November 13, 2017

Overview of a Research Paper on Teachers who Use Exemplary Technology Practices in Teaching

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

I happened across an article published by the members of the Adaptech Research Network with a catchy headline: “Simply the best”: Professors nominated by students for their exemplary technology practices in teaching. It might be the reference to Tina Turner’s hit that caught my attention. The full version of the article is available however for my part I would like to give you some feedback on certain key points of this research.

The researchers questioned 311 students from Dawson College and the Cégep André-Laurendeau to identify the teachers that used technologies that appealed to the students. The survey also allowed the researchers to identify the technology practices in teaching that students liked and those they disliked. This was the object of a Profweb article in 2015 as well as an article published in the International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research.

One hundred and fourteen (114) teachers who were perceived as “excellent” in the use of teaching technology were questioned.

Becoming technology proficient

The researchers asked the 114 “excellent” teachers how they had learned to use the technologies. The results are presented in Table 1

Table 1 – How teachers learn to use technology
Learning source % of teachers Examples
Learn on their own 53% Use online resources (videos, tutorials, websites)
Trial and error
Previous experience 43% Worked in industry
Help from colleagues (teachers or college support staff) 25%
Workshops offered by the college 12% Pedagogical day workshops
Workshops organised by a department

It is not surprising that most learning takes place autonomously. However, researchers questioned the fact that only 12% of teachers learned from the pedagogical workshops offered by their college. Teachers surveyed indicated that these workshops were often held at times that were not convenient for them. They also said that the workshops did not sufficiently present practical ideas and were too basic, furthermore they did not meet their needs well. However, the teachers did mention that they would like to have access to professional development activities related to technology.

Personally, I understand that it might be difficult for a college to set up workshops that respond to the individual needs of teachers, as these needs are varied.

To solve this problem, the Cégep de la Pocatière set up a one on one coaching system.

Moreover, in the college network there is an organisation whose mission it is to offer professional development activities related to the use of technology in teaching: the APOP. APOP offers distance professional development activities via videoconferencing. If your college is a member of The Collective Professional Development Fund, you can access these activities free of charge. For example, the APOP 411 service puts you in touch, via videoconference, with a technopedagogical specialist who is available, without a prior appointment, 62 hours per week to answer your questions.

What Technologies Do “Excellent” Teachers Use?

Table 2 presents the 10 technologies used by the largest number of teachers from the study.

Table2 – Ten technologies used by the largest number of “excellent” teachers
Technologies % of teachers
E-mail 99 %
Grades available online 96 %
Assignments available online 94 %
Computer labs 91 %
Presentation software 91 %
Web links available online 90 %
Online submission of assignments 85 %
Course notes / slide presentations available online 82 %
Videos 80 %
Tutorials / practice exercises available online 79 %

These results are not surprising. I went back to the survey of students (on page 8) that the researchers did and I found that these 10 technologies are also among the most used by all teachers, “excellent” or not.

It is the same for the 10 least used technologies.

In my opinion, this only confirms that the secret to an “excellent” use of technologies is not the use of only one “miracle” technology, rather the secret is in the way teachers use the tools that are available to them. I can’t wait to read Catherine Fichten and her collaborators’ final report!

Clickers and Interactive White Boards

Clickers are among the technologies that were the least used by the teachers who participated in the survey. However, along with interactive white boards, they are among the technologies that teachers would like to have more readily available.

Regarding clickers, they can easily be replaced, at no cost, by students’ cell phones, tablets or laptops using applications such as Mentimeter or Kahoot [in French].

If you are interested in interactive white boards but do not have access to one, start by consulting your IT Rep as an alternative solution might exist depending on how you want to use the interactive board. For example, a tablet with a free app such as Educreations Interactive Whiteboard could be connected to a projector and thus meet your needs.

Students’ Personal Technology in Class

More than 80% of teachers surveyed allowed students to use their personal echnology in class, within certain limits. The researchers did not ask teachers if the use of the students’ personal technology was actively encouraged for learning activities or merely tolerated. As the researchers mentioned it would be very interesting to know more about this.

About the author

Catherine Rhéaume

Catherine Rhéaume is an editor and writer for Eductive (previously Profweb) since 2013. She also teaches physics at Cégep Limoilou. Her work for Eductive fosters her interest for technopedagogy and encourages her to try innovative teaching practices.

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