Source: Innovations in Education and Teaching International, Vol. 51, No. 6, 607–617, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article explores issues staff and students in initial teacher education (ITE) organisations faced in implementing a series of information and communication technology (ICT) projects.
To help those implementing ICT projects in education to unravel the nature of these interactions, the authors used their cross-case analysis to develop an implementation model. The model is based on data from a national evaluation of ICT-based projects in initial teacher education, which included a large-scale questionnaire survey and six in-depth case studies.
The implementation model was based on three sets of overlapping, interdependent factors that were key in determining the success of ICT-based curriculum innovations. The factors were:
Capacity for innovation
An ITE organisation’s capacity for innovation is dependent on behaviour, skills and attitudes at different levels of the organisation, which include: the skills and understanding of individual staff and students; the dispositions, norms and levels of teams and groups; and the commitment of leaders across the organisation. The cross-case analysis revealed the importance of having sufficient capacity at each of these levels, or at least some strategy for developing them, and the ability to coordinate them.
Aligning the project with the needs and concerns of individuals and teams
This factor appeared to have the greatest influence on whether an implementation developed or stalled in its early stages. The technology being implemented needed to meet a significant number of individuals’ needs in their contexts in order to add substantively to the quality of the core activities of key groups and teams to be adopted. This was key in mobilising individuals and teams to engage with the technology at a basic level and later develop a critical mass of individuals with a ‘personal investment’ (Granger, Morbey, Lotherington, Owston, & Wideman, 2002) in it becoming an established way working in the organisation. Major stumbling blocks occurred when projects were designed to meet needs which were already being met quite adequately by non-technological means; when the benefits of using a technology were so marginal that only those disposed to a technical ‘solution’ became engaged; or when there was insufficient consultation at the beginning of the project.
The status of the technology being introduced
The authors combined the affordance analysis with multimodality theory to develop the construct of the ‘status’ of the technology being implemented.
Status therefore refers to the key social and cultural perspectives, or modalities, from which individuals made sense of, and with, a new technology.
It is the authors' contention that users’ perceptions of a technology’s status also play a key role in whether, and how, they adopt it.
The analysis showed that the new technologies were constructed from within three key modalities:
The technological status of an innovation related to the participants’ self-constructions of themselves as users of technology and the extent to which the adoption of any new innovation sat within, or challenged, these constructions. These constructions were related to issues of individual’s expertise and familiarity with a specific technology and their overall level of ICT skills. This modality was therefore based on the extent to which participants felt they could express themselves and make meaning via technology and their perceptions of the costs and benefits of such activities.
In this study, the social status of a technology was based on how different social cultural groups constructed the cultural significance and relevance of a particular technology. The existing social status of a technology was particularly important in determining its initial acceptability and the ease with which a small project could be scaled up.
The evidence from this research was that teacher students had increasingly come to regard having a laptop and using it in their everyday activities as part of their emergent professional identities as teachers, and had therefore become both ubiquitous and aspirant from their perspective
Learning status relates to a technology’s perceived utility and applicability to individuals’ learning, and its potential to support the learning of others. This modality is based on an individual’s views of what constitutes ‘learning’, the curriculum, and effective teaching and learning processes. For tutors the starting point for this process of attunement was their initial perception of how well a certain technology ‘fitted’ with their existing pedagogical approach and curricula, before going on to consider how it might support changes and improvements.
Those using ICT to innovate had to respond to and challenge widely different perceptions of the learning potential of some of the technologies.
Although this study was limited to only six case studies, they were selected on the evidence from a national survey that supported the idea that successful projects were characterised by a recognition, and occasionally exploitation, of the differences between groups in the ‘status’ they gave to a technology. Effective project leaders challenged negative perceptions of the specific technology and considered how differential prior engagement would affect initial take-up and the overall training and support needed.