The Role of Centers of Teaching and
Learning in Integrating Technology in Instruction
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Incorporating information technology tools into classroom instruction often begins as a grassroots effort rather than as part of a system plan. Once a few faculty members begin using information technology tools in instruction, more become interested. As these tools become more accepted and integrated at an institution, a center for teaching and learning can play a critical role: motivating, teaching, listening, and partnering (Marcinkiewicz, 2000). [This link seems to be broken.]If information technology tools are still perceived as an innovation, the center can help explore their new capabilities. As the tools systematically replace older forms, the center can show how the tools might replace or complement previous methods and how they can generate new uses. Once information technology tools have become part of the infrastructure and their use is expected as a typical teaching elementor is even a job requirementthe relationship between the center and the faculty changes. There is less need for motivational activities and more demand for a reciprocating relationship. At this stage of adoption, most faculty will have clearly defined expectations for the use of instructional technology tools.
Following are suggestions for how a center for teaching and learning can help faculty members and institutions integrate information technology tools.
Resolve that information technology tools serve instruction, not the reverse (Brown & Duguid, 2000; Norman, 1998). Corollaries to this view are that the tools are selected for their relevance and utility in promoting learning, and that there is variety along a scale from simple to complex. During training it may be necessary to change your primary focus from instructional methodology to procedures for using information technology tools. This creates the perception that your goal has changed. You will be criticized for emphasizing either aspect. Follow your resolved goal, and continually remind others of it.
Understand the conditions needed to enable the integration of information technology tools. Integration must be a part of the mission and the academic plan. There is also a balance of contributions that an institution and its faculty must supply together in order to realize competence, as suggested in Gilbert's elegant model of human competencein this case with information technology tools. Gilbert (1978) lists institutional and individual responsibilities for each of three categories: data, knowledge, and motivation. The institution expresses its expectations for information technology tools and provides training and placement; in turn, faculty know the expectations and get the training. The institution provides equipment, in turn, faculty members learn to use it. The institution provides incentives; in turn, faculty members become motivated[unfortunately, this wording is still a bit questionable, since most would agree that faculty members are already highly motivated people. Perhaps "demonstrate their motivation." Also, doesn't this paragraph imply that faculty members' role is only to respond to the initiatives of the administration?]. It is critical that these conditions be met. An institution without a plan for them may not achieve information technology integration.
Act on your understanding. The training and motivation are within the charge of a center for teaching and learning, but a center can also take an active role in informing decision makers to ensure that the other conditions are in place. As a matter of mission, policy, or practice, your institution may decide not to promote information technology tools. Such a stance defines choices for a center for teaching and learning. The center's response could be to champion information technology integration in spite of the insitution's stance, on the one hand, or to promote other aspects of pedagogy, apart from technology tools, on the other. The potential costs of the first choice are frustration and wasted effort. The potential rewards are policy changes. The potential costs of the second choice are a loss of opportunities; the potential rewards are maintenance of the status quo. A part of the decision to promote information technology integration at an unwilling institution rests with your understanding of the validity of such an effort. Clearly, it is more productive to work where the goals of a center and an institution are in accord.
Inform the institution about responsibilities. A center for teaching and learning should inform and instruct all parts of an institution that are concerned with teaching and learning, not only the faculty. This is done by committee work and administrative training.
Learn about equipment, software, and the role of information technology in learning. Read online journals. Participate in listserv discussions, such as ITFORUM [this goes to UGA's dept of instructional technology, not the listserv] or the American Association of Higher Education's listserv. Know what works, why, and under what conditions it is most appropriate. Coordinate panel discussions led by faculty, administrators, and staff involved in technology integration. Learn as you create opportunities for others to learn.
Plan and mobilize for the parts of the model you can influence. This includes fostering motivation, creating incentives, and providing training. A center for teaching and learning can motivate by responding to the institution's expectations for information technology and changes made in infrastructure[this is just the slightest bit unclear -- please explain or give examples or details]. One rule of successful incentives is that they be valued by those receiving them. Two incentives to which faculty respond are the opportunity to meet with colleagues, and the opportunity to engage in learning.
Campaign for the integration of information technology tools in order to create an institutional culture where their use is expected. Research indicates that the best predictor of such integration is subjective norms, a construct akin to peer pressure. In this context, it is a perception that those in your work sphereadministration, students, colleagues, and learned societiesexpect you to integrate technology tools (Marcinkiewicz, 1993/94; Marcinkiewicz & Regstad, 1996).
Plan how you will assess your program. Build a database of activities, participation rates, and evaluations to assist your record keeping. Survey the faculty regularly, balancing the need for information with the burden of yet another survey. Use a simple format for each activity and a more detailed one annually. The three-question format used for classroom instruction known as the Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID) is equally useful for getting feedback on your center's training activities (Clark & Redmond, 1982). The 3 questions are:
Develop a training plan along with the faculty. At my institution, there was a pent-up desire among the faculty to assign parts of their instruction to the Web. I learned about various course management systems, such as WebCT, BlackBoard, and Learning Space, invited vendors to demonstrate their products, developed a practice and theory-based rating scale, and informed the faculty and other campus stakeholders. There was open and interested participation in the review process. After we selected a course management system, I sought help for training from a network of colleagues from around the country, and organized day-long, hands-on training sessions. A few of the early adopters among our faculty learned the program well enough to become trainers for the next institutes. Because the course management system included many features and required specific procedural knowledge, the training session topics were limited and focused. Also, it was critical to address the needs of highly intelligent adults learning to use information technology tools: it required patience, low instructor-to-participant ratios, much focused time, and collegial support. I also practiced good teaching principles by providing plentiful, and authentic, opportunities for practice. (For a review of course management systems see Gray & Marcinkiewicz, 2000. See the rating scale for course management systems in Marcinkiewicz & Ross, [in press].)
Schedule various training times and session lengths. Unless you offer continual and repeated daily training activities, a fixed schedule will fail to suit a wide number of faculty members because their teaching schedules are so varied. Following is a list of potential options. (Also see our center's schedule or a similar calendar for the faculty instructional technology support center at the California State University of Los Angeles.)
Communicate initially, repeatedly, and often. Communication does not stop after successful integration of information technology tools; you need to communicate its success or failure. Just as maintenance and technical support must be considered when budgeting for information technology, so follow-up time must be considered when budgeting for information technology. Communicate with faculty, share ideas and knowledge, and set up panels of expert faculty members. Communicate by campus-wide e-mail and paper announcements. Learning is a dynamic process and is subject to cycles and fluxes; overemphasizing your training topics will actually get you less attention, so project low visibility for a while and then repeat announcements as necessary. Take a cue from psychology and marketing: keep the element of surprise while maintaining a stable schedule of activities.
Empower faculty members by having them participate in information technology decisions, plan and conduct training sessions, and lead by example. Encourage them to take risks with innovative applications. Faculty members will likely reconfigure information technology use in ways beyond original expectations. Professors at our Michigan College of Optometry developed an online album of digital images of students'[patients'?] retinae. This has been a significant time saver, allowing students to view varieties of retinae and develop their diagnostic skills. This process replaced the traditional learning procedure: initial diagnosis by the professor looking into a patient's eye, then followup by the student. It also allowed for a variety of types of retinae to be displayed simultaneously. (Contact Dr. Randy Vance for information about this process at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Your faculty will also find new and unexpected uses for or shortcomings of information technology tools. Encourage them to do so. Throughout, lead and serve faculty under the banner of "instruction leads technology."
Brown, J.S., & Duguid, P. (2000). The social life of information. [Cambridge, MA?]: Harvard Business School Press.
Clark, D., & Redmond, M. (1982). Small group instructional diagnosis: Final report. ERIC Document Reproduction Service. ED 217 954.
Gilbert, T. F. (1978). Human competence: Engineering worthy performance. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Gray, S., & Marcinkiewicz, H. R. (November, 2000). Making the choice: Providers for online courses. Syllabus, 14(4), 6264.
Marcinkiewicz, H. R., & Regstad, N. G. (1996). Using subjective norms to predict teachers' computer use. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 13(1), 2733.
Marcinkiewicz, H. R., & Ross, E. M. (In press). "Planning for Web-based Course Management." In. B. Khan (Ed.), Web-based Training. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.
Marcinkiewicz, H. R. (1993/94). Computers and teachers: Factors influencing computer use in the classroom. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 26(2), 220237.
[Please give the full citation for Marcinkiewicz, 2000 as listed in the in-text citation in paragraph 1]
Norman, Donald, A. (1998). The invisible computer. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.