Scholarly article on topic 'Integrating Technology into Instructional Practices Focusing on Teacher Knowledge'

Integrating Technology into Instructional Practices Focusing on Teacher Knowledge Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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{"In-service teacher training" / "Technology integration" / TPACK-Technological / "Pedagogical And Content Knowledge" / "LAT-Learning Activity Types"}

Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Laura Messina, Sara Tabone

Abstract The research presented in this article addresses the issue of teacher training in technology and professional development, specifically in the scenario of an innovative project – Cl@sses 2.0 Action – promoted by the Italian Ministry of Education. Based on the TPACK theoretical model (Mishra and Koehler, 2006) and LAT-Learning Activity Types (Harris and Hofer, 2009), the research inquires into the level of TPACK development in a group of in-service teachers participating on a voluntary basis in order to find suitable ways to guide them in the integration of technology into their educational practices. The research involves two major threads of enquiry: 1) a survey of teacher's knowledge of content, teaching and technology, and the relations among these areas; 2) an application of such knowledge through the design of teaching units. In the former case, an adaptation of the questionnaire elaborated by Shmidt and Colleagues (2009) was administered to 11 class councils (110 lower secondary school teachers). In the latter case, following the approach of Hofer and Harris (2010) with some adaptations, a planning grid was proposed for the same subjects, but a feedback of only 2 full class councils (22 teachers) was received. The research findings show some weaknesses not only in teacher's technological knowledge, as the literature highlights, but also in planning skills, mostly regarding teaching approaches, student's activities and knowledge forms. The necessity to invest in teacher training as a whole – and not only in their technological competency – is suggested.

Academic research paper on topic "Integrating Technology into Instructional Practices Focusing on Teacher Knowledge"

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Procedía

Social and Behavioral Sciences

ELSEVIER Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 (2012) 1015 - 1027

WCES 2012

Integrating technology into instructional practices focusing on

teacher knowledge

Laura Messina a 1, Sara Tabone b

a Department of Education Sciences, Via Beato Pellegrino 28, 35137 Padova, Italy b Department of Education Sciences, Via Beato Pellegrino 28, 35137 Padova, Italy

Abstract

The research presented in this article addresses the issue of teacher training in technology and professional development, specifically in the scenario of an innovative project - Cl@sses 2.0 Action - promoted by the Italian Ministry of Education. Based on the TPACK theoretical model (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) and LAT-Learning Activity Types (Harris & Hofer, 2009), the research inquires into the level of TPACK development in a group of in-service teachers participating on a voluntary basis in order to find suitable ways to guide them in the integration of technology into their educational practices. The research involves two major threads of enquiry: 1) a survey of teachers' knowledge of content, teaching and technology, and the relations among these areas; 2) an application of such knowledge through the design of teaching units. In the former case, an adaptation of the questionnaire elaborated by Shmidt and Colleagues (2009) was administered to 11 class councils (110 lower secondary school teachers). In the latter case, following the approach of Hofer and Harris (2010) with some adaptations, a planning grid was proposed for the same subjects, but a feedback of only 2 full class councils (22 teachers) was received. The research findings show some weaknesses not only in teachers' technological knowledge, as the literature highlights, but also in planning skills, mostly regarding teaching approaches, students' activities and knowledge forms. The necessity to invest in teacher training as a whole - and not only in their technological competency - is suggested.

© 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu

Keywords: In-service teacher training; Technology integration; TPACK-Technological, Pedagogical And Content Knowledge; LAT-Learning Activity Types

1. A model for teacher training

Research into the integration of technology in teacher education and professional development - consisting primarily of surveys into their opinions and attitudes self-reports, interviews and descriptions of good practices or experimentations of specific technologies as well as case studies (Lawless & Pellegrino, 2007) - has enabled scholars to outline various theoretical and practical proposals for pre-service and in-service training (e.g., Fulton, Glenn & Valdez, 2003; Hughes, 2004; Niederhauser & Stoddart, 2001) and to develop theoretical models aimed at integrating technologies into teaching (e.g., Angeli & Valanides, 2009; Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000; Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Wang, 2008).

1 Corresponding Laura Messina . Tel.: +39-049-827-1738

E-mail address: laura.messina@unipd.it This article has been conceived jointly by the two authors. Laura Messina has written paragraphs 1, 3, and 4; Sara Tabone has written paragraph 2. The research to which the article refers is partially reported in Messina & Tabone (2011).

1877-0428 © 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.05.241

Of the existing models that of Mishra and Koehler (2006) seems particularly appropriate for stimulating teachers' reflections on what integrating technology in teaching means. In fact the model represents a theoretical/cognitive framework able to direct personal reflection towards the proper actions to develop professional competence: in our opinion, a basic value in any type of educational innovation.

In accordance with the research lines pursued by Mishra and Koehler, this model enables teachers to learn "how to learn" technology and "how to think" about technology (Koehler & Mishra, 2005, p. 95) and "to reconsider their way of thinking about technology and their relationship to it" (Mishra & Koehler, 2003, p. 102).

Albeit the idea that substantiates the model of Mishra and Koehler (2006), as always happens for the dissemination of ideas, is also indebted to the contribution of other scholars - e.g. Keating and Evans (2001), who use the acronym TPCK, Angeli and Valanides (2005), Niess (2005), Pierson (2001), Zhao (2003) - the principal reference of TPACK is the work of Shulman (1986; 1987) and in particular his pedagogical content knowledge construct: "that special amalgam of content and pedagogy that is uniquely the province of teachers, their own special form of professional understanding" (Shulman, 1987, p. 8). Among the knowledge categories that characterize teachers2, "pedagogical content knowledge is of special interest because it identifies the distinctive bodies of knowledge for teaching. It represents the blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how particular topics, problems, or issues are organized, represented, and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for instruction" (Shulman, 1987, p. 8). Pedagogical content knowledge is "the subject matter for teaching" and, strictly speaking, it includes "the ways of representing and formulating the subject that make it comprehensible to others" (Shulman, 1986, p. 9).

Mishra and Koehler add technology to Shulman's pedagogical content knowledge construct3, proposing "a framework for thinking about the complex problems by technology integration" (Mishra & Koehler, 2008, p. 3) that is constituted by "the essential building blocks for intelligent technology integration" (Thompson & Mishra, 20072008, p. 38). Essentially the TPACK framework (Mishra & Koehler, 2006; 2008; Koehler & Mishra, 2005; 2008; 2009) considers seven kinds of knowledge - the three basic forms: content, pedagogy and technology, and their relationships - that are represented in Figure 1.

• CK-Content Knowledge regards "knowledge about the actual subject matter that is to be learned or taught" which includes "knowledge of central facts, concepts, theories, and procedures within a given field; knowledge of explanatory frameworks that organize and connect ideas; and knowledge of the rules of evidence and proof' (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p. 1026).

• PK-Pedagogical Knowledge is the "deep knowledge about the processes and practices or methods of teaching and learning and how it encompasses (among other things) overall educational purposes, values and aims". This is a generic form that "includes knowledge about techniques or methods to be used in the classroom; the nature of the target audience; and strategies for evaluating student understanding" (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, pp. 1026-1027).

2 Besides the "pedagogical content knowledge", Shulman (1987, p. 8) identifies other kinds of knowledge that should characterize the teachers: "content knowledge; general pedagogical knowledge, with special reference to those broad principles and strategies of classroom management and organization that appear to transcend subject matter; curriculum knowledge, with particular grasp of the materials and programs that serve as 'tools of the trade' for teachers; knowledge of learners and their characteristics; knowledge of educational contexts, ranging from the workings of the group or classroom, the governance and financing of school districts, to the character of communities and cultures; and knowledge of educational ends, purposes, and values, and their philosophical and historical grounds".

3 In reality, Shulman's (1986) reflections on "content knowledge" are aimed at understanding how it "develops" and is "represented in the mind of teachers", and he distinguishes three kinds of content knowledge: "subject matter content knowledge; pedagogical content knowledge; curricular knowledge" (Shulman, 1986, pp. 9-10). In the last category of content knowledge (curricular knowledge), he puts "curriculum materials" — the "pharmacopeia from which the teacher draws these tools of teaching that present or exemplify particular content and remediate or evaluate the adequacy of student accomplishments" - which he specifies in such tools: "alternative texts, software, programs, visual materials, single concept films, laboratory demonstrations, or 'invitations to enquiry" (Shulman, 1986, p. 10). Mishra e Koehler (e.g., 2006, p. 1026) recall this kind of knowledge, but they do not dwell upon its distinctiveness.

• TK-Technology Knowledge refers to knowledge about technology, ranging from traditional (book, blackboard, ...) and semi-traditional ones (videocamera, photocamera ...) to new digital technologies (computer, software, ...), and must be intended not only as strictly instrumental knowledge - installing and removing peripheral devices, installing and removing software programs, and creating and archiving documents (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p. 1027) - but also, in our opinion, as media language knowledge.

Contexts

Figure 1. TPACK framework (according to Koehler & Mishra, 2009. Source: Messina & Tabone, 2011).

• PCK-Pedagogical Content Knowledge includes "knowing what teaching approaches fit the content, and likewise, knowing how elements of the content can be arranged for better teaching" (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p. 1027).

• TCK-Technological Content Knowledge, as Mishra and Koehler (2008, p. 7) underline, regards "a deep understanding of the manner in which the subject matter (or the kinds of representations that can be constructed) can be changed by the application of technology".

• TPK-Technological Pedagogical Knowledge refers to the ability to use technology in a teaching and learning context. This means "knowing the pedagogical affordances and constraints of a range of technological tools as they relate to disciplinarily and developmentally appropriate pedagogical designs and strategies" (Mishra & Koehler, 2008, p. 9).

• TPACK-Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge, as specified by Mishra and Koehler (2006, pp. 1028-1029), "goes beyond all three components (content, pedagogy, and technology)" and results from the "intersection of all three bodies of knowledge". It allows understanding of how technology, content, and pedagogy "interact with each other". This kind of knowledge includes "an understanding of how to represent concepts with technologies, pedagogical techniques that use technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help students learn; knowledge of students' prior knowledge and theories of epistemology; and knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge and to develop new epistemologies or strengthen old ones".

In short, TPACK represents "a specialized brand of teacher knowledge" (Mishra, Koelher & Henriksen, 2011, p. 23) constituted by "the dynamic, transactional relationship between content, pedagogy, and technology. Good teaching with technology requires understanding the mutually reinforcing relationships between all three elements taken together to develop appropriate, context specific, strategies and representations" (Koehler, Mishra & Yahya, 2007, p. 741).

It is not by chance that Mishra and Koehler present this kind of knowledge as a new form of "literacy" highlighting the fact that teachers sho^d from being "consumers" become "designers" and "producers" (Mishra & Koehler,

2008, p. 10); proposing a specific approach - learning by design - that "can help teachers develop a flexible and situated understanding of technology" (Koehler & Mishra, 2005, p. 95); and appealing to teachers' creativity "to flexibly navigate the landscape" of TPACK (Mishra & Koehler, 2008, p. 11).

There is a growing number of research projects aimed at implementing TPACK4, as well as an increasing number of critical studies on such construct and related research (Graham, 2011). Among the research approaches, that of Harris and Hofer (2009; Hofer & Harris, 2010) seems particularly suitable to all subject-matters and school grades. The proposal of Harris and Hofer intends to "operationalize TPACK via curriculum based Learning Activity Types". Learning Activity Types-LAT are considered "as the building blocks for instructional planning" (Harris & Hofer, 2009, p. 100), and they "function as conceptual planning tools for teachers; they comprise a methodological shorthand that can be used to both build and describe plans for standards-based learning experiences" (Harris & Hofer, 2009, p. 101, our bold type).

Each activity type "captures what is most essential about the structure of a particular kind of learning action as it relates to what students do when engaged in that particular learning-related activity (e.g., 'view a presentation', 'collect data', 'make predictions'). Selected learning activity types are combined to create lesson plans, projects and units" (Hofer & Harris, 2010, p. 3858).

Harris and Hofer's (2009) theoretical proposal envisages that, after exploration of and familiarization with the technologies used in each curricular area, teachers begin to build their TPACK in a practical way, day by day, choosing the technology adequate to the learning activities, after having first defined goals and content. They suggest that, "rather than teaching in-service teachers how to plan lessons that use technology", it is more productive to create a connection "with how teachers (already) plan for instruction". In other terms, "the LAT approach seems a natural fit for the kinds of planning in which experienced teachers routinely engage" (Hofer & Harris, 2010, p. 3859).

The approach based on "learning activity types" also pays particular attention to student knowledge forms implied in the different types of activities, drawing a distinction between "knowledge building" and "knowledge expression", and in the latter case between "convergent knowledge expression" and "divergent knowledge expression" and, therefore, between convergent and divergent learning.

2. An empirical application of TPACK

2.1. Research setting

The research presented below is linked with an innovative action - the Cl@sses 2.0 Action - promoted by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research-MIUR for the first time in the school year 2009/2010 as a part of the Digital School plan, involving 156 first grade classes of lower secondary school, selected in 18 of the 20 Italian regions.

Cl@sses 2.0 Action is aimed at "realizing appropriate learning environments for a constant and widespread use of technology in everyday school life, in order to assess, in a three-year period, how and how much the impact of technology can affect formative processes in an era of changes in the languages of communication and knowledge diffusion" (MIUR, 2009).

The ministerial action provides in each region the participation of a Regional Team comprising complementary expertise operating in synergy. It consists of: the University, which is responsible for the "scientific support"; the National Agency for the Development of School Autonomy-ANSAS, through its regional offices, which is

4 In a recent newsletter, Mishra (2011) refers to the speed and extent of spread of such a construct, citing conferences, doctoral theses and publications of articles and volumes that amounted, in the end of 2010, to more than 250. The publications include studies and research concerning different aspects: use of TPACK for teacher training and professional development, strategies to develop TPACK, measurements of changes in teachers' TPACK in the course of time, introduction of TPACK in university courses for initial teachers ... .

responsible for "teacher support"; and the Regional School Office-USR, which coordinates the teamwork and is responsible for the "management control" (ANSAS, 2009).

According to the general intents of the Digital School plan, the 156 lower secondary school classes - 12 of which are in the Veneto Region - are expected to produce innovative instructional and organizational models aimed at "modifying learning environments through the integration of technology into instructional practices", and characterized by the specificities that the different regional contexts express.

The innovative and demanding project Cl@sses 2.0 Action assumed "ideal" classrooms and teachers, able to face immediately the challenges of the planning of new learning environments and new instructional practices, but many class councils inevitably had to deal with some basic problems before tackling these tasks, such as: the problem of technological training of many teachers, some of whom had little or no knowledge of technologies; consequently, the difficult planning of new technological environments; and last, but not least, the complexity of negotiating and agreeing unanimously on educational and technological choices to achieve a shared and innovative three-year instructional planning.

The Veneto Regional Team was engaged in supporting class councils in solving these problems and providing them with scientific support to develop the expected "educational, technological and organizational model" and to try to begin its implementation, offering teachers different paths - one of which personally supervised by the author of this paper - to carry out in-depth experimentation.

2.2. Methodology

To pursue the aims of Cl@sses 2.0 Action we proposed a training research-intervention initially based on TPACK framework to the Veneto teachers participating in this action. After presenting the theoretical lines subsumed under the framework5, a questionnaire was submitted to teachers in order to let them deepen their understanding of such theory, personally assess their knowledge and current practices, reflect upon their own knowledge and collect data which could be useful for developing and better defining their instructional planning.

^e questionnaire used for the research is an adaptation of "Survey of pre-service teachers' knowledge of teaching and technology", elaborated by Shmidt, Baran, Thompson, Koehler, Mishra and Shin (2009). This questionnaire was adapted for in-service teachers - as some researchers have already done (e.g., Niess et al., 2009; Graham et al., 2009; Doukakis et al., 2010) - in consideration of the fact that in Italy different subjects can be taught by a single teacher, such as Mathematics and Science, or Italian, History and Geography. In order to obviate this problem, some questions - when necessary - were distinguished by subject and repeated. The questionnaire is structurally divided into three parts.

In the first part, personal and professional information about teachers is required: gender, age, teaching subject, educational qualification (high school degree, university degree, PhD or MBA, specialization for teaching in secondary school), participation in refresher courses in technology for the past and current teaching year.

The second part of the questionnaire goes to the heart of TPACK framework. It is composed of several items divided into seven sections: TK (Technological Knowledge, items 1-6); CK (Content Knowledge, items 7-9); PK (Pedagogical Knowledge, items 10-16); PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge, items 17-19); TCK (Technological Content Knowledge, items 20-22); TPK (Technological-Pedagogical Knowledge, items 23-27); TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical And Content Knowledge, items 28-30). Each item is formulated as a statement on which the teachers are required to express a position of agreement/disagreement on a five-point scale (1=strongly disagree, 5=strongly agree).

The third part of the questionnaire focuses on the participants' personal experiences, through two open-ended questions, the first concerning their teaching activity (item 31), and the second their training (item 32).

5 The presentation of this theoretical model was carried out in a meeting with all teachers. For other training contacts the on-line platform of Cl@sses 2.0 Action and e-mail were used.

The questionnaires were administered in December 2010 and were collected by the referent of each class council in January 2011. The results were returned in early March 2011 using the on line platform of Cl@sses 2.0 Action.

2.2.1. Participants

The sample includes almost all the Veneto lower secondary school teachers involved in Cl@sses 2.0 Action. As the voluntary research configuration, the suggestion of a in-depth theoretical path based on the TPACK survey has been accepted by 11 class councils out of 12 and by all the teachers of the 11 cl@sses, except for one, for a total of 110 participants.

As regards the gender of the teachers, 30.6% is male and 69.4% is female. With respect to age, only 1.9% is under 30, 12.8% is between 30 and 40, 29.3% is between 40 and 50, 52.3% is between 50 and 60, and 3.7% is over 60.

According to the regulation in force (D.M. 354/1998), teachers were grouped by subjects, namely: Italian, History and Geography (n=16); Mathematics and Science (n=11); foreign languages: English and a second European language (n=22); Technology (n=10); Arts (n=11); Music (n=12); Physical Education (n=11); Religion -the recruitment for which is not carried out by to the State - (n=11). Learning support (n=6), not originally considered into the questionnaire, must be added to the previous ones6.

As concerns their educational qualifications, 83.6% of teachers have a university degree; the remaining 16.4% have a high school degree (also including Conservatoire) that allows them to teach in lower secondary school. The majority of degrees can be broken down as follows: Languages (25.6%), Arts and Humanities (17.8%), Physical Education (14.4%), Theology (11.1%), Architecture (8.9%), Biology (4.5%). The remaining 17.7% includes Agriculture, Geology, Mathematics, Pedagogy, Philosophy, Physics, Sociology, Urban Planning and Fine Arts Academy. Postgraduate qualifications are rare: of 110 participants, only 4 PhDs, 3 master's degrees, 2 post-graduate degrees, 11 specialization titles for teaching in secondary schools (SISS) and 3 specialization titles for learning support teachers (SOSS) are counted.

With respect to the participation in refresher courses on technology for teaching, 54.5% of participants had attended them in the past. The courses range from basic computer courses organized by schools and held by experienced colleagues to For-TIC (i.e. ICT) courses and IWB courses sponsored by MIUR. In the current school year, 22.7% of teachers are still keeping themselves up to date with technology, in contrast with the remaining 77.3%. The course for IWB is the most mentioned: it was attended by 55.8% of teachers who participated in refresher courses on technology for teaching during the past years and it is currently attended by 44% of teachers who are upgrading their knowledge in this field.

2.3. Data analysis

The data analysis of the questionnaire on the TPACK framework (items 1-30) refers to the entire group of teachers, without any distinction according to the subject taught. The seven knowledge types described by Mishra and Koehler (2006) are assessed through a five-point scale, where 1 indicates complete disagreement and 5 indicates complete agreement with the given statement.

The reliability of each section of the questionnaire, measured by the Cronbach's alpha, appears to be more than satisfactory: for section TK-Tectoological Knowledge, a=. 930; for section CK-Content Knowledge, a=.919; for section PK-Pe^gogical Knowledge, a=.885; for section PCK-Pedagogical Content Knowledge, a=.863; for section TCK-Tectaological Content Knowledge, a=.969; for section TPK- Technological Pedagogical Knowledge, a=.931; for section TPACK-Tectoological Pedagogical And Content Knowledge, a=.864.

6 The data relating to learning support teachers may be partial, since the participation of this group of teachers may not have been systematic, because learning support was not explicitly considered in the questionnaire. According to Italian law (L.104/1992), any learning support teacher is co-teacher of the class they work in, consequently some learning support teachers decided to fill out the questionnaire.

Synthetic indexes for all sections were constructed to summarize the average of the item scores constituting each section (Table 1).

Table 1. Mean and standard deviation of each synthetic index of the sections presented in the second part of questionnaire iTK-Technoloeical Knowledge; CK-Content Knowledge; PK-Pedaeoeical Knowledge; PCK-Pedaeoeical Content Knowledge; TCK-Technological Content Knowledge; TPK-Technological Pedagogical Knowledge; TPACK- Technological Pedagogical And Content Knowledge).

Groups N Mean Standard deviation

TK 110 2.90 1.022

CK 110 4.53 .713

PK 110 4.32 .589

PCK 110 4.28 .679

TCK 110 3.48 1.143

TPK 110 3.52 .992

TPACK 110 2.88 1.009

According to synthetic indexes, teachers report higher scores in CK-Content Knowledge (M = 4.53), which indicates a good knowledge of concepts, theories, frameworks and ways of thinking capable of understanding the subject they teach.

Moreover, high scores are found in PK-Pedagogical Knowledge (M = 4.32) and PCK-Pedagogical Content Knowledge (M = 4.28). The first datum shows that teachers believe they have solid knowledge of what the process of teaching/learning is and they feel able to adapt their teaching and teaching style according to students, to assess students' learning in many ways and to organize and manage classroom activities. The second datum shows that teachers feel able to choose effective teaching and learning approaches to guide students' reasoning, to plan lessons that stimulate students' interest and to guide students to link the subject-matters with their own reality.

Lower scores are found in TK-Technology Knowledge (M = 2.90), which, according to Mishra and Koehler (2008), is associated with the ability to use different technologies and easily to learn how to use them.

Contrary to what might be expected, the score in TK-Technological Knowledge is lower than the scores in the TCK-Technological Content Knowledge section (M = 3.48) and TPK-Technological Pedagogical Knowledge section (M = 3.52). These data might indicate, on the one hand, that teachers believe they know the appropriate technology to understand/apply their subject relatively well and can teach it to their students utilizing the range of possibilities offered by the market, and, on the other hand, that maybe they feel more confident in using the technologies easily available in schools.

The lowest score among the questionnaire sections is in TPACK-Technological, Pedagogical And Content Knowledge (M=2.88). This was as expected and could be found in other works in which the lowest scores are in TPACK and TCK (e.g., Shin et al., 2009; Grahm et al. 2009). Teachers are less confident in their ability to appropriately integrate content, technology and teaching approaches in actual classroom activities.

In order to understand if there could be significant differences in relation to the subject taught, an analysis of variance was carried out creating the variable "subject" in order to include each teacher within one and only one category. Foreign Language teachers - making no distinction between English and other EU languages - were aggregated, as well as teachers of Mathematics and Sciences, and teachers of Italian, History and Geography.

The analysis of variance showed significant differences in: TCK, F(8, i0i)= 2.262 and p=.029; TPK, F(8, 101)= 3.364 and p=.002; TPACK, F(8, 101)= 3.136 and p=.003.

The post-hoc analysis, conducted with the Bonferroni method, revealed significant differences in scores:

• as regards TCK, between Physical Education teachers (M=2.64) and Technology teachers (M=4.23);

• as regards TPK, between Physical Education teachers (M=2.38) and Foreign Language (M=3.69), Technology (M=3.70), Music (M=3.70) and Religion (M=3.87) teachers;

• as regards TPACK, between Physical Education teachers (M=1.82) and Foreign Language (M=2.97), Technology (M=3.70) and learning support (M=3.39) teachers.

Physical Education teachers reported significantly lower scores in the areas of investigation involving the knowledge of technology and its use in teaching practices. This difference might also be mirrored in the on-line

platform the teachers can access, where there are thematic sections for all subjects except Physical Education7, as well as in the reservations expressed by Physical Education teachers about the questionnaire that emerged, for example, when they, filling it out, replaced the word "classroom" with the word "gymnasium"8.

The last two open-ended questions of the questionnaire (items 31-32) are aimed at identifying teachers' personal experiences in the integration of content, technologies and teaching approaches. The first question inquires into the teaching experiences in the classroom, the second pertains to training experiences. Each question requires the identification of context, leader, subject matter, technologies and teaching approaches adopted.

As regards teachers' experiences during the training, only 30% said they had assisted in the integration of content, technologies and teaching approaches. However, 73.6% of teachers seems to have directly experienced activities in which they created or showed the integration of such factors in the classroom.

The answers to both questions are often incomplete and not always pertinent, as teachers tend to focus primarily on the content dealt with and the technology used, usually omitting the teaching approaches adopted, and rarely referring to the "meaning" of using a particular technology to achieve specific goals, to the effectiveness of the intervention relating to the actors involved (students often are not even mentioned) and, ultimately, to the effective integration of content, technology and pedagogy.

From the answers collected, some other interesting aspects emerge, including the largely instrumental use of technology as a teaching device. For example, the IWB - which is the tool mentioned most frequently - is used for explaining topics, for individual and group exercises, for some tests, as well as to create concept maps to summarize contents, to document them and then to reflect upon them.

3. TPACK implementation via LAT-Learning Activity Types

The questionnaire filled out by teachers had the primary purpose of enabling them: to assess their own knowledge personally, being directly involved in the TPACK framework; to reflect upon its function as conceptual lens in analyzing the process that goes along with the development of "better learning environments" and the integration of technology into instructional practices; and to guide their self-observation and reflection on this process.

The research results highlight some critical aspects including the ones regarding the low scores of TK-Technological Knowledge and TPACK-Technological, Pedagogical And Content Knowledge scales, and the medium scores of the other two scales related to technology: TPK-Technological Pedagogical Knowledge and TCK-Technological Content Knowledge. Teachers declare a limited confidence not only with TPACK framework but also with technology knowledge both per se and connected with content and pedagogy.

Moreover, the teachers' open answers seem not to show a clear understanding of TPACK: the framework appears, in certain cases, remote from their background, and in other cases it is trivialized or taken for granted, as emerged also from discussions with classes representatives. This dual position, unproductive in either case, could be interpreted in the light of the composition of class councils in which very different levels of TPC knowledge coexist.

Since Cl@sses 2.0 Action is aimed at involving the whole class council "to modify the learning environments" integrating technology into daily practices, we chose to enhance mainly the following aspects: the professional development of the entire class council and in all curricular areas, but at same time considering the specificity of individual teachers, their 'elective affinities', and well-established collaboration relationships; and the TPACK implementation, avoiding the sectorialization of knowledge, i.e. supporting only the development of technological

7 The on line platform for teachers dedicated to Cl@sses 2.0 Action has in-depth sections for: Technology, Italian, Mathematics, Foreign Languages, Science, History and Geography, Arts, Music. Documentation and Inclusion are added to these subjects (http://for.indire.it/docenti/index.php). Verified on 10/01/2011.

8 Reservations emerged even during class councils, in which some Physical Education teachers expressed skepticism about the usefulness of technology for their teaching subject.

knowledge and the related 'urgent' needs of selecting the 'best technology' to renew the classroom environment. In fact, professional development and effective teaching with technology require an understanding of "the mutually reinforcing relationships" between content, pedagogy and technology "to develop appropriate, context specific, strategies and representations" (Koehler, Mishra & Yahya, 2007, p. 741).

Concerning this and in accordance with Koehler and Mishra (2009, p. 62), we hold that there is not "one best way to integrate technology into curriculum", and "integration efforts should be creatively designed or structured for particular subject matter ideas in specific classroom contexts". Moreover, the planning even of a single lesson or learning unit is always a "wicked problem", also for more experienced teachers, who must be able "to find the right combination of technologies, teaching approach, and instructional goals (considering that) there is no single solution that will apply uniformly across teachers, courses, districts, or approaches" (Mishra & Koehler, 2008, p. 2).

On the basis of such assumptions and in order to implement TPACK we have chosen the approach of Harris and Hofer (2009), which is structured on LAT-Learning Activity Types and seems to be particularly suited to "authentically" develop teacher TPACK "as an integral aspect of instructional planning and implementation" (Hofer & Harris, 2010, p. 3858). To this end, the scholars suggest a "general planning sequence:

1. identify student learning goals.

2. consider the classroom context and student learning styles and preferences.

3. select and sequence appropriate learning activity types to combine and form the learning experience.

4. select formative and summative assessment strategies.

5. select tools and resources that will help best students benefit from the learning experience" (Hofer & Harris, 2010, p. 3858).

These steps, which are not listed hierarchically, allow teachers to move "in different ways," given the recursive nature of the planning process (Hofer & Harris, 2010, p. 3858). Taking both this planning model and the LAT taxonomies into account, we tailored a path of implementation. We shared in the on-line platform a document introducing teachers to the theoretical approach of LAT. In this document some examples of LAT were also presented, intentionally excerpting a 'florilegium' - i.e. without presenting the complete taxonomies - to avoid a literal repetition of the same activities considered by Harris and Hofer (2009)9, but still respecting the whole activity typology. This passage was necessary both to archive a comparison with the results of empirical application mentioned at beginning of this paragraph, and to boost teachers' reflections on their personal way of integrating technology in teaching and directing its effective integration. Moreover we operated on the presupposition that participants possessed an adequate repertoire of activities, approaches, strategies ..., as the results of the PK section seem to confirm.

Consequently, we requested teachers to test themselves in building their TPACK, starting with an 'easy' task: planning a learning unit or a single episode, depending on their preference. For this purpose we designed a grid to guide them, considering the following categories that they should try to keep in mind during the planning:

• content of learning unit/episode: topic dealt with in the curricular unit/episode;

• learning goals: specific goals of the unit/episode;

• teaching approach/es: approach/es chosen to the specific unit/episode (e.g., frontal lesson, cooperative learning, etc.);

• activity type: analytically specification of all the activities in which students are engaged (e.g., writing an essay, viewing a film, etc.);

• description of activity type: what each of the planned activities consists of, or in other terms what students are expected to do;

• possible technologies: traditional and/or new technologies that can be used for each type of activity;

9 The curriculum-based learning activity taxonomies (Harris & Hofer) do not include all the curricular subjects

(http://activitytypes.wmwikis.net/). Since in the Cl@sses 2.0 Action all subjects are represented, we used them just for giving examples.

• knowledge form/s: kind/s of knowledge that can be developed through the activities planned, namely: knowledge building, convergent knowledge expression, written divergent knowledge expression, visual divergent knowledge expression, conceptual divergent knowledge expression, product-oriented divergent knowledge expression, participatory divergent knowledge expression (Harris, & Hofer, 2009);

• evaluation: assessment instruments appropriate to verify the effectiveness of each type of activity and goals attainment.

At the end of grid, teachers could write their observations in two blank boxes: the first for short considerations on planning difficulties they met; the second for short considerations on execution difficulties observed in their students.

3.1. Results of LAToperationalization

Although there was an on-line dedicated forum for sharing and discussing doubts or asking for further explanations directly to the referent of this part of the project, exchanges were handled primarily by email attachments within the space of two months, with our review of units and/or episodes reported in the documents sent by teachers.

Due to the voluntary basis of participation and the parallel workload required from teachers for the entire project, not all the participants gave feedback in this training phase; for this reason the data collected were partial. We received documents from some teachers of each class council and from all teachers of just two class councils.

Here we consider only the documents of these two class councils - from this point named cc1 and cc2 - which are similar to those of other teachers participating in this training phase and from which some suggestions for further implementation adjustments can be drawn.

First of all, there seems to be a tendency for teachers to adopt an analogous modality of grid use, perhaps following the class representative example: the great majority of feedback from cc1 are episodes (as the cc1 representative did), the great majority of feedback from cc2 are units (as in the case of the cc2 representative).

In cc2 the proposed grid seems to show a certain aggregation power: the first document sent by the class representative regarded just his subject and then the following four upgraded drafts were realized involving three more colleagues teaching other subjects, gaining an interdisciplinary approach. Similarly (and subsequently), another teacher from the same cc2 submitted three units, two of them written alone and the last one in collaboration with another colleague.

Unlike cc2, cc1 teachers' documents were all stand-alone and of similar length, as if the reported episode covered just a single short subject lesson. In addition, all the teachers worked separately on topics that do not appear to be coordinated.

In analyzing the documents of both class councils, some crucial points emerge. First of all, inaccuracy is found on two pedagogical topics: teaching approaches and knowledge forms, which experienced teachers should know and should use in their practice. Concerning the former aspect, frontal, teacher-led lessons and student collaborative learning are the two teaching approaches most reported. With regard to the latter, the knowledge form implied in the classroom activity, when coherent with the activity itself and reflecting the terminology suggested by the trainer, was often incomplete: some teachers distinguished only between convergent and divergent knowledge or between knowledge building and knowledge expression activities; only few teachers adopted the seven knowledge categories proposed to them using the Harris & Hofer's (2009) examples.

Another difficult question is the punctual description of activity types. Many teachers correctly label the kind of activity they assign to students, but they do not seem able to describe - or realize - what they effectively ask students to do. Usually the descriptions are vague: for example, two teachers (T8, T9, cc2) described their student activity by saying "Each presentation is copied and stored in IWB, in connection with what was done during the previous step": it is not clear if students must save their presentations one by one, and what other students should do while the colleagues are completing the task, or if the teacher must do it for them.

In a similar way, some difficulties and lack of coherence and/or accuracy are found in assessment instruments: clearly, when the activities aimed at reaching a goal are not well outlined, the way to assess the goal itself can neither be easily planned nor clearly described.

Moreover, many teachers associate the concept of technology to "digital technology", such as IWB, computer, internet and different software, apparently omitting or underestimating the classical "paper-and-pencil" tools in the activity planning, while on the contrary they often use them for assessing student knowledge.

Finally, it must be noticed that teachers declare some difficulties inherent to episode/unit planning or student activity execution in the two blank boxes at the end of the grid. They reported difficulties in activity realizations mainly dealing with the technology itself (slow internet connection, old computers), the lack of study skills (i.e. researching, selecting, managing, combining information) and negative attitudes (low level of attention, motivation or interest) of students, the chronic lack of time and the large amount of time required by learning activities.

The unexpected limits which emerge from the document analysis seem notable considering that among teachers participating in this training phase there are also teachers with extensive experience (and passion both for teaching and for technology), so that they should have "extensive experience not only with selecting and combining learning activities to help students master curriculum goals, but also with understanding how classroom contexts and the diversity of student learning styles and preferences both constrain and offer opportunities to plan for effective learning experimces" (Hofer & Harris, 2010, p. 3859).

In spite of the limits, or precisely because they have been found, and in light of often repeated attempts of teachers who individually or jointly wanted to meet the challenge of planning of teaching units or single episodes, we think that the proposed grid is of use if considered as a tool that inevitably 'forces' teachers - perhaps in a more compelling way than the questionnaire - to tackle such issues themselves.

In a new intervention we will aim at promoting a more shared and negotiated action in order to spread good practices from teacher to teacher, paying particular attention to learning activities for the students, who should be the real actors and mainstay of the teaching/learning process. Moreover, we think that a greater involvement of class-council expert teachers and, when possible, complete examples of LAT (Hofer & Harris, 2010) could be useful to facilitate the comprehension of the logic underlying the grid for building TPACK framework.

4. Final considerations

The questionnaire results and its implementation attempt via LAT would lead to many considerations, about which we cannot but be cautious, especially considering the modest number of protocols pertaining to LAT.

While it is necessary to examine in depth the questions raised by this training research-intervention, nevertheless some considerations can already be made and linked to a purely hypothetical question: how the TPACK questionnaire data would be configured when retesting teachers after their compilation of the LAT grid.

The question arises when we compare, for example, the inaccuracies about the two pedagogical topics above -teaching approaches and knowledge forms — and the high scores found in the questionnaire section related to PCK-Pedagogical Content Knowledge and PK-Pedagogical Knowledge.

We commented on this datum, writing that "teachers believe they have solid knowledge on what the process of teaching/learning is and they feel able to adapt their teaching and teaching style according to students, to assess student learning in many ways and to organize and manage classroom activities" (see above, paragraph 2.3).

In reality, we might have some doubts about such comments and wonder if the confidence of teachers in their pedagogical knowledge was not overestimated - expert teachers should know very well 'all' possible approaches to teaching and learning and also be aware of the types of knowledge they develop through these processes.

Conversely, we wonder if getting to the heart of TPACK - as the grid allows teachers to do - can raise questions about the shape of knowledge blocks that are taken for granted in teachers' daily routine.

From another point of view, we might ask if our implementation of TPACK has been affected by any underlying defects, and in this regard we should not forget that Hofer and Harris (2010, p. 3859) suggest introducing "the teachers to the LAT taxonomies appropriate to their area of teaching" (in their wholeness).

This indication would seem in line with a large body of literature that identifies in "modelling" the most used strategy for teacher training, including technology training (e.g., Kay, 2006). It also corresponds to common demands of teachers who look for 'bibliotherapeutic' or 'webtherapeutic' 'prescription book', in short, ready-made solutions to apply at school.

As the entire intervention described in these pages should show and maybe as a cognitive legacy10, we believe that knowledge acquisition or development must necessarily come through individual processing and reflection and, in particular, that teachers should be provided with the necessary theoretical resources to build knowledge on their personal prior knowledge, dialoguing "intrapersonally" with themselves (Vygotskij, 1978).

If teachers must become innovators of instructional practices, capable of building learning environments tailored to the digital society and able to "flexibly navigate the space" of TPACK in their "specific context" (Mishra & Koehler, 2008, p. 10) and to reflect upon it, teacher trainers must empower them to strengthen their own cultural and cognitive autonomy to continue developing their knowledge, guiding the classrooms they will meet throughout their careers with increasing skills.

In this perspective, we hold that TPACK and its implementation via LAT are useful theoretical approaches not only in developing a new "literacy" (Mishra & Koehler, 2008, p. 10), but also in restructuring the knowledge blocks that risk being fossilized through teaching routines. Nevertheless, in the light of the results of our research it could be useful to introduce in teacher training also an action aimed at monitoring the "developmental process " through which teachers progress "when learning to integrate a particular technology in teaching and learning" their subject, as suggested by Niess et alii (2009) and "engage as they develop their knowledge and understandings in ways that merge multiple knowledge bases — technology, content, and pedagogy".

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