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Barriers to integration of information and communication technologies into the teaching and learning process

Tomas Sabaliauskas and Kęstutis Pukelis
Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania

Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University of Crete, 22-25 September 2004

INTRODUCTION

In the twentieth century schools encounter a number of difficulties including integration of information and communication technologies (hereafter ICT) into the teaching and learning, education curriculum and change in methods in pursuit of developing learner lifelong learning skills. Strategy of Implementation of Information and Communication Technologies in the Lithuanian Education (2001) emphasises the main causes that lead to the necessity to utilize ICT in education: changes in economy, social and education science areas.

1. Economic changes are related to the integration of information technologies in various areas of national economy. Computerisation of various economic spheres is increasing and therefore there is demand of ICT skilled workers.

2. Social changes are related to the abundance of information, development of communication network, which opens new opportunities to obtain and spread information.

3. Pedagogical changes are related to the opportunity to use information technologies better and acquire knowledge of various subjects and higher order skills sooner.

Education system faces with the biggest challenge brought by Information and Communication Technologies. Education has to respond to economic and social changes so it educates young generation equipped with newest knowledge and skills (including ICT) ready to face challenges of the constantly changing world.

Strategies, plans and guidelines of ICT implementation into educational systems were prepared in various countries and it has become an indispensable part of educational reforms (Law 2004). These strategies often envisage high investment to computerise schools and extend the infrastructure of computers connected to the world Internet. Opportunities for teacher qualification development are also foreseen. However, integration of information and communication technologies into the system of education is a more complex and more complicated process related to the change in the teaching.

Integration of information technologies into the system of education was discussed by a number of authors such as Hargreaves (1994), Lawton (1994), Lai (2001), Ringstaff (1995), Murray and Campbell (2000), Billowes (1999), and others. It was emphasised that the change in teaching and learning while integrating information and communication technologies is a long process which requires a lot of resources and depends on every individual teacher, thus creating a number of barriers and difficulties. It presupposes the aim of this article, i.e. to analyse the barriers to ICT integration into the teaching/learning and formulate the guidelines how to overcome these barriers.

BARRIERS OF INTEGRATION OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES INTO THE EDUCATION SYSTEM

One of the most important trends in the present education system is the change and restructurisation in the teaching/learning process integrating technological innovations. The main restructurisation element of the change of the teaching practice. New teaching/learning methods incorporate problem-solving learning, cooperative learning, orientation to real goals and the change in the teacher roles (Masters, Yelland 2002).

It is difficult for teachers to change according to the requirements (teachers should know and be able to use models of ICT skill acquisition, teacher should be acquainted with virtual environments, he/she should be able to integrate ICT in the curriculum, teacher should know main functions of operation systems etc.) of the documents which regulate ICT integration (Strategy of Information and Communication Technology Implementation in the Lithuanian System of Education (2000), Teacher Computer Literacy Standard (2001), Programme of Information and Communication Technology Implementation in the Lithuanian Educational System (2002) ) because they do not have enough ICT competency, therefore, resistance to change conducted by ICT integration in the teaching and learning process emerges and barriers to the integration of information and communication technologies into the teaching/learning process appear.

Sinko (2002), discussing the barriers to successful integration of ICT into the teaching/learning process, distinguishes the following factors:

  • Lack of support for the educational personnel and learners;
  • Lack of teacher competencies to use certain software;
  • Insufficient financing (of teacher professional developments in ICT field, of appropriate computer hardware and software etc.);
  • Lack of cooperation among academic personnel in the same and in another schools.
  • Whereas Lai (2001), distinguishing barriers to the ICT integration into the teaching/learning process, describes them in a more detailed and structured way:

  • Lack of competencies;
  • Limited accessibility
  • Lack of support
  • Lack of competencies
  • Shortage of time
  • Change process:
    1. Entry;
    2. Adoption;
    3. Adaptation;
    4. Appropriation;
    5. Invention.
  • Further are given more detailed descriptions of every stage of barriers to the ICT integration into the teaching/learning process:

    Hargreaves (1994) and CEO Forum (1999) claim that information and communication technologies will be efficiently used in lessons only if teacher qualification development will be oriented specifically to the needs of the teachers and demands of the system of education.

  • Limited accessibility

    Lack of qualification development is not the only barrier to the integration of technologies into the teaching/learning process. Lawton (1994) notes that accessibility is one of a number of problems. If the teachers are required to use such resources as information and communication technologies, they must have access to these technologies. It is also very important that these technologies function in an indefectible way, i.e., it is important to make overall technical provision (Lai 2001).
  • Means and Olson (1995) assert that easily accessible technical support (maintenance of computer hardware and intranet infrastructure) is an important factor in the school change, integrating constructivist education and information and communication technologies at school. The authors remark that teachers will have no intention to use technologies if they feel they can encounter technical problems (not working software, hardware problems etc.) that can only be repaired in several days.

    However, teachers need not only technical support to be able to use information technologies in the teaching/learning process. According to the research data by Ringstaff (1995), teachers, supported and motivated by the school principal, used information and communication technologies more during their lessons in comparison with those who did not receive support from the school administration.

    School principal support is very important as technology integration into the school is related with resource redistribution, purchase of the new equipment, teaching schedule reconsideration, foreseeing teacher time to renew ICT competencies, subject qualification renewal and lesson planning.

  • Shortage of time

    A number of researchers (Cook, 1997, Ang 1998, Glennan and Melmad 1996), and also National Education Association (NEA, 1999-2000) claim that shortage of time is the major and crucial barrier to change in the school culture and integrating ICT into the school and teaching/learning process.

    Time is the major factor which is necessary if teachers intend to develop their professional qualification, participating in various courses. Teachers are suggested spending half of the time for contact hours with students and the other half for carrying out professional responsibilities - teaching. Teachers need time to reflect upon what they have learnt and to plan how to apply the newly acquired knowledge in class.

    Whereas Hargreaves (1994) asserts that additional time does not guarantee the change of the teaching/learning process. It is how the time is planned and used that is most important.

  • The highest barrier to integration of information and communication technologies into the teaching/learning process is the change as such. CEO (1999) discerns five stages of integration and overcoming difficulties:

    1. Entry – learners are trained how to use information and communication technologies;

    2. Adoption – teachers use technologies as supplementary aids in the context of traditional teaching/learning methods;

    3. Adaptation – technologies are used for expansion/enrichment of the curriculum;

    4. Appropriation – technologies are integrated and used due to their exceptional and unique qualities;

    5. Invention - new areas are invented where the use of technologies is appropriate.

    In stage one (Entry) learners, not the teacher, gets acquainted with information technologies. Technologies are treated as a problem and inconvenience (Figure 1).

    Fig. 1. Five stages of technology integration

    In stage two (Adoption) technologies are treated as a useful but limited phenomenon. Teachers use technologies to expand their personal tasks, such as administration of tasks, organizing schedules etc. In this stage teacher gives students examples and encourages learner use of technologies.

    In stage three (Adaptation) technologies are used in class work. Teachers use information technologies to add variety to the teaching content but do not change their teaching style. Teachers use compact discs, Internet, electronic encyclopaedia to obtain information more often than traditional teaching/learning means – books. In this stage teachers do not change the teaching form and it remains teacher-centred.

    In stage four (Appropriation) teachers begin to perceive the opportunities provided by information and communication technologies and start creating tasks that are pre-eminent in their possibilities. Learners start guiding their own learning and use technologies for their learning aims to achieve their higher order thinking objectives. Technologies are perceived as a useful tool.

    In stage five (Invention) teachers start changing the class and teaching/learning setting to improve the use of technologies during lessons. Students use technologies to achieve basic and higher order thinking skills.

    Invention occurs when the teachers create tasks and even change class environment to take advantage of the opportunities provided by technologies. To successfully integrate technologies teachers have to change even their teaching style and their approach to teaching.

    Murray and Campbell (2000), having performed the research into ICT integration into the teaching/learning process at 500 New Zealand schools and having summarised the research results, distinguished the following ICT integration barriers:

  • Lack of qualification development

    It is a barrier number one in the above mentioned research. Education Review Office (2000) also emphasises that lack of teacher competencies affects lack of teacher self-confidence; consequently, teachers feel fear of using information and communication technologies in class.

  • Irrespective of the fact that schools lack computers, some hardware and software financial resources are morally and technologically out-of-date, there is lack of resources for the development of teacher computer skills, whereas a number of the Lithuanian teachers lack basic skills in using information and communication.

  • School organisation / management

    Billowes (1999) considers management as one of the main drivers for school change. School principal and deputy-principals are in the central position. The principal is often occupied with administration and managerial issues or lacks interest or vision in the area of information and communication technology integration into the school setting.

    Due to this reason time is very often considered to be one of the barriers.

  • HOW TO OVERCOME BARRIERS?

    Having overviewed the barriers and difficulties of ICT integration presented by different authors, such as Murray and Campbell (2000), Hargreaves (1994), Cook, (1997), Ang (1998), Glennan and Melmad (1996), Ringstaff (1995), (Lai 2001), Sinko (2002) and etc., summarising we will present the main factors that have to be taken into account seeking to overcome the barriers and difficulties:

  • Political decisions

    Using information and communication technologies in the process of teaching/learning, i.e., in class, their integration into the present curriculum aiming at improvement of teaching/learning is the most difficult process. This attempt to integrate information and communication technologies can be fruitless and inefficient unless the Ministry of Education and Science plans and provides schools with proper resources (Lai 2001).

  • Schools can play a very important role in integrating ICT into the system of education. It is worth mentioning that not only ministries should tale how the process of integration should be organized, but also schools could give feedback on difficulties they are facing integrating ICT into curriculum and suggesting what could be done differently.

  • Teacher as learner

    Teachers have to experience learner position. In the learner position teacher models a positive situation for learners and shows learners a different perspective, which makes the perception of new subjects easier. Teacher has to feel free and without any restrictions in the teaching environment. Only these feelings will foster the teacher to learn and develop further.

  • The emerged difficulties should be viewed as opportunities to develop. It should not decrease motivation but should be transformed into the constructive process of teaching/learning, which could support ICT integration in a more efficient way (Lai 2001).

  • Peer support

    Reliable colleagues can become internal "technology" teachers who could teach in small and convenient groups. Teachers can be provided help by sharing best practices of the same school teachers or analysing the benchmarking projects.

  • If the school intends to achieve good results in the area of ICT integration, then at least one week a year should be devoted to teacher activities outside the class. During these events teachers should be acquainted with innovations in information and communication technology area, and should be explained in detail how to use these innovations and integrate them into the process of teaching/learning.

    ICT advent to the school conducts the need of reorganisation of the teaching and learning and even of school management and structure – it begins process of change. Fullan (1993) asserts that change is a complex phenomenon, whereas the teaching and learning change is even a more complex and complicated process.

    Fullan (1993) presents several principles which, according to him, lead to the successful change process. In these principles Fullan (1999) emphasises that change is a complicated process, because it is necessary to change power structures and because a great number of people participate in this process, including teachers, principals, school managers, learners and their families.

    Change cannot be required from the people who lead school or from the government; however, support of the latter is particularly important. Fullan (1999) also notices that during the change the problems arise and conflicts emerge and that it is necessary to learn from them, not to look at them as a negative phenomenon. Change requires cooperation, however, this cooperation has to allow for and foster the difference in opinions and different approaches. According to him, the whole process of change has to be flexible and its efficiency depends on the plan of change, i.e. if it is designed and how specific it is.

    Fullan claims that it is necessary to remember that schools and their situations are as much different as their decisions and their change process.

    Fullan’s (1993, 1999) principles only emphasise how complicated the change process is, therefore, it should not be surprising that schools are not prepared for successful integration of technologies into the teaching/learning process.

    There are, certainly, a number of barriers, including teacher development and change process, to successful integration of technologies into the teaching/learning process. Until these barriers exist, the learners will not be able to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by information and communication technologies.

    CONCLUSIONS

    References

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    About the authors

    Tomas SABALIAUSKAS, Phd student.

    Head of administration of Centre for Vocational Education and Research
    Manager of the scientific journal ’’Vocational Education: Research and Realty’’
    Member of the editorial secretariat of European Journal ‘’Vocational Training’’
    Phd. student at the department of Educology at Vytautas Magnus University.
    Research interests: Vocational education, ICT in education.

    Vytautas Magnus University
    K. Donelaicio 52 – 410
    LT – 44244, Kaunas
    LITHUANIA
    t.sabaliauskas@smf.vdu.lt

    Kęstutis PUKELIS, dr. Prof. habil.

    Vice Rector for international affairs at Vytautas Magnus University.
    Deputy director of the Centre for Vocational education and research
    Director of the Centre for Quality of Studies and research
    Professor at the department of Educology.

    Research interests: teacher education development, career design, study quality assurance. A member of editorial boards of the scientific journals "Vocational Education and Training: Research and Reality" and "Pedagogy".

    Vytautas Magnus University
    Laisvės av. 53 – 207
    LT – 44244 Kaunas
    LITHUANIA
    k.pukelis@smf.vdu.lt

    This document was added to the Education-line database on 04 February 2005