When barriers to ICT integration in schools are discussed, issues such as access, availability of content, relevance for a subject and computer skills are usually top-of-mind. In this paper, I would like to divert your attention to some intangible factors such as teacher attitude, beliefs and motivation that need to be addressed even before other factors are considered.
In support of my argument, here are some comments made by researchers:
“…ICT integration in education is (therefore) unlikely to succeed unless we understand teachers’ personal educational beliefs and their relationship with teaching practices” (Niederhauser & Stoddart, 2001) cited in Tondeur et al. (2008)
Researchers (Scrimshaw, 2004; van Braak et al., 2004) opine that even though the conditions for successful ICT integration finally appear to be in place – such as access to infrastructure, increased computer skills and sufficient computer training – the implementation of educational computer use has not yet reached a critical level, as cited in Tondeur et al. (2008). Ertmer, (2005) also suggests that additional barriers specifically related to teachers’ educational beliefs, might be at work, as cited in Tondeur et al (2008).
Ertmer (1999) referred to the barriers caused by teachers’ beliefs and attitudes concerning ICT, as second-order barriers. She highlighted that these need to be addressed before other external or first-order barriers are tackled. First-order barriers, such as the lack of access or training are more readily observed and more easily tackled, whereas second-order barriers may require major changes in daily routines and underlying beliefs about effective practice.
Belief in benefits of ICT in education
Many teachers themselves need to be convinced that integration of ICT into the classroom brings benefits. A benchmarking study surveying head teachers and class teachers was conducted in 2006 across 27 countries in Europe to benchmark the access and use of ICT in schools. This recent study indicated that 16% of teachers not using computers in the classroom believe that ICT offers “no or unclear benefits” to students. The study further indicates that there is a correlation between this skepticism and a lack of motivation to use ICT in the classroom with age/ no. of years of teaching experience. Further, a small proportion of teachers are just not interested at all in bringing computers into the classroom because of aversion to change.
A study conducted by Tondeur et al. among 574 primary school teachers in Belgium illustrates how the use of ICT is mediated by teachers’ beliefs about teaching and learning. The study profiles teachers according to their educational beliefs and links it to the type of computer use in the classroom. Based on the teachers’ beliefs, the study defines 4 profiles of teachers: Constructivist & Traditional, Constructivist, Traditional and an “Undefined profile”. The traditional teaching style is teacher-centered while constructivist teaching style is student centered allowing frequent and varied use of technology in the classroom. The table below summarizes the relationship between the teacher profile and reported classroom use of computers.
The authors recommend that teacher professional development must not make any overt attempts to change teachers’ educational beliefs or pressurize them to integrate ICT. The approach must be to showcase successful ICT integration and provide positive reinforcement and support. Older teachers deserve special attention and an orientation into benefits of ICT integration. Aversion to change has to be specially managed. Some schools have invested specifically in training in change management for teachers and school managers. (eg. Malaysia’s Smart School project).
Further, not all teachers are confident users of ICT and this affects the lesson conducted in the classroom.
The findings of Becta research (2003) of a sample of 170 teachers, listed “lack of confidence” as one of the key barriers to uptake of ICT in the classroom. Over 21% of the responses were related to confidence issues. The Becta literature review on ‘Barriers to uptake of ICT by teachers’ (2004) illustrates how there are close relationships between the barrier caused by a lack of teacher confidence and several other barriers such as lack of personal access to ICT, lack of competence or technical problems.
The ACM model (Access, Competence and Motivation Model proposed by Viherä and Nurmela, 2001) cited in pan-European benchmarking study can be used to explain the propensity to the use of computers and internet by teachers in classroom situations at schools.
Access to technology and associated resources is clearly a precursor for successful integration of ICT in the classrooms. Among teachers who do not use computers at school, access is the biggest problem. However, among those who do use computers at school, the motivation to use computers in the classroom is a cause for concern.
While access and competence are somewhat correlated, motivation (gauged through the attitude that using computers in classrooms results in significant learning benefits) does not show any correlation with the two other variables. Overall, about 24% of the teachers lacked motivation, though they had either competence or access and competence both.
As in any organization, employee motivation is affected by organizational policies; teacher motivation for ICT integration is affected by the school culture and ICT policy. Cuban et al. (2001) cited in Jones (2004), suggest that the school as an institution may in itself be resistant to the kinds of change needed for the successful integration of ICT.
The school management must encourage teachers to adopt ICT and back it up with adequate support in terms of training, equipment and resources. Training teachers cannot be a one-off event covering issues like how to use a particular software/ hardware. It should be in the form of a longer term professional development program. Support can be continued through peer groups that may be ICT enabled and in the form of web sites, discussion groups, and e-mail communities.
The school management and senior staff must clearly demonstrate leadership by example and personal involvement in any new and major ICT initiatives. Encouraging experimentation through incentives is important while at the same time, failure should not be looked down upon. All school policies, internal communication, administration, assessments and maybe even extra-curricular activities must reflect their seriousness about ICT. Hayes (2007) highlights how whole-school approaches have positive effects – the entire school benefits instead of a few individuals, involves all stakeholders in the process of ICT integration and provides an opportunity for pooling of skills and resources. Incentives may include certification, professional advancement, financial benefits, paid time off for research or training and formal or informal recognition at the school or local community.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that teacher attitude and beliefs, confidence and motivation as barriers for ICT are much more important than software and hardware investment. As Mahatma Gandhi said “Find purpose, the means will follow”.
What the research says about barriers to use of ICT in teaching. (2003): Becta ICT Research.
Benchmarking Access and Use of ICT in European Schools 2006. (2006): Empirica.
ICT in Teacher Education: Case Studies from the Asia-Pacific Region. (2008): United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Ertmer, P. E. A. (1999). Examining teachers' beliefs about the role of technology in the elementary classroom. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 32(1), 54-72.
Hayes, D. N. A. (2007). ICT and learning: Lessons from Australian classrooms. Computers and Education, 49(2), 385-395.
Jones, A. (2004). A review of the research literature on barriers to the uptake of ICT by teachers: Becta.
Tondeur, J. Hermans, R., Braak, J. v., & Valcke, M.(2008), Exploring the link between teachers’ educational belief profiles and different types of computer use in the classroom, Computers in Human Behavior (2008), doi:10.1016/j.chb.2008.02.020
Trucano, M. (2008). Teachers, Teaching and ICTs - A Knowledge Map on Information & Communication Technologies in Education. Retrieved 06-Sep, 2008, from http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.157.html