My Thesis

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Teachers’ use of ICT in the secondary school: investigating the impact of change on teachers’ use of ICT


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Abstract

My thesis (completed in October 2007) investigated the impact of four initiatives (the provision of a desktop computer, the change of operating systems from Windows to Linux, the compulsory use of a Learning Management System (LMS) and the implementation of professional development) on the use of Information Communications Technologies (ICT) as perceived by secondary teachers at an independent school in Melbourne’s East.
A mix of qualitative and quantitative data were gathered for this case study by surveying the secondary teaching staff, interviewing six teachers and two key leaders of ICT, and analysing documentation such as computer bookings and school policy records. These data were analysed and compared to that of wider local, national and international research and the following five findings were evident:
1. Evidence was found of an overall increase in the use of ICT since the four initiatives were implemented;
2. Less then half (44%) of the teachers surveyed perceived that there was an improvement in the quality of their use of ICT as a result of the changes, the majority (52%) perceived that no change had occurred for them with 4% claiming that the quality of their use of ICT had actually decreased as a result of changes;
3. At least one of the teachers interviewed demonstrated some profound improvements in their use of ICT as a result of the four initiatives;
4. The provision of personal access to a desktop computer was perceived by the teachers to have had the most impact on improving the use of ICT, followed by the implementation of the LMS and the PD program;
5. The change of operating systems from Windows to Linux was perceived by the majority of teachers as a having a negative influence on their use and development of ICT.
This study should be of benefit to school administrators who are in the processes of implementing initiatives to help improve the use of ICT by their teachers. It could also be helpful for teachers who are wanting to develop their professional attributes in relation to the use of ICT and make ICT a more effective tool in the teaching and learning process.

Aim of this study

The aim of this study was to investigate what development in the teachers’ use of ICT occurred at Eastern Grammar as a result of the implementation of the four initiatives in 2003, and what the perceptions were of the teachers and leaders on the impact of each initiative.
This study investigated changes in the teaching practices of secondary teachers through document analysis, survey and interviews. The documents analysed included the computer laboratory booking sheets for a period before and after the full implementation of the four ICT initiatives, as well as policy documentation found in the Eastern Grammar Staff Handbook during the time the changes were implemented. A survey of the secondary teaching staff aimed to gather data on the characteristics of the staff, their use of ICT before and after the initiatives, and which of the four initiatives had the most impact. Six teachers were interviewed to help provide a more in-depth source of qualitative data regarding the degree of use of ICT that was occurring before and after the initiatives and which of the four initiatives was perceived to have had the most impact. Two of the key school leaders behind implementing the initiatives were also interviewed to provide a context and rationale for the four initiatives and provide their perspective on the impact of the changes.

Research Questions

1. What development in the teachers’ use of ICT occurred at Eastern Grammar after the implementation of four initiatives in 2003?

2. What were the perceptions of the teachers and leaders at Eastern Grammar on the impact of the use of ICT by the teachers after the implementation of:
- The provision of the desktop computer for each teacher;
- The change of operating systems from Windows to Linux;
- The compulsory use of the LMS;
- The implementation of a compulsory ICT PD program?

Sources of data

Data sources in this case study are divided into three stages, document analysis, a survey of teachers and interviews with teachers and leaders.
Stage 1 – The Documentation
The first set of documents analysed in this study were the Eastern Grammar computer laboratory booking sheets from 2002 to 2004 (one year before the full implementation of the four ICT initiatives and two years after) as well as relevant policy documentation found in the 2003 Eastern Grammar Staff Handbook; the year the ICT initiatives were fully implemented and the Eastern Grammar ICT PD documentation provided for the staff.
The students did not use laptops in their classrooms, nor were there many computers available in or around the classrooms at Eastern Grammar. During the period studied the school relied on its three main computer laboratories to serve most of the ICT requirements of Years 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 (Year 9 is on a separate campus). Therefore the data gained from the booking system provided evidence regarding the degree of computer use occurring at Eastern Grammar during the immediate period before and after the full implementation of the four ICT initiatives.
Data from the booking sheets helped to indicate, in part, the amount of use of ICT at Eastern Grammar before and after the implementation of the four ICT initiatives. Consequently, these data helped to answer the first research question. The staff handbook data helped determine school policy in relation to the use of the LMS and the ICT PD documentation indicated what sort of PD was being provided and how it was provided.
Stage 2 – The Survey
The second stage of data collection was a survey of the secondary teaching staff regarding the use of ICT before and after the full implementation of the four ICT initiatives. This survey provided data on teachers’ perceptions of the impact of the four ICT initiatives on the their use of ICT.
Stage 3 – The Interviews
The third stage of data collection involved interviews with six teachers about the impact of the four initiatives and interviews with the two key administrators who were instrumental in the changes that occurred. These interviews provided qualitative data in relation to the perceptions of the teachers and administrators on the type of use of ICT that was occurring before and after the four ICT initiatives and what, if any, impact they had on the use of ICT.
The six teachers were randomly chosen from 35 possible candidates who had taught at Eastern Grammar at least two years before and two years after the full implementation of the four initiatives.

The main findings

There were five main findings that came out of this study:
1. There was evidence of a slight overall increase in the use of ICT since the ICT initiatives were implemented with a 9% increase in computer laboratory bookings from the start of 2002 to the end of the 2004 school year;
2. Less then half (44%) of the teachers surveyed perceived that they had improved the quality of their use of ICT as a result of the changes, the majority (52%) perceived that no change had occurred for them with 4% claiming that the quality of their use of ICT had actually decreased as a result of changes;
3. That some of the teachers interviewed demonstrated some profound improvements in their use of ICT as a result of the four initiatives;
4. That the provision of personal access to a desktop computer was perceived by the teachers to have had the most impact on improving the use of ICT followed by the implementation of the LMS and the ICT PD program; and
5. The change of operating systems from Windows to Linux was perceived by the majority of teachers as a having a negative influence on their ICT development.


Implications

The implications that arise from this study relate not just to the administration and teaching staff at Eastern Grammar, they relate to any school or educational institution that is considering implementing initiatives to help improve the use of ICT by teachers in the learning and teaching process.
It is important to realise that there are differing stages that teachers need to work through in relation to the use of ICT, just because a teacher is using ICT does not mean they are integrating ICT. The integration of ICT is an advanced stage and order to reach this stage most teachers move through the stages of investigation and application (Newhouse et al. 2005). For a teacher to claim to be effectively integrating ICT in their teaching they need to be regularly looking for opportunities to use ICT to demonstrate learning outcomes; they expect their teaching style and approach to develop as ICT change; they function confidently and independently and are critical users of the ICT in their teaching and they are able to explain how their facilitation of the technologies can contribute to the achievement of recognised curriculum standards and goals.
In order to reach this stage, teachers need support through carefully planned and pedagogy based PD that takes into consideration the individual needs of the teacher. Skills based training is important, but should not be the essence of the PD program. The most effective PD in the use of ICT should be based on learning strategies that make a difference in daily practice and lead to better student performance. Effective ICT PD should encourage traditional teachers to use constructivist methodologies when appropriate and therefore potentially enhance learning opportunities for their students (Becker, 1999 and McKenzie, 2001).
Along with appropriate PD, functional and accessible hardware and software resources need to be supplied and be available for teachers to use and experiment with. Teachers’ perceived confidence and competence with ICT appears to be closely related to a lack of access to ICT and effective use of ICT is more likely to occur if teaching staff are provided with sufficient access to appropriate resources.
In terms of appropriate hardware resources, a number of researchers (Dwyer et al., 1991; Sager, 2003; Burnes and Polman, 2006 and Scrimshaw, 2004) suggest that when teachers are provided with one to one access to computers (in particular laptop computers) changes in practice occur, such as a progression of a less teacher focused approach to a more student-centred learning environment. This study has found that individual access to desktop computers for teachers can also make a difference in terms of improving the use of ICT.
In terms of software provision, effective LMSs are vital to enhancing the use of ICT. They provide a wide variety of ways content can be delivered which can result in a greater depth of learning (Vuorikari’s, 2004). The effective use of a LMS in the classroom can provide international resources that are able to enrich education and heighten its relevance in a global society and economy (Kearns, 2002). Outside of the classroom, a well-resourced LMS can provide opportunities for students to learn outside the constraints of the classroom and in the comfort of their home or anywhere they have access to the Internet.
The provision of greater access of hardware and software at Eastern Grammar has had an effect on improving the use of ICT, however the change of operating systems from Windows to Linux appears to had a negative impact in many cases. The implication of this discovery for other schools and education institutions involves carefully considering the advantages and disadvantages of making such a change. Open source software, by its very nature, is improving and developing all the time but appears to yet be at a stage where it can compete with the more widely used Windows and Apple products. However schools do not need to change their whole operating system just to run open source applications. A great range of open source products are available that run within a Windows and or Apple Macintoh environment.

Recommendations

The following recommendations are suggested as a consequence to this study:
Access to ICT
The provision of desktop computers on the desks of the teaching staff for their professional use has been very successful in generating an interest in ICT and promoting greater use of ICT by the teachers. The next logical step is to provide more access in and around the classrooms for the teachers and students to have immediate access if and when they require it. This could be done through providing pods of desktops in the classrooms, facilitating a laptop program (possibly commencing just with the teaching staff) or introducing the use of wirelessly networked PDAs for staff and students.
Further development of the LMS
The Eastern Grammar LMS should continue to be a vital resource for curriculum material and communication and its potential for enhancing communication with parents and even ex-students is enhanced. This could be done by ensuring that all parents are provided with a username and password that will enable access to section of the LMS that relate their children. Ex-students could be given username and password access to a special alumni section of the LMS as well as general information such as the newsletters.
Improved ICT PD
The ICT PD program should be ongoing and focused more specifically on pedagogical issues rather than ICT skills. All future ICT PD should be based on learning strategies that make a difference in daily practice. They should encourage constructivist teaching practice when appropriate with an aim to enhance learning opportunities for students and lead to better student performance.
Skills based training should be conducted informally on a needs basis. Specific ICT skills should be taught within the context of how they can be used in a realistic and practical setting. If the Eastern Grammar teachers are shown why the buttons need to be pressed, in what context they should be pressed, and how this will enhance learning opportunities for their students, they are more likely to improve ICT in their teaching and eventually reach the stage where they are effectively integrating ICT in the learning and teaching process.

Further Study

One of the interesting statistics that comes out of this study is that, even after implementing four major ICT initiative with an aim to improve the use of ICT by the Eastern Grammar teachers, 52% of the survey respondents were assessed as making no progress through the developmental stages. This raises the question as to why the Eastern Grammar teachers have been so slow change and whether or not other similar schools have had more success. This question is outside the limitations of this study, but would be worthy of further study. To answer this question, it would be interesting to run a comparative study with other schools; some of which who have computer laboratories and desktops for their teaching staff and other schools that have a laptop program. A sample of teachers from each school could be surveyed and interviewed using the Newhouse et al. (2005) framework as a guide to determine their use of ICT. This would help determine how significant mobile access to ICT is in potentially reaching the stage of effective ICT integration in the learning and teaching process.

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