Instructional paradigms for IT in learning
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for ICT in Learning
Alfons ten Brummelhuis, Kennisnet Ict op school Foundation, The Netherlands, e-mail a.tenbrummelhuis@
Els Kuiper, Dept. of Theory and Research of Education, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands, e-mail email@example.com
Keywords: driving forces, educational change, technology push, instructional paradigm, educational pull
Educational change has some reason for taking place. Those reasons are driving forces. Based on a conceptual framework representing the key elements of learning process, this chapter discusses four driving forces for the use of ICT in learning: the teacher, the learner, the learning content and the learning materials. A learning process is seen as the result of both structural conditions (of content and materials) and individual characteristics (of teacher and learner). We argue that the dominance of each driving force can be seen as an instructional paradigm for learning. In order to illustrate the mutual influence and dependence of the driving forces, we elaborate an example of the way driving forces interact. In a final section, we discuss some major implications derived from the various paradigms of ICT in learning and the controversies teachers face when integrating ICT in classroom practice: technology push versus educational pull, and the necessity of leadership and personal entrepreneurship.
Information and communication technology (ICT) has a prominent place in students’ lives. In western societies, students grow up in an information society, using all sorts of ICT applications. Blogs, social networking sites, and interactive games have created new modes of interaction and expression. Intensive use of ICT is fully integrated in their daily lives. The rise of this so-called ‘digital generation’ poses serious questions for teachers with regard to the use of ICT in education and ways to stay connected with their pupils. In order to build a bridge between the educational system and the digital generation, most schools have invested in the availability of an ICT infrastructure. As a result most teachers in western societies have computer facilities at their disposal for their lessons (Pelgrum & Anderson, 1999; Kozma, 2003; Balanskat, Blamire & Kekela, 2006).
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the availability of an adequate ICT infrastructure, while necessary, is not in itself a sufficient condition for effective use of ICT in education. At many schools, teachers are struggling with the question how to use ICT for instructional purposes. In this chapter, various driving forces and contrasting issues on using ICT in education for teaching and learning are discussed on the basis of a conceptual framework.
2. Conceptual framework
For a good understanding of the role and potential of ICT for learning, it is necessary to identify the key elements or driving forces underlying a learning process. Driving forces are responsible for changes in the arrangement of a learning process. Four key elements determine the learning process: the teacher, the student as a learner, the learning content and the learning materials (Plomp, Ten Brummelhuis & Rapmund, 1996; Voogt & Odenthal, 1997). Figure 1 presents the key elements of the learning process and the influencing components. The horizontal dimension represents the relation between the actors in the learning process: the teacher and the learner. The vertical dimension represents the learning infrastructure, consisting of content in terms of what has to be learned and learning materials, including ICT infrastructure. The learning process takes place at the cross section of these dimensions, as a result of the interplay between the four driving forces: teacher, learner, content and materials. The level of school organization and management, represented by the outer boxes, provides the context or environment of the learning process. The figure illustrates the view that a learning process is the result of both structural conditions derived from the school environment and the learning infrastructure, and the individual characteristics of the actors and their interaction.
Figure 1: Driving forces of ICT in the learning process (Plomp, Brummelhuis & Rapmund, 1996; Voogt & Odenthal, 1997)
The arrangement of the learning processes can be approached from different angles. If the main driving force is learning content, complementary attention has to be paid to learning infrastructure, learner characteristics and the role of the teacher. By the same token, the choice of learning infrastructure, the learner characteristics or the role of the teacher may also be the main driving force. We argue that the dominance of one of the driving forces is not neutral in relation to the ultimate arrangement and results of the learning process. The dominance of a driving force can be seen as an instructional paradigm for learning. Within this context, an instructional paradigm is defined as a set of assumptions, concepts, values and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them (derived from American Heritage Dictionary). When inconsistencies arise within a given paradigm or when an instructional paradigm no longer meets the demands of society, other driving forces may gain in importance in order to create new arrangements that solve the unsolvable problems of the old paradigm. A substantial change can therefore be called a paradigm shift (Kuhn, 1970) and implies new assumptions, views, expectations and standards of practice for the arrangement of learning processes.
In the next section, we first elaborate on the four separate components or driving forces that influence the learning processes at classroom level, focusing on the actors (teacher and learner) and factors (content and infrastructure) which mediate learning processes involving ICT. However, all four driving forces work together to affect the ultimate arrangement of these learning processes. This implies that finding a balance between the driving forces is important for learning to take place. In Section 3, therefore, we will focus on some examples of conflicting issues that can be found in educational practice and that illustrate the consequences of taking one particular driving force as starting point.
2.1 ICT infrastructure as driving force
If a learning process is driven by capabilities of technology without any specific need from the perspective of the teacher, the learner or the learning content, it refers to technology push. Technology push starts with the acquisition of ict-materials and then appropriate applications are sought that fit into a learning process. If a learning process is not driven by technology but led by the demand or need of the teacher, the learner or learning content it refers to ‘educational pull’. The concepts technology push and educational pull refer to two well-known positions connected with the relation between technology and education: the belief which regards technology as a catalyst for educational change versus the belief that technology has to follow educational needs.
The underlying assumption of ‘technoloy push’ is the expectation that the availability of ICT materials is a powerful driving force for implementing ICT in education. During the past decade this approach was dominant in many countries with regard to the introduction of ICT in education (Plomp, Anderson, Law & Quale, 2003). As a result many schools have invested in ICT infrastructure and in ICT materials and superimposed them on traditional materials and teaching methods, without changing existing educational practices. In addition, many countries have established national or regional portals that offer content for teaching and learning. The assumption is that providing rich sources of digital information will enhance the transfer of knowledge (Digital Media Project [DMP], 2006). Easy access to vast quantities of educational content is seen as an enabler for schools to implement new pedagogical methods for teaching and learning. The availability of an ICT infrastructure is expected to boost the use of ICT and the transformation of learning processes within schools. An illustrative list of national or regional portals can be found for example at or k_states.htm. Advocates of technology as a driving force also mention that digital content is easier to find, to access, to manipulate, to remix and to disseminate (DMP, 2006). It is also argued that digital content and the corresponding digital distribution methods permit students:
- convenient access to learning materials;
- quicker turnaround for time-sensitive work;
- use of hypertext to allow access to more detailed information;
- incorporation of audio or (archived) video clips;
- collaborative discussion of work on an ongoing basis (e.g. submitting responses, linking to other resources).
Furthermore, according the Digital Media Project (DMP, 2006) it is expected that ‘open’ forms of digital learning allow efficient creation and distribution of varied educational content. Open forms of learning will allow everyone to become teacher as well as student, as illustrated by the rise of Wikipedia. It is a development which, according to this view, will reduce the involvement of traditional institutions such as schools. However, it also presents problems in terms of monitoring the quality of content, protecting the copyright system that acknowledges the creator of an original work and striking a manageable balance between supply of digital content and actual use (DMP, 2006).
The availability of an ICT infrastructure is seen as the foundation for what is variously referred to as digital learning, ubiquitous learning and life-long learning. Technology provides the opportunity to learn beyond the formal institutions of schools and to involve everyone, at any time, and at any place with Internet access. According to this view, technology expands opportunities for learning by bringing real-world problems into the classroom and providing possibilities for building local and global communities that include teachers, students, parents and experts (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000).
The dominant approach of stimulating ICT infrastructure in the past decade is reflected in many studies that have tried to measure ICT integration into education in terms of infrastructure and access, such as availability of computer hardware, the pupil-computer ratio, the average number of computers per school and levels of connectivity and bandwidth (Balanskat et al. 2006).
The results of policy programmes aiming at improving the ICT infrastructure show the risks of technology push: technological applications that do not meet the pedagogical needs of either teachers or learners and that do not fit within the school organization (Brummelhuis, 2006). Furthermore, ICT in education is mainly used as a replacement within existing practices in teaching and learning. The contribution that the provision of ICT materials to schools and teachers has made to the implementation of innovative practices seems to be limited (Kozma, 2003). The creative potential of ICT usage and the use of ICT for communication with and between pupils is still in its infancy (Balanskat et al., 2006). More and more evaluation studies on the impact of ICT on learning reveal that the benefits of ICT cannot only remain technology driven but should be in balance with other preconditions such as the pedagogical beliefs and skills of teachers (Balanskat & Blamire, 2007; Machin, 2006; Kennisnet Ict op School, 2006; Harrison et al., 2002; E-learning Nordic, 2006). The dominant approach of integrating ICT in education through the large-scale acquisition of ICT materials and ICT infrastructure raises the question ‘Are computers in schools worth the investment?’ (Cuban, 2001).
2.2 Content as driving force
This driving force takes learning content as the dominant feature of the learning process. From this perspective, setting clear targets and instructional goals for student learning is the starting point in the design of the learning process, which is arranged according to the following key questions (Atkin, Black & Coffey, 2001):
- What do you want to learn?
- Where are you now?
- How can you get there?
- How do we test what you have learned?
In this orientation, the main purpose of the learning process is to introduce students to learning content such as subject matter disciplines. The content and level of knowledge is predefined and students have to meet these learning goals or quality standards. For teachers this approach implies the understanding of learning continua in order to monitor and support the learning process on the basis of assessments. This driving force was important in traditional forms of schooling that treat learning goals as a fixed commodity. Knowledge has to be delivered by teachers and for that purpose the teacher makes use of supporting materials. The curriculum is laid out in a fixed sequence and every student goes through the same schedule, which is planned beforehand. In order to obtain feedback about student progress, the teacher makes use of standardized tests and assessment. This is an assessment-centred learning design and learning is seen as arriving at an understanding of a predefined body of general knowledge.
The setting of high levels of learning goals and examinations is in the general interests of the business community and the job market. Not all students are able to meet these goals, and some members of this group are turning away from school. In order to reduce drop-out rates and to make school more attractive for students, both educational policy and practice are interested in other approaches to learning which focus on meeting learners’ interests to a higher degree. ‘Teaching for understanding’ is based on a different assumption about learning and learning goals. It assumes that knowledge is a human construct and that learners must play an active part in changing their minds, making sense, connecting prior ideas with new ones, thinking actively about what they learn, and creatively applying knowledge in novel situations (Bransford et al., 2000; Wiske, Sick, & Wirsig, 2001). According to this view, the function of assessment is to provide feedback to learners with recommendations for improvement. This feedback is provided by the teacher in the role of a coach, as well as by peers and self-assessment. In this conception, the goal of learning is to construct knowledge and this process calls for a mix of suitable educational media together with the presentation of information and arrangement of practice and feedback (Merrienboer & van Kester, 2004). According to Merrienboer en van Kester, this type of complex learning calls for an instructional model consisting of four interrelated components:
- learning task: meaningful whole-task experiences that are based on real life;
- supportive information: information that is supportive to the learning and performance of problem-solving and reasoning aspects of learning;
- procedural information: information that is prerequisite to the learning and performance of routine aspects of learning;
- part-task practice: additional exercises for routine aspects of learning tasks for which a very high level of automaticity is required after the instruction.
The above components cover two different types of learning goals: deep versus surface (Biggs, 1996). Deep learning is associated with interest in the learning content and searching for meaning by the learner. This kind of learning is driven by an intrinsic motive to seek meaning and understanding. Surface learning is characterized by acquiring sufficient knowledge to complete tasks and by meeting predefined knowledge. As such, a student relies on memorization and reproduction of knowledge. This approach is often driven by an extrinsic motive to gain a certificate or to pass an exam.
2.3 The teacher as driving force
The role of the teacher can be defined as creating conditions for learning. It is evident that, in this process, a teacher makes choices based on a particular set of pedagogies or his vision of teaching and learning (see also Dede, 2008 in this Handbook). This means that, within the context of the school and the social environment, the teacher is responsible for realizing the best fit between the professional qualities of the teacher himself on the one hand and learner characteristics, learning goals and learning materials on the other hand.
A key pedagogical question is to ask which learning activities are under the control of the teacher and which activities are more the responsibility of the learner. The activities of the learning process for which responsibility and control have to be divided between teacher and learner cover three main tasks: preparatory activities, instruction and regulatory activities (Simons & Zuylen, 1995). The preparatory activities cover orientation towards learning goals and learning activities, including generating interest and getting started. Instruction includes building knowledge, practising skills, reflecting, formulating conclusions and relating to what is being learned. Finally the regulatory activities refer to monitoring progress, generating feedback and evaluating results in order to improve learning.
When the teacher is mainly responsible for choice of learning activities and transmission of knowledge, this is referred to as externally regulated or teacher-centred learning. If the learner is mainly responsible for the learning activities, this is referred to as self-regulated learning or student-centred learning (Boekaerts, 1997; Lea, Stephenson & Troy, 2003). The learner-centred approach is described in more detail in Section 2.4.
Research results show a strong association between the use of ICT and the pedagogical beliefs of teachers (Riel & Becker, 2008; Drent, 2005). Teachers who believe their role is to transmit an externally mandated curriculum through a highly controlled pedagogy tend to avoid computers; teachers who support collaborative learning and individual student work on topics of personal interest tend to use computers frequently (Becker & Ravitz, 2001). Findings in a study on effectiveness of reading and mathematics software show that teachers using selected software products were more likely to facilitate individual student learning rather than lead whole-class activities (Dynarski, et al., 2007). On the other hand, an interactive whiteboard can be an effective medium for teacher input to whole-class activities and an effective medium to support teacher-led group work (Smith, 2001). These results show that effective use of ICT is not related to a teacher-centred or a learner-centred approach. Teachers linked with effective use of ICT in the learning process are able to find coherence between teaching style, learning content and ICT materials (Zhao, Pugh, Sheldon & Byers, 2002).
4. The learner as driving force
The basic principle of the learner as driving force in the learning process is finding a connection with student characteristics and students’ needs in learning. This means that the teacher gives primacy to the strengths and interests of learners in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes (Bransford et al., 2000). The learning process provides personally satisfying experiences for the learner. In this perspective, there is widespread agreement on several educational ideas. These include constructivism, authentic problem-solving and life-long learning (Bereiter, 2002). Learners are stimulated to express, experiment, make mistakes, obtain feedback and discover. In order to create challenging learning situations, the teacher needs a thorough awareness of the basic cognitive processes that influence the learning process, such as motivation, attention, information processing, comprehension and transfer (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005). This paradigm moves the concept of learning beyond the rote memorization of facts to learning as a process of knowledge creation (Kozma, 2003). It envisions a learning process in which students set their own goals, plan their activities and select their learning materials. Students also monitor their levels of mastery and understand what is referred to as metacognition (Bransford et al., 2000).
The rise of the learner as a driving force in learning processes seems to result in a re-orientation of testing practices towards methods such as self-assessment, peer assessment and co-assessment. This kind of assessment involves an assessor, which can be a teacher, student or an expert, in reviewing, summarizing, clarifying and giving feedback. Research has produced promising findings on these forms of assessment, in which learners share responsibility, collaborate and conduct continuous dialogue with their peers (Sluijsmans, Dochy & Moerkerke, 1999). It is argued that this type of assessment is cognitively demanding and fosters deep rather than surface learning (van Lehn, Chi, Baggett & Murray, 1995) and can be supported by several representations of ICT such as a portfolio assessment, blogs, wikis or tools within e-learning environments.
The ‘primacy of the learner’ approach is child-centred and aims at integral development in cognitive as well as affective, social and moral development. Such a perspective is also strongly related to the lifestyle of students and is often labelled ‘new learning’ (Simons, 2000; Veen, 2005). Veen and Vrakking (2007) argue that young learners of today have grown up with electronic devices and have learned how to navigate efficiently through information, how to communicate, and how to build effectively on a network of peers. It is assumed that students develop exploratory learning approaches while attempting to give meaning to the information provided. It is also argued that, for current education, these developments imply the challenge of bridging the gap between learning situations at school and the needs of the ‘net-generation’ or ‘digital natives’ who have become disengaged from traditional instruction (Prensky, 2006). Nowadays many learners require multiple streams of information, prefer inductive reasoning, want frequent and quick interactions with content, and have exceptional visual literacy skills (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005). These characteristics correspond closely to the demands made by digital games. Games often have the stigma of ‘play’ and the opposite of ‘learning’, and are strongly associated with leisure activities. But more and more people believe that games can also be an effective element within the learning processes. However, much remains unknown about the conditions under which games can be integrated into the learning process to maximize learning results (Leemkuil, 2005).
Even in the situation in which the primacy is on the learner, there is still a key role for the teacher in facilitating learning. Thus, the teacher has to decide why to use which ICT tools within his own instructional approach, since educational technology is a tool that can be used to support a variety of approaches to instruction. This puts the teacher in the position of having to decide on several contrasting positions in instructional practices. Irrespective of whether the primacy is on the learner, the materials or the learning goals, every teacher has to deal with these contrasting positions.
3. Example of a contrasting position in instructional practices: teacher or student as regulating the learning process
In the previous section, we presented separate discussions of the four driving forces that influence the learning process. However, these forces all exert an influence on any specific learning situation in which ICT is used. To illustrate the interaction between driving forces, in this section, we elaborate as an example the contrasting position between the role of the two actors that influence the learning process: the teacher and the learner/student.
When viewing both teacher and student (or learner) as acting driving forces within learning, learning processes may be characterized in terms of the amount of control or regulation and responsibility or autonomy of each actor. We will discuss this issue by starting with the student as most prominent actor, moving gradually towards the teacher as prominent driving force.
ICT-based learning and student control
Since the first uses of ICT in the classroom, the opportunities it offers for students to control their own learning have been prominent. ICT-based learning can indeed provide students with greater flexibility in terms of learning time, location and pace. On a small scale, this can be seen in students using the school computer in the classroom to practice spelling or maths. On a much greater scale there are all kinds of initiatives with regard to e-learning, Web-based learning and distance education which offer learners the opportunity for ‘life-long learning’ without the restriction of any system-related boundaries. Moreover, the growth and widespread use of the Internet in education and in society as a whole emphasizes the shift from ‘knowing what’ to ‘knowing how’: factual knowledge is considered as being equally or even less important than being able to find your way in the information society. As a consequence, the role of the teacher is seen as changing from knowledgeable expert or ‘fountain of knowledge’ to a coach of students’ learning processes or a ‘guide at the side’ (e.g., Schofield, 1995). Moreover, the use of technology as a learning tool in the classroom often means a shift of power in another sense, since in many cases, the students’ technical mastery of ICT tools exceeds that of their teachers.
Influence of the educational context: the role of the teacher
However, as Snyder (1998) states: “No technology […] can guarantee any particular change in cultural practices simply by its ‘nature’. [… ] The use and effect of a technology is closely tied to the social context in which it appears” (p.140). Is there indeed a shift in the control of learning processes taking place in classrooms, under the influence of ICT use? Smeets and Mooij (2001) reported on an international study of teaching-learning characteristics and the role of the teacher in ICT learning environments. Their results show that in many cases ICT is used to facilitate traditional, teacher-centred ways of teaching. Although many teachers acted as coaches, they also tended to stay in control of the learning environments, with little room for student initiative. This illustrates the complexity of terms like ‘student-centred’ or ‘student control’. Smeets and Mooij define student-centred learning environments as fitting into a constructivist view of learning, with learners as active constructors of knowledge. Such learning environments require differentiation of lesson content and curriculum activities, in which ICT may be a useful tool. Smeets (2005) emphasizes the importance of teachers being aware of the potential of ICT to stimulate students’ active and autonomous learning. In this study, only a minority of the teachers used resources such as open-ended ICT applications that may contribute to such learning.
Although e-learning and distance learning may enable students to study in their own place, in their own time and at their own pace, this does not necessarily mean that they also control their own learning. In other words, their autonomy may be mostly limited to practical circumstances while the most important part of their learning – the content – is beyond their control. The teacher may still control the curriculum and the assessment of students’ learning; only the way of delivering the curriculum has changed. As a result, the student may be as active or passive as in a traditional classroom. This is also illustrated by the widespread use of educational software that closely resembles traditional school curricula. One may question the fundamental difference between practising maths in a traditional classroom, and practising maths on the computer. Most modern educational software at primary school level uses advanced technological features and may be more motivating for students than a traditional textbook. Yet here again, student control only extends to time, place and pace.
Another example may be the use of the Web as an information resource in education. Potentially, the Web offers students new opportunities to organize their own learning, because of its accessibility and the abundance of information it offers. It can easily be used as a motivational alternative for traditional print resources. However, as already stated by Laurillard (1998), “The paradox of interactive media is that being a user-control medium the learner expects to have control, and yet a learner does not know enough to be given full control” (p.241). Many students do not have the necessary skills to use the Web in a critical way and for their own knowledge construction (Kuiper, Volman & Terwel, 2005). Thus, students still need a great deal of guidance and support from the teacher if they are to realize the Web’s full potential as a learning tool.
Limitations of student control
Rogoff, White and Matusov (1996) have juxtaposed two models of teaching and learning which both originate from theories that view learning as a one-sided process. Learning is either seen as transmission of knowledge from experts to passive learners (a teacher-centred approach), or as the spontaneous acquisition of knowledge by learners themselves (a learner-centred approach). In the first model, the teacher controls the learning process, with the student acquiring knowledge and demonstrating adequate knowledge acquisition. In the second model, the individual student controls the learning process, with the teacher providing learning opportunities and encouraging students. Although these models may be applied to all learning environments, ICT can be seen as a tool that offers new opportunities for the second model. However, is such a shift in control desirable in all circumstances? Sutherland (2004) studied how teams of teachers and researchers have developed ways of embedding ICT in everyday classroom practices to enhance learning. She questions the casualness with which policymakers and practitioners tend to think that “… ICT is so ‘new’ that its use will be accompanied by ‘new’ pedagogies that will somehow transform teaching and learning” (p.413). The changing role of the teacher, becoming a facilitator of students’ learning, is seen by these authors as an over-simplified polarization which fails to do justice to the complexity of the task facing a teacher when integrating ICT in subject teaching.
Rogoff et al. (1996) criticize models that view learning as a one-sided process. They propose a two-sided model, in this case learning in a community of learners in which both students and teacher share responsibility for learning taking place, with the teacher having an important role in creating conditions for learning.
ICT as facilitating teacher control of students’ learning processes
From a different angle, ICT may also facilitate a teacher’s control of and insight into students’ learning processes. Thus, ICT may serve as a tool for curriculum differentiation, providing opportunities for adapting learning content and tasks to the needs and capabilities of each individual student (Smeets & Mooij, 2001, p.404). Several ICT-based applications give teachers possibilities to adapt the curriculum to individual students’ levels of performance, for example through using software that records the way students work and their results, thereby giving teachers insight into both the level and the nature of students’ mistakes. Other well-known examples are electronic learning environments such as Blackboard. These offer teachers new opportunities for communicating with students, which may be seen as a form of teacher control. Such programs also give new opportunities for communication between students and teachers. Students may be asked through Blackboard to comment on certain literature, and thus to share their comments with other students and to comment on each other’s comments. Because teachers are able to control the way students comment on each other’s input (e.g. by providing guidelines for discussing literature) as well as to participate in the communication themselves, they may determine to a great extent both the content and the process of students’ communication. Teachers may also take the quantity and quality of students’ contributions into consideration when awarding them marks.
The use of electronic learning environments in educational practices often reflects the ‘technology push’ discussed in Section 2.1. Educational institutions make an electronic learning environment available to teachers and students because of its potential surplus value for students’ learning. However they often fail to take into account the precise conditions for learning to take place, as well as the workability of an electronic learning environment for teachers and students. Because it takes a great deal of time and effort on the part of the teachers to integrate the use of an electronic learning environment in their teaching, there is also a risk of it being outdated by the time it is finally implemented.
4. Discussion: technology push versus educational pull
In this chapter, we discussed four driving forces for ICT learning, each representing a key element of learning processes: the teacher, the learner, the learning content and the learning materials. A learning process is the result of both structural conditions and individual characteristics. We have argued that the dominance of each driving force can be seen as an instructional paradigm for learning. In order to illustrate the mutual influence and dependence of the four driving forces, we have elaborated on one example of the way driving forces interact, i.e. the teacher or student as regulating the learning processes in which ict is involved.
In this final section, we discuss some major implications derived from the various paradigms of ICT in learning and the controversies teachers face when integrating ICT in classroom practice: technology push versus educational pull, and the necessity of leadership and personal entrepreneurship.
Results presented in this chapter show that the benefits of ICT materials and ICT infrastructure cannot be separated from other building blocks that influence the learning process: learning goals, the learner and the teacher. No miracles can be derived from the mere presence of ICT in a school. The more powerful technology becomes, the more indispensable good teachers are. The professional development of teachers can be characterized as the most crucial factor for both the adoption and the effective use of ICT in learning processes. Technology push seems to be a poor approach to introducing ICT in education. Educational pull based on a clear vision of learning seems to be more powerful strategy for the sustainable use of ICT in learning. Sustainable use of ICT in education requires investment in building long-term capacity for improvement, such as the development of teachers’ skills. These skills will stay with teachers forever, long after the (project) money for acquisition of ICT materials has gone (Stoll, 1999).
We can conclude that the discussion about ICT in education is increasingly shifting from ICT as a technical issue to ICT as a topic of teaching and learning. It is not ICT that determines the arrangement of learning processes but the educational ambitions of teachers, learners, schools and society; these are the aspects which provide the driving forces for improvement in schools. ICT is only part of the solution. Today the effectiveness of ICT distracts from educational goals and visions of teaching and learning. Research shows that ICT can make a powerful contribution to solving the educational problems that schools are facing in preparing their students for the information society. However, these same findings show that the use of ICT is not a guarantee for success. ICT offers attractive opportunities for improving the quality of education but at the same there are controversies and threats that need to be overcome.
The introduction of ICT raises several contrasting issues, of which one example is highlighted in section 3. As these issues show, ICT brings to the forefront debates about education as the transmission of information versus education as learning and experience. Moreover, assessment should be in congruence with learning. In line with the evolution of new learning arrangements supported by ICT, the nature of the assessment of student learning has to be reconsidered (Birenbaum, 1996).
The great number of choices that have to be made before ICT is adequately integrated within the learning process illustrate that the incorporation of ICT into education is not neutral: its introduction into the learning process implies educational change. According to Hargreaves (2005), educational change will fail if it does not take into account the initiative and enthusiasm of teachers. In a study by Drent (2005), ‘personal entrepreneurship’ among teachers appears to be the key factor for innovative use of ICT. The term ‘personal entrepreneurship’ refers to teachers who create possibilities for experimenting with ICT applications, researching the use of ICT in their education, reflecting on their outcomes and exchanging ideas with colleagues. Despite the crucial role of the teacher in arranging learning processes with ICT, it is an impossible task for a single teacher to realize effective use of ICT within the school organization. The use of ICT is complex and may be overwhelming, requiring teachers to work on too many fronts at once.
It follows, therefore, that the effective use of ICT in schools also needs good leadership and coordination. Both personal entrepreneurship and leadership are necessary factors for success. The contribution of leadership involves working together with teachers to develop a clear vision of what the school should achieve with ICT over time and managing coherence between the building blocks or driving forces of a learning process: learner characteristics, learning goals, ICT materials and the beliefs and competencies of teachers.
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