Bolick, C., Berson, M., Coutts, C. & W. Heinecke (2003). Technology
applications in social studies teacher education: A survey of social studies
methods faculty. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher
Education [Online serial], 3(3). Available:
Applications in Social Studies Teacher Education: A Survey of Social Studies
Preparing preservice teachers to be proficient in technology is a key
issue for the field of education. While many states will scramble to fill as many
as two million teaching positions in the next few years, the public
expects teachers to be able to integrate technology into their curriculum.
New technologies are disseminated into our nation's schools at a rapid
rate. To utilize these technologies effectively, teachers need not only to
be proficient in technology but also well versed in the effective integration
of technology into their instruction. The key in meeting this expectation is
the teacher preparation methods class. In the methods class, students see
their teachers modeling the use (or lack of use) of technology, and these
students are likely to go on to do likewise in their future teaching (Cooper &
Bull, 1997; Handler, 1993).
To this end, the College and University Faculty
Assembly (CUFA) Guidelines for Using Technology in Social Studies Teacher
Education (Mason et al., 2000) offers five principles to guide the integration of technology
into teacher education.
- Extend learning beyond what could be done without technology.
- Introduce technology in context.
- Include opportunities for students to study relationships among
technology, and society.
- Foster the development of the skills, knowledge, and participation
as good citizens in a democratic society.
- Contribute to the research and evaluation of social studies and
These guidelines encourage social studies teacher educators to recognize
the potential of technology in reconceptualizing the social studies discipline
and reforming schools.
The purpose of this study was to determine if social studies teacher
educators are using technology to reform teacher education by investigating
how social studies teacher educators are using technology in their
methods courses. However, before assessing how technology is being used in
social studies teacher education and whether the investments in technology
result in significant improvements in education, the frame of reference must
Bull, Bell, Mason, & Garofalo (2002) developed a structure that serves
as the frame of reference when considering how technology is used in
education (Table 1). This structure provides distinguishing markers that
delineate between the use and purpose of educational technology. According to
this framework, technology can be used to improve efficiency, or it can be
used to reconceptualize the classroom curriculum with technology in either
the foreground or background. The following discussion defines and
provides examples for each of the quadrants.
Table 1: Technology in Schools
|Use of Technology|| Improve Efficiency ||Reconceptualize Curriculum
|Foreground || Computer Literacy ||School Reform
|Background||Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) ||Discipline-based Reforms
Using Technology to Increase Efficiency in the Classroom
The term computer literacy, coined by Arthur Luehrman in
1971, refers to the study of computer science as a discipline or to technology
proficiency (Bull et al., 2002). The goal of computer literacy programs is to
improve efficiency by using technology in the forefront. An example of
computer literacy is the North Carolina Competencies for Educators.
(Editors' note: The URL for this website and others are located in the
Resources section at the end of this article.) These competencies call for teachers to be able
to conduct basic technology skills, such as the following:
- Connect a computer to a modem and telephone line for dial-in access.
- Install and configure telecommunications software.
- Upload a text file and send as electronic mail.
The objective of computer-assisted instruction
is to improve efficiency; however, technology is either integrated into the curriculum or functions
in the background. Tutorials, simulations, and drill-and-practice software
are all examples of computer-assisted instruction. Owl and Mouse
Educational Software's U.S. Map Puzzle is an example of a social studies tutorial
that assists students in learning the U.S. states and capitals.
The use of technology in teacher education to improve efficiency is
best understood by categorizing the use of technology on the basis of the
primary user or controller of technology (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Levels of technology users
Teacher educators (Level 3), as the primary users of technology, might
use technology to help preservice teachers analyze teaching and
learning, present information, or demonstrate model lessons. The
preservice teacher (Level 2), as primary user, might use productivity tools for word
processing, grade and record keeping, web page production, and presentations, as
well as using subject-specific software and websites to create
presentations, lectures, lessons, and assessments. Finally, teacher education
programs prepare preservice teachers to facilitate use of technology by their future
K-12 students (Level 1) to investigate concepts and solve problems.
This framework of technology use in social studies methods courses
helps delineate where the focus of use lies. The framework does not
necessarily imply a hierarchy, but rather helps educators ascertain where agency
exists. It is helpful, therefore, in understanding where social studies
faculty members focus their technology use.
Using Technology to Reconceptualize the Curriculum
Technology applications that fall under the category of
school reform seek to restructure schools through inquiry-based learning driven by
technology. Hence, technology is at the forefront. The Learning in Hand: Handhelds
in the Classroom website describes an example of technology-driven
school reform. This fifth-grade classroom uses handheld computers to
reform teaching and learning across the curriculum.
In the category discipline-based
reforms, technology is used to reconceptualize the academic discipline. A digital resource center such as
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Documenting the
American South is one example of scholars and researchers using technology
to rethink the nature of their discipline, which can then be translated to
The CUFA Guidelines (Mason et al., 2000) asserted that technology
be used both in the background and the foreground to promote
discipline-based and school-based reform. However, more knowledge is needed
about how technology is used in social studies teacher education practice.
Technology and Social Studies Education
There has been a precarious relationship between the social studies
and technology. While some educators have been fascinated by the potential
of technology to enhance teaching and learning, many schools have
lagged behind in assimilating technology into instruction (Berson, 1996).
Shaver (1999) expressed doubt that technology will ever incite instructional
reform in the social studies, and Pahl (1996) noted that social studies
educators have been apprehensive about modifying instruction to incorporate
technology. This lingering apprehension has led some researchers to conclude
that the social studies has not appreciably changed as a result of
technology (Martorella, 1997; White, 1997).
Instructional decision making in the social studies has been based on
a limited knowledge base, and as a result, computer use among students
in social studies education has often relied on basic applications of
technology as a tool for word processing or accessing factual information. Yet, there
is the potential for technology to be fostered as a tool that overcomes
the traditional isolation of the classroom setting (Braun, 1997), provides
access to expansive resources (Becker, 1999), and improves overall
productivity (Saye, 1998).
To achieve the desired gains with technology, social studies
methods courses must not focus only on making preservice teachers proficient
at using technology, but must promote strategies to integrate technology
to enhance teaching and learning (Cantu, 2000). Technology rich
instruction models effective use, explores the barriers and benefits of
technology integration (Keiper, Harwood, & Larson, 2000), and thereby surmounts
the traditional absence of technology in methods courses (Rose &
Efforts to assist universities in modeling effective technology use include
the creation of the CUFA Guidelines for integrating technology into
teacher preparation programs (Mason et al., 2000). The CUFA Guidelines
organized by five principles, which enhance the infusion of technology
into preservice education and support the continued focus on research
and evaluation of social studies and technology.
Rationale for This Study
Little empirical data is available about the extent of preparation of
social studies teachers to use technology. Most conclusions about social
studies teachers' technology training must be inferred from the general
literature about preservice and in-service preparation (Ehman & Glenn, 1991).
There has been no systematic research investigating social studies methods
faculty use of technology integration. We need to know more about the use
of technology in social studies methods courses.
This study used a longitudinal survey design with both cohort and
panel components. CUFA members are being surveyed annually using the
same instrument in order to establish baseline information and then obtain
time series information across a 5-year period. The results highlighted in
this paper focus on the baseline survey, which describes the technology
practices of social studies faculty members in the methods classroom, as well
as establishing agency in technology use. The annual follow-up will indicate
if and how these practices are changing.
Objectives of the Research
In order to understand the relationship between technology innovation
and social studies teacher education, this article presents baseline information
on social studies faculty use of technology in instruction. This survey
research addresses the following questions:
- What is known about the use of technology in social studies
faculty members' methods courses?
- To what extent do social studies faculty members currently
integrate technology into their instruction, especially in methods courses?
- How is the use of technology aimed at different levels of
teacher preparation (teacher educator, preservice teacher, and K-12 student)?
- How does social studies faculty usage of technology change over
time? What influences these changes?
The survey results have implications for future policy regarding
technology training of faculty and the development of strategic plans aimed at
encouraging technology-based innovation in teacher education programs.
The survey (see Appendix) was sent to the membership of CUFA, and
the response rate was 59%. Participants completed 101 items, including
Likert scales, short-answer items, and open-ended questions. The survey
was divided into four parts, with the first component focusing on
demographics (17 items), the second addressing the use of technology in social
studies methods courses, the third assessing personal use of technology
and confidence in technology, and the fourth examining organizational
support and barriers to technology integration and further information on
the organizations of the respondents.
The survey was mailed to CUFA members in March 1999.
Respondents anonymously filled out a Scantron bubble sheet for most of the survey,
with the data uploaded in a statistical software program. Open-ended
answers were then typed into this program.
Data from Likert scales and short-item responses were analyzed
using descriptive statistics. A content analysis was conducted on
open-ended questions. A factor analysis (using orthogonal rotation) was used to
elicit components across items describing use of technology and confidence.
This analysis revealed a single component that described confidence with
using technology, producing a scale of confidence for each participant.
The confidence and use scales were used to perform correlation and
regression analyses against other variables.
How Is Technology Used in SS Methods Courses?
Regular use of technology is infrequent among most social studies
faculty members. A little more than 2 in 5 (42%) respondents to the CUFA
survey claimed to use computers occasionally in instruction, whereas only 1 in
5 (19.8%) used computers throughout the semester, and only 1 in 17
(6.2%) used computers every class session. This is consistent with Clark's
(1992) and Parker's (1997) findings. Social studies faculty members, as a
whole, use technology occasionally in instruction.
Based on our data analysis, the use of technology in social studies
is appropriately thought to consist of two factors: digital communications
and instructional technologies. A factor analysis of all the items on the
survey (using Varimax rotation) revealed the following:
- Communication via newsgroups, accessing information and
lesson plans on the web, use of email, and the use of word processors,
are strongly related and load strongly on one factor. We call this
factor "digital communications" (this factor explains some 5% of the
total variance in the sample).
- Preparation using presentation and social studies software, use
of display systems, use of spreadsheets and databases, multimedia
presentations, and videoconferencing, among others, all load together
to describe what we call "instructional technologies" (this factor
explains some 12% of the total variance).
Use is, therefore, not a singular concept, but consists of two factors,
digital communications and instructional technologies.
Digital communications are used in social studies methods courses far
more often than are instructional technologies. For example, word
processors were used "often" by 68.9% of the sample, and faculty often used
e-mail (54.3% of the sample) to communicate with others. Conversely,
instructional technologies were seldom used. Videoconferencing was used often
by 3.7%, spreadsheets and databases by 5.6%, and multimedia presentations
by just 2.9%. Table 2 shows which technologies are used in social
studies methods courses, and how often they are used.
Table 2: Use of Various Technologies by the Course Instructor (in Percent)
Examples of each technology are hyperlinked from the text.
Represents a summation of "throughout the semester, but not every
class session" and "nearly every class session."
Represents a summation of "rarely" and "occasionally."
There has been a shift in the pattern of use over time, especially in the last
4 years. We have made a comparison of the percentages of those
faculty members who used technology often (for most or all of their classes)
from Parker (1997) and these results in 2000 illustrate a great increase in use
of Internet and email. Table 3 contrasts Parker's (1997) findings with ours.
Table 3: Comparison Between Frequent uses of Technologies
(Parker, 1997) and This Study
Internet or email
It should be noted that these two studies might not be reporting exactly
the same thing (questions were worded differently, for example, and should
not be directly compared), but the results are illustrative, at least, of a
major shift toward the use of the Internet or email in instruction.
In fact, almost all use of technology in social studies methods instruction
is accounted for by word processors, email, and the Internet. Besides the
rise in use of email and the Internet, use is not much different from that
reported by Wetzel (in Parker, 1997) 8 years ago. Parker (1997) put it this
way: "Although many use computers for word processing, much smaller
percentages indicate required usage of technology by students or the
development of technological applications for their courses." The next section looks
at how faculty members use technology. Do they get their students to use it,
do they use it themselves, and is it getting through to K-12 students?
The Levels of Technology in Teacher Education
Technology use is not equivalent at the three levels of use described
We analyzed responses according to the three levels, such that
responses that were involved in each level were summed and averaged. Table 4
shows the averages from this analysis. The possible range of responses went from
1 (rarely) to 5 (nearly every class
session). Higher means, therefore, represent more frequent use.
Table 4: Results of Level Analysis
Table 4 indicates that teacher educators use technology more frequently
at Level 3 than levels 2 or 1. So, for example,
faculty members use technology in their classes, or in preparation for their classes rather than getting
their students to use technology in those classes. The mean of 2.41 for Level
3 still represents "occasional" use, so although use at Level 3 is more
frequent, it is, nevertheless, relatively low. The means of 1.78 and 1.8 for Level 2
and Level 1, respectively, represent a combination of "rare" and
"occasional" use. Technology is used infrequently overall, but relatively more often
for Level 3 than for levels 1 and 2.
One caveat regarding the data: In all cases, faculty members reported
this data. Their responses to how often teachers and students used
technology comes from their frame of reference (Level 3). In effect, Level 3
players reported on the use of technology at their own level and down through
the other two levels. There were no significant findings when we looked at
how use at the three levels related to experience as a teacher or whether
faculty taught elementary, middle, or secondary methods courses. The
courses faculty members taught or the teaching experience they had did not seem
to make a difference. Technology integration is focused at the level of
the teacher educator. Teacher educators are not yet using technology in
their courses in such a way that their students are integrating it and
it in class.
Part of they are not yet using technology can be explained by looking at
the different philosophies faculty members hold with regard to teaching
with technology. Faculty members were asked whether their primary
teaching role related to technology was (a) providing students with
technology-integrated instruction, (b) providing students with technology skills, or
When it comes to philosophy of education, a higher percentage (36.4%)
of faculty focused on providing students with technology skills rather than
with technology-integrated instruction (30.2%). Almost as many faculty members
(28%) felt that neither of these categories reflected their philosophy.
Most participants thought providing students with technology-related
instruction was the more important philosophy. Slightly fewer thought
providing students with integrated instruction was important. Slightly fewer are
unsure, or unwilling to commit to a particular philosophy.
DISCUSSION AND SUMMARY
It is apparent that faculty members are not convinced that technology use
to reconceptualize the curriculum is better. They use technology far more
often at Level 3, the teacher educator level, than at the student level. Perhaps
this is simply a sign of the times that will change as the education
climate evolves and new technologies emerge. Or perhaps teacher educator
faculty members will become more comfortable with the integration of
technology into their teaching and will naturally seek to use it to reform their
teaching. Perhaps the students, both K-12 and methods students, will begin to
expect and demand applications of educational technologies in their
coursework. Perhaps emerging technologies will become so entrenched in our
society that teacher educators will find it impossible to teach without technology.
Each of these conjectures is a possibility. We believe that the future
holds not one of these outcomes, but a combination of them. We believe that
as faculty members become more comfortable with using technology, they
will naturally begin to integrate it in their instruction. We believe that students
at all levels will begin expecting that technology be used for instruction
and will encourage their teachers to use it. We also believe that as new
technologies emerge and develop, they will become more entrenched in
everyday teaching and learning.
We suggest that to promote the use of technology in social studies
methods courses, a more frank and open discussion about integration be
held. Practical examples of what integration looks like at the three levels
of technology use in teacher education must be provided for teacher
educators and research must be conducted to inform the implementation of
technology in teacher education.
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Documenting the American South - http://docsouth.unc.edu
Learning in Hand: Handhelds in the Classroom - http://www.mpsomaha.org/willow/p5/handhelds/index.html
North Carolina Competencies for Educators -http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/tap/techcomp.htm
U.S. Map Puzzle - http://www.yourchildlearns.com/puzzle_us.htm
Cheryl Mason Bolick
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill