March 2002, Vol.7, No.1

A Series of Brief Reports

RESEARCH IN ONTARIO
SECONDARY SCHOOLS


The Integration of ICT into Classroom Teaching
By Scott Reid

Introduction

            The use of information and communication technology (ICT) such as Internet applications, CD-ROMs, video technology and various computer attachments and software programs have caused many changes in society. These changes have not just been of a technical nature but more importantly of a structural nature. Many of the major institutions of our society have changed and the way we live our daily lives have been impacted. However, the impact on education may just beginning to be felt as teachers integrate this new technology into their teaching. In the early stages of the use of ICT in teaching, looking at the experiences of teachers at a high school in the forefront provides some clues as to what possibilities and problems may be presented with this new technology. The purpose of this study is to answer the following research questions: 1) How does the use of ICT change the work of teachers?, and 2) What problems or concerns do teachers identify in relation to the introduction of ICT?

Methods

            A qualitative case study research method was chosen because it would provide thick and rich descriptions of how these changes are being experienced by teachers. In the early stages of the use of a new technology it is useful to use a open ended research method which allows unexpected findings to emerge that might otherwise be missed. The school has 38 teachers and offers grade 10-12 to 650 students. With the permission of the School Board and Principal, a written request to conduct interviews were made directly to all teachers at the school. Thirteen teachers, from various subject areas, responded to the request and interviews were conducted in person at the school at a time suitable to the participants. The semi-structured interviews lasted from 45 minutes to one hour. All interviews were transcribed verbatim by the researcher, then coded by categories used in the interview protocols and other categories which were added as a result of information raised during the interviews.

Findings

Changing Teaching


            Teachers could give many different and specific examples of how technology had changed their work. A number of things were being done with Web sites, from giving students notes which one teacher described as a "low end thing," to getting students to create their own Web pages. One teacher was using a Web site to enhance an actual field trip. The Web site introduces students to the animals and tells them what they are going to be doing while on the field trip. It shows them techniques they can use to analyze the ecosystem and record the data. The prior preparation through the Web site helps students benefit from the actual field trip.

            Several teachers mentioned that they used Power Point and other computer programs to improve their presentation of material to class. Teachers explained that technology enabled teachers to deliver more material to students and it also eliminated several basic problems such as; poor hand writing, poor artistic skill, contrast, lighting, and visibility. Another teacher makes extensive use of software programs to help teach physics. The students go into the laboratory and collect their data using the computer. Then they use word processing programs along with Excel to do graphs and presentations. The software allows the students to collect different kinds of data using various attachments that are plugged into the computer. Using computer technology, students have more time to explore beyond the mechanics of counting dots and setting up the experiment. It actually lets them look at it and understand the concepts better. Another teacher made the point that resource-based teaching or resource-based learning is almost becoming "seamless, almost natural" in everything that teachers do because information is becoming easier to access.


Changing the Teaching / Learning Relationship


            Teachers reported that the relationship between teacher and learner is sometimes reversed with regards to information technology. Many teachers mentioned that they had students show them how to use technology. One teacher commented that when students could help teachers, it gave the students a big confidence boost. Some teachers went as far as to use terms like "co-learners" to describe the new relationship between teacher and student. Teachers also saw the potential for technology to be isolating and realized that classroom and other activities had to be arranged in a way that reduce the likelihood of isolation. Another point made, was that in some ways the use of new technology may be increasing socialization in some ways. People may be able to find someone who has interests similar to their own to converse with, through the Internet. One teacher put forth the idea that the use of technology in the classroom will mean the Arts and Music as areas where students interact, will increase in importance to increase socialization.


Administration and Expanding Professional Networks


            The use of information technology has changed school administration in several ways. One teacher explained that when she started teaching six years ago, it was not expected that teachers know how to type their own test. Now teachers are expected to know how to use word processors and have their tests done in a proper format. Several teachers noted that there is a move toward recording grades and attendance electronically. Teachers are expected to check their e-mail, and a lot of things that used to be done at a staff meeting are now done via e-mail. Also, e-mail is becoming an important communication tool between parents and teachers. In addition most of the teachers use e-mail to keep in touch with other teachers and friends.


Concerns Teachers have about the use of Technology


            While recognizing that there were some concerns and problems with integrating the use of information and communication technology, teachers thought it was beneficial to the educational process and should be continued. Several concerns emerged from the interviews.


Maintenance. The problem most often noted by teachers was the maintenance of the equipment needed to operate a technologically enhanced school.


Inequalities. Another frequently mentioned problem was the disparities between students who have access to computers at home and those who do not.


Need for training. Teachers provided evidence of the importance of the efforts in-school to promote professional development in integrating information technology into classroom teaching. The professional development days held and the flexible mentor type training available at the school was viewed as being very important by the teachers interviewed.


Information Overload. Teachers recognized that sometimes students are overwhelmed with the amount of information available and with the task of filtering through the information.


Pace of Change and Stress. Tachers have a hard time keeping up with the pace of change. One teacher said , "People are stressed. Families are stressed", and she felt this level of stress is being transferred to young students.


Plagiarism. One teacher raised the problem of increased plagiarism because technology was making it easy to reproduce and revise someone else's work. She said, "there is a lot of cutting and pasting going on."


Business Involvement. Another emerging issue, is the possible loss of control of the education process to business partners. Balancing the interests of these partners and that of the students might be an increasingly challenging role for administrators as business involvement in education becomes more common.


Teachers' Time. Teachers stated that information technology was placing more demands on their time. Teachers noted that extra time was needed to learn new software and also to create new things for teaching because greater expectations were being placed on them.

Discussion

            The use of ICT is changing teaching in several ways. With ICT, teachers are able to create their own material and thus have more control over the material used in the classroom than they have had in the past. Rather than deskilling teachers as some scholars claim, it seems that technology is requiring teachers to be more creative in customizing their own material. Also, using Web pages to enhance an activity demonstrates that technology can be used to complement other aspects of good teaching rather than replace them. It is evident that involving students in the creation of useful material as a part of a learning exercise is a way to make school more meaningful for students. While the use of Power Point presentations have been criticized by some, teachers at this school provide examples of how it helps them with their teaching. The use of peripheral devices on computers to help with physics experiments again shows how ICT can be used to aid the learning process and help students focus on higher level concepts rather than less meaningful tasks.

            The changes caused by the introduction of information technology into learning environments, are not without some potential problems which must be considered by administrators. The information from this school indicates that some fundamental rethinking of the education process may be necessary because of the use of ICT. This will also put pressure on the school system to restructure the way education is organized.



Further Reading

A more extensive report of this research has been published:
Reid, S. (2002). The integration of information and communication technology into classroom teaching, Alberta Journal of Educational Research. Vol. XLVIII, No.1.


Scott Reid is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Ottawa and his research interests include the integration of technology into teaching and human reaction to change. He can be contacted at: scottreid@yahoo.com .


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