Donald S. Gray and Nicholas Souter

University of Strathclyde

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Summary

There is an increasing awareness of the potential for the use of Information and Communications Technologies in teaching and learning. A number of initiatives have been implemented in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, to increase the availability of hardware and software to schools, and to provide training and resources for teachers at all stages. The Scottish Executive Education Department commissioned a cross institutional team from the University of Strathclyde, Faculty of Education and Northern College (Aberdeen) to conduct a two phase study to examine the impact that the initiatives were having on ICT use in primary and secondary schools. This paper focuses on the data from one aspect of the study, that of the use of ICT in secondary subject areas, and the perceptions of teachers in these areas. A comparison of science teachers’ perceptions is made with teachers from other disciplines. Although the responses of biology teachers could be analysed the numbers in the study were quite small overall so a general view is taken across the three science disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics.

 

Keywords: Information and Communication Technology, Secondary Science Teachers, Scotland.

 

Faculty of Education

University of Strathclyde

76 Southbrae Drive

Glasgow G13 1PP

Scotland

UK

 

Background

In order to prepare schools for the introduction of ICT into the pedagogical, professional and management practises a number of key initiatives have been funded relating to the development of the National Grid for Learning (NGfL) in Scotland. These are directed towards the provisions of a range of facilitates necessary for the effective installation and use of ICT, including capital works, the provision of hard and software and a national programme of staff development. It is the impact of these initiatives in primary and secondary classrooms that forms the focus of this project. The key aspects of these initiatives are outlined below, and a brief account of the stage of development at the end of 1999.

The National Ict Initiatives

Overall, the aims of the initiatives are as follows:

A to increase the amount of, and access to up to date ICT equipment in schools;

B to improve resources available, particularly online, to support classroom work;

C to enhance staff skills and use of ICT to deliver the curriculum.

 

Initiatives Relating To Aim A (Developing The Infrastructure)

Funding for ICT and buildings (1997)

In July 1997, funding was announced for tackling the backlog of repairs to school buildings and to improve facilities for ICT in Scottish schools. £115.7 million, divided proportionally amongst the Scottish local authorities is being distributed over five years directly to the authorities. However, it has been left to the discretion of the Authorities as to how the money is to be deployed.

Comprehensive spending review (August 1998)

In the comprehensive spending review, £62 million was made available to build the National Grid for Learning in Scottish schools. Various targets were set for the provision of modern desktop computer equipment and these are primarily intended to realise the following student to computer ratios:

This funding, announced in August 1998, is to be phased in during the period 1999 to 2002.

In addition to the moneys earmarked for schools, an additional £29 million was provided for FE to develop the NGfL in further education.

 

Capital modernisation fund (March 1999 budget announcement)

As part of the March 1999 budget it was announced that a further £38 million was being made available to implement a number of initiatives including:

This funding is in addition to the Comprehensive Spending review allocations and will be distributed along with it accordingly.

 

Initiatives Relating To Aim B (Resources And School Based Support):

Budget 1998-Money for Schools (March 1998)

In the March 1998 budget £15 million was made available for front-line use in schools. The money was intended for a range of activities: support for standards; NGfL; and classroom assistants. Where this money was used for ICT, authorities are encouraged use it for the NGfL. pilot schools.

The super highways task force

 

Initiatives Relating To Aim C (Staff Development):

New Opportunities Funding (April 1999)

This funding is intended to provide appropriate staff development in tandem with the provision of new hardware, new software and NGfL. connectivity. This budget of £23 million provided for the national lottery funds has been made available for authorities on a per capita basis until 2002. It is intended that schools and authorities will be able to choose from a range of validated training providers who are currently undertaking the development training materials. This training is required to be focused on the use of ICT to deliver existing curriculum rather than training teachers about ICT.

That is now available and a Needs Analysis CD-ROM produced by the Teacher Training Agency (TT A) which assists staff in identifying the training needs. Copies have been circulated to all education authorities for their schools.

 

AIMS OF THE PROJECT

The general aims of the project are:

 

 

In order to achieve this, the specific aims of the project are as follows:

 

The Survey

Ninety primary schools and 75 secondary schools agreed initially to take part in the survey. This paper deals with the responses received from the teachers with an analysis by subject area and a particular focus on science.

Questionnaires were sent to all the secondary schools with the request that they be distributed in a random specified fashion to a member of department in each of the main subject areas. Returns were received from 393 teachers with the following breakdown across the subject areas.

 

Creative & Aesthetic 47

English Language 53

Foreign Languages 48

Mathematics 54

P.E. 46

Religious & Moral 41

Science 51

Technological Studies 44

Social Subjects 9

 

Total 393

 

These numbers cannot at all be said to be representative within each subject area but they may well be reasonably indicative of the general situation within secondary departments in Scottish secondary schools.

 

The Data

Personal Use of Computers

Teachers were asked if they used a computer or laptop at home. Two-thirds or more teachers from different subject areas reported that they did use a computer at home. Of the nine subject areas asked the most frequently reported use of computers at home were by science teachers, with 75% reported usage followed closely by language and technical studies teachers. The lowest level of use of home computers reported was by teachers of Creative and Aesthetic subjects (64%)

However, although there appeared to be a reasonably high number of teachers who had access to a computer at home, the frequency of use was quite small.

Question 2.2 was designed to find out to what extent teachers in secondary schools were using a computer or laptop at home. The scale range from never (1) through to fairly regularly (3). The scores for the different subject areas were aggregated and can be seen in figure 1. In terms of frequency of use of ICT science teachers ranked fourth out of the nine subject areas. However, this relatively high-ranking in terms of frequency of use is put in perspective with reference to the actual frequency. In all subject areas the frequency of use of ICT across the wider range of purposes is relatively low with the highest score being achieved by Religious and Moral Education (1.71) which is less than a score of occasional use (2). The aggregated score for science teachers was 1.63.

Figure 1: Mean frequency of use at home across a range of purposes.

However, it is perhaps unrealistic to expect fairly regularly use across the diverse range of purposes. A closer examination reveals that some elements are used on a fairly regular basis while other elements are not used at all. Reference to figure 2 shows that science teachers used ICT for personal word processing and word processing for school on a fairly regular basis with databases, spreadsheets, and making pictures being used occasionally.

Figure 2: Purposes for Science Teachers Home Use of Computers


(a) games (b) personal WP (c) school WP (d) database store (e) search database (f) search CD-ROM

(g) search Web (h) create S/sheet (i) graphs (j) make pictures (k) programming (l) simulation

(m) adventure game (n) animations (o) multimedia (p) look for Websites (q) own Website (r) personal email (s)professional email (t) send digital photos

 

Perceptions of Confidence

Question 2.3 was an attempt to elicit information about how confident the teachers felt about using various elements of ICT ranging from word processing, databases and spreadsheets through to use of digital cameras scanners, computer and video Conference and electronic communications.

The teachers were asked to respond on a four-point scale ranging from never used (1) and not confident (2) through to fairly confident (3) and very confident (4). The mean level of confidence for each of the subject areas was determined by aggregating the responses given by the individual teachers in each of the subject areas. The result is shown in figure 3. Here we can see that in terms of overall confidence in the use of ICT science teachers are ranked relatively highly compared with other subjects, only technological studies and religious and moral education scoring higher. However, confidence ratings for all subject areas were not high, with the highest confidence rating, technological studies, giving a score of only 2.4.

 

Figure 3: Confidence ratings of subject teachers use of ICT

Examination of the confidence ratings by individual components of ICT gives a rather more detailed picture, however. The confidence ratings for science teachers indicate that there is a fairly high level of confidence in the use of word processing, and CD-ROM, with rather less levels of confidence in the use of databases, spreadsheets, desktop publishing and the WWW. The low scores for the remaining elements, digital cameras, digital scanner computer and video Conference and e-mail and fax, indicates low levels of usage.

Figure 4: Confidence Ratings of Science Teachers for different Purposes

(a) word processing (b) databases (c) Spreadsheets (d) desktop publishing (e) digital camera (f) digital scanner (g) computer conferencing (h) video-conferencing (i) e-mail (j) fax (k) CD-ROM (l) World Wide Web

ICT Experiences Offered to Students

Teachers were asked about the kinds of ICT experiences they were giving to students. The response was on a five point scale from 1= well established, 2= beginning to happen, 3= likely in 1-2 years, 4= not yet working towards this and 5 = no intention of developing this.

Figure 5 shows the aggregated responses across the subject areas giving a general indication of the extent to which students are being exposed to ICT.

Figure 5: Level of ICT Experiences Offered to Students

The general use of ICT across all subject areas can be seen to be very low with all subjects indicating that ICT provision is either expected in the next 1-2 years or is not yet being worked towards.

However, examination of the types of ICT experiences students are receiving within science indicates that some aspects are more established than others, figure 6

Figure 6: Degree of Implementation of ICT Learning Experiences in Science

(a) essays (b) creating newspaper (c) store d/base (d) search d/base (e) search CD-ROM (f) create sp/sheet (g) make charts (h) drawings (i) program (j) control (k) simulations (l) educational adv.games (m) animation (n) digital.photos (o) multimedia (p) educational.arcade games (q) music (r) sensor (s) web search (t) school www (u) email other schools (v) email outside school (w) video-conference

Figure 6 shows that in general science teachers suggested that two activities were beginning to be established — searching CD-ROMs for information and using sensors. Other activities that appear to be anticipated but were not yet in place related to using databases, spreadsheets and charts, drawing, simulations and searching the WWW. This corresponded with the comments teachers made when they were asked what they would like to be able to do with ICT, examined later in the paper.

 

Other Class Based Uses of ICT

As well as being asked about specific ICT facilities being provided for students, teachers were also asked about the way in which they used ICT for other, more pedagogical, purposes. They were asked if they used ICT to: provide differentiated activities; provision for higher achievers; to provide for minority subjects; to enhance experiences for students with learning disabilities; for holding virtual meetings; communication outside the school; creating resources; and downloading from the WWW. Again the responses were on a five-point scale ranging from (1) well established to (5) no intention of developing this. The aggregated response across the subject areas is shown in figure 7.

Figure 7: Degree of Implementation of Other Uses of ICT across Subjects

Again for each of these uses, the response is much the same as for question 3.1 with the indication being that these are not in place but it is anticipated in the next 1-2 years.

A similar picture can be seen in science, figure8, where most of these uses of ICT are somewhere between beginning to happen and anticipated to happen in the next 1-2 years.

 

Figure 8: Degree of Implementation of Other Uses of ICT in Science

(a) Differentiation (b) High achievers (c) Minority subjects (d) Learning disabilities (e) Virtual meetings (f) Comm. outside education (g) Creating resources (h) download from WWW

 

Sources of Information about Resources

In this question teachers were asked what the main sources of information about availability of resources were for them. They were asked to tick the three most important sources of information about available resources from a number that were given. The aggregated results are given in figure 9.

 

Figure 9: Main Sources of Information about Availability of Resources

The three most common sources of information about the availability of resources were (in order of importance): colleagues, catalogues and the Scottish Council for Educational Technology. Interestingly among the least important was the Scottish Virtual Teacher’s Centre. However, as information from the SVTC is dependent on Internet access to the WWW, and many teachers state that this is a difficulty, or they are unfamiliar with its use, this is perhaps not surprising.

 

As far as information about the suitability of resources is concerned, a similar picture emerges. Colleagues are again most important with subject teacher networks and SCET, second and third respectively.

 

Figure 10: Sources of Information about Suitability of Resources

Use of ICT for Monitoring and Evaluating

Teachers were asked about the use made of ICT for monitoring and evaluating purposes. Across all the subject areas the picture was very much the same with the indications being that these are expected to be implemented in the next 1-2 years.

The science teacher responses for each of the elements is shown in figure11. As can be seen the only element which science teachers indicate they are not yet working towards is that of pupil self-recording.

Figure 11: Level of use by science teachers of ICT for monitoring and evaluating.

Perceptions of the Impact of ICT

The last main question asked teachers about the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with statements about the impact of ICT. Three main areas of impact were given: on pupils; on teachers; and on the school. The scale used was: strongly agree (1), agree (2), disagree (3) and strongly disagree (4).

Their perceptions for the three areas are given in tables1-3

Table 1: Teacher’s perceptions of the impact of ICT ( on pupils)

Using ICT has already contributed in positive ways to the learning of my pupils. 2.04
Using ICT will assist in developing the independent learning skills of our pupils. 1.96
I expect the use of ICT in class to raise the attainment levels of my pupils. 2.12
I find it disturbing that pupils no more about ICT than I do. 2.69
ICT will make significant changes to teacher/pupil relationships. 2.60

 

Although science teachers tend to agree that the use of ICT has already, or it is anticipated that it will, contribute positively to the learning experience of pupils and help in raising attainment, they do not anticipate that it will make significant changes to pupil teacher relationships.

Table 2: Teacher’s perceptions of the impact of ICT ( on teachers)

I just don't have the time at present to become familiar with ICT resources. 2.16
ICT opens up interesting prospects for my own future professional development. 2.02
Using ICT has enhanced a number of my established classroom practises and procedures. 2.27
My Staff Development Needs in ICT have not been well met so far by the in-service provided. 2.08
I don't feel confident about using ICT as a teaching aid. 2.88
Classroom management of ICT presents significant difficulties for me. 2.49

Teachers tend to look positively on ICT as opening up interesting prospects, but they do not feel that their development needs are being appropriately addressed.

Table 3: Teacher’s perceptions of the impact of ICT ( on school)

I can see ICT breaking down the age-related stages of school education which exist at present. 2.74
I can see ICT breaking down the subject-related structures of education which exist at present. 2.94
I now our vision of the classroom of the future which is very different from the classroom as I experience it at present. 2.52
ICT is the most important development currently taking place in Scottish education. 2.90
I think the importance of ICT has been greatly exaggerated. 2.42

Teachers tended not to agree with any statement that suggested that there would be a radical change in the way in which learning and teaching takes place in the future. The responses seem to indicate that teachers envisage teaching taking place in the same way, with ICT as just an additional enhancement to their usual classroom practices.

 

What teachers would like to do with ICT.

The teachers were asked to give suggestions as to what they would like to be able to use ICT for in the future. Although analysis could be carried out by the three science disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics, there was not any significant difference in the suggestions made. In essence the suggestions could be grouped into five areas that have been summarised in table 4.

 

Table 4: Suggestions for Future Use of ICT

  Suggestions
Administrative

Record keeping

Reports

In-school networking

Profiling

Network access to assessment item banks

Learning enhancement

More pupil access

Use of sensors/interfacing

Pupil investigations

Simulations of dangerous experiments

Interactive learning

Homework

Individualised programs

Sequence analysis (protein, DNA)

Simulation — enzymology, endocrinology

Applications use More use of databases, spreadsheets and graphics.
Information access

Email

CD-ROM

WWW access

Linking with professionals

Teaching presentations.

Overhead projection

Animations.

 

Summary and Conclusions

The data reported here formed part of a much larger survey being carried out on behalf of the Scottish Executive Education Department to examine the Impact of ICT Initiatives in Scotland. The first phase took place between August 1998 and July 1999 with the second phase to be undertaken between August 2000 and July 2001. The first phase consisted of assessing children’s knowledge of and competence in ICT at Primary 7 (age 10-11) and Secondary 4 (age 15-16). In addition questionnaires designed to give information of use of and attitudes toward ICT were given to the same children, the Primary 7 teachers, randomly selected subject teachers in the secondary school and the ICT co-ordinators in both the primary and secondary schools. This paper concentrated on the questionnaire responses from the secondary subject teachers.

Examination of the data indicated that, relative to other subject teachers, science teachers came out positively with regard to use of and confidence in ICT. However, in absolute terms although the availability of computing facilities was reportedly quite high, actual level of use was quite low. In addition, where level of use was higher, it was with regard to a rather narrow range of applications, particularly word-processing. In addition, little was reported in the way of pupil use of ICT in science classes.

Although there appeared to be an awareness of the potential for ICT in science, teachers indicated that they did not see the introduction of ICT radically changing the way in which teaching took place, nor changing the teacher-pupil relationship. Science teachers were reasonably confident in their use of ICT but felt that they needed much more in the way of support and professional development to maximise their use of ICT in the classroom.

 

Reference

Stark, R., Simpson, M., Gray, D. and Payne, F. (2000) The Impact of ICT Initiatives. Report to the Scottish Executive Education Department, Glasgow, University of Strathclyde.