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Digital Disconnects in Teacher Education:
Exploring The Integration of Personal Technology Into Classroom Instruction

Kathy Smart
Bonni Gourneau
University of North Dakota

     In general, society has become increasingly more engaged in using information, and perhaps even technology dependent, and this trend continues to grow. Some of this is due to increased affordability of technology, smaller physical sizes, and expanded capabilities of mobile devices and connectivity. All of the devices on the market continue to increase the amount of time people are “connected” to one another and their work. According to a report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the number of people who own tablets or e-readers devices escalated following holiday gift buying during the 2011-holiday season (AME, 2012). The results also indicated that males and females were equivalently likely to own tablets. Further, the report indicated that ownership was higher for people with greater household incomes or levels of education.

     College students are no exception, and perhaps they are the new leaders in this increased appliance ownership and use of information technologies for school, work, and leisure. Evidence of college students as leaders in the use of technology is available from agencies and non-profit organizations that focus on gathering data about information technology and its use in the academic arena.  The data also aids in identifying trends on information technology for academic leadership who lead, manage, and use information resources to shape strategic decisions.

     In higher education, EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association, is a significant contributor of research and information for educational institutions. Its mission is focused on providing a comprehensive range of information, resources, and data to member institutions. The EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) provides member institutions with results of research studies conducted about numerous aspects of information technology. Through these published research studies, ECAR provides higher education leaders with reliable, comprehensive data. This aids campus leaders in decision-making based on data information technology in regard to faculty, students, staff, infrastructure, costs, and security.          
One of ECAR’s annual research studies invites member institutions to participate in an annual undergraduate student information technology survey. In the 2011,ECAR National Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology (Eden, etal., 2011) surveyed a nationally represented sample that included 3,000 students from1,179 colleges and universities. The research objective included assessing students’ technology skill levels, ownership and use, technology perceptions, attitudes and preferences, and instructors’ effective use of technology.

     The study found that 87% of students own a laptop, 70% own a USB thumb drive, and 62% have an iPod, 55% own a smartphone, and 55% have a digital camera and webcam. A small percentage of students own a netbook, 11%, and an iPad, only 8%. It is noteworthy that although the percentage is small, they are heavily used for academics, 70% and 67% respectively. The ownership of these two types of devices was tied to the students’ desire to see them used for academic purposes. Further, 57% of the students rated their ability to evaluate the reliability and creditability of information that was online as expert or very skilled.

Purpose of Study
     Pre-service teachers (PST) use technology in multiple aspects of their daily lives for social, academic, and employment purposes. When outside of school and even during school, they communicate incessantly through text messaging, cell phones, video games, digital media players, and other mobile devices. However, there is a lack of connection to how they might use this technology within their own classroom instruction as a learning tool. Devices students own may not be limited to conveniences they provide to connect to others, access information, and to provide entertain. There are opportunities to embrace and to tap into the everyday technology knowledge of students if teachers believe these technologies benefit classroom instruction. The purpose of this pilot study is to explore what technologies PST own, value, use, and to document their self-report skill and confidence levels.

     Participants included sixteen undergraduate students enrolled in a course designed for PST with a focus on integration of technology in teaching. Academic ranks of the students included 7sophomores,8 juniors, and 1 senior including 2 males and 14 females. The students were all PST in a college of education with an early childhood, elementary education, or secondary education program emphasis.

     A survey was delivered through Survey Monkey entitled Pre-Service Teachers and Information Technology Questionnaire. It was administered the first day of class and included questions from the Computer Self-Efficacy Scale (Murphy, Coover, & Owen, 1989) and from a former version of the ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology; both of the survey instruments were used with permission of the authors. The PST completed the 15-item Computer Self-Efficacy Scale to measure individual perceptions of their capabilities regarding specific computer-related knowledge and skills. The Computer Self-Efficacy Scale asked PST to rate their degree of confidence in performing listed computer activities on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 equaling very little confidence to 5 equaling quite a lot of confidence. The range of 1-5 and descriptions are indicated below:

  1. Very Little Confidence
  2. Little Confidence
  3. Some Confidence
  4. High Confidence
  5. Quite a Lot of Confidence

     The PST reported that 19% were not very skilled; 50% reported they feel fairly skilled at using the university library website while25% were very skilled;6% reported feeling like experts. Using the internet to search for information was varied with 6% responding as not very skilled; 13% fairly skilled; 56% very skilled, and 25% expertly skilled. Determining the reliability and creditability of online sources of information was varied with 12.5% reporting not very skilled; 44% fairly skilled; 31% very skilled; and 12.5% expert. Regarding their understanding of the ethical and legal issues; 37.5% did not feel very skilled;44% fairly skilled; 12.5% very skilled and 6% expertly skilled.

      In the confidence of software PowerPoint or Prezi, 13% were not very skilled;44% fairly skilled and 25% very skilled; and 18% at the expert level. PST confidence of software was reported for Microsoft Excel with 7% reporting not at all skilled; 43% not very skilled; 40 % fairly skilled and 10% very skilled. In the confidence of using blogs, 57% reported not at all skilled; 27% not very skilled; 4% fairly skilledand 3% very skilled. PST reported for using e-textbooks 44% were not at all skilled; 37.5% not very skilled; 12.5% fairly skilled; and 6% very skilled.  PST that owned a Kindle or another brand of e-reader was 19%.

     Social networking (Facebook) was reported to be the most used of all tools with 94% using it daily and 6% using it several times per week. Approximately one half reported using it to find more out about people or to invite people to planned events.PST reported at 94% for using text several times per day and 6% message daily. In academic courses, 75% reported they preferred taking courses that used a moderate level of I.T., whereas 25% preferred taking courses that used I.T. extensively. Sixty-two percent PST reported using wikis in their course work whereas 56% reported using blogs in their courses. The PST teachers surveyed in this study reported they value their laptop, smart phone, iPod, xbox, and iPad most as teaching technology devices.

     Self-efficacy in academic and workplace settings is related, as there is an expectation of performance in both environments. Albert Bandura from Stanford University has studied social cognitive theory for several decades and self-efficacy has been a significant part of that work. Bandura (1986) defined self-efficacy as “people’s judgments of their capabilities to organise and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances” (p.391).In the area of computer technology and self-efficacy, there has been considerable research (Delcourt & Kinzie, 1993; Ertmer, Evenbeck, Cennamo, & Lehman, 1994; Murphy, Coover, & Owen, 1989).

     For the purposes of this study, self-efficacy is considered within the context of basic computer operations and an individual’s belief that they can perform a specific computer task (which is a longitudinal extension of the annual 2004 through 2009 studies.) Self-efficacy is a complex topic and has been researched in many domains over the past 30 years. As teacher educators considering both these domains is vital as PST are required to be competent to use technology in their academic courses and able to incorporate it into the content areas in meaningful and enriching fashions.

     Research clearly documents the importance of teachers using a variety of teaching strategies and approaches as the most effective ways to reach a variety of diverse learners. It becomes clear that PST have a multifaceted challenge with the addition of technology integration. The constant challenge for both teachers and teacher educators is to learn and master technologies and devices. This will not cease, however, harnessing what PST, teacher educators, teachers, and students all use may provide possibilities that are not explored to date.

2012 Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium

     Teacher education programs striving to prepare confident and skilled PST who can integrate technology into their teaching and curriculum may consider determining how confident and skilled incoming candidates are and what software and technologies they use. The importance of PST confidence and operational proficiency on all types devices is imperative to optimize integrating technology that links content and involves students in a personal, relevant, and in engaging manners.

     Teacher educators should begin to redesign courses for PST that provide a focus on technology integration into the curriculum that include mobile devices and a focus on meaningful incorporation of “bring your own device” (BYOD). This is a trend that is emerging in schools (Raths, 2012) and in faculty development offerings in higher education. This study has generated recommendations to be considered to help PST develop their own Personal Learning Networks (PLN). Investing time in establishing a PLN and making connections with other PST, creates a process for continuous learning that may have significant value for them, their future students and colleagues. These include:

  • Conversations and Planning:
    Involve students in planning
    Require students to purchase device(s)? Netbooks? iPads?
    Provide device?
    Provide Infrastructure?
  • Enlist Administration and Leverage Doctoral Students Expertise:
    Develop policies and implementation strategies for support and how to operationalize
  • Model use of near term horizon technologies throughout the PST courses, building in an intentional manner each semester:

There is a correlation between technologies students’ value and what they see modeled by their professors.

  • Don’t Forget to Nail the Basics!
    Not all students arrive at the university with the same technology experiences and skill set. Do not assume they know everything.

Building on PST current strengths and by leveraging understanding of technology they own and value, teacher educators may be able to fashion opportunities that extend the classroom.  PST that have positive and affirming learning experiences with technology in college, are more likely to become confident and competent users of technology as teachers.

References News (2012, January 24). [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Eden, D., de Boor, T., Grunwald, P., & Vockley, M. (2011). The ECAR national study of undergraduate students and information technology, 2011 (Research Report). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, October 2011, retrieved from

Ertmer, P. A., Evenbeck, E., Cennamo, K. S., & Lehman, J. D. (1994). Enhancing self-efficacy for computer technologies through the use of positive classroom experiences. Educational Technology Research & Development, 42(3), 45-62.

Delcourt, M. A. B., & Kinzie, M. B.(1993).Computer technologies in teacher education: The measurement of attitudes and self-efficacy.Journal of Research & Development in Education, 27, 35-41.

Murphy, C. A., Coover, D., & Owen, S. V. (1989). Development and validation of the computer self-efficacy scale.Educational and Psychological Measurement, 49, 893-899.

Raths, D. (2012). Are you ready for byod? THE Journal, 39(4), 28-32. Retrieved from

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