Brush, T., & Saye, J. W. (2009). Strategies for Preparing Preservice Social Studies Teachers to Integrate Technology Effectively: Models and Practices. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 9(1). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol9/iss1/socialstudies/article1.cfm
Strategies for Preparing Preservice Social Studies Teachers to Integrate Technology Effectively: Models and Practices
John W. Saye
This paper describes strategies
used by the authors to assist preservice social studies teachers with
understanding and applying models and practices for effectively integrating
technology into their future classrooms—thus, strengthening the link between
technology and pedagogy (or technological pedagogical content knowledge). Efforts
with preservice teachers described here have been informed by the authors’
successes assisting in-service teachers with understanding how technology can
empower inquiry-based teaching practices in social studies classrooms, as well
as efforts to more fully integrate technology into the overall teacher
education programs at the authors’ institutions.
The importance of technology use in education
has been widely acknowledged. Many researchers have posited that technology use
integrated with relevant teaching methods improves student learning (Hastings & Tracey, 2005; Kozma, 2003; Winn, 2002). Researchers report that technology can not only provide authentic, engaging, and collaborative learning environments but also can enable students to learn at any time with peers outside of classrooms (Jonassen, Peck, & Wilson, 1999; Kozma, 2003; Morey, Bezuk, & Chiero, 1997). Yet, the evidence is mixed, at best, that this investment of time, money, and resources has produced measurable change in student learning outcomes, or in teaching practices that effectively leverage the capabilities of technology to improve student learning (Cuban, Kirkpatrick, & Peck, 2001; Mehlinger & Powers, 2002; National Center for Education Statistics, 1999, 2000; Windschitl & Sahl, 2002).
Based on these
findings, it is not surprising that much of the research related to technology
integration in K-12 classrooms continues to demonstrate that teachers feel inadequately
prepared to use technology effectively in their classrooms, particularly to
support teaching and learning activities in their disciplines (Hew & Brush,
2007; Schrum, 1999; Strudler & Wetzel, 1999). This lack of support leads
teachers to use technology for low-level, supplemental tasks, such as drill and
practice activities, word processing, educational games, and computer-based
tutorials (Strudler & Wetzel, 1999; Willis, Thompson, & Sadera, 1999).
inadequate use of technology by K-12 teachers may be directly related to the
preparation provided to preservice teachers at teacher education institutions.
Some researchers believe that teacher certification programs still view
technology as an add-on to their curricula (Brush et al., 2003; Pellegrino,
Goldman, Bertenthal, & Lawless, 2007). This lack of appropriate preparation
perpetuates teachers’ feelings of ill-preparedness with regard to technology
(Schrum, 1999; Strudler & Wetzel, 1999). As a result, they continue to use
computers for lower level tasks, many of which align minimally with core
academic standards (Strudler & Wetzel; Willis et al., 1999).
Despite conclusions such as these,
solid theoretical frameworks that focus on preparing teachers to leverage
technology in ways that enhance teaching methods in K-12 classrooms are rare. Many
times, preservice teachers are exposed to a plethora of skills-based training
activities (e.g., creating multimedia presentations, creating Web sites,
developing blogs and wikis, and editing video). However, insufficient effort is
made to align technology with discipline-specific pedagogy (Brush et al., 2003;
Mishra & Koehler, 2006). Thus, researchers have begun examining methods for
developing technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK) among both
beginning and experienced teachers (Koehler, Mishra, & Yahya, 2004; Mishra
& Koehler, 2006).
The TPCK model posits that context-neutral approaches to preparing teachers to utilize technology for pedagogical
purposes will generally fail because they tend to overemphasize pure technology
skills as opposed to methods of integrating technology into teaching and using
technology to support pedagogical goals (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).
Thus, technology integration
experiences integrated with authentic teaching and learning experiences in
teacher preparation are recognized as more effective than traditional stand-alone
technology classes, in which technology skills and experiences are taught separate
from the classroom context (Brush et al., 2001; Hoelscher, 1997; Strudler &
Specifically with respect to social
studies, Lee (2008) has provided a set of guidelines for effectively
integrating TPCK into a social studies context. These guidelines include the following:
- Locating and adapting digital resources for use in the classroom.
- Facilitating students’ work in nonlinear environments.
- Working to develop critical media literacy skills among students.
- Providing students with opportunities to utilize the
presentational capabilities of the Web to motivate and encourage students.
- Using the Internet to extend collaboration and communication
- Extending and promoting active and authentic forms of human
interaction and technology enabled social networks. (Lee, 2008, p. 130)
Although these guidelines generally
focus on integrating technology in the classroom to support the link between
technology, content, and pedagogy, they also provide a framework for effective
methods of incorporating technology into preservice teacher education programs
in social studies. Integrating TPCK into preservice teacher education poses
additional challenges. Many times, preservice teachers are simultaneously
learning content, technology, and pedagogy—as well as learning the craft of
teaching (Saye, Kohlmeier, Brush, Maddox, & Howell, 2007)—which can prove
overwhelming to individuals just entering the teaching profession. As Niess (2008) stated, “The
question then is how to prepare preservice teachers for the multitude of
variables that impact the potential effectiveness of classroom activities when
technology is integrated as a learning tool” (p. 241).
In our work with preservice social
studies teachers, we have used a number of strategies to help them understand and
apply models and practices for effectively integrating technology into their
future classrooms—thus, strengthening the link between technology, pedagogy,
and content. Our efforts with preservice teachers have particularly focused on
providing the best experiences that allow them to engage a multitude of
variables within authentic learning contexts.
Promoting TPCK With Preservice Social Studies Teachers
The strategies employed to promote
TPCK with our preservice teachers have been shaped by both successful
strategies with in-service social studies teachers to promote pedagogical
change (Saye & Brush, 2006) and strategies employed to integrate technology
more fully into our preservice teacher education programs (Brush et al., 2003;
Brush, 1998). Activities include
- Viewing, critiquing, and discussing authentic cases of social studies
teachers utilizing various technology resources to implement inquiry-based
learning activities in their classrooms.
- Providing preservice social studies teachers with opportunities to
explore innovative, emerging technologies and to integrate those technologies into
rich learning activities within the context of their teacher education programs.
- Providing preservice social studies teachers with opportunities to
implement activities that effectively utilize technology in authentic classroom
We will describe concrete examples of how these strategies
have been implemented into our teacher education programs at Indiana University
and Auburn University and discuss potential barriers to providing preservice
teachers with integrated technological and pedagogical experiences.
Analyzing Models of Effective Technology Use in Social Studies Classrooms
Many researchers and teacher educators believe that the
best opportunity for preservice teachers to strengthen TPCK and, thus, practice
effective strategies for integrating technology into their teaching occurs
through authentic classroom experiences, such as field-based practicum
activities, teaching internships, and student teaching. These types of
experiences, when implemented effectively, provide some of the best
opportunities for beginning teachers to see how different classroom variables
(e.g., resources available in classrooms, class size, and student demographics)
can have an impact on teaching methods and strategies (Brush et al., 2003).
numerous issues hinder the quantity and quality of the field-based components
of their teacher education experiences. Difficulties in finding appropriate
placements, coupled with the number of students who need to be placed, many
times force the teacher education programs at our institutions to limit the
opportunities for field-based practica prior to student teaching (Allen, 2003;
Wilson & Floden, 2003).
In addition, even when we are able to provide multiple field experiences to preservice
teachers, exposing them to high-quality models of effective uses of technology
that are integrated with secondary social studies curricular activities is
difficult. A number of factors affect the quality of in-school modeling,
including lack of resources available in field placements, lack of experience
or expertise with regard to technology integration among field placement
teachers, and lack of opportunities for preservice teachers to integrate
technology in meaningful ways into the activities they design and implement
during their field placements (Niess, 2008; Posner, 1996; Smoot, 2000).
In order to provide more targeted
models of technology integration, we have been exploring the use of specific
teaching cases within our social studies methods courses. Within all of our preservice
teacher education courses, we integrate a collection of online curriculum
resources we have developed – the Persistent Issues in History Network (PIHNet –
PIHNet includes a set of Web resources to help upper elementary and secondary
preservice and in-service social studies teachers implement problem-based inquiry
(PBI) activities (Brush & Saye, 2000, 2008; Saye
& Brush, 2004, 2007).
One of the major resources
available in PIHNet is the Persistent Issues in History wise practice video
case database. The wise practice video case
database was designed and developed to exemplify PBI activities in order to
assist preservice teachers in understanding and incorporating similar
pedagogies in their future classrooms. The database has 20 fully developed
classroom cases, each of which includes from 20 to 40 minutes of classroom
video, reflections of the implementation of the classroom activity by the
teacher, pre- and post-interviews with the teacher, state and national
standards associated with the activity, and any resources used by the teacher
and students during the activity.
Although the video database was
designed to help teachers master the challenges of inquiry-based social studies
teaching of any sort, we have also used specific cases within the database
explicitly to provide models of teachers effectively using technology to
support specific pedagogical and content goals.
One case we have used successfully
with preservice classes focuses on a teacher’s use of a specific teaching
strategy known as an “interactive slide lecture.” With this strategy, the
teacher provides students with a series of historical photographs and uses
various interactive activities (e.g., role playing, think-alouds) to establish foundational knowledge of a historical topic and
encourage historical thinking. This particular case provides preservice
teachers with an example of how to locate and adapt digital resources effectively
for use within a learning activity, as well as examine and evaluate critically those
resources as historical artifacts (Lee, 2008).
In our teacher education classes,
we designed this particular video case activity to focus learners’ attention on
several critical components of the teaching strategy and, specifically, on how the
technology used by the teacher facilitated the successful implementation of the
strategy in his classroom. The activity focused student attention on the
overview of the lesson provided by the teacher, the classroom video segments
dealing with the lesson implementation, and the teacher’s reflection regarding
the effectiveness of the particular teaching strategy exemplified in the video
case (particularly, his discussion of how he used technology within the
As students watched each video
clip, they were provided with an online scaffold that assisted them with
focusing on specific technological, pedagogical, and content aspects of each
video through the use of guiding questions (see Figure 1). Questions were
linked to specific video clips within the overall video case. Questions
contained in the scaffold include
- Think about what kind of preparations a
teacher might need to make to implement this lesson. What would the
teacher need to think about, both from a technological standpoint and a
- What social studies content would a
lecture/discussion/role-play activity like this allow you to foster in
- How did the technology used add to
- Using the Indiana Standards, what
social studies standards might this lesson address?
- What ISTE student technology standards
might this lesson address? (see International Society for Technology in
- What strategies would you use to
assess student performance in this lesson?
|Figure 1. Video case activity completed by preservice teachers.
Secondary preservice teachers’
reactions to participating in this and other video case activities have been
extremely positive. For example, when asked what they liked best about a
specific video critique activity, one preservice teacher commented, “This is a
great example of good social studies teaching. Instead of having our professors
tell us about good teaching, I could see it for myself. Good videos and
they allowed me to observe without traveling an hour to a high school to
Another preservice teacher said, “I
love watching other teaching strategies. I like to see different techniques so
I am able to use those techniques in my own classroom.” Finally, numerous preservice
teachers specifically discussed the benefits technology provided in the lesson.
For example, one preservice teacher stated, “The technology gave students
something more interesting and specific than a textbook…it made the lesson more
relevant and closer to home” (Brush et al., 2007). (For access to any of the
online video cases, contact either of the authors for an account.)
Modeling Specific Technology-Rich Activities
A second approach to providing TPCK
to preservice teachers is to design activities in which preservice teachers
serve as students and participate in technology-rich, content-based activities.
Preservice teachers can engage in classroom activities that they potentially
could use in their own classrooms. Teacher education faculty members serve as
the teachers for these activities and are then able to discuss the affordances
technology can provide within the activities, the strengths and weaknesses of
the activities from a pedagogical standpoint, and potential issues with implementing
these activities in more authentic settings.
One example of how this strategy
has been implemented is with a group role-play activity focusing on the 1964
Democratic National Convention available on the PIHNet Web site (see Figure 2).
Teacher education and educational technology faculty members team teach this Web-based
activity, in which students explore the perspectives of historical figures playing
significant roles during the convention. The activity itself provides preservice
teachers with a model of teaching and learning strategies that they can utilize
in their future classrooms – including empathetic role-playing, historical
think-alouds, and group decision-making. In addition, the activity provides a
model of how technology can be leveraged to facilitate these learning outcomes.
|Figure 2. Online PIHNet activity.
Preservice teachers are able to see how
hyperlinks within Web-based documents can be used to provide additional
background, contextual, and even metacognitive cues to assist learners with
interpreting historical accounts and developing historical empathy. They can obtain a better understanding
of how technology can facilitate the pedagogical goals of the activity. In
addition, they gain experience working with nonlinear
environments and engaging in authentic forms of human interaction and
technology enabled social networks (Lee, 2008). These types of activities could
be implemented without technology, but technology provides unique attributes to
activities that enhance their effectiveness with students. For example,
technology may provide just-in-time information that allows students to
understand the larger historical context within which a particular event is
Modeling Technology Tools to Enhance Pedagogical Goals
In addition to integrating specific
technology-rich activities into various aspects of the teacher education
program, preservice teachers should also have an understanding of the multiple
technology tools available and how they can be used to enhance a wide variety of
activities in social studies (Lee, 2008; Saye & Brush, 2007). In our
teacher education courses, we model emerging technological tools available at
little or no cost to teachers that facilitate powerful learning activities
For example, we provide preservice
teachers with opportunities to explore resources such as Google Earth and model
how this tool can be used to enhance instructional activities in history and
geography. Various overlays (or “kmz” files) developed by
teachers and historians can be integrated into Google Earth to allow students
to explore a broad range of historical topics.
Figure 3 is a screenshot of an overlay created by
teachers focusing on the history of Russia from 4000 BC to present (refer to http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/746050/an/0/page/4#746050 to access this overlay). A wide variety of overlays are available via the
Google Earth Community Web site (http://bbs.keyhole.com). These overlays
provide information and resources for topics in history, geography, people and
cultures, and a wide variety of other pertinent areas.
|Figure 3. Google Earth overlay focusing on the history of Russia.
In addition to allowing our preservice teachers to explore the use
of various overlays developed by other educators, we also provide opportunities
for preservice teachers to create their own overlays using the Google Earth
authoring tools. They can integrate the resources they create into
instructional activities they then implement with students during their field
experiences and practica. This activity allows our preservice teachers to both
select and modify digital resources for pedagogical purposes, as well as utilize
the presentational capabilities of the Web (Lee, 2008).
We have also integrated digital video into our
teacher education courses as a tool for students to demonstrate knowledge and
understanding of social studies content. We have worked with teachers on
numerous activities in which they had their students construct multimedia historical
narratives as a method of culminating unit assessment (e.g., Brush & Saye, 2008).
In this case, preservice teachers were
paired with a team of junior high teachers and teacher educators and required
to create documentary videos of the Reformation period. These videos were
developed to serve as models for the partner teachers’ students in order to
facilitate the creation of their own video documentaries (dealing with the
Industrial Revolution). The preservice teachers used simple video editing
software (such as iMovie or Windows Moviemaker), and went through a process
similar to the process the students were expected to complete.
As a culmination of the activity,
not only did preservice teachers provide several model storyboards and video
documentaries for the partner teachers to show to their students, but they also
provided valuable suggestions
regarding potential issues teachers may face when implementing the activity
with their students and suggestions for addressing those issues, thus, enabling
them to collaborate and communicate with both their peers and more experienced
teachers (Lee, 2008).
addition, preservice teachers received firsthand knowledge and experience
regarding how digital media could be used by classroom teachers to facilitate
alternative methods of student assessment in social studies. Finally, preservice
teachers were asked to upload all of their videos and video resources to
Teacher Tube (http://www.teachertube.com), thus, providing other educators
with examples of video documentaries that could be used with a wide range of
students across the country. (For examples, see Video 1 at http://dp.crlt.indiana.edu/reformation/Group4_reformation.mov and Video 2 at http://dp.crlt.indiana.edu/W301/deseg.wmv, which focuses on
the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s desegregation efforts during
the early 1960s.)
Supporting Exploration in Authentic Classrooms
Although modeling effective use of
technology and providing opportunities to explore emerging technologies are
important in providing preservice social studies teachers with the TPCK needed
to utilize technology effectively in their future classrooms, preservice
teachers also need opportunities to examine the use of technology in authentic
classroom settings and explore how they can use technology to support student
learning. Without these types of opportunities, they may develop an unrealistic
perspective regarding how technology can be (and is being) utilized in social
studies classrooms (Niess, 2008). This perspective, in turn, could impact their
views of how technology can facilitate the implementation of innovative pedagogical
To provide these experiences, we have designed
specific activities that preservice teachers complete as part of their
field-based practicum experiences. Emerging technological resources are
integrated into these activities, and preservice teachers are encouraged to
explore how more advanced technologies can enhance their own teaching. For
example, once they are assigned to their initial field placement site, preservice
teachers are required to complete a technology needs assessment. The purpose of this activity is to allow preservice teachers to examine critically
the resources available at their placement school, to obtain perspectives from
teachers regarding effective uses of technology, and to determine the level of
technology support available to teachers and how teachers access that support.
Since several preservice teachers are placed at each field placement school,
this activity gives them an opportunity to explore how online collaboration
tools can facilitate group data collection, analysis, and reflection. We
provide preservice teachers with a data collection scaffold (see Figure 4) via
an online collaboration tool such as Google Docs (http://www.google.com/docs)
and have them collectively gather, analyze, and interpret information for their
Once they have completed their
needs assessments, teacher education faculty conduct a group debriefing session,
in which they discuss the types of resources available at each of the field
placement schools, ways those resources can be used to enhance social studies
instruction, and ways teachers at the field placement schools are using the
resources available to them to facilitate social studies instruction.
|Figure 4. Google Docs technology needs assessment activity.
A second example of how we provide preservice
teachers with authentic experiences using technology to support teaching and
learning occurs as a direct result of the technology needs assessment. As part
of their methods classes, preservice teachers are required to design and
implement several small learning activities in cooperation with their field
placement teachers. For one of these activities, preservice teachers must use
the data obtained from their needs assessments in conjunction with knowledge
gained from the modeling experiences they participated in to design a
technology-integrative classroom activity for students in their field placement
classroom, implement the activity with at least a subset of those students,
evaluate the effectiveness of the activity, and reflect upon how well the
technology supported the goals of the activity and modifications that they
would make to future iterations of the activity. Preservice teachers are
required to incorporate technological resources currently available at
their field placement schools (or accessible via the Internet).
In addition, preservice teachers
are encouraged to develop their instructional activities collaboratively (and
use collaborative online tools to facilitate the process) and are required to
complete a blog (using a resource such as http://www.blogger.com or http://www.edublogs.org)
to document the design process and to record their reflections on the
implementation of their activities.
Some of the topics and tools preservice
teachers have implemented with their students include using digital images and
Google Earth to explore the Civil War and Reconstruction, using blogs and
blogging to examine the issue of personal rights and freedoms, using video
podcasts to examine issues of bias in global media reports of issues, and using
Internet resources and video to explore changing political affiliations in
post-World War II Europe.
Finally, as a capstone professional
development experience, preservice teachers are required to use a simple Web
page development tool such as Google Sites (http://sites.google.com) or NVue Mambo
to develop Web-based professional portfolios. These portfolios serve as a
framework that preservice teachers can update as they progress through their
teacher education programs. Not only are they required to link activity
resources, reflection blogs, and any other artifacts to their portfolios, but
they are expected to continue to update these portfolios with teaching artifacts
as they continue through their programs (see Figure 5). (To view examples of preservice
teachers’ portfolios, see http://sites.google.com/site/jasonquillin/ or http://andrewmyron.googlepages.com/home.)
|Figure 5. Preservice teachers’ professional portfolio (used with permission of author).
Conclusion: Barriers to Integrating Technology and Pedagogy
This paper describes several strategies we have
employed to integrate effective technology integration strategies into teacher
education experiences provided to preservice social studies teachers. These
strategies have been designed potentially to increase preservice teachers’ TPCK
by providing them with opportunities to explore innovative and emerging
technology resources in authentic social studies learning and teaching
However, providing preservice
teachers with “authentic” experiences can expose other issues that can hinder
their knowledge and skills with integrating technology and pedagogy. One major
issue involves the types of models preservice teachers are exposed to in their
field placement experiences. As with many teacher education programs, we are
not always able to select field placements that provide optimal technology
integration experiences for our preservice teachers. Many of the teachers who have the skills
and experiences to serve as mentors for our preservice teachers find themselves
inundated with other professional responsibilities.
Teale, Leu, Lagbbo, and Kinzer (2002) stated, “Teachers who provide
outstanding…instruction are usually in such demand to assist with staff
development and mentoring first- and second-year teachers in their building
that they rarely have time to supervise preservice field work” (p. 655). Thus,
in some instances preservice teachers are placed in classrooms in which
teachers are not comfortable using technology for instructional purposes and do
not use technology in innovative ways. As one preservice teacher stated during
the debriefing session of the technology needs assessment activity, “I never
saw [my placement teacher] use computers in his classroom. They were just
sitting in the back of the room collecting dust.”
addition, even if mentor-teachers do have expertise in technology integration
and time to mentor preservice teachers, they may not have the opportunity
to model diverse teaching strategies in the limited amount of time a preservice
teacher is present in their classroom, or they may lack of technology resources
at a given placement school. As one preservice teacher said, “I would
have liked to see Mr. [XXX] take advantage of the computer[s] with his
students. I would have also liked to see him use his own computer.” In terms of lack of technology
resources available, one preservice teacher said, “There was less
technology than I expected. I came from a high school where there was an
abundance of technology.”
Finally, although we have discussed
a variety of strategies employed in our preservice teacher education programs
to facilitate the transfer of TPCK to authentic classroom settings, we have yet
to complete any rigorous studies that examine the extent to which this
knowledge transfers to actual classroom practices once preservice teachers
obtain professional placements. We are currently designing several studies to
examine the link between technology experiences in our preservice programs and
those experiences that induction and experienced teachers find relevant and
meaningful in their teaching (refer to Brush & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2008, for
an overview of these studies).
continued goal is to refine effective models and strategies for preparing preservice
teachers to integrate technology and pedagogy in their future classrooms and
share those models with the professional community. The challenges with regard
to locating field placements that provide opportunities for rich technology
integration experiences for our preservice teachers potentially can be
addressed by incorporating more video case modeling activities into our teacher
education courses or by developing and sharing additional technology modeling
activities with preservice teachers. However, video cases, although they are exceptional
teaching and learning tools, can go only so far in providing preservice
teachers with opportunities to explore the interaction of technology, pedagogy,
and content to provide optimal learning environments.
of our persistent challenges will be to develop and integrate more
authentic classroom experiences in which preservice teachers can explore the
use of technology to promote pedagogical goals within our teacher education
programs. By meeting this challenge, we may be able to provide preservice
teachers with a better understanding of how technology, when used
appropriately, can support innovative pedagogical strategies that have a
positive impact on learners’ engagement with and retention of content.
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for this work has been provided by the Fund for the Improvement of
Postsecondary education, Grant P116B041038, the National
Endowment for the Humanities, Grant ED-22175-02, Auburn University Outreach
Scholarship Grants, Auburn University College of Education and Indiana
University School of Education.
John W. Saye