Early Childhood Teachers’ Perspectives on the Integration of Instructional Technology During COVID-19

Date

2021-12

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Abstract

Background: In recent years, U.S. schools have adopted learning models actively encompassing instructional technology to foster 21st century skills. With the support of federal and state funding, districts and schools are expanding broadband internet access for schools and increasing student access to individual devices such as laptops and tablets which students use to connect to the internet, access digital resources, and complete school assignments. The technology industry is evolving to include equipment and programs designed for young learners. Purpose: Early childhood teachers have been slow to engage in technology integration within their learning environments. Barriers are characterized as extrinsic and intrinsic, and specifically include perceived ease of use, perceived value to student learning, lack of familiarity with technology, and teacher self-efficacy--each of which affect individual attitudes and beliefs about technology. This study will focus on participants’ barriers and their subsequent impacts upon participants’ attitudes and intentions to integrate instructional technology within the early childhood classroom. Proposed research questions are: 1) What are the participants’ attitudes toward use of instructional technology as a teaching tool within their classroom curricula? 2) How are the participants’ actions influenced by their own experiences with technology integration? 3) What challenges are identified and what was done to mitigate the challenges? Methods: This study is a basic qualitative study, which uses Braun & Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis and a 3-point semantic differential to understand the perspectives of the participants who were engaged in the process of integrating instructional technology in their learning environments. Participants represent a convenience sample. Participants are early childhood teachers at a Tier 2 public elementary school located within a large, urban, U.S. district, instructing students in a hybrid learning program crafted to meet the needs of distant and face-to-face students simultaneously. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews. Interview responses were transcribed and coded for recurrent themes. A three-point semantic differential was designed and used to help understand participant responses. Member checks and a peer expert were used for validity checks. This qualitative case study used the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) as a framework. Findings: Major themes emerged around dissatisfactory professional development combined with high teacher performance expectations. Participants revealed attitudes of frustration with lack of ability to use technology as an effective primary instructional tool for early childhood learners. Reported challenges were inadequate professional development and a lack of administrative-level interest in teacher feedback. Conclusion: Throughout this study, technology integration experiences are consistently described as difficult by the participants. One of the major challenges was professional development that felt rushed and overwhelming. The researcher concludes that participants who demonstrated a resourceful and positive attitude were the least affected. Participants who maintained a positive mindset were optimistic and determined to navigate the challenges, keeping the opportunity for student success at the forefront of their intention. This study will benefit teachers’ reflective practice and inform administrators’ future support of teachers.

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Keywords

instructional technology, technology integration, early childhood, barriers, Covid 19

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