There seems to be a growing consensus among researchers and practitioners in the educational arena that ICT is of great potential to bringing about changes in the field of education. Nevertheless, ICT tools, despite their abundance and ease of use and access, remain underused by many teachers. This being the case, this paper endeavors to shed light on some of the factors that stand in the way of an effective use of ICT tools in schools. Also, it draws on some recent models that have been proposed to address the factors in question in order to foreground some important teacher characteristics which appear to be necessary for effective use of ICT in education.
Keywords: ICT, education, affordance, teacher characteristics, CALL
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in relation to education has raised numerous questions recently and triggered a protracted line of research. Many researchers, for instance, focused on the reasoning behind the use of technology in educational settings (Sutherland, Robertson, and John, 2009) and many others focused on what hinders effective integration of ICT in educational settings (Ertmer, 2005; Tondeur, Devos, Van Houtte, van Braak, and Valcke, 2009; Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010). It follows that the prevalent belief among the academic community has always been that “computer-based technologies can be powerful pedagogical tools – not just rich sources of information, but extensions of human capabilities and contexts for social interactions.” (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000, p. 218). This view seems legitimate in view of the numerous affordances ICT offers to teachers. However, in most schools, for one reason or another, ICT is underused as a tool to promote one’s pedagogical practices.
In this paper, we will initially try set the ground by elaborating on the nature of ICT, its major affordances, and its past, present, and future. Subsequently, we will attempt, through a review of few relevant and recent studies, to shed light on some of the factors that affect ICT integration in schools. Finally, we will draw on some of the most pertinent models, e.g. TPCK, TAM, etc. in an attempt to define the necessary characteristics that enable teachers to integrate technology resources in their classrooms as a meaningful pedagogical tool. On a more general footing, the purpose behind this paper is to spotlight the major barriers that get in the way of effective ICT integration in schools, and by implication in the way of change for more effective teaching strategies; and, based on that, to bring together certain theoretical models that have been designed to assist practitioners surmount those barriers.
Setting the Ground
In order to set the scene for a discussion of the barriers hindering ICT integration in educational setting and the necessary characteristics which are assumed to help practitioners get over these barriers, we need first to understand the nature and the evolution of these, most of the time, alien species (Zhao & Frank, 2003). Thus, this section is intended to give a brief overview of the scope of ICT in relation to education, its origin, current status and future directions, in addition to some of the affordances it proffers for both teachers and learners.
The nature and scope of ICT in education
Information Technology Communication is defined as “the convergence of audio- visual, telephone and computer networks through a link system. It is a combination of all these elements, capped by a vision on how technology can help an organization to reach its goals.” (Yekini, 2014, iii) Thus defined, ICT will accordingly be a tool which serves educational institutions reach their goals in offering effective and high-level education to their learners. ICT is said to stress “the role of unified communications and the integration of telecommunications, computers as well as necessary enterprise software, middleware, storage, and audio-visual systems, which enable users to access, store, transmit, and manipulate information” (ibid, 11). This, as we shall see later, reflect a number of advantages of ICT when viewed from a pedagogical perspective.
When it comes to the scope of ICT in the field of education, it proves to be synonymous with what is known as e-learning (Patel, 2014). The latter is defined by Nichols (2003) as “the use of various technological tools that are either web-based, web-distributed or web-capable for the purpose of education” (p. 3, my emphasis). As far as this definition goes, the use of ICT in education then amount to the use of web-related tools to achieve educational goals. However, from a yet broader perspective it is viewed as “broadly inclusive of all forms of educational technology in learning and teaching” (Patel, 2014, p. 1). Generally, the aim behind the use of e-learning, according to Stockley (2003), are numerous, among which is “to provide training, educational or learning material in or out of the classroom” (p. 3).
Affordances of ICT in education
The term affordance may not seem rather familiar. In fact, it was first introduce by Gibson in (1986) to refer to what an environment can offer to an animal. On a more general footing, it is viewed as “a relation between an organism and an object with the object perceived in relation to the needs of the organism” (Hammond, 2009, p. 205). Accordingly, ICT is viewed in relation to what it has to offer to learners. ICT affordances, thus viewed, tum out to be numerous. Seemingly, the most significant of these affordances are the ones sketched out by Reinders and Hubbard (2013). They are summarized in the following chart:
Table 1: The potential advantages of CALL (adopted from Reinders and Hubbard (2013, p. 363))
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
In general terms, ICT affords learners the opportunity to access a masstve amount of information and activities, store it, and use it at their convenience. Also, it provides opportunities for interaction and feedback which are essential for learning
Most, if not all, of the ICT affordances seem to be in line with the principles of the learner-centered approach, where the learners are viewed as active participants and in control of their own learning. It is palpable that ICT supports personalized learning by encouraging direct interaction among teachers and learners, and hence teachers have better chances of following learners' levels of development more closely. Also, as one of the most fundamental principles of the learner-centered approach, ICT allows for learning to take place anytime and anywhere through web-based activities students can carry out outside the classroom. Last but not least, technology-enriched learning is typically competency-based. That is, learners are intended to develop skills and competencies in and through their learning. This is oftentimes actualized through project-based learning wherein learners learn by means of exploring issues through working on projects and doing research.
ICT in education: past, present and future
It is not an easy task to trace the development of ICT in its own right, let alone establishing a comprehensive historical account to its development in relation to the field of education. The complexity of tracking down this relationship is expressed by Davies, Otto, and Rüschoff (2013) as they state that “while the evolution of computer technology can be described in a relatively linear and organized fashion, SLA and language pedagogy have developed as a disorganized, multipronged and often contradictory collection of notions and practices” (p. 19). Nevertheless, different researchers have attempted to sketch this development from different angles.
Davies et al. (2013) endeavored to trace the history of ICT in relation to language instruction (what is referred to as CALL, computer-assisted language learning). Early development of CALL is accordingly traced back to the early sixties when many programs emerged in the United States aiming to enhance language teaching in terms of the language curriculum and activities, which were in the main based on the audiolingual principles. During the seventies, technology witnessed momentous advances, especially that new software was developed, entailing substantial changes in educational practices. The eighties were marked by the advent of the first affordable microcomputers and their introduction in many schools. Language instruction was starting to depart slightly from the audiolingual paradigm towards a communicative approach; thus, technologies were taken as a tool to support this current tendency. In the nineties, there emerged what Warschauer and Healey (1998) called integrative CALL. The latter refers to the phase when multimedia internet became popular. These have constituted a repudiation of the audiolingual techniques and a slight deviation from the cognitive view of the communicative approach towards a view “which placed greater emphasis on language use in authentic social contexts” (ibid, p. 58).
The turn of the twenty first century was marked by a breakthrough in the advancement of technology, namely the inception of Web 2.0. The latter has been seen as “a social platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing and networking” (Davies et al., 2013, p. 32). It has allowed learners to actively interact, share information, and access different sources of knowledge. From another perspective, at the current stage, ICT in education has embraced what Bax (2003) terms Open CALL. That is, current development in ICT has allowed for more open and genuine communication, and simultaneously for more open attitudes towards the use of ICT tools.
Based on this linear evolution of ICT in educational setting, researchers could make prediction of what might potentially come next. As a case in point, Bracey and Culver (2005) predicted that “in the future […] new technologies will be used to create resources for those with the old technologies using the newest wave of innovation” (p. 4). That is, due to the ICT’s omnipotence, it is expected to invade all educational settings, with no exception. In the same vein, Bax (2000) sets as a future goal for ICT what he calls ICT ‘normalisation’. He states:
Such an approach—already part of much good practice in using ICT in the language class—assumes a ‘normalisation’, in which teachers and learners treat the technology as merely one of the many learning resources available. It also assumes that the teacher not only has a wide familiarity with available resources but also knows the limitations inherent in the technology, what it can do and what it cannot do, and knows to direct learner activities towards it or away from it at the right times. (p. 202)
In this approach, ICT is seen as a normal routine which teachers use with no reserve whatsoever. This will naturally direct us to ask the following legitimate questions: have we really been heading there? Aren’t there any bumps in the road? These questions, among others, will be the concern of the subsequent section.