older teachers.
Experiences of the outside World
Learning is not confined only to the four corners of the classroom. Thus, exploring the outside world in connection to lessons taught in the class will be a great experience for students and most teachers believe it is essential for student learning. According to a research study on the views of Social Studies teachers on learning outside the classroom (Cengelci (2013), most teachers deem it suitable for the students be able to experience the outside world and consider it a training for them to be an active member of the society. The teachers believe that the contents of Social Studies course are highly appropriate for learning outside the classrooms (Cengelci, 2013). Outside learning activities are typified as planning trips, going to the cinema, interviewing with experts in on a certain subject, and resource persons who could be invited in schools (Cengelci, 2013). Overall, outside learning experience fosters more engagement with students.
Pre-service Teacher Perceptions of Technologies
Service teachers are not the only ones who have a say and voice their opinions regarding technology as a part of student teaching. Pre-service teachers prefer various ways of assessing, learning, and teaching inside the classrooms. In the study of Hamdam (2013), pre-service teachers preferred group assignments comprising a written report and an oral presentation instead of individual assignments. The former helped them break out of the boundaries of facing an audience and promoted them to exchange knowledge with their counterparts (Hamdam, 2013). The study results of Hamdam (2013) suggest that a majority of the pre-service teachers believe that group assignments help in engaging students with each other and it promotes collaborative learning.
It should be noted that the use of technology in education not only leads to improved student outcomes, but it can also result in improvements in various aspects of the teachers’ professional development as well. As asserted by Shriner et al. (2010), teachers are motivated to participate in professional development initiatives as they believe that these will enable them to expand their knowledge and skills, contribute to their growth, and make them more effective with their students. The assertion is affirmed by the results of their study (Shriner et al. (2010) which showed that teachers who participated in workshops that focused on the use of technology in social studies classrooms gained increased competence and confidence in their ability to use different types of educational technologies in their classrooms. The findings also showed that most teachers perceived experiencing these improvements within a short span of time (Shriner et al., 2010). The results of the research study imply that the benefits of implementing technological applications in the classrooms with regards to the teachers’ professional development can be realized easily and quickly.
The findings of Shriner et al (2010) are contradictory to those of other researches. For example, the findings of Koc and Bakir (2010) showed that although the pre-service teachers who participated in the study expressed neutrality with regards to their readiness in using technology in their teaching, a majority of them indicated that they still needed more training on the implementation of computer technologies for the enhancement of their learning (Koc & Bakir, 2010). They also indicated that, without support, technology was frustrating to use (Koc & Bakir, 2010). More specifically, although the majority of the pre-service teacher participants indicated that they knew how to use office, presentation, and web design tools, they expressed being uncomfortable with using spreadsheets, WebQuest, databases, video editing, simulation, hypermedia, and concept mapping tools. Similar findings were obtained in a study conducted by Isman et al. (2012), which showed that while the Saudi secondary school teachers who participated in the study had positive attitudes towards the use of interactive Whiteboards in the classrooms, few of them indicated that they used it effectively in the classrooms (Isman et al., 2012). The research results point to the need for teachers to undergo a professional development program where they can learn more about interactive Whiteboards. The professional development programs can enable them to improve their teaching skills as well as the students’ learning. Furthermore, it implied that a change in school culture and classroom pedagogy was needed, specifically to one that supports enthusiasm and innovation in learning and teaching. This is affirmed by the findings of Kiper and Tercan (2012), which showed that among the primary school teachers who received in-service trainings on information technologies and who use these technologies in their classes, those who were satisfied with the in-service trainings were more likely to use technology in their classes than those who were not. The study also indicated that some of the problems that the teachers encountered in the use of technology consisted of problems with the educational software, the Internet connection, and the equipment (Kiper & Tercan, 2012).
Short duration trainings: In this regard, it may have helped that the teacher participants in study of Shriner et al (2010) were provided with a relatively brief, but focused professional development workshop. In the same manner, the students of Masters of Teaching who participated in a study by Redman and Trapani (2012) initially showed that although they had a positive outlook on the use of technology in their future platforms, but they still could not quite articulate an educational vision for this technology. However, their perceptions would change after participating in lectures and workshops where they focused on two social media tools, namely Twitter and Edmodo (Redmond & Trapani, 2012). More specifically, these learning opportunities enabled them to identify learning spaces that involved creative and collaboration opportunities (Redmond & Trapani, 2012). They also considered the opportunity as a motivation for both their students’ learning and their own teaching. Overall, these findings imply high effectiveness of shorter and more focused trainings.
Promoting use of technology: On the other hand, Swan and Hicks (2007) posit that in order to promote the use of technology in social studies classrooms, teachers should be educated on how technology can be used as a tool for fostering “critical thinking as part of the vital mission of educating for citizenship” (p. 165). It is recommended that framing both pre-service and in-service discipline-specific technology courses around the question of to what extent technology can help create better communities and build strong citizens will allow teachers “to purposefully re-conceptualize their own understandings of using technology within the social studies” (Swan & Hicks, 2007, p. 165)
Integrating technology into the curriculum: A study by Waring (2010) indicated that most instructional technology coordinator’s perceptions and beliefs are that technology should be used as a tool and it should be integrated seamlessly into the curriculum (Waring, 2010). Another belief is that the teachers should use meaningful experiences to enable students to become interested and focused in the learning processes. However, it was stressed that the students should be taught the basic technological skills before they are led into the learning process. In addition, there is the belief that all students are capable, at some level, of learning and of critical thinking, as well as of engaging in independent problem solving (Waring, 2010). The results imply that the type of learning environment that a teacher creates and fosters is influenced by beliefs. More specifically, a teacher’s beliefs about instruction, technology, and their students can have an impact on the way technology is used in the classrooms. This would be consistent with other research findings, which indicate that “teachers who readily integrate technology into their instruction are more likely to possess constructivist teaching styles” (Judson, 2006, p. 581). To illustrate this point, Judson (2006) asserts that a teacher who strongly believes that informative teacher-delivered lectures are the best way for students to learn will not give much importance to the use of technology in student learning. In the same manner, a teacher who believes that exploratory learning is the most effective will most likely not advocate for the use of drill and practice software. On the other hand, it may also be true that teachers who have a poor attitude towards technology or who fear the use of technology would implement lessons that differ from their non-technology lessons (Judson, 2006).
However, the same study conducted by Judson (2006), addressing how teacher beliefs about instruction relate to the practice of integrating technology and how teacher attitudes toward technology relate to the practice of integrating technology, showed that there was neither a significant correlation between teaching philosophy and teacher practices nor between teacher practices and the teachers’ attitude towards technology (Judson, 2006).
As with Koc and Bakir’s (2010) assertion that “incorporating technology into method courses and training programs could transform views of technology and epistemological beliefs to constructivist orientations including active learning, problem solving, critical thinking, and discovery “(p. 14), Judson (2006) also suggests that professional development be geared towards the integration of technology in a constructivist manner. In this regard, Koc and Bakir (2010) suggests that to enable teachers to teach with a constructivist model of technology use, they should be taught with a similar model of technology use during their pre-service education. The suggestions are supported by the findings of Wright and Wilson (2006), which showed that among social studies pre-service teachers, the processes and skills learned were transferred through time and that the participants “were more likely to emulate what they were taught than to apply individual creative technology integration plans” (p. 49). All in all, the findings also implied the need for enhanced teacher education programs, which include diverse technology experiences and creative ideas that will address the barriers to technology use in the classrooms. In turn, this will help improve the teachers’ abilities to try something new (Wright & Wilson, 2009).
A study of teachers’ perceptions of technology integration in United Arab Emirates (UAE) classrooms showed that both the male and female teachers at UAE model schools had high self perceptions of their competencies and abilities for successfully integrating technology in their teaching and that despite the various barriers, they were able to integrate technology in their classes with different degrees and effectiveness ((Almekhlafi & Almeqdadi, 2010). They also provided the following recommendations for increasing the effectiveness of technology integration: 1.) Regular development workshops; 2.) Increased autonomy for the teachers’ coverage and selection of curriculum materials; 3.) Increased collaboration between schools across the country; and 4.) Enhanced curriculum with technology-enhanced materials such as videos and CDs (Almekhlafi & Almeqdadi, 2010).
Similar findings were obtained by Robertson and Al-Zahrani (2012) where Saudi pre-service teachers were shown to exhibit generally high levels of self-efficacy with computer tasks and whose perceptions of self-efficacy as university teachers increased with computer qualifications and computer experience. As with the other studies, these findings imply that increasing Saudi pre-service training, teacher access, and exposure to ICTs and computers would contribute to effectively improving the pre-service teachers’ computing habits, motivation, and self-efficacy (Robertson & Al-Zahrani, 2012).
In conclusion, the present paper examined the perceptions and attitudes of teachers towards utilizing the modern technologies in the present day classrooms. Various factors such as teachers’ age, attitudes towards technology, training in technology, personal experiences, and the school management play a key role their adaptation and implementation in schools. Overall, the results of most studies presented herein suggest that teacher’s perceptions of using technology in public schools, in particular the study of social sciences, play a key role in their adaptation in most schools.
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