Science Article on ICT and Schools

A Review of the study entitled:  ICT and Schools:  Identification of Factors Influencing the Use of New Media in Vocational Training Schools

Mitchelle J.D
Introduction:
            Of the many factors affecting the use of technology in the classroom and quality education in general, teachers’ characteristics are the utmost determinant.
            This paper presents a critical review of the study entitled, ICT and Schools:  Identification of Factors Influencing the Use of New Media in Vocational Training Schools.  The authors of this study are Alexander Totter, Daniela Stutz, and Gudela Grote from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland.  This study was published in The Electronic Journal of e-learning Volume 4 Issue 1, pages 95-102.  It is also available at www.ejel.org.
            For the past years researches have identified three general factors that influence the use of technology in the classroom.  These are technical equipment available in schools, the general conditions of the school organizations, and the characteristics of teachers.  This study focused on the characteristics of teachers that influence the use of technology in the classroom.  The authors analysed teachers’ characteristics described in the study by Becta, 2004.  Becta reviewed research literatures and identified a number of teacher-level barriers.  This together with other literatures, the authors develop a theoretical model which describes both positive and negative factors, which influence teachers’ use of new media in classrooms.  These factors are as follows: “constructivist teaching style”, “willingness to cooperate”, “openness to change”, lack of ICT-competence”, “lack of time”, and “lack of ICT confidence”.  They hypothesized that 1) “constructivist teaching style”, “willingness to cooperate”, “openness to change” will correlate significantly and positively with “Use of new Media in classrooms”, and 2)  lack of ICT-competence”, “lack of time”, and “lack of ICT confidence” will have a negative impact on the degree of “Use of new Media in classrooms”.  An exploratory investigation was further made to determine the variables which appropriately explain the dependent variable “Use of new Media in classrooms”.
            This study is significant to all key people in education, administrators, policy makers, other decision-makers, and teachers themselves.  As mentioned by several literatures, the “software” designed by teachers affects the use of these new media more than the hardware itself (Sarfo, 2007; learningpost, 2006).  The result of this study will advise school administrators and decision-makers in education to motivate teachers by addressing their needs.  As mentioned in Osborn School Board Association webpage on Motivating Teachers to Improve Instruction, Frase in his study identified two sets of factors that affect teachers’ ability to perform effectively.  These are work context factors (the teaching environment, and work content factors (teaching).  The work context factors include working conditions such as class size, discipline conditions, and availability of teaching materials; the quality of the principal’s supervision; and basic psychological needs such as money, status, and security.  The work content factors include opportunities for professional development, recognition, challenging and varied work, increased responsibility, achievement, empowerment, and authorityFurther, teachers themselves will be kindled by the full weight of their responsibility over using technology as tool for quality teaching and learning.  According to Peralta (2007), teachers use ICT without full understanding of the learning principles, and that they know how to use the computer but not in the classroom with their pupils.  This somehow has to change.    Furthermore, teacher education schools have to prepare in-coming teachers of the important learning principles of ICT and how to integrate it in their teaching.
Analysis
            Methodology
            The authors carried out a Pearson correlation to find out whether the factors in the model had a positive or negative influence on teachers’ classroom media use. 
            Scope of the Study
            The data were collected from 52 teachers in vocational training schools in Switzerlandand Austria.  The average age of the teachers was 48 years, ranging from 36 years to 62 years.
            Instrument of the Study
            An online questionnaire which comprised of 31 closed and open ended-questions was used.  The teachers rated the questionnaire items on a four-Likert scale. For the variable “Use of new Media in classrooms”, this determined the actual use of different new media teaching in classrooms, as such simulations, computer games, office, and internet programs.  The scale “constructivist teaching style” analysed the extent to which teachers used pupil-centered, constructivist teaching style.  The scale “willingness to cooperate” measured cooperative behaviour that teachers exhibited in school such as exchanging of teaching materials and discussing teaching goals and problems.  The scale “openness to change” addressed the willingness of teachers to change their teaching practices.  The scale “lack of time” indicated how much time they had available to prepare and research multimedia materials for lessons to make full use of ICT.  The scale “lack of ICT-competence” measured the extent to which teachers considered themselves ICT skilled.  For the exploratory investigation to identify the variables that best explain the dependent variable “Use of new Media in classrooms”, multiple regression test was used.
            Findings of the Study
1) Vocational training teachers mainly used traditional media in the classroom like worksheets and slides
 2) Teachers did not use chat, web logs and audio/video conferencing tools, computer games, training tools, programming tools and newsgroups
3) Teachers used computer programmes more often for private basis
4) All independent variables show statistically significant correlation with the dependent variable “Use of new Media in classroom”, hence the two hypothesis were accepted
5) Among the six independent variables, “constructivist teaching style” and “lack of time” showed the best explanatory value.
            The use of online questionnaire is fresh and smart.  It is modern, economical, and time saving.  It allows researchers to broaden its research scope in terms of number and variation of participants, as well as geographical location.  On the other hand, the researcher may not have a visual feel of the location and interaction with the participants.  In some cases the researcher’s observations of the place and people could be a contributory factor to the findings of the study. 
            The participants’ age and gender were not considered well. The age of the participants was fairly old.  Jenningsand Onwuegbuzie, 2001 as mentioned in the study of Su Luan (2005), cited that younger age has been found to be associated with more positive attitudes towards ICT.  Of the 52 teacher participants 5 were females and 47 were males.  According to the same study by Su Luan, et al, competencies of women in certain ICT aspects have surpassed those possessed by men.
            The statistical tools used in the study such as Pearson r, Likert scale, and multiple regression test were appropriate to achieve the goal of the study.
Summary
            In synthesis, this study is substantial.  Teachers both new and old need to be re-educated with this new innovation.  The success of the use of these new media in the classroom depends largely on teachers who must make it work. It is therefore important to understand how they react to these new media such as ICT.  It is also important to know what role the school administrators, policy makers, parents, and other decision-makers in education play in preparing teachers for this enormous task.
Reference
Sarfo, Frederick Kwaku (2007).  The Views of Educational Practitioners in Ghanaon ICT Use and Instructional Design Practice for Promoting Quality Education.  Seventh IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies copyright 2007.
learningpost@bangkokpost.co.th . Hiking the e-trail. The Post   PublishingPublic Co., Ltd.  Last modified: May 29, 2006
Osborn School Board Associations. Motivating Teachers to Improve Instruction.  Retrieved on September 29, 2008 from http://www.osba.org/lrelatns/teacherq/motivate.htm
M Motivating Teachers to Improve
Peralta H., Costa F.  Teacher’s Competence and Confidence regarding the use of ICT.  Retrieved on September 29, 2008 from http://sisifo.fpce.ul.pt/pdfs/sisifo03ENGa06.pdf
Luan W., et al. Gender Differences in ICT Competencies among Academicians at
Universiti Putra Malaysia.  Retrieved on September 29, 2008 from http://pppjj.usm.my/mojit/articles/pdf/Dec05/08%20-%20Gender_differences%5B1%5D-final.pdf

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