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Topic: Teacher adoption and adaptation

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Subject:   Same problems now, or new ones?
Author: George
Date: Sep 10 2003
Hi Joel,
I think it's a very interesting question whether the challenges teachers face
today with technology are the same as the ones 10 or 20 years ago. I can only
speculate on this based on my own experience.

I was teaching in the late 80s and early 90s. At that time, it seemed as though
the teachers using computers were admired as being on the edge and doing very
creative work. But no one felt that things like "technological literacy" were
crucial. The debate on whether graphing calculators should be in the classroom
was just starting to heat up.

The 89 Standards, which advocated using them, caused a debate in my school. (I
was opposed at that time - poor, naive me). But with the power of using them in
the advanced classes, I think they're now required for most high school AP
courses that I know of. And few doubt their usefulness for these advanced
There's still a lot of debate at the lower levels.

When I search the literature on graphing calculators, I find the research is on
prerequisites for "appropriate use" and some smaller sets of studies on impact.
But the most interesting articles to me are in Mathematics Teacher, where
teachers actually describe what they've done and share ideas.

While I believe that human reactions to technologies and innovations may lend
itself to some generalizability (see, Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of
innovation (Fourth ed.). New York, NY: The Free Press.), in general, I think
times change and pressures on teachers change, and that will influence their
receptivity to new technologies.

The four issues you mention are familiar ones. But often we use those as excuses
rather than obstacles to be overcome. I think in the end, schools put the burden
on the technology to fit within the pre-existing constraints of the school
environment. When something new is introduced, teachers tend to adapt it to what
they were doing before unless they see a compelling reason (in 2003, read
"higher test scores") to use it.

Anyway, I think a useful list of resource for the early introduction of
calculators is on Paul Ernst's page

Check the section on CALCULATORS
I don't think there are any references more recent than the early 90s.

Joel said:

Thanks George for the references. In the research I have
conducted, the top four types of barriers that teachers gave
to them being able to reuse and adapt interactive online
resources for math were: (1) lack of time, (2) lack of
reliable access to needed technology, (3) lack of skills,
(4) difficulty finding appropriate teaching resources.

Of course each of these barriers must be unpacked. For
example, the lack of time barrier includes lack of time to
find appropriate resources, time to incorporate them into a
plan for teaching, class time in their schedules (they are
already so full), time to introduce technology, time to have
students reflect and so on. Time may also represent other
issues as well.

In posing my question about past research, my assumption is
that when older though not so much older innovations were
introduced into classrooms, the issues we now face trying to
introduce math tools into the classroom were then faced by
others and that those issues were studied. For example, is
there good research on the introduction of graphing
calculators into the classroom? I realize that for this
example the adoption process is ongoing, but that there it
has reached a stage of widespread use.

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