Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Factors Impacting Effective Technology Use: Teacher Beliefs

In her article, How Our Beliefs Affect Our Lives, Penny Parks provides a practical illustration of the physiological process comprising our belief system. Simply put, when we establish meaning a few times after a repeated experience without any conflicting information, that meaning turns into a belief.

As educators, we have our own beliefs as to how children learn best, what constitutes quality teaching, what role differentiated instruction should play in the classroom, and so forth. As professional development planners, how do we change negative or perhaps, even worse, ambivalent beliefs about the impact of digital resources on student learning and achievement? According to Parks, the brain is continually sorting and sifting events within our life experiences that confirm or align with our belief system.

If a teacher plans lessons using a class set of Chrome Books and the Internet fails repeatedly or an initial attempt at implementing a flipped classroom produces modest results on a quarterly math benchmark assessment, these experiences may confirm an existing negative belief. As Parks points out, the good news is that, "…the brain does the same diligent job with positive beliefs.”

Determining teachers’ beliefs about the role of digital resources and their impact on teaching and learning is one of the variables to be investigated in the soon-to-be-released 20th Anniversary Edition of the LoTi Digital Age Survey. If teachers and administrators have negative perceptions about the pedagogical impact of digital tool use in the classroom, what interventions—in the form of lunch and learn sessions, online courses, or mentoring/coaching opportunities—can we muster to reverse the trend and make positive perceptions about digital tool use a reality?

This question will continually serve as the fodder for future blog posts. Each of us have our own unique beliefs which, in turn, impact our decision-making and actions. Recognizing those beliefs can help us chisel professional development plans that place greater weight on the concerns and perceptions of individual educators.

This blog post is the sixth in a series of fourteen online entries highlighting factors that impact the effective use of technology in today's classrooms. This series focuses on each of the research variables used to conduct comparative analyses as part of the 20th Anniversary Edition of the LoTi Digital Age Survey.