Case Study

Teaching with Technology: Facilitating the Process (Part 2)

The means to bring about change

Colleges and universities across the nation have realized that technology is an absolute when considering how courses on their campuses will be delivered--either face to face sessions, through distance learning sessions, or in mixed formats.

In part 1 of this two-part series, we looked at the research behind technology's supporting role in education and some methods for helping to bring about successful implementations. This week, we continue to explore more methods (picking up where we left off) and examine the evidence for success at Western Kentucky University.

Facilitating the Change Process (cont'd)
We begin with Step 4 in the process for facilitating change. If you have not read the previous installment in this series, which contains Steps 1 through 3, you can find it at www.campustechnology.com/articles/49985/.

Step 4: Providing training and development. Providing personnel, equipment, and software is no guarantee that technology will be used in instruction. Many faculty will not use technology in their instruction unless they feel comfortable doing so.

To increase the comfort level of the faculty, successful uses of educational technology are emphasized, and professional development is provided on the use of educational technology. Each academic year professional development on the use of educational technology is offered during the week before the beginning of the fall semester and periodically throughout the year. Once a year, an educational technology conference is held. Presentations at the conference highlight the successful use of technology in the instruction of P-16 faculty. The Educational Technology Center (ETC) at Western Kentucky University itself provides regular sessions as well on these topics. Faculty have numerous opportunities to learn about this important aspect of classroom instruction. In addition to what the college provides for its own faculty, both the Instructional Technology division at the university and the faculty development center on campus, provide considerable opportunities for faculty development in the area of instructional technology.

Step 5: Monitoring and Checking Progress. As part of its ongoing assessment process, the college does a very good job of collecting feedback from faculty. One of these efforts is found in the annual evaluation of current technology needs. Each year, as part of a student fee assessment, the university has funds that are available to colleges for classroom equipment and for classroom improvements.

The College of Education and Behavioral Sciences (CEBS) collects input from the departments which comes from suggestions by the individual faculty member. This allows the college to assess where faculty are with interest and needs for continued success in using technology. A second means of collecting input on progress is an annual faculty survey that asks a number of questions that provide the college administration with very useful information. This is discussed in more detail below.

Step 6: Continuing to Give Assistance. Some of the benefits of teaching in CEBS are the support guarantees made by the ETC:
  1. Availability of a technician for immediate help during class hours (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays; and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturdays; and during other, non-traditional times);
  2. A guarantee of fixing a technology problem with 24 hours in classrooms and faculty offices;
  3. Staff that includes several graduate assistants and two full-time support technicians;
  4. One technician devoted to helping faculty with technology needs (e.g., building Web pages, converting overheads to PowerPoint slides, etc.); and
  5. An icon on the desktop that provides information on multiple ways to report problems or call for help.
Additionally, surveys are conducted by the ETC to make sure that faculty have every opportunity to ask questions, provide feedback, and request support in one form or another.

Evidence of Progress
Every spring, the survey mentioned above is conducted to determine the use and quality of the technology and support available in the college and to solicit suggestions for additional technology or improvements in existing technology or support.

The summary results of these surveys for the last three years are presented below.
  • One hundred percent of faculty are now using technology in their instruction in the classrooms;
  • An average of 82 percent (across the last three years) of the faculty are using technology more than in the past;
  • The low to moderate use of technology from the previous year is decreasing (from 68 percent down to 33 percent);
  • The moderately high to high current use is increasing (from 79 percent up to 83 percent);
  • An average of 81 percent (across the last three years) of the faculty find the technology convenient to use;
  • An average of 85 percent (across the last three years) of the faculty find the technology easy to use;
  • An average of 81 percent (across the last three years) of the faculty are satisfied with the assistance they receive from the Educational Technology Center.
Comments from the Surveys
A sampling of narrative comments from the surveys are included below suggesting a true "buy-in" by the faculty and cases where they acknowledge that requests have been addressed. (Full survey results are available at edtech.wku.edu/edtech/.)

2004
  • We are very fortunate to have the technology we have. Anyone who does not understand that should take a trip to any of the other colleges (in the university)!
  • Having technology already in the classroom makes it much easier to deliver. I appreciate being able to take the disk instead of having to take the projector and the computer and all the other stuff. Thank you!
  • I would like a document camera in the classrooms. The whiteboard in the Electronic Classroom is fantastic--I know I am dreaming, but the more of those we can get into classrooms, the more interactive and demonstrative our teaching can become. Way to show opaque materials, i.e., books, forms, sample work....
  • I would like DVD players in the computers in the classrooms.
  • Whenever possible, I use technology in my classroom and for out-of-class assignments. I believe it's important to show students how to use technology rather than just for pleasure (games, etc.) With the expansion of the technology in the College of Education, it makes teaching and learning much more possible.

2005
  • We are the envy of all other colleges on campus with the access we have to technology for our courses and our professional work. It is abundantly clear when I am at conferences where I hear other professors talk about the technology (and lack thereof) that we are so far ahead.
  • As a new faculty member, I have been pleasantly surprised and impressed with the quality of the technology available in the classrooms. I use them on a daily basis with my classes. I would like to have access to closed caption on the televisions if possible as I have one student who is hearing impaired and it makes it difficult to use videos in the classroom without captioning. Every time I have called for assistance, my problems or request have been taken care of in record time. Thank you and your staff for all you do - there are many like me who really appreciate all the work.
  • I would like a wireless mouse added to the classrooms.
  • Access to the USB ports is very difficult on most of the classroom machines in TPH. This limits some of the uses I and my student would like to have (use of cameras and pen drives)
  • We are very fortunate to have the technology we have. Anyone who does not understand that should take a trip to any of the other colleges!

2006
  • You already do a very good job supporting my use of technology in the classroom.
  • I'd like to be shown how to make full use of the document camera, also how to make video clips and insert them into PowerPoint presentations. I need more help with webpage design.
  • I would just like to say thank you for all the technology services you provide and also all the personal assistance that is available when problems arise. [The staff] are valuable assets who give immediate service when problems occur. Also, thank you for being able to transfer videos to DVDs. This has made teaching and presenting material easier and more effective. Thanks again for the wonderful services you provide.

Caveats
Some cautions should be offered before concluding this text. The first caution simply echoes what is found in the literature when the issue of providing technology for faculty is discussed (e.g., Holland, 2001). Technology is nice; it is flashy and has the capability of making one feel on the cutting edge of instruction. Since they have grown up with it, students are accustomed to technology and feel comfortable when it is used in instructional settings. However, technology simply for technology's sake might do more harm than good. While faculty obviously cannot use technology if it is not available, neither can they use it when it is available if they don't know how. Training must be provided; engagement on the part of faculty is essential; and demonstrated payoff must be in evidence for most faculty to consider engaging in any training efforts, let alone actually employing technology in their instruction.

Next, administrators need to make sure that the instructional use of the technology is both appropriate and effective. Many faculty get hung up on PowerPoint presentations and believe that they have reached the summit of Mount Technology. As most are aware, PowerPoints are just fancy presentations of overheads; in fact, they hold the potential for being worse than no technology in some cases, since they tend to lock faculty into a restricted, linear presentation. Technology offers so much more than this fundamental use of this innovation. Make sure that faculty are aware of what all is available to them, and provide them with an appropriate picture of how these technologies can enhance their instruction far beyond what mere PowerPoint presentations can do.

Finally, while leadership is encouraged where the purchase and use of technology are concerned, there can be drawbacks to being a campus leader. The text above has discussed the college's uniqueness on campus regarding the equipping of the classrooms with technology. It is indeed the model that other colleges use when they request funds for equipment and classroom improvements. However, when funds are made available to colleges, CEBS generally is seeking to fund from an "enhancement" point of view; the other colleges are seeking "foundational" accommodations. It is natural for senior-level administrators to pursue parity across the colleges, and so most requests from the other colleges get funded when funds are available. However, CEBS has been able to provide what is necessary to support more than adequately the technology development and needs of the college's faculty and will continue to do what is necessary to continue to do so; that is what facilitative leaders in educational technology do.
References

AECT (2001). Accreditation Standards for Programs in Educational Communications and Instructional Technology. An online text downloaded August 29, 2006 at www.aect-members.org/standards/partnerhistory.html

Al-Bataineh, A., & Brooks, L. (2003). Challenges, advantages, and disadvantages of instructional technology in the community college classroom. Community College Journal of Research and Practices, 27, 473-484.

Fitch, J. L. (2004). Student feedback in the college classroom: A technology solution. Educational Technology Research & Development, 52(1), 71-81.

Holland, P. E. (2001). Professional development in technology: Catalyst for school reform, Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 9 (2), 245-67

Lee, J. A., & Busch, P. E. (2005). Factors related to instructors' willingness to participate in distance education. Journal of Educational Research, 99(2), 109-115.

Meletiou-Mavrotheris, M., Lee, C., & Fouladi, R. T. (2007). Introductory statistics, college student attitudes and knowledge: A qualitative analysis of the impact of technology-based instruction. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 38(1), 65-83.

Moody, J., & Kindel, T. (2004). Successes, failures and future steps. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 48(5), 44-49.

SEDL (Southwest Educational Development Laboratory), Austin, TX. Facilitative leadership: The imperative for change. An online text downloaded August 29, 2006 at www.sedl.org/change/facilitate/leaders.html#asixcomp.

Sturgeon, J. (2005). High-tech classrooms: IHE's continue to invest in AV/IT and networking technology for a myriad of reasons.

Whittington, N. (1987). Is instructional television educationally effective? A research review. The American Journal of Distance Education, 1, 47-57.

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