Professor of Educational Technology
College of Education
Kara Dawson’s research focuses on the ways educational technologies influence teaching and learning within the contexts of K-12 education and online post-secondary environments.
Much of Dawson’s K-12 research has focused on studying the impact of Title II-D Enhancing Education through Technology (EETT) competitive funding on student achievement, teaching practices, and student use of technology. This research has involved nearly 1800 teachers in 298 schools within 33 Florida districts. Her work has shown the importance of context in technology integration research and demonstrates that changes in technology integration practices are possible within a short time frame. However, these practices do not necessarily change the way content is taught, suggesting a need for increased collaboration between educational technologists, content specialists, and teachers. Dawson’s work also highlights the importance of information communication (ICT) literacy for teachers and students.
In addition, Dawson’s work underscores the importance of providing teachers with scaffolds to support their thinking about technology integration. The primary scaffold used in the EETT work was the action research process. Her work with action research and technology integration led to an invitation to deliver and study a two-year program of action research professional development for virtual educators. This was the first time action research was used as a professional development strategy in a virtual school. The research provides important insights into the priorities and practices of virtual school educators and offers a model for how such professional development can be a catalyst for change for individual virtual educators and virtual organizations.
Dawson co-taught the College of Education’s first completely Internet-based online course. Since that time, she has developed three online programs that serve as the context for her research in post-secondary environments. She has collaborated with her colleagues to carefully design and research her programs. Dawson has also studied many important and under-researched areas related to online programs, including impact on student professional growth and advancement, administrative, technical and social supports required for online students, community building in online programs, and critical thinking in online environments.