Systemic Technology Integration and Support
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Faculty who want to incorporate technology into their teaching are faced with a multitude of choices: what hardware and software to use? Is there a campus standard? How do I incorporate technology into my classroom? What will students use the technology for? Will students be able to do what is asked of them? Faculty, with other pressures of classes, research, and committees, can become frustrated with trying to use technology and may abandon the effort as too much work. Consequently it becomes the institutions' role to facilitate the incorporation of technology into the instructional environment. In order to enhance learning, institutions should provide the necessary support structure to help faculty members interested in using the technology to do so in an instructionally sound manner. An institution's support of technology is contingent upon many factors including available resources, expertise, implementation, accessibility and technical infrastructure. Institutions also have to make strategic decisions regarding the use of technology and how to create a desired learning environment that benefits that institution's students. These decisions involve the commitment of time, money and personnel to support technology.
The integration and use of technology in instructional settings is multifaceted, involving different campus resources. Instructors want to address specific instructional issues. Technical experts ensure that computers and networks are operational. Learners bring other demands that affect the success or failure of any technology effort. In this article, I will describe a model for conceptualizing the integration and support of technology into instructional contexts.
Model for Integrating Technology in Instruction
As with any systemic environment, each piece of the model is important; if one piece is not addressed, then other sections of the model are affected. The interdependent, interrelated dynamic relationships between instructor, learner and technology define the conditions for the successful use of technology. The framework suggests an ideal representation of the various factors related to support. Regarding ideal situations, Diamond (1998) stated "start with the ideal and then modify it according to the specific administrative, material, and human constraints that exist. Limiting the original design to meet anticipated constraints unnecessarily limits creativity and openness" (p.19) in envisioning a new system. When beginning to design a new system it is important to transcend the existent state by envisioning a new system grounded in ideas and aspirations of what the future system should be (Banathy, 1996).
An awareness of support relationships benefits faculty who than can use technology successfully, administrators who can effectively support the use of instructional technology, technical experts who can efficiently deploy technology, and learners who can integrate the technology into their learning. Technology initiatives and long term success ultimately rely on the support given to faculty and learners who use the technology. The relationships between the support components are necessary for the deployment, ongoing implementation and use of technological initiatives. As such, technology supports falls into three general areas (Fig. 1): [need to title the figure]
The remainder of the article focuses on these three support areas and describes the types of support activities available and their role in instructional and learning processes.
Instructional support addresses the question of how to organize specific content in a meaningful manner for learners. Institutions can facilitate faculty use of technology and the creation of instructional materials by providing access to cognitive psychologists, learning specialists and educational technologists. Institutions could also support "grassroots" efforts initiated by individual faculty members (Diamond, 1998; http://cac.psu.edu/ets/; http://cstl.syr.edu/). This ensures that materials developed are instructionaly sound, incorporate appropriate learning theory, take advantage of the technology's attributes (e.g. students are able to remotely access databases), and give students appropriate and timely feedback (Hoska, 1993; Kulhavy & Wager, 1993; Smith & Ragan, 1993). In addition, instructional support includes appropriate formative evaluation (Flagg, 1990), that may include attitudinal surveys, observations, interviews and path analysis generated by tracking programs to help monitor students' learning processes (Hannafin & Peck, 1988; Neuman, 1989, 1991; Reeves, 1992, 1994; Savenye, 1992). Evaluators also ensure that appropriate evaluations are conducted that do not repeat past educational media research errors (e.g., media comparison studies) (Clark, 1983, 1984, 1985a, 1985b, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1994a, 1994b; Clark & Sugrue, 1988, 1990). Instructional support also includes research on how to use computers in cooperative and collaborative ways (Johnson & Johnson, 1993).
If we use French language instruction as an example, instructors may employ the communicative approach to language instruction or they could employ a multiple intelligence approach to construct exercises and assessment methods. Instructional development can help faculty integrate specific instructional theories with content, address various learning theories (e.g. Gagnés Nine Events of Instruction, information-processing theory), use specific instructional strategies (e.g. delayed feedback, advance organizers) and target the unique abilities of learners (spatial, audio, verbal, kinesthetic, etc). The computer has features that should be maximized, but what are the features of the computer (e.g. ability store and sort large amounts of data, render 3D models) that are applicable to the specific instruction and context? The ability to expose students to French language and culture through French websites, and to digitize analog films and audio recordings, and to offer immediate feedback are all desirable attributes of the computer.
For computer aided instruction (CAI), Web-based instruction (WBI) or supplemental class websites, a user interface should be developed that organizes information for students and communicates expectations, goals, and information in a clear and useful manner. The user interface could use advance organizers, opportunities to test knowledge and skill levels, as well as instant and delayed feedback to guide students. These user interface components are useful for creating an instructional framework for students. This allows the learners to be aware of why content is presented to them in a particular manner, how the content is sequenced, how they will be tested, what is expected of them and what skills they are expected to develop. This provides the students with an understanding of their instructional framework.
Instructional support efforts should be based on the processes of instructional development including instructional design, the application of cognitive science to the content (e.g. constructivism or for languages communicative theory), computers and learning theory (that also includes an analysis of the learners and their individual capabilities) and formative evaluation.
On many campuses support efforts are typically aimed at the technical; ensuring that the hardware and software purchased operates when needed. Technical support involves network administrators, desktop support personnel, technicians who are knowledgeable about hardware and software, and occasionally, software developers (these personnel could be fulltime staff members as well as part-time student interns). These specialists are able to effectively solve technical problems that arise. For computer labs, clusters, teaching stations, multimedia classrooms and Websites, computer technicians are essential to ensure the operation and maintenance of computers, networks, printers and other associated hardware and software issues. Technical support services address the technical "how to" questions, including how to digitize analog information, how to share information across a network, and where to store specific html documents.
Learning support engages instructional specialists who are able to provide learners [do you mean students or instructors? Both?] with skills and knowledge related to cognitive and learning styles, information management skills, time management, study skills and other strategies learners require to succeed in an instructional environment. If a goal of using technology is to empower learners, then the learners require help to take advantage of the technological learning opportunities presented to them. Learning support includes style inventories (e.g. VARK [http://www.active-learning-site.com/]) students could use to reflect upon their own learning and help with metacognitive strategies (e.g. concept mapping, frames) (West, Farmer & Wolff, 1991). Learners have different ability levels in relation to the content as well as differing learning styles in how they organize, interpret and process information they receive. In addition, learners have differing levels of expertise with technology.
Learners require training on how to use technology and how to incorporate it into their learning processes. The learners must have the ability to use the technology. For example, in a French language lab the students must be able to power on the technology and in the case of using a computer, access information, set audio levels, print material, and save material to disk: in other words be able to use all the features the technology offers. The learners ability to manipulate the computers features impacts their ability to maximize the technological impact on their learning processes. Additionally, the students ability and comfort level with using the technology affects the students confidence, motivation, nervousness and attitude toward the instruction (Edmonds, 1997). Learners require training on how to use the technology: How do they access the information? How can information be saved for later review? How can I communicate with other students? How do I upload information? How do I attach my document to an email to my instructor? The skills necessary to manipulate the technology must be taught before learners can be expected to engage in instruction and learning (Edmonds, 1997). A learning support center could offer printed instructional resources or short workshops to help students unfamiliar with technology use it in an efficient and effective manner.
The interdependence of instructional, technical and learning support create a systemic support environment for instructional technology and systematic opportunities for faculty to seek assistance. At the heart of the idealized framework presented in this article is learning. The challenge for institutions is to provide support both to faculty and staff to support teaching and learning. Lack of institutional support in any of the three areas affects the quality of instruction and the quality of the instructional environment. Therefore, an institution, which seeks to maximize its resources, based on its infrastructure, available personnel and strategic plans, in the three support areas, has an opportunity to create an instructional environment that transcends their current situation.
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I couldn't help but shake my head at the generalized nature of the piece. The author uses a lot of the current buzz words without explaining the "how" of getting the job done.