Integration or Transformation?

A cross-national study of information and communication technology in school education

 

Abstract

 

Glossary and acronyms

4: Results

1: Introduction and the research problem

5: Discussion

2: Literature review

References

3: Research design and methodology

Appendices

 

Chapter 4.                  Results

4.1         Introduction

The results presented in this chapter comprise the findings from the three types of data source: policy documents, expert panel and school case studies.  Presenting the data as country-level case studies was rejected since this approach would have delayed the cross-case comparisons so vital in issue analysis. Therefore the data are presented by research question, integrating the data from the different types of source through triangulation (Smith, 1975, pp. 271-276). This technique uses multiple methods to investigate a single phenomenon but was limited in this case to a single observer, and therefore was potentially subject to ethnocentric bias. However, the design of the study overcame this difficulty by obtaining data from several different countries.

 

As described in the methodology chapter, a number of experts were interviewed in the sample countries. These interviews with expert panel members were examined using issues analysis since the time available did not permit a full coding for software such as NVivo or NUDIST. The first scan of the material sorted it into categories related to the research questions, with subsequent scans identifying groups of issues within each of these categories. These were analysed using the procedure of constant comparison (Glasser & Strauss, 1967, p.104). For ease of reading, references to specific sections of expert panel interviews have been coded in this chapter. Thus TE186 refers to the 186th interaction in the interview with expert panel member TE.

 

The school case studies were drawn from the sample countries and Australia. The Australian case studies were included to widen the scope and range of information available. Students in the case study schools were mixed in gender and ranged from six to eighteen years of age. The smallest school had an enrolment of 430 students (Pärnu Nüdupargi Gùmnaasium, Estonia) while the largest had 1839 (South Eugene High, USA). Generalisation through time-series analysis was not possible as each school was visited only once, but cross-case comparison analysis was performed using the pattern matching technique (Burns, 1997, p. 378). Since each case study used the same basic format, this allowed information to be drawn from each case in a systematic way which permitted comparisons to be drawn and patterns between the cases to be identified. This was combined with explanation building (Burns, 1997, p. 379) to iteratively determine current and emergent practices.

 

 

4.2         The nature of policies for ICT in school education (RQ1a)

In 1999 the countries had diverse backgrounds (Appendix 6.11). Estonia had declared unilateral independence from Russia in 1991 through a ‘singing revolution’ (see Appendix 6.8), and was in a process of transformation. The country was rapidly increasing the use of computers in school by means of two main projects. The first (named ‘Tiger Leap’) was internally funded, distributed hardware to schools and promoted its curriculum uses. The second (PHARE-ISE) was externally funded by the European Union and was principally concerned with ICT-based administration systems for schools. There were areas common to both projects, such as the preparation of digital curriculum materials.

 

England had changed to a Labour government after 18 years of Conservative rule in 1997, and was implementing many changes in education and other policy areas. The situation was dominated by the National Curriculum and a more recent targeted training program for teacher ICT skills funded through the new National Lottery (New Opportunities Fund, 2002).

 

The USA was the world leader in gross domestic product and GDP per capita.  The Federal government had quadrupled its normal funding levels to selectively increase the use of computers in schools. National, long-range policy for ICT in education was expressed in The Technology Literacy Challenge which considered computers as the ‘new basic’ (Office of Educational Technology, 1996). One of the targeted grants programs devised in support of this selective policy was Preparing tomorrow’s teachers to use technology  (Department of Education, 1999), which contributed US$1.5M of the US$4M required to write standards for evaluation of student and teacher ICT use (DM107).

 

4.2.1      Teacher ICT skills policies

4.2.1.1  Rationale and status of national teacher ICT skills policies

The principal policies for teacher ICT skills in the three countries were as follows:

·      Estonian skills requirements for teachers (Appendix 6.8.5)

·      Annex B of Circular 4/98: Requirements for courses of initial teacher training (Department for Education and Employment, UK, 1998)

·      ISTE Recommended foundations in technology for all teachers (International Society for Technology in Education, 1996) [USA].

 

Using the process for content analysis outlined in Burns (1997, pp. 338-342) the documents were coded to identify themes, content and meaning. Summaries of categories were made for each document, which were then compared. The first clear finding related to the rationale and status of each policy document. These are shown in Table 8, and an example of the coding from which it derives is given in the Appendix, section 6.12.

 

Table 8: Status and rationale of teacher ICT skills policy documents

 

Estonia

England

USA

Rationale for ICT in education

Social
Economic

Pedagogic

None stated

Status of teacher ICT skills policies

Mandatory

Mandatory

Advisory requirements for NCATE approved institutions

 

The reasons for the discrepancies between the rationales and statuses of the policy documents lie in the governance structures and recent histories of the sample countries. In Estonia, the relatively recent advent of democracy was the justification for an equal emphasis on the social and economic rationales (Appendix 6.8; Hawkridge, 1989). This was demonstrated by linkage to national ICT policy, which was considered of the utmost importance: “Information policy is an integral part of public policy” (Estonian Informatics Centre, 1997, para. 1) and was perceived as a guide to the “creation of an information society”. ICT had the capacity to eliminate barriers to equality by delivering services to everyone irrespective of location and was therefore expected to “promote and ensure democracy in the Republic of Estonia” (para. 9) and would have an important role in “sustainable economic development” (para. 19.1). The educational aspect of this policy provided professional development to teachers and computer equipment for schools through the Tiger Leap Project (1999), giving them operational computer training equivalent to the ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence), in line with the mandatory requirement to have these skills. Thus the social rationale was the emphasis in Estonia. Hope for ICT enabling change in society was tempered by a rigid curriculum based upon highly defined time allocations for each subject (EM46). The constraints of a curriculum established prior to ICT were seen as a barrier to adoption, as in other countries (NM6; DM4). There was particular evidence of students being restricted in their use of ICT in the last years of secondary schooling because of the pressure to study for terminal examinations (MR133; TE54).

 

By comparison, the rationale and status of the teacher ICT skills policy in England is starkly different. The policy is expressed in the form of a Circular from the Department for Education and Employment to all initial teacher training institutions. The language used is direct, with the word ‘must’ in five of the six introductory sentences. The rationale is clearly pedagogic, which would be expected to appeal to the audience: “ICT is more than just another teaching tool. Its potential for improving the quality and standards of pupils’ education is significant” (Department for Education and Employment, UK, 1998).  The analysis of the policy is shown in Appendix 6.12.1. This pedagogical rationale derived from the concept of differentiation, where ICT is used to allow students to progress at their own individual rates through learning material (BM21). IT was made a core subject alongside literacy, numeracy, religious education and science (MR125).

 

In the USA, the rationale for ICT in the national plan was shrouded in phrases such as “for the purpose of achieving excellence among our students” (Office of Educational Technology, 1996), which blends the pedagogic and economic rationales indecipherably together. Jarboe (2001) makes it clear that the shift to a knowledge economy was considered a vital national transition, and therefore much of the rhetoric associated with the educational documentation needs to be considered in that light. Although no specific rationale is stated in the policy for teacher ICT skills, the introduction to the national plan is replete with rhetoric such as “if we help all of our children to become technologically literate, we will give a generation of young people the skills they need to enter this new knowledge- and information-driven economy” (Office of Educational Technology, 1996). It is therefore reasonable to deduce that the emphasis in the USA was on the economic rationale.

 

The expert panel evidence made it necessary to separate the economic rationale into two very distinct areas, one pertaining to all general employment, and the other specifically related to the production of ICT products and services. The first area related to the benefit accruing to individuals in their working lives from ICT skills learned at school (MR53, 65, 69; TE68). “It would be a feature of mass employment” (NM50). The general employment area was also linked to school subjects where ICT was integral to the subject matter, such as CAD/CAM (MR11). However, there were elements of the curriculum which related specifically to ICT products and services, such as micro-electronics and control technology. This hardware aspect of ICT, was unique to the English national curriculum and was compulsory for all students. It related to the other area of the economic rationale where national prosperity hinged upon competition in the global market for ICT-related intellectual property (MR31, 61; NM53-56). There was little evidence of this second area of the economic rationale having justified itself, possibly having been in operation for too short a time (MR127).

 

The three sample countries therefore displayed the three rationales for ICT in education quite clearly, with a social emphasis in Estonia, a pedagogic focus in England, and a probable economic stress in the USA. The pedagogical rationale was referred to by experts from all the sample countries (DM76; BM21; EM59). The question of the technology trajectory (Bijker & Law, 1992) or the role of ICT as ‘driver’ or ‘tool’ (Venezky & Davis, 2002, p. 31) can be examined in the light of these rationales. The social and pedagogical rationales align with the use of ICT as a tool for already defined purposes, which would therefore indicate an integrative approach in education. The economic rationale accepts the necessity to adopt ICT as a driver for change, and therefore points to a transformative approach.

 

An important understanding associated with general policies for ICT in school education was the need to update them on a regular basis (DM46). None of the sample countries had institutionalised such a revision cycle, although England had in practice done so every five years (BM89). There was evidence of a contradiction between policies in England, where a popular emphasis on ‘the basics’ (of literacy and numeracy) with mandatory allocated class time and a whole-class teaching philosophy were contrary to the differentiation approach inherent in the pedagogical rationale for ICT integration (BM 143).

 

 

4.2.1.2  Contents of national teacher ICT skills policies

In the body of the policy documents, expectations of teacher ICT knowledge, skills and attitudes were expressed in detail. Three categories of these attributes emerged from the content analysis:

·      Those relating to the personal operation of a computer system by a teacher: the personal operational ICT skills

·      Those relating to student use of computer systems for learning under the direction of a teacher: the teacher ICT instructional fields.

·      Those relating to the context of computer systems in education: the pedagogical ICT skills.

Each of these three categories is cross-nationally compared in the following sections.

 

 

4.2.1.2.1   Teacher personal operational ICT skills in national policies

The first of these categories was analysed with respect to explicit mention of particular teacher knowledge, skills and attitudes. A number of sub-categories was identified and the incidence of these is tabulated in Table 9.

 

Table 9: Teacher personal operational ICT skills

Skills, knowledge and attitudes of the teacher in respect of personal operation of a computer

Estonia

England

USA

Operational

[eg. operate a multimedia computer system using correct terminology]

Publishing

[eg. word processing, desktop publishing, multimedia presentations]

Communicating

[eg. e-mail, audio/video conferencing]

Researching

[eg. access information, data collection, information management]

Problem Solving

[eg. decision-making, spreadsheet applications]

Independent learning

[eg. identify computer and related technology resources for facilitating lifelong learning (USA)]



Social impacts of ICT

[eg. demonstrate knowledge of uses of computers and technology in business, industry, and society]

Occupational health and safety with ICT

[eg. is aware of the‑dangers of using ICT‑to his/her health, social and mental development]

Legal & Intellectual property aspects of ICT
[eg. demonstrate knowledge of equity, ethics, legal and human issues concerning use of computers]

 

The data show there was a strong similarity between the sample countries in terms of what they wanted teachers to know and be able to do for themselves using ICT. There was explicit mention of particular skills such as “using menus, selecting and swapping between applications” (Department for Education and Employment, UK, 1998). Some differences between countries were noted in the area of independent learning where reference was made to the use of ICT for “lifelong learning” (USA) and to improving “their own professional efficiency and to reduce administrative and bureaucratic burdens, including … how ICT can support them in their continuing professional development” (England). This indicates some tension within this category.

 

 

4.2.1.2.2   Teacher ICT instructional fields in national policies

The second analysis category related to teacher skills when applying ICT in the learning process. These sections of policy documents described the teacher skills required for the application of ICT to support instruction at each grade level and in subject areas. The policy documents indicate that the teacher is expected to instruct students to use computers in particular ways and that they should be taught particular knowledge related to ICT.  The explicit incidence matrix of these ways and knowledge is given in Table 10.

 

Table 10: Teacher ICT instructional fields

How teachers should instruct students to use computers and the ICT-related knowledge they should be taught

Estonia

England

USA

Operational

Publishing

Communicating

Researching

 

Problem Solving

Independent Learning

 
create materials for student independent work

 diagnosis, ILS, online learning

Social impacts of ICT

Occupational Health and Safety with ICT

Legal & Intellectual property aspects of ICT

 

In this category the incidence matrix is far sparser. There are two possible explanations for this. One explanation might be that these skills are to be found in a complementary policy describing the ICT-related skills students should acquire. Another explanation is that the teacher is expected to inculcate his/her own personal and professional ICT skills, knowledge and attitudes (from the previous category in Table 9) into students. It can be argued that this is not an appropriate view by giving a short example. A teacher may be personally proficient with a word processor and able to use all its functions. A most important function is the ease with which text can be invisibly edited. However, the pedagogical implications of this provisional nature of information using ICT are not immediately transferable to supporting the curriculum. Therefore the pedagogical skills required of the teacher instructing students through the use of a word processor go far beyond the mechanical operational level of word processor function. This implies a need for teacher ICT skills policies to relate closely to student ICT skills policies, a requirement not present in those examined here.

 

 

4.2.1.2.3   Teacher pedagogical ICT skills in national policies

The final category in the analysis of these teacher ICT skills policies related to the general context and management of computer systems in school education. This generated just four sub-categories. The incidence matrix for these is in Table 11.

 

Table 11: Teacher pedagogical ICT skills

Teacher skills

Estonia

England

USA

Evaluation of digital content

Pedagogy

 
group work

 
Decide using 4 criteria when and when not to use ICT for teaching. Know how to use ICT for students with special educational needs

Apply

computers and related technologies to support instruction in their grade

level and subject areas... awareness of resources for adaptive-assistive devices for students with special needs.

Planning

Infrastructure

 

 
set up simple ICT devices


use and troubleshoot peripherals

 

The important issue of appropriate pedagogy is addressed in all three documents, but there was no uniform approach across the three sample countries. Teachers in Estonia are expected to know “the principles and methods of ICT-based active- [activity?] and project [-based?] learning”. In England, there is an explicit focus on the need for teachers to “make sound decisions about when, when not, and how to use ICT effectively in teaching particular subjects”. This aligns with the focus of the English policy, which prioritises improved subject teaching over ICT application. By contrast, in the USA teachers are expected to “apply computers and related technologies to support instruction in their grade level and subject areas”. Despite this lack of uniformity about pedagogical approaches, the policies assume and support integration of ICT into current classroom practice, with the intention that ICT be used to support the existing curriculum. This confirms the finding of the literature review about the current policy focus on integration.

 

 

4.2.1.3  School level ICT policies

School ICT coordinators appeared to play a significant and sometimes dominant role in formulating school-level ICT policy. At Pärnu Nüdupargi Gùmnaasium (Estonia), a single teacher was held responsible for devising the ICT integration curriculum which was subsequently followed by the rest of the staff. Since this was done without reference to external advice, there was a risk the curriculum would be out of step with local community or national norms, but this was not evident at the time of the case study. Tadcaster Grammar in England represented the opposite extreme, with school ICT policy developed by an inter-departmental working party informed by the national curriculum requirements. This combination had extensively documented policy expectations and implementation strategies so that ICT was integrated into all subjects and student progress was monitored extensively.

 

Given these extremes, the role of the ICT coordinator can be examined in greater detail. The Estonian example above illustrates how a single change agent can be instrumental in assisting the diffusion of an innovation. However, in South Eugene High, it was clear that the change-agent role could also become one of gate-keeper. This was evident from the way in which the researcher’s initial enquiry about ICT policy was interpreted as a question about Internet safety.

 

School ICT policy also needs to be considered in the context of other policies to which the school is held accountable. In the sample countries there was a variety of national, regional and local policy formation mechanisms of which teachers were aware. BJ (South Eugene High, USA) perceived the school response to these policy sources as strictly proportional to their funding contributions. Therefore the national (NETS) standards were not known about or used in the school since federal/top-level government did not make a significantly large contribution. By contrast, the Certificate of Initial Mastery and College entrance tests were important instruments governing the way the school was run. Additionally, the teachers in nearby Theodore Roosevelt Middle (USA) felt ‘burned out’ by the continuing stream of policies in almost every area. This was echoed in Winthrop Primary (Australia) where the Curriculum Improvement Program had supplanted ICT as the funding and priority focus.

 

4.2.2      Student ICT skills policies

The principal policy documents used for this analysis were as follows:

·      Estonian skills requirements for students (see Appendix 6.8.6)

·      The three versions of the National Curriculum (HMSO, 1990; Department for Education, 1995 and Qualifications and Curriculum Authority [QCA], 1999)

·      National Educational Technology Standards for Students (International Society for Technology in Education, 1998)

The content analysis of the policy documents was conducted as before (Burns, 1997, pp. 338-342). The student ICT skill policies were similar to those for teacher ICT skills, therefore the sub-categories generated are similar, but not identical. There were many areas of commonality between the countries, as shown in Table 12.

 

Table 12: Analysis of student ICT skills policy documents

 

Estonia

England

USA

Status

Passing subject (not optional) for school leavers

Mandatory foundation subject at all ages

Advisory for all ages

Rationale

Economic, social and ethical

Performance comparison

Parental, economic, social, national leaders

Curriculum application

Single subject

Cross curriculum

Cross curriculum

Age level

School leavers

All ages

All ages

Operational skills and ICT vocabulary

Graphical interface, filing systems


information as text, images & sound

Social, ethical, moral and legal issues

Publishing and creativity

Research and organisation of information

Communication

Problem solving and predictive simulations

Statistical analysis

Independent Learning

Critical discrimination of digital resources

Use micro-electronics for monitoring  and control

Create ICT systems for others to use

 

Given the close similarity between student ICT frameworks for these countries (and others, see Table 33 in the Appendix), the following analysis concentrates on the aspects which make each one different. The Estonian student ICT skills policy was unlike the others because it focused upon ICT as a separate subject and was restricted to school leavers rather than students in all years of schooling. The only explicit mention of problem solving skills was in respect of statistical analysis.

 

The National Curriculum in England had evolved through three versions in which ICT was initially a component of the Design and Technology subject expressed as a capability to be developed through a range of curriculum activities. It then became a subject in its own right, and finally in the 2000 version, a non-core foundation subject as well as a general teaching requirement in all other subjects (the other general requirements covered inclusion, occupational health and safety and [English] language [/literacy]). A particular feature of this student ICT skills policy was the emphasis on micro-electronics and robotics applications at all ages, and the opportunity for students to create ICT systems for others to use.

 

The unique element of the policy in the USA was the inclusion of ICT for independent learning. This incorporated “use of technology resources for self-directed learning” (Grades 3-5) and the “evaluation of technology-based options including distance and distributed education, for lifelong learning” (Grades 9-12). Independent learning represented an interesting exception to the homogeneity found in most other respects.  Although expert panel member DM had suggested some people involved in the framework project in the USA accepted the potential for ICT to support independent learning by using the computer as a tutor, the majority had opted for agreement at a lower level which did not have industrial implications or threaten teacher’s jobs.  Similarly, BM in the UK had pointed out the conflict between whole-class instruction policies for “the three Rs” and those policies for ICT which promoted differentiation to make learning student-centred (BM143).

 

When comparing the student ICT frameworks with the teacher skills relating to student use of ICT (Table 10), there is very little similarity between the two sets of results. This lack of alignment varied from country to country, but was an important feature of the data.

 

 

4.3         The development of policies for ICT in school education (RQ1b)

The evidence from the expert panel points directly to a four-stage process for policy development and implementation. This process starts with inspiration which is turned into a vision through policy development. The vision has to pass the test of practical implementation in schools before problem areas are identified.

 

US vice-president Al Gore was mentioned as a source of inspiration for all the sample countries (BM21; TE72-74; DM36; Gore, 1994b). In the USA this source of inspiration answered the challenge of the ‘Nation at Risk’ report of 1983 which said that “if our educational system had been inflicted upon us by a foreign power we would have revolted against it” (DM3). Education had attracted political support in the 1990s (DM36), and ICT represented an important part of this attraction (KB155). ICT was also the focus of government modernisation programs (BM120-126) and “open government issues” (Estonian Informatics Centre, 1997). This concept of ‘openness’ was sometimes viewed as a way of disguising centralisation as devolution (MR101 & 113).

 

The vision emerging from this original inspiration was sometimes held back by traditional beliefs. The first drafts of the national curriculum in England were rejected by Ministers because it was said “there is not enough knowledge in this, there are not enough facts in this” (MR53). Similarly the ‘new’ 1997 curriculum in Estonia was still dominated by knowledge of facts (EM46) and the immutable allocations of classroom time for existing subjects (EM56). The vision of the curriculum planners for the first iteration of the national curriculum in England was unlikely to have been clear (KB105) since no IT teacher sat on the technology committee which crafted the ICT section (NM10). This committee and its successors found it expedient to confound the various rationales for ICT in school education, to solicit support from the widest political spectrum (NM50+56). There was tension between policy and practice as a result of this lack of clear vision (NM14-15), both at the level of ICT and at a broader level because the national curriculum subject writing groups did not inter-relate (MR19). This has left ICT in dispute as a discipline, because it is not clear if it is an organic whole, or a “bag of bits” (NM34). Some argued that ICT is more than the use of software packages, and is a capability learned by thinking critically about practical applications and using it to achieve learning outcomes for particular subjects (MR123).

 

The processes of implementation reflected this confused vision about the place of ICT in the school curriculum. Despite the general requirement that IT be taught across all curriculum areas (NM22; BM16; TE68), some schools provided separate ICT training sessions for all students since implementation was a school-based decision (KB83). This practice and climbing licensing costs had collapsed the range of software used by many students to generic office applications (KB107). The Stevenson report in England (The Independent ICT in Schools Commission, 1997) had emphasised the pedagogical rationale incorporated into the 2000 version of the national curriculum (NM114), but this had to be exemplified through schemes of work to translate it into a form teachers could understand and use (NM182). This articulation of policy into practical terms for implementation was also found in the USA where they were clearly aimed at integrating ICT into current practice, showing how the existing curriculum could be supported through the use of generic tools (DM82). NM argued that these exemplification materials were much more important to teachers than the policies themselves, and should have been presented in an attractive, disposable form, distributed together with the national curriculum requirements which should have been plain by comparison (NM192 & 204).

 

The experts were able to identify some significant problem areas associated with the processes of policy development and implementation. The lack of national coordination of many significant ICT projects for school education in England was cited (BM103 & 110) as a major concern. In Estonia, the most significant obstacle to ICT adoption was finding software in the local language (TE57 & 58). This persists for subject specific software but the suggestion to create an Estonian version of OpenOffice was taken up with “an Estonian spellchecker and hyphenation engine…ordered and paid for by the state” (TE59-60; Veenpere, 2002). The availability of online translation engines had been exploited by students to facilitate their foreign language homework (TE200).

 

This evidence about policy development and implementation stresses the importance of a clear vision for ICT in school education. This needs to emerge from cross-disciplinary and project coordination, and has to be effectively communicated to teachers in a way that corresponds with their existing knowledge. Since curriculum software used once a year and generic office packages which are used for many hours a day cost about the same, there is a significant resourcing barrier for subject teachers trying to adopt ICT. This barrier needs to be addressed through actions such as centralised government sponsored production of topic-specific materials or through copyright legislation to permit application rentals based on hours of use rather than operational copies available.

 

4.4         The relationship between government inputs and the use of computers in schools (RQ2)

In general, the expert panel identified government inputs to be curriculum frameworks, evaluation and targeted resources as the instruments by which school education was most influenced. There was mandatory curriculum inclusion of ICT in England (BM 8/10; NM4) and Estonia (TE68). This was also true at the state level in the USA, but the federal government had influenced the nature of this curriculum indirectly by sponsoring the non-profit organisation ‘International Society for Technology in Education’ (ISTE) to develop the national standards for teacher and student ICT skills that were subsequently adopted with minor variations by states and school districts (DM23). Various devices were used by the federal government to encourage this adoption, such as making targeted funding derived from socio-economic equity funds preferentially directed to ICT in line with the standards (DM4). Additional government inputs were in the form of government information published through a web-site (DM9; http://www.ed.gov/free/ Federal resources for educational excellence). The equivalent interconnecting resource in England was the National Grid for Learning (NM182; MR185; http://www.ngfl.gov.uk/) and in Estonia the Koolielu Teacher’s Net (http://www.opetaja.ee/).

 

Implementation of ICT-related curriculum frameworks was easier in primary schools because “the teachers have more time to use IT”, and it was argued that resources should therefore be directed preferentially to this sector (TE128). The other important influence government had on computer use in school education was through evaluation. An example was given where poor state-wide student performance on standardised tests of literacy and numeracy was successfully responded to by the installation of ICT in every classroom (DM76). However, there was a policy anomaly in England where student ICT skills themselves were not assessed through national testing, even though this was done in the other core curriculum areas of English, Mathematics and Science (KB89).

 

4.4.1      Resources and their disposition

The smallest number of students per computer was 4.5 (Applecross Senior High, Australia) whilst the largest number was an order of magnitude greater (Lyceum Descartes, Estonia). Across the case studies 15 percent to 95 percent of students had access to a computer at home. The comparison in Table 13 shows that in every case study school, home access to computers was higher than in school.

 

Table 13: Number of home computers for each school computer (by case)


Case Study

Number of student accessible computers at home for each computer at school

Theodore Roosevelt Middle School (USA)

5.7

South Eugene High School (USA)

13.3

Lyceum Descartes (Estonia)

6.7

Pärnu Nüdupargi Gùmnaasium (Estonia)

6.2

Tadcaster Grammar School (England)

6.7

Applecross Senior High School (Australia)

3.8

Winthrop Primary School (Australia)

5.8

 

With the comparative data expressed in this form, it becomes clear that the differences between cases are far smaller for this criterion than the order of magnitude differences between cases in respect of computer access inside school. In-school access was differentiated along the lines which could be predicted by national GDP, with schools in the USA having many more workstations available than schools in Estonia, in concurrence with the findings of Dodge (1998, Figure 3a). When the focus is switched to home computers, it can be seen that there are pro-rata many more of these in every case, whichever country the school is in. At the least, there are 3.8 home computers for every school computer (Applecross High, Australia). The figures for the Estonian schools (cases 3 and 4) are in the middle of the range. This shows a pattern across all countries, which might be extended beyond the sample schools themselves, provided the sample was not biased towards a particular socio-economic grouping. This result was generalised using published data on home computers for households with children or percentages of children with access to a computer at home. Using data from the literature review, the case studies and other published sources, the relevant figures are shown in Table 14.

 

Table 14: Extrapolation of home:school computer ratios

 

Estonia

England

USA

Australia

Students:computer (see Appendix 6.11)

28

7.7

6

12

Therefore: school computers per 1000 students

36

130

167

83

Fertility rate1

1.21

1.73

1.9

2.21

Households per 1000 students

826

578

526

452

Proportion of households with children which have a home computer2

 

 

70%

74%

Proportion of school children with access to a home computer3

17%

61%

 

 

Therefore: home computers per 1000 students

150

610

700

334

Therefore: home:school computer ratio

4.1

4.7

4.2

4.02

1  Globaledge, 2002; Siena Group, 1999   2 Lewin, 2001; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2000d   3 Case studies (Estonia); National Statistics, 2002, p.22

 

Many of the ICT coordinators were concerned with ICT infrastructure. The case studies illustrated two problematic resource issues. The first appeared on the surface to be simplistic, yet was not. This was the issue of bandwidth, and in particular the speed of the connection between the school, the Internet and other schools. The reported speeds varied from an ISDN line at 64kbps in Tadcaster Grammar (England) and Pärnu Nüdupargi Gùmnaasium (Estonia), to 1Mbps or better at Lyceum Descartes (Estonia) and Theodore Roosevelt Middle (USA). The supposition that more is better was not entirely valid, since student safety policies interfered with access to the bandwidth. Internet safety policies had resulted in the disabling of the internet protocol on many student workstations because they could not be constantly supervised by a responsible adult (South Eugene High, USA). This raises a question about the appropriate metric for judging the adequacy of such bandwidth; whether it should be measured per student capita, per workstation, or per TCP/IP enabled workstation.

 

The second infrastructure issue dealt with the disposition of computers around the school, with arguments for and against classroom and laboratory emphases. Winthrop Primary (Australia) had chosen an intermediate strategy by putting two computers in each classroom and a mini-hub of six further workstations to be shared between four classes. Other examples were at Applecross Senior High (Australia, Figure 24) and Theodore Roosevelt Middle (USA, Figure 11) where some teaching spaces had up to eight workstations. Where school computers were concentrated into laboratory teaching spaces, this was on the basis of providing whole-class instruction specifically on ICT. Some laboratories incorporated the design principles of dual seating positions for each student and a single focal/demonstration point for the teacher. The dual seating positions allows one for work on the computer, the other for group instruction and collaborative planning/conferencing. The single focal point allows the teacher to observe all student screens during the lesson, or to maintain eye contact with students while demonstrating. Compare Lyceum Descartes, Estonia (Figure 17) with Tadcaster Grammar, England (Figure 22).

 

4.4.2      Examples of practice

Stemming from this issue of workstation deployment came the more significant matters of the location of learning and the location of teaching. The integration of ICT into school education means this can no longer be taken to imply the classroom as a specific place where these activities coincide. The case study data were analysed in three ways to illustrate this point. Firstly, the data show how digital materials created within the school are becoming part of classroom practice; secondly, digital materials created outside the school are being incorporated into student learning; and finally, there is evidence of the increasing use of digital communications to link classroom-based student learning with external sites, including homes.

 

Examples of internally produced learning activities were the texts and crosswords used at Pärnu Nüdupargi Gùmnaasium (Estonia), the library of landform images and the information systems course on the intranet at Applecross Senior High (Australia). Each of these demonstrated an increase in differentiation, allowing students to proceed through the teacher-directed learning activities at their own rate.  Another way of promoting a degree of student autonomy was given by the use of a generic learning support package Studyworks to encapsulate mathematics lessons into independent learning modules at Lyceum Descartes (Estonia). This extended the idea of internally produced digital materials to a collaborative effort between teachers at many schools who produced self-study tutorials. Another example of multi-site collaboration was found at Theodore Roosevelt Middle (USA) where the students experienced a geometric mystery created by their predecessors before creating their own contribution to a globally accessible learning resource.

 

Externally produced learning activities included the downloaded graphics calculator tutorials and interactive mathematical activities referenced by HB at Applecross Senior High (Australia) and the Quizzard example from Winthrop Primary (Australia). In the USA, students were observed using commercial software such as ‘Age of Empires’ and accessing astronomy web-sites. Each of these examples showed a different teaching technique to integrate these published resources into classroom practice, sometimes with a teacher-produced worksheet as a scaffold for students. In this respect the externally created digital resources could be viewed in the same way as any other learning material brought into the classroom. However, students and teachers at the case study schools attested to the greater motivation for learning from inter-active materials and the increased learning attributed to interaction with off-site teachers or co-learners.

 

The e-mail based simulations observed at Lyceum Descartes (Estonia) were illustrative of the role of ICT-mediated communications. Attempting to correct an unbalanced ecology in the Gaia simulation, the decisions each student group made were collected centrally and matched with the model, facilitating collaboration and competition between several schools. Working collaboratively, the students at Applecross Senior High (Australia) were able to build their web-site on petroleum from school but to a greater extent, from home. ICT was expected to increase the role of the home at South Eugene High (USA) and Winthrop Primary (Australia) through third party commercial ventures or government projects. Applecross Senior High (Australia) made reference to Virtual Private Networking as a tool which was projected to incorporate student home computers into the school information management system. However, a major concern in many of the case study schools was that of the ‘digital divide’ (Knobel, Stone & Warschauer, 2002, p. 3) where local policy failed to integrate home computers because of the lack in some student’s homes. Even where this had been considered, the issue of compatible file-formats between home and school had been a barrier to development. There was evidence that online courses were being used to extend the number of optional subjects students could elect to take, and this study-mode was expected be a feature of education beyond school (Theodore Roosevelt Middle, USA). 

 

Eight of these eleven examples were the product of individual teachers working with their own classes. Very few examples of whole school involvement were found, but these individuals were obviously taken as exemplars since they were invited by their schools to be observed for this study. These individuals at the leading edge appeared to rely on intrinsic rewards for this work. HB at Applecross Senior High (Australia) said that personal altruism was the only motivating principle behind his personal integration of ICT into classroom practice. It therefore remains debatable as to how long that motivation will remain if unsustained by other factors supporting innovation diffusion.

 

 

4.5         Professional development (RQ3)

4.5.1      Objectives of teacher ICT training

Professional development was a form of government input separated out for special consideration in this analysis because of its importance. It was common to find that standards were initially written for pre-service teacher training (DM33; MR191) but the responsiveness of these institutions was perceived as too slow to meet systemic needs (EM1).  The standards were therefore transferred to the in-service context (KB21; DM34). The most important barrier to this transfer was the professional fears of teachers expected to work with students who know more about ICT than themselves (EM64 & 66; KB151) and university graduates could not meet the ICT skills standards for Year 8 students (DM 15 & 17). These professional fears were so significant that teachers chose not to use student-accessible workstations for developing personal ICT skills (TE184). In England ICT professional development was promoted to qualified teachers by advertising and linkage to career progression (MR195). The standards were published with teaching applications preceding personal ICT skills (MR211) to focus on subject teachers’ interests rather than the technology (MR239). Applying the differentiation philosophy to the process itself, a CD-ROM was produced to help teachers identify their personal ICT training needs (MR231; KB25-20; BM38) prior to booking courses provided through a competitive market (BM32 & 33). This was the country’s largest-ever professional development project (BM27), with top-level decisions in government allocating £230 million to it (BM27; KB57). The objectives of this training were confused, according to a major provider (BM36).

 

There was poor alignment between teacher ICT professional development standards and curriculum expectations for students. In the first part of this chapter it was shown that the modal incidence matrices for teachers and students were very different. In England it was very difficult to link professional development and pupil curriculum frameworks because they were the provinces of two different organisations (KB11), and consequently were not well matched (KB163). Professional development in Estonia was expected to drive curriculum change at the personal level of the teacher, since institutional change would take far too long (EM89). It could be argued that the confusion about training objectives stemmed from this mismatch between what teachers were taught and expected student outcomes. One expert put it as “the difference between ‘using ICT’ and ‘teaching IT capability’ ” (MR121). A similar confusion was observed in classes where students thought they were learning to use ICT but the teacher assumed they were learning subject topics through ICT (KB59). The distinction point where the technology vanishes into the background comes when individuals have mastery of the medium. Therefore the assessment of the English professional development project was done on the quality of teacher decision-making about when and when not, to use ICT (KB137), rather than classroom practice. It was argued that assessment could therefore only be done using authentic situations, not online drills (TE148).

 

 

4.5.2      Accountability and amount of ICT professional development

Accountability for professional development observed in the case-study schools showed a progression from it being considered a personal concern of each teacher, to an internal school matter and eventually a country-wide supported and mandated project. ICT professional development was considered a personal matter for each teacher in Theodore Roosevelt Middle (USA) for registration purposes, and also at Pärnu Nüdupargi Gùmnaasium (Estonia). This personal responsibility was similarly expected at South Eugene High (USA), but was internally supplemented by “a couple of seminars every year, trying to induce older teachers to come in and start experimenting” (BJ6). At Winthrop Primary (Australia) the principle of ‘just in time’ training was used to provide support within the school (SP28). Applecross Senior High (Australia) used a similar in-house process which was monitored by an annual staff skills survey. The school also participated in a systemic initiative providing notebook computers to teachers. These local/regional approaches were significantly different from the national training projects affecting Tadcaster Grammar (England) and Lyceum Descartes (Estonia). The English scheme focused strongly upon the integration of ICT into classroom practice, whilst the PHARE-ISE project in Estonia utilised external consultants to deliver software-specific training.

 

The cost of formal European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) accreditation was too high for Estonian teachers (TE138) but this was used as the framework for their forty-hour courses (http://www.tiigrihype.ee/eng/noukogu_otsused/otsus.html; EM1). In the USA more than twelve hours a year were deemed necessary to stay current with the operation of office packages (DM84) with 15-30 percent of state ICT funds allocated to such training for teachers (DM60).  Courses in England required teachers to already have these basic skills and access to defined levels of school equipment (BM26) before they could undertake subject-specific training for forty to fifty hours (BM44).

 

The source of training in the case-study schools appeared to be strongly linked with the amount expected and the source of funding support for this. Where very little ICT training (typically a day per year) was expected of each teacher it was a personal or local school matter. National schemes in England and Estonia provided far more training, but differed in their uniformity of availability. From comments made at several of the case-study schools, training was only gradually overcoming teacher apprehension about ICT (BJ6, SP62).

 

 

4.6         Stages of development (RQ4)

4.6.1      Current stages

The expert panel members reflected upon (then) current policy and implementation. There was a clear understanding from the expert panel that ICT was mainly being used to support the existing curriculum, and thus current practice was at best integrative. Some schools were only able to support limited student access to computers, and this was generally restricted to ICT-related study (Lyceum Descartes, Estonia). Elements of later stages were present, but the lack of access for the majority of students and staff on a uniform basis made it impossible to take this into account when assessing the development of the school as a whole. This was also the case at South Eugene High (USA) and Winthrop Primary (Australia) where student use of computers was limited to a very small range of subjects. In England many schools thought the aim of the IT curriculum was merely to “learn keyboard skills, how to use a word processor, how to enter stuff into a database, surely? Fascinating stuff (sarcastically)” (NM64). Teachers were “using computers in this case to try and make sure a greater proportion of the students reach the current benchmarks” (BM72). In the USA the current standards were considered “mundane” (DM20). Observation of local schools revealed practice of very doubtful value: “The kids used computers for instance for word processing, they could play games if they got other work done” (DM60). Such comments revealed the dissatisfaction members of the expert panel had for the prevailing state of affairs.

 

There were barriers to ICT adoption. In the USA, there was opposition to the concept of computers supporting independent learning: “The people who put NETS [National Educational Technology Standards] together on average are anti-computer supported instruction” (DM67).  In England accreditation was a barrier: “Examination boards deliberately legislate against the use of ICT. Even for course work for GCSE. It must be handwritten; you will not be allowed to submit desktop published material” (MR134). Key components of the policy, such as modelling, were difficult for schools to appreciate: “Nobody understood it” (NM72). Thus lack of widespread knowledge about the new ways of using ICT and system inertia were considered to be obstacles to innovation diffusion. Some teachers were “ostriches with their heads in the sand” with respect to ICT, and this was a considerable challenge for the ICT coordinator at Winthrop Primary (Australia): “I don’t water rocks” (SP62).

 

4.6.2      Future stages

The expert panel identified elements of current policy and practice which pointed towards the future. Some elements of the UK national curriculum could not be taught without a computer “computer aided design, computer aided manufacturing ... Things in our secondary Art where you look at people like David Hockney making extensive use of ICT” (KB195). Some schools had virtual classes with their learning materials online (KB199). Others had made sure 100 percent of students had home access to a computer, winning a national award in the process (MR144; Smithers, 2000). Internet links between home and school have the potential to replicate existing practice, or they could be used to transform educational processes (NM169). In Estonia new learning materials were being placed on the web (EM13) and were used to support distance education in biology because of the lack of specialist teachers (TE106 & 110).

 

There were factors the members of the expert panel considered important for future policy and implementation in this area. They saw the promulgation of ICT standards as a step on the road to “changing the purpose of education” (DM81). ICT changes the nature of student-teacher relationships (EM86). This is not the first time that popular understanding of the core school curriculum has changed, with ICT itself recently emerging as a completely new subject area (NM6). To put things into perspective, the subject ‘English’ has only been available at degree level for 150 years: students previously had a choice of ‘Greats’ or ‘Classics’ (NM154), and like IT, is often taught across the curriculum (MR164). The evidence that the experts saw transformation coming was reinforced by opinions from Estonia that they had skipped stages of development, such as Macintosh computers (seen as an unnecessary distraction) (TE13), and had gone straight to broadband wireless Internet connections (TE80; EM115) and Unix servers in schools (TE174).

 

There was commonality of expert evidence about the expectation that ICT will bring educational transformation and consensus about the difference computers makes to learning environments. “Kid plus machine is different than kid” (BM75; Perkins, 1993; BM79) which is justified by research findings showing computer-based tools can facilitate the learning of high-level concepts in mathematics (DM20). Further evidence of expected change came from emerging disciplines, such as computational chemistry in the Nobel Prizes (DM21) and the increasing prevalence of new knowledge emerging from multi-disciplinary teams facilitated by ICT use. This kind of blended discipline activity is supported in schools by using ICT as a “penetrating” subject (EM9; DM81). The considerable potential of significant change was illustrated by equating the computing power used in 1994 for national weather forecasting with modern desktop workstations (DM82), the implication being that students can now undertake computational tasks of this order, but are rarely given the opportunity to do so. Another example was given in the area of foreign languages where ICT could facilitate the understanding of dialects through direct conversation with native speakers (NM146). At Applecross Senior High (Australia) there was evidence of significant change to learning processes, primarily through the use of local and external digital materials which could also be accessed from student homes.

 

Where the use of ICT was more widespread, it was not always instrumental in effecting significant curriculum change. This would be applauded by those who see it as a ‘tool’ with its use limited to adding interest and motivation to the existing subject matter (Theodore Roosevelt Middle, USA and Pärnu Nüdupargi Gùmnaasium, Estonia). At Tadcaster Grammar (England) ICT was embedded in most subjects in meaningful ways, and these were bringing new areas of learning, impossible without computers, into the classroom for all students. However, there was a limitation in the variety of ways ICT was incorporated into any one subject area, and the process of teaching and learning was little changed.

 

4.6.3      The road to transformation

It was clear that local factors dominated in the case study schools. Where a national policy existed, this could take a long time to filter through to classroom practice, as in Theodore Roosevelt Middle (USA), unless there was particularly significant funding associated with it e.g. Tadcaster Grammar (England). The Office of the e-Envoy, part of the Cabinet Office, had provided 98 percent of schools with internet access (Office of the e-Envoy, 2002). However, school access to the internet provided by this scheme was not as available to students as in their own homes, with 7.7 students per computer in schools compared to 45 percent of households having access (National Statistics, 2002: 2002b). The growing importance of home access was reflected in the change of ICT professional development from a deficiency model funded by the national lottery (New Opportunities Fund, 2002) to the supply of laptops to teachers (National Grid for Learning, 2001; 2002).

 

This was not to imply significant work could not originate at the local level, and individual teachers did make a huge difference as change agents, such as DM & KF at Theodore Roosevelt Middle (USA), HB at Applecross Senior High (Australia) and VT at Pärnu Nüdupargi Gùmnaasium (Estonia). A common aspiration of these teachers who were transforming classroom practice through ICT was increased motivation and more autonomous learning for students. This was sometimes impeded from scaling to a school-wide basis by the very low number of computers available for student use, especially when compared to the home background. This access issue was compounded in some case study schools by laggard teachers who were reluctant to embrace the innovation (Rogers, 1995; SP62; BJ6). There was a difficulty of selection of digital materials for these and all teachers, who had to balance their understanding of in loco parentis when using the Internet to support independent learning strategies.  In USA schools the former consideration had resulted in the disabling of Internet connectivity on many school computers. The latter consideration had resulted in the ability of students to access learning materials from home being largely ignored.

 

4.7         Chapter summary

In this chapter the data have been presented. The following points have been made:

·      Curriculum approaches for students were strongly aligned with a stage of development which emphasised integration of ICT into the existing curriculum and current classroom practice, and that

·      These curriculum approaches tend towards an economic rationale for ICT in education when this policy is made subservient to national ‘knowledge economy’ policy.

·      Achievement of particular benchmarks of school infrastructure and teacher training is a focus of the policies; despite the fact that

·      These infrastructure benchmarks are already well exceeded in many students’ homes. Which makes it surprising that

·      Models of teacher professional development are only now beginning to include ‘ownership’ as a strategy to overcome significant barriers to innovation and adoption. An awareness of these barriers shows us that

·      ICT is being viewed increasingly as a ‘driver’ rather than a ‘tool’ in strategies for the creation of educational digital content, moving school education towards a transformative phase.

·      Current practice is mostly focused on integrating ICT into the existing curriculum, with a tendency for collapse to the use of generic office applications

·      There was a shared vision amongst the expert panel for ICT leading to transformation.

·      Teacher professional development to integrate ICT into classroom practice takes forty to fifty hours initially and more than twelve hours a year thereafter.

·      There was poor alignment between teacher training and student learning outcomes in the ICT area.

·      Student access to computers outside school and their acquisition of ICT skills outside school far outstrips what is done in the classroom.

·      Implementation is more strongly influenced by local factors than national policy.

·      Individual teachers play a strong role in determining the degree to which ICT is adopted in the classroom.

·      The ‘digital divide’ is rapidly shrinking, but few schools are publicly building on the home computers the majority of their students have access to.

·      Professional development for teachers is limited (except in England) and is often restricted to software operation or to personal or school sourced skills.

 

In the following chapter these findings will be analysed to answer the research questions. In discussion, the analysis is used to develop and refine a new model for describing stages of development for ICT in school education.