Integrating technology to foster inquiry in an elementary science methods course: an action research study of one teacher educator's initiatives in a PT3 projec

Prospective teachers and teacher educators both confront practical

and philosophical issues in attempting to integrate technology into

their practice. This paper describes a case study of a science teacher

educator, a novice in instructional technology, who integrated

technology into an elementary science methods course, with the support

of a PT3 implementation project. The science teacher educator, through

action research, examined her own knowledge and practice while

simultaneously helping her students, pre-service teachers, develop their

own practice. Qualitative analysis of classroom observations, field

notes, student feedback forms, and other documents revealed themes

related to technology's role in inquiry, external and internal

factors affecting the faculty member's development, and pre-service

teachers' development of expertise and willingness to use

technology themselves. Pre-service teachers' growth and development

related to technology integration parallels that of teacher educators.


Computers and the Internet have achieved nearly total penetration

in U.S. schools today (Market Data Retrieval, 2002; National Center for

Education Statistics, 2003). Yet teachers continue to grapple with the

practical and philosophical problems posed by the adoption and

implementation of technology (Berger, Lu, Belzer, & Voss, 1994;

Dexter, Anderson, & Becker, 1999; Pederson & Yerrick, 2000).

Part of the problem has been the lack of attention historically given to

technology integration in teacher preparation; in the past decade, a

number of national reports have raised concerns about the lack of

emphasis on technology integration in teacher preparation programs

(Moursand & Bielfeldt, 1999; National Center for Education

Statistics, 2000; Office of Technology Assessment, 1995; Panel on

Educational Technology, 1997). Shortcomings have included limited use of

technology in teacher education courses, an emphasis on teaching about

technology rather than teaching using technology, and lack of faculty

modeling of appropriate ways to integrate technology into teaching and


However, this picture is now beginning to change. Nationally,

initiatives such as the U.S. Department of Education's Preparing

Tomorrow's Teachers to use Technology (PT3) program have begun to

bring about changes in teacher education by encouraging teacher

preparation institutions to develop teacher capacity for using

technology (Brush, 2003). The PT3 program has funded grants at

institutions nationwide to improve the preparation of future teachers to

make use of technology in the classroom. At Purdue University, a 2000

PT3 implementation grant entitled P3T3: Purdue Program for Preparing

Tomorrow's Teachers to use Technology has played a significant role

in helping to implement reforms in teacher education including an

emphasis on technology integration and faculty modeling of technology


If future teachers are to learn to use technology effectively in

K-12 classrooms, they must see it modeled by teacher educators. This, in

turn, requires that teacher educators learn to integrate the use of

technology into their own practice. The National Science Education

Standards (National Research Council, 1996), for example, call on

college science education faculty to design courses in which current and

future teachers can "gather and interpret data using appropriate

technology" and "use scientific literature, media, and

technology to broaden their knowledge" (p 61). Science teacher

educators and researchers alike have taken positive and productive steps

toward developing more technologically based curricula and instruction

in science teacher education (Davis & Falba, 2002; Niess, 2001;

Weinburg, Smith, & Smith, 1997; Zembal-Saul, Haefner, Avraamidou,

Severs, & Dana, 2002). From using technology as a communication tool

to incorporating software applications as a resource for scientific

inquiry to constructing web-based portfolios for learners of science,

science teacher educators have begun to provide meaningful ways to

engage pre-service science teachers in using technology in the science


For teacher-education faculty members to integrate technology

effectively into classes for future teachers, they must receive

appropriate training and support (Groves & Zemel, 2000). At Purdue,

the P3T3 project has provided training and support to teacher education

faculty at the university and has fostered communication and

collaboration among teacher educators and educational technologists to

stimulate changes in teacher education. This paper reports on a case of

one science teacher educator who, with the support of the P3T3 project

and through collaborations with colleagues, integrated various

technologies in support of an inquiry-oriented curriculum into an

elementary science methods course.


This study drew from two particular constructs grounded in the

qualitative paradigm: action research and teacher knowledge. The

research methods reflect what I (the first author), the science teacher

educator in the study, view as valuable knowledge and my perspective on

the nature of reality. The methods I chose to employ supported an

interpretivist paradigm, which portrays a world in which reality is

socially constructed, complex, and ever changing (Glesne, 1999; Marshall & Grossmann, 1999).

Interpretivists believe that social realities are constructed by

the participants in those social settings (Glesne, 1999). To understand

the nature of constructed realities, Glesne stated that qualitative

researchers "must gain access to the multiple perspectives of the

participants" and "interact and talk with participants about

their perceptions" (Glesne, 1999, p. 5). Maxwell (1996) suggested

that qualitative researchers seek to understand how the participants

make meaning of the events, situations, and actions with which they are

involved and of the accounts that they give of their lives and

experiences. The particular context within which the participants act

and the influence of this context also play important roles (Maxwell,


I was interested not only in the physical events and student

behaviors that were occurring in my methods class and within the

students' own developing practices, but also in how the methods

students made sense of this and how their understandings influenced

their behavior. I wanted to listen first hand to their reflections about

what was happening at that time, along the way, and at the end.

Action Research. Action research, which is the method that I

adopted for this study, is embedded in the qualitative paradigm. For the

purpose of this study, action research is defined as systematic,

self-reflective inquiry aimed at constructing knowledge about one's

practice with the major goals of improving and coming to a better

understanding of that practice (Carr & Kemmis, 1986; Cochran-Smith

& Lytle, 1993; Stenhouse, 1975). In the context of this study, I

viewed action research as a process that could result in the improvement

of my own attempts at integrating instructional technology, increase my

understanding of my methods students' engagement with technology,

and generate new knowledge that could be shared with other science

teacher educators and researchers. Joint decision making, interactive

discussions, open criticism, and collective action among my methods

students and me were central to my model for action research. This, in

turn, empowered my students to critically examine their own formative and tentative ideas about teaching science at the elementary school level.

Teacher Knowledge. Central to this study is the work of teachers,

specifically the knowledge they have and the decisions they must make in

order to take action within their own practice. In this study, the

teacher knowledge perspective provided one way of examining how science

teachers, both pre-service and practicing, know how to teach. Shulman (1986) suggests that the base for teaching is complex, encompassing

knowledge of content, pedagogy, curriculum, learners, educational

contexts, and other distinguishing factors characteristic of beginning

and experienced teachers. In the last decade, pedagogical content

knowledge (PCK) has been described as an integrated and adaptive

component of teacher knowledge representing the junction at which

knowledge of pedagogy, content, and students converge (Cochran, DeRuiter

& King, 1993; Cochran & Jones, 1998). Capturing the development

and complexity of this knowledge in action requires rich descriptive

accounts of a teacher's understanding of the content, how it

develops and changes, the factors that influence this development, and

how teaching the content alters his/her understanding of the concepts

(Loughran, Milroy, Berry, Gunston, & Mulhall, 2001). In the context

of this research, my action research, also defined as a self-study, was

dependent on my own knowledge and understanding of the science concepts

relative to the elementary school level, my instructional attempts at

integrating technology through scientific inquiry, and my students who

were pre-service science teachers.


Purpose and Research Questions

The purpose of this study was to examine my attempts as a

first-year science teacher educator, who entered the process with

relatively little experience with instructional technology but received

support from a PT3 project, to integrate various applications of

instructional technology into my elementary science methods course. This

research addressed the following questions:

* How did the faculty development support of the PT3 project and

collaboration with colleagues facilitate my integration of technology in

the elementary science methods course?

* What forms of technology integration did I employ, and how did

these support the elementary science methods course curriculum?

* In what ways did this integration of instructional technology

facilitate pre-service science teachers' learning of science

teaching practices and influence their interests in the use of


Through this study, we sought to learn more about how science

teacher educators, with support and collaboration, can successfully

integrate instructional technology in their courses in both productive

and meaningful ways such that future teachers gain new knowledge of and

interest in integrating educational technology into their own classroom


Study Context--P3T3 Project

The broader context of this study was Purdue's PT3 project, a

4-year initiative launched in 2000 that played a significant role in

ongoing reforms of the elementary and secondary teacher education

programs at the university. The P3T3 project supported the four thematic strands that form the basis of Purdue's teacher education

programs--field experience, diversity, portfolio assessment, and

technology. The project contributed to each of the strands through

overarching goals to prepare pre-service teachers to use technology as a

tool for teaching and learning and to prepare teacher education faculty

to model teaching with technology for future teachers. Three

complementary components were developed to meet the goals: (a) a faculty

development and mentoring program; (b) the development of a web-based

electronic portfolio system for all teacher education candidates; and

(c) technology-enabled virtual field experiences. The study described in

this paper focuses on the faculty development and mentoring component of

the project and my experiences integrating technology into a science

methods course for future elementary teachers.

The faculty development component of the P3T3 project focused on

helping faculty members to acquire and refine technology knowledge and

skills, which they could use and model for the prospective teachers in

their classes. Several approaches were combined in a coordinated effort

that included: (a) "start-up" workshops to initiate project

participation, (b) skills development workshops, (c) Techie Talk sharing

sessions, (d) faculty mini-grants, and (e) year-long mentoring and


Faculty members initiated project participation by taking part in a

two day "start-up" workshop, which served to communicate

project goals and give participants a shared experience. In part, the

start-up workshops were designed to model problem-based learning processes (Torp & Sage, 1998) as faculty participants, working in

small groups, used technology as part of investigations of available

campus technologies and/or resources. Subsequently, participants were

exposed to a variety of available campus technologies, because faculty

members need to see models of what is possible in order to stimulate

ideas for personal technology integration (Ertmer, 1999). As a

culminating activity of the start-up workshop, each participating

faculty member developed and shared concrete plans for integrating

technology into at least one course that he or she would teach during

the coming academic year.

To help faculty members develop expertise in the use of

technologies relevant to their integration plans, various hands-on,

skills-development workshops were offered. To build a community of

practice, Techie Talks, which were informal "brown bag"

presentations during the academic year, were developed to provide a

forum for sharing perspectives and successes. During the final two years

of the project, a faculty mini-grant program was begun to support

faculty initiatives related to technology integration in teacher

education. Finally, a critical part of the faculty development component

of the project was a year-long support and mentoring program. Training

and mentoring are necessary if faculty members are to be successful at

integrating technology into teaching (Dusick, 1998; Groves & Zemel,

2000). The P3T3 staff reviewed faculty members' plans for

technology integration, and, based on the specifics of each plan,

assigned a graduate assistant with appropriate skills to an individual

faculty member to serve as a liaison to the project. The graduate

assistant worked with the faculty member throughout the year providing

one-on-one tutoring and assistance at the faculty member's request.

In addition, the P3T3 staff offered drop-in help sessions one afternoon

each week throughout the academic year. This personalized support was

viewed as a key strategy to help faculty members realize their visions

for technology integration.

A summary of my participation and actions is included in Table 1. I

attended a start-up workshop in August 2002, just prior to beginning my

first year at the university. Subsequently, I participated in both

skills development workshops and Techie Talk sessions, and took

advantage of the drop-in help sessions provided by the project staff.

Elementary Science Methods Course

The action research study took place in an undergraduate elementary

science methods course generally taken by students two semesters prior

to student teaching. The methods course addressed a range of topics, all

of which revolved around several key themes: how children learn science,

how science is taught at the elementary level, and how children's

science learning is assessed. Specific units of study included: the

nature of science, issues of gender equity and diversity in elementary

school science, exploration of science process skills, how children

learn science, addressing of children's misconceptions in science,

and teaching of science through scientific inquiry using productive

questions and fair test investigations. Underpinning each of the units

of study was the primary goal--that methods students should learn more

about how to engage children in scientific inquiry. According to the

National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996),

inquiry is central to science learning. It involves a process of

exploring the natural world that leads to asking questions, making

discoveries, and rigorously testing those discoveries in the search for

new understanding (National Research Council, 1996). The significance of

incorporating inquiry into the course was to emphasize to methods

students the importance of encouraging children to pursue answers to

significant questions (Brown & Champione, 1990) in ways similar to

those used and practiced by scientists (Brown, Collins, & Duguid,

1989), thereby, mirroring as closely as possible the enterprise of doing

real science (National Science Foundation, 1999). Accompanying class

assignments were field-based experiences in a local elementary school

where students incorporated elements of inquiry by conducting interviews

with children and teaching two independent lessons using productive

questions and the learning cycle, respectively.

The course met twice weekly with a 1-hour lecture/discussion

session followed by a 1-hour lab. I was one of three course instructors,

and generally began each class session with an abbreviated lecture

followed by a series of hands-on activities, small group projects,

and/or individual exercises reinforcing a particular concept or

principle. Prior to my integration of instructional technology, little

attention was given to the possibilities of incorporating various forms

of instructional technology into the methods course. Only one

application of instructional technology, the use of PowerPoint for

students' presentations of class assignments, was employed. With

this in mind, I paid particular attention to key entry points where

applications of instructional technology could be introduced and

developed for fostering inquiry-based learning of science.

Student Participants

A total of 38 methods students from two different sections of the

course, one section taught in the spring 2003 (N=14) and another section

taught in the fall 2003 semester (N=24), contributed to the study. The

student groups combined included 33 Caucasian females, 4 Caucasian

males, and 1 African-American male. By the time students enrolled in the

science methods course, they had completed up to 15 credit hours in

life, earth, and physical sciences, 9 credit hours in mathematics, and

at least 2 credit hours in educational technology. Hence, the methods

students had developed sufficient subject matter knowledge to teach

science in an elementary school setting and practical knowledge for

using basic productivity software and tools for application purposes.

Data Collection

Data were collected in the form of student feedback forms,

classroom observations, field notes, reflective journals of both my

students and me, and document review (e.g., student work and my lesson

plans) (Marshall & Rossman, 1999). I constructed a form to gather

feedback from students about their engagement with each IT application.

The feedback form asked students to rate on a 5-point scale: clarity of

instruction, difficulty with the application, interest in the

application, and practicality of the application. One example of a

statement on the feedback form included the following: "On the

scale from 1 to 5 (1 = low and 5 = high), please rate the level of

difficulty with today's application of instructional

technology." In addition, the feedback form included several

open-ended questions that encouraged students to share their ideas and

concerns about the application and to propose ways they envisioned using

the application in their own practice. Some of these questions included

the following: "What was most challenging about using instructional

technology in today's lesson?" "How might you integrate

this application of instructional technology in your own science

classroom?" and "What did you find most helpful about

today's class? Please list one or two specific examples." The

feedback form was administered after students' engagement with each

instructional technology application.

A series of six informal classroom observations was conducted by a

graduate student affiliated with the P3T3 project. The observations

served as a source of data to inform my action research on how the

methods students were interacting with the technology. Each observation

involved a two-part process--describing what the observer had seen and

interpreting what it meant (Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon, 2003).

The observations were designed to be open-ended, with particular

attention to noting and recording students' behaviors and

interactions with the technology.

I recorded field notes based on my own classroom observations of

students' engagement with each technology application. Additional

documents, such as completed classroom assignments, rubrics, and my

lesson plans, were collected and reviewed. Lastly, I maintained a daily

journal that chronicled my attempts at developing and implementing each

technology application. The methods students, in turn, recorded their

personal experiences, feelings, or concerns with each application in a

reflective journal. My students and I collectively shared reflections

publicly with one another to provide a platform for discussions about

using technology in the science classroom.

Data Analysis

Data gathered from the student feedback forms were analyzed by

determining the median for each response for each course/semester.

Medians were calculated for students' responses in relation to the

clarity of the instruction, the difficulty with, interest in, and

practicality of the application. In this study, the student feedback

forms were used primarily to fuel "practical judgments and

decisions about how to improve practice" (Elliott, 1991, p. 64) in

the context of the elementary science methods course, involving an

identifiable group of students. For this reason, the data were not

statistically aggregated for outcome measures but rather evaluated for

the purposes of self-validation and learner validation (McNiff, 2002).

Additional data were analyzed using grounded theory (Strauss &

Corbin, 1990). The first step entailed open coding of the data (Miles

& Huberman, 1994) including the students' responses to

open-ended questions on the feedback forms, student work, and journal

entries. During this phase, attention was given to identifying

indicators of concepts and categories that fit the data. Categories and

concepts that appeared repeatedly led to the construction of themes

based on the instructor's attempts at implementing instructional

technology. The viability of the construction of themes was then tested

via triangulation with other relevant data sets (e.g., field notes from

classroom observations and other supporting documents) (Miles &

Huberman, 1994). This process entailed contrasting and comparing

different accounts in one data set with that of another data set. To

evaluate the plausibility of the emerging themes, I employed a process

of peer debriefing whereby I consulted with staff members of the P3T3

project, including the project director (the second author). Through

this process, we were able to critically examine patterns that seemed

apparent. These consulting sessions allowed us to uncover emerging

themes and alternative explanations for the data.


This study documents the integration of instructional technology in

one science teacher educator's methods course. This study provides

a broad view of the factors that supported this activity, including the

support of the P3T3 project. In addition, this study paints a picture of

what technology integration looked like when incorporated as an inquiry

tool in an elementary science methods classroom. In this study, themes

emerged that can be used to inform the design of teacher preparation

programs and the work of the science teacher educators within them. A

discussion of these themes follows.

Faculty Support Through Collaboration

Prior to developing ideas for instructional technology (IT)

activities, I, the science teacher educator, attended a start-up and

several skills-based workshops (see Table 1). In my reflective journal,

I wrote:</p> <pre>

Today I attended one of the first technology workshops offered

for new and returning faculty. One of the activities was to gather

information about any one building here on campus and then


what we learned in a PowerPoint session to the entire group. We

chose a small library close to our building and worked together

preparing the PowerPoint. Most of the time, I watched others use

the software and decided that I really need to learn how to use

this. For my integration plan, I am proposing to design my own

PowerPoint presentations for each lesson and that I plan to attend

several brown-bag lunch sessions so I can get one-on-one instruction

(reflective journal, August 2002). </pre> <p>Once the

semester began, I read about and attended several skills workshops and

brown-bag lunch sessions. Following my third workshop, I

wrote:</p> <pre>

So far, I have learned how to create and manage my own grade book

in Excel; how to prepare a PowerPoint presentation using different

animation schemes and adding sound effects; and how to use a


camera and transfer my pictures to a PowerPoint presentation. I

have made several PowerPoint presentations for lessons in my science

methods course and consulted with Julie [P3T3 graduate assistant]

several times. Because I am still a little apprehensive about


PowerPoint, I asked Julie to observe me and to give me feedback.

She suggested that I streamline some of my slides so that there is

not as much text and to try incorporating html links, to avoid

closing my presentation each time I want to access a web site. Later

this week, Julie is going to show me how to include html links in my

slides. I am beginning to feel more confident in how I am using some

of the technology. I also feel comfortable that my students are

watching me learn how to use the technology (reflective journal,

October 2002). </pre> <p>After several weeks of honing my

skills with productivity software, I developed enough confidence to

begin learning a new technology. With the help the P3T3 project

director, I read about laboratory probeware and how college science

faculty use this technology to teach undergraduate students. Together,

we reviewed literature from different probeware companies and decided to

work with one company that provided probeware that was both

grade-appropriate and challenging for elementary school children. I then

applied for a P3T3 mini-grant proposing to learn how to teach my methods

students how to use probeware in their own science classrooms. The grant

provided enough funding for one class set of temperature sensors and

accompanying software.

When the new equipment arrived, I reviewed the teacher manual,

tested the sensors, and then consulted with the technology support staff

about installing the software in the computer labs. Upon developing my

first lesson plan using the probeware, I wrote:</p> <pre>

Learning how to work the probeware has been fun. I think I have a

couple of good ideas for using the sensors in my methods course. I

practiced one of my lessons with the two science methods TAs and

Julie and it went well. Having the sensors has inspired me to think

of different ways I could use other types of sensors, such as litmus or motion sensors. Using these probes just seems like a good fit for

teaching methods students how to engage in and teach scientific

inquiry to young children. Jim [P3T3 project director] has

encouraged me to continue using different probeware and consider

applying for another mini-grant (reflective journal, November 2002).

</pre> <p>After piloting my first lesson using the

temperature probeware, I wrote:</p> <pre> This is the

first time students used the lab sensors ... I am finding teaching

this way more challenging than I expected, yet still motivating. I

find myself observing carefully how the students interact with the

sensors, how they follow direction, and what kinds of questions they

ask. I am also noticing how nervous I get when they ask me a

question about the probeware. After this lesson, I asked myself: Do

I really know enough about using this technology to answer their

questions? Julie observed me teach the lesson and she also helped

several students connect the sensors and go through the program. She

commented that my directions were clear; my modeling of how to start

the program and use the temperature sensors was

'excellent'. I felt that Julie and I were co-teaching the

lesson. Students were very comfortable consulting with Julie and me

... asking for clarification and seeking our help with converting

tables into charts. It is exciting to see how students are


(reflective journal, December 2002). </pre>

<p>Collaborating with Julie, consulting with the P3T3 project

director, and attending different faculty professional development

sessions allowed me to develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence to

move forward in my implementation plan for integrating instructional

technology in the science methods course. As my confidence increased, I

began to think critically and carefully about how to develop

inquiry-based activities using both productivity software and probeware.

Inquiry Through Technology Use

When designing and deciding upon the integration of each IT

activity, I paid particular attention to three key factors: 1) the

nature of the units of study in the methods curriculum; 2) the national

standards for science as inquiry that applied to each unit (see National

Research Council, 1996, p. 121-123 for Grades K-4 and p. 143-148 for

Grades 5-8); and 3) the technologies that were available and appropriate

for fostering inquiry-based skills. As a result, I created opportunities

for the methods students to use technology in the course in a variety of

ways (see Table 2). Common productivity software such as Excel and

PowerPoint was integrated into the units as well as hardware including

digital cameras and electronic laboratory sensors (e.g., temperature

probes, heart rate monitors) that interfaced to a computer. Each

application also supported at least one inquiry skill as outlined by the

National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996).

The following is a description of activities #2, 3, and 4. These

activities best illustrated my attempts at integrating instructional

technology to foster scientific inquiry.

Activity 2. Engaging in scientific inquiry.

In this activity, students worked in teams of four to design an

investigation that examined a local campus-wide problem--the impact of

sport utility vehicles (SUVs) on traffic. First, students discussed

issues related to SUVs (e.g., cost, fuel consumption, accident rates).

Next, students gathered background information about SUVs through

electronic searches, interviews with local residents, civic employers,

and local car dealers. Then, students engaged in class discussions about

scientific concepts such as force, mass, acceleration, and momentum and

used their understanding of these concepts to formulate a researchable

problem and hypothesis. Students generated experimental designs and

carried out their investigations. Students used digital cameras,

camcorders, and other appropriate technologies (e.g., stopwatches) to

gather data. Each student team gave a PowerPoint presentation that

outlined its research question, prediction, design, data analysis, and

explanations on what the team members observed.

Activity 3. Learning to use laboratory probes.

For this activity, students learned how to use laboratory sensors

as appropriate tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data. Before

using the lab sensors, students traced an outline of their hands and

predicted the temperature of various areas of their hands. Students then

used the temperature probes to determine the temperature of each area,

while comparing their results with their predictions. To reinforce the

science standard that "using technology for data collection

enhances accuracy" (National Research Council, 1996, p. 76),

students repeated the same task using alcohol thermometers and compared

and contrasted their results. In small groups, students responded to the

following questions: How do you keep your hands warm in the winter? How

does the design of a mitten compare to the design of a glove? Which

keeps in the most heat and why?

Activity 4. .Exploring children's science learning through

productive questioning and journaling.

In this activity, students engaged in an inquiry-based activity

that used productive questioning as a way of learning about batteries,

bulbs, and electricity. Students worked in pairs; each pair was given

one small light bulb, one battery, and one wire, and asked: How many

different ways can you get the bulb to light? Using digital cameras and

a science journal, students recorded their predictions, shared their

ideas with peers, tested their predictions, and photographed their

results. Students used digital cameras to chronicle their experiences

and findings. For a final product, students gave PowerPoint

presentations that profiled their digital photos and accompanying

written explanations of how open and closed circuits operate using

evidence from their respective inquiries.

The Role of Instructional Technology in the Elementary Science


Through ongoing formative assessment (i.e., reflections and

feedback forms), the students reported improved skill development and

interest in incorporating instructional technology approaches within

their own prospective practice. Excerpts from students' reflective

journals indicated that students were learning about new pedagogical

techniques, developing conceptual understandings in science, and

becoming more knowledgeable about using technology to foster scientific

inquiry. The following are several excerpts from students'

reflective journals:</p> <pre>

I learned a new way of introducing the concept of endothermic and

exothermic reactions, using temperature lab probes. I liked

designing our own hot/cold pack and using the probes made our data

more precise rather than using regular thermometers. I think

children need to be exposed to this type of technology so they can

understand how science and technology go hand in hand in the real

world (Kristen, reflective journal, spring 2003). I found the

digital cameras so helpful in trying to capture our data with

connecting batteries, bulbs, and wire to produce light. I think this

is a good way for students to represent and communicate their

findings to their peers. It also gives them immediate feedback as

well as the opportunity to reflect on what they are observing and

how they are making meaning of what is or is not happening. Children

should be able to communicate their findings and reflect on the

problems they had along the way, and be able to document the inquiry

process (Paul, reflective journal, fall 2003). I thought using the

lab probes was a lot of fun. I especially liked the fact they we

could make our own decisions with how to design our fair test

investigation and how we wanted to record and represent our data.

Using the probe software allowed us to make different tables and

charts and to manipulate the data to see if we could see it from

another perspective (Clint, reflective journal, fall 2003). I

learned how to design an inquiry lesson where using the technology

was a way to apply a concept and present our understanding of that

concept. I did not understand the concepts of force, acceleration,

or momentum until we went outside and conducted our SUV

investigation. Using digital video camcorders and storing time

tables in Excel allowed me to see first hand what was happening at a

light intersection during peak traffic times. It was obvious in our

data that SUVs accelerated at a slower rate than smaller cars. And

depending on where the SUV was in the line of traffic depended on

how many cars could get through the intersection (Christine,

reflective journal, fall 2003). </pre> <p>These findings

suggest that students learned more than just science content; they also

how to promote scientific inquiry and self-reflection.

Data from students' feedback forms indicated increased

interest in and ability to use technology (see Table 3). Students

indicated relatively high interest in and usefulness of the majority of

applications. Additionally, students reported relatively high interest

in integrating all of the instructional technology applications within

their own practice.

Additional data included students' responses to open-ended

questions on the feedback forms, such as "How might you integrate

this application of instructional technology in your own science

classroom?" (see Table 4). The examples of activities suggested by

students not only supported deliberate attempts to integrate

instructional technology in the elementary science classroom but also

aligned with the tenets for scientific inquiry as recommended by the

National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996).


This study examined how I, a beginning science teacher educator and

a novice in the use of instructional technology, engaged in action

research on the integration of various applications of instructional

technology into an elementary science methods course. It presents a

picture of how I first developed basic proficiency with instructional

technology and then used the acquired knowledge and skills to create

inquiry-based classroom activities for my pre-service teachers. The

pre-service teachers, in turn, were stimulated by the activities to

envision the use of instructional technology in support of science

teaching and learning in their own classrooms.

The faculty development component of the P3T3 project played a

significant role in this process. First, the project's workshops

allowed me to develop a basic level of expertise with several

instructional technologies including PowerPoint, Excel, digital cameras,

and probeware. This new knowledge made me more comfortable with the

technology, confident in my own abilities, and stimulated to consider

applications of these technologies in my own teaching. Second, the P3T3

provided me with the financial support through mini-grants to purchase

new equipment (e.g., temperature probes, cardio sensors, desktop

computers), and it gave me the flexibility and creativity to generate

innovative ways to engage students in inquiry using technology.

Along with access to additional equipment housed within the

department, this made the development and implementation of technology

in the course both feasible and manageable. In addition, the support of

both faculty and graduate students affiliated with the P3T3 project

allowed me to try out my ideas with help and guidance. The support

provided by the P3T3 project was able to overcome what Ertmer (1999)

described as first-order barriers to technology integration.

In addition, support from the P3T3 project fostered productive and

meaningful collaborations throughout the course of this study. I

collaborated with three different individuals/groups: 1) the P3T3

project director to evaluate different instructional technology

applications, generate new ideas for teaching pre-service science

teachers how to use technology, and gain technical support; 2) the P3T3

project graduate assistant to gather feedback on my instruction using

various technologies and team-teach technology-centered lessons in the

elementary science methods course; and 3) my methods students to devise

new ways to integrate instructional technology to foster inquiry in the

elementary science classroom.

These collaborations helped to shape my own beliefs, interest, and

commitment to improving not only my own teaching but improving my

students' understanding of teaching. I was determined to go beyond

technology as an "add on" (Niess, 2001), "communication

medium" (Weinburg, Smith, & Smith, 1997), and

"resource" (Davis & Falba, 2002) for my students. My

intention was to infuse it in the course such that it would play a

significant role in helping students engage in inquiry (Lederman &

Niess, 2000), develop higher order thinking skills, and enhance their

ways of learning science and learning how to teach science (Davis &

Falba, 2002). My willingness to reflect on and change my own practice to

integrate instructional technology was essential to overcome

second-order barriers (Ertmer, 1999), those beliefs and attitudes that

often hamper technology integration efforts even when access to

technology is not an issue.

Because of these efforts, an array of instructional technology

applications, including the use of productivity software and probeware,

was integrated into the elementary science methods course. These

supported inquiry by allowing students to design investigations, gather

and analyze data, and communicate the results. This is consistent with

the aims of the National Science Education Standards (National Research

Council, 1996).

Pre-service teachers' responses on feedback forms and

reflective journal entries indicated that they acquired knowledge of and

interest in integrating instructional technology in their own classroom

practice. They generally found the instructional technologies employed

within the methods course to be interesting, useful, and relatively easy

to use. They not only envisioned themselves using these technologies in

their own classrooms, but they were able to suggest specific

applications of the technologies to the teaching of science. Of course,

the experiences in this one class do not guarantee that these

pre-service teachers will successfully utilize instructional technology

in their own science teaching practice. However, experiences such as

these allow pre-service teachers to develop the vision and beliefs that

will ultimately guide their practice (Albion & Ertmer, 2002).


This study provides one example of the integration of instructional

technology into an elementary science teacher education course. The

results suggest that instructional technology has the potential to play

a significant role as a teaching tool that enables pre-service science

teachers to design, plan, and conduct scientific investigations. In

addition, it provides a framework for prospective science teachers to

begin thinking about the actions they can take in response to the

growing need for preparing young children to be both scientifically and

technologically literate.

We have learned that for teachers, whether university level teacher

educators or pre-service elementary teachers, to make instructional

technology an integral part of their practice, they must develop an

awareness of its applications, be able to use it in a supportive

environment, and have the opportunity to reflect on its role in their

own practice. This process is fostered by a collaborative environment in

which individuals can construct collective knowledge about their

practice. Pre-service teachers' development of skills in using

technology and their coming to understand its importance in the service

of content instruction in the classroom parallels the process for

university faculty who struggle to integrate instructional technology in

their own practice. Simply put, as pre-service teachers make decisions

about their own teaching, experience it, and reflect upon it in the

context of their preparation program, they are better able to construct

educational understandings that are similar to those espoused by the

teacher educators.


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The contents of this paper were developed with support from grant

#P342A000075 from the U.S. Department of Education. However, the

contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of

Education, and the reader should not assume endorsement by the Federal



Purdue University


Table 1 Science Teacher Educator's Participation in Professional

Development Activities

Science teacher educator's actions in response

Types of project support to support

Start-up workshop * Developed skills using various educational

technologies including PowerPoint and Excel.

* Reviewed existing course syllabus for

possible IT integration.

* Wrote an initial technology integration


Skills workshops * Developed skills in using digital cameras

and digital video cameras. Learned web page

design using Dreamweaver.

Techie Talks * Attended sessions on PowerPoint and Excel to

extend knowledge.

* Designed a series of interactive PowerPoint

presentations for weekly course sessions.

* Developed a curricular unit involving the

use of Excel.

* Presented a Techie Talk session on

integrating technology in elementary science

methods course.

Consultation/mentoring * Consulted with project staff and colleagues

about ideas for technology integration.

* Revised technology integration plan to

employ technology for inquiry-based

activities in elementary science methods


* P3T3 graduate staff assisted during

technology implementation activities and

provided feedback.

Mini-grant #1 * Purchased lab sensors (temperature and

cardio) for use in elementary science

methods course.

* Piloted use of sensors and other technology

integration activities in elementary science

methods course.

Mini-grant #2 * Disseminated findings from study of

technology integration activities in 2004


Table 2 Overview of Course Instructional Technology (IT) Applications

Unit of study Task IT application Product

1. Introduction to Determine the Excel PowerPoint

process skills distribution of PowerPoint presentation

color within a bag

of candy

2. Engaging in Design and conduct Excel Digital PowerPoint

scientific inquiry an investigation cameras & presentation

that determines the camcorders

effect of sport PowerPoint

utility vehicles

(SUV) on traffic

3. Learning to use Examine the Lab probes Mini-report

laboratory probes temperature of our including

hands data table

4. Exploring Record responses to Digital cameras PowerPoint

children's science productive questions PowerPoint presentation

learning through while engaging in an with digital

productive inquiry-based photos

questioning and activity


5. Planning and Determine the effect Lab probes Written

conducting of temperature on Excel report

scientific making ice cream





6. Designing a fair Design and conduct a Lab probes Written

test investigation fair test report

investigation using

lab probes (Cold

Pack Lab)

Table 3 Overall Median Scores) of Students' Responses to Statements From

Feedback Forms


skills Scientific

(M & M inquiry Extremity

Statement Term candies) (SUV) Remedy

How interesting did you Spring 4 4 4

find today's use of IT? Fall 3 4 3

Rate the clarity in my Spring 4 4 4

instruction with giving Fall 4 4 4

directions on using the


How useful was today's Spring 4 4 4

lesson in using IT? Fall 3 4 4

Rate the level of Spring 1.5 1 1.5

difficulty with today's Fall 1 1 2

application of IT

How likely do you envision Spring 5 5 4

yourself integrating this Fall 4 5 4

application in your own

classroom teaching?

Scientific Fair test

investi- investi-

Digital gations gations

Statement Term journaling (Ice cream) (Cold Pack)

How interesting did you Spring 4 5 3

find today's use of IT? Fall 4 4 4

Rate the clarity in my Spring 4.5 4 4

instruction with giving Fall 4 4 4

directions on using the


How useful was today's Spring 4 4 4

lesson in using IT? Fall 4 4 4

Rate the level of Spring 2 2 2

difficulty with today's Fall 1 2 3

application of IT

How likely do you envision Spring 4 4 4

yourself integrating this Fall 4 4 4

application in your own

classroom teaching?

Note: This table shows the overall median scores (on a scale of 1[least]

to 5[most]) of students' responses to statements from feedback forms for

each instructional technology application administered spring 2003

semester (N=14) and fall semester 2003 (N=24).

Table 4 Examples of Students' Ideas for Integrating Each IT Application

in Their Own Science Classroom.

Examples of students' ideas for integration IT from

IT Application fall 2003 (N=24)

Excel * Classify and sort different objects (i.e. rocks,

buttons, shells, or leaves)

* Record data (i.e., change in temperature, length, or

speed over time)

* Make and use simple picture charts/graphs to tell

about observations

PowerPoint * Communicate results from any investigation

* Present research gathered via web-based searches on

topics such as famous scientists and inventors

* Discuss how tools, such as computers, have affected

the way we live

Digital cameras * Create a digital journal on how leaves change color,

how living things grow and change over time, or how

water can be a liquid or a solid

* Design a moon chart using digital pictures

* Observe plants and animals, describing how they are

alike and how they are different in the way they look

and in the things they do

Probeware * Measure change in temperature of water when it

freezes, melts, or boils

* Monitor heart rate recovery times after exercise

using cardio probes

* Explore the concept that water is more dense as a


* Classify household solutions an acid, base, or

neutral using pH sensors

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